ST JAMES COURT HOTEL, A TAJ HOTEL – AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 TASTES
Last week I attended a preview evening of the ‘Around the World in 80 Tastes’ experience (£100 per person) at the gorgeous St James Court, A Taj Hotel on Buckingham Palace Gate. The experience takes you through a culinary journey of four of the different restaurants in the hotel with tasting plates paired with matching wines. We began our evening with a Laurent Perrier Champagne flight paired with canapés in the St James Courtyard of the hotel, an idyllic outdoor dining space surrounded by the world’s largest Shakespearean frieze. It’s a gorgeous al fresco spot, little known about. So spread the world as it’s a lovely spot for a drink and deserves greater recognition.
For our champagne flight we had (from right to left) the Laurent-Perrier Brut, Cuvée Rosé and the Vintage 2004 with scallops and avocado, smoked salmon and ratatouille. The champagnes were delectable and the canapés were fairly tasty.
Next we moved to Bistro 51 where a contemporary European menu is served. I recently dined at Bistro 51 where I had a mixed experience. You can read about that meal here. As part of this ‘Around the World in 80 Tastes’ culinary journey, we had a trio of starters including stir-fried chicken with bell peppers, sesame-crusted tuna with pink grapefruit and beetroot gazpacho with feta crumble. The tuna was smart and very tasty, and nicely flavoured with some soy sauce and sesame seeds. The gazpacho was good but could have done with a little more feta for a better balance between sweet and savoury. The chicken didn’t work and wasn’t that appetising. To accompany the starters was an Argentinian Septima Malbec.
Next we moved to Quilon, an Indian One Michelin Star Restaurant which was the highlight of the evening. Here we enjoyed some pepper shrimp, crab cake, lentil fish, grilled scallop and the Quilon signature fish curry of halibut simmered in coconut, chilli and raw mango sauce. All of these were delicious and perfectly prepared. My particular favourites were the lentil fish as it was beautifully moist and succulent and the fish curry as its flavour was delightful. The tasting plate was accompanied by some Malabar paratha which was outstanding for it was wonderfully light and flaky. The accompanying wine was a Chapel Down Flint Dry.
From Quilon we moved to Kona, a newly opened restaurant at The St James Court Hotel that serves contemporary dishes prepared using locally sourced, sustainable and organic ingredients. It’s a beautiful, modern looking restaurant, and here we tried the Sussex lamb cooked two ways, as a cannon and Bolognese. The lamb was served with aubergine caviar, polenta, wild roquette pesto and confit eggplant. This was respectable, tasty cooking, although I would have preferred the cannon to more medium rare. The accompanying wines included an Albarino Davila.
To finish, we had a dessert platter of calvados marinated apple on a walnut and pecan crumble, chocolate ganache and a deconstructed lemon meringue pie and poppy streusel, all of which were nicely done.
“Around the World in 80 Tastes’ was great fun as it offered lots of different flavour sensations, and I can see this as a good date night option if you want to impress someone with a taste of something a little different. Without doubt, the highlight was the food at Michelin starred Quilon. The food at the other outlets held up well too, and overall £100 was a reasonable price to pay when you take into account the champagnes and the pairing wines.
Overall experience rating: 3.5/5