St James Court, A Taj Hotel

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.

St James Court Hotel - London Food Blog - Canapes

St James Court Hotel – Canapes

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.

St James Court Hotel - London Food Blog - Starters at Bistro

St James Court Hotel – Starters at Bistro

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.

St James Court Hotel - London Food Blog - Tasting plate at Quilon

St James Court Hotel – Tasting plate at Quilon

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.

St James Court Hotel - London Food Blog - Lamb dish at Kona

St James Court Hotel – Lamb dish at Kona

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.

St James Court Hotel - London Food Blog - Dessert plate

St James Court Hotel – Dessert plate

“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.

Website: http://www.stjamescourthotel.co.uk/

Summary Information:

Overall experience rating: 3.5/5

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Bistro 51 – St James Court Hotel

BISTRO 51

St James’ Court Hotel on Buckingham Gate offers a number of dining options, one of which is Bistro 51. Contemporary in design but somewhat subdued in taste, Bistro 51 serves a contemporary European menu. The hotel is part of the Indian owned Taj Hotel Group, one of the largest hotel chains in the world. As such, the menu also includes a number of Indian-inspired dishes.

We dined from the Chef’s special menu which is priced at a reasonable £30. We started with a boccocini and cherry tomato tian with pickled portobello and pesto which was pleasant and tasty. The mellow flavour of the bocconini with the sweetness of the tomatoes was a lovely pairing, with the pesto providing freshness to the dish.

Bistro 51 at The St James Court Hotel – London Food Blog - Boccocini and cherry tomato tian

Bistro 51 at The St James Court Hotel – Boccocini and cherry tomato tian

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A Wong

A Wong is the latest ‘buzz’ Chinese restaurant in London at the moment and is the baby of chef Andrew Wong who has studied in kitchens throughout China. But Chef Wong already came from restaurant stock for his father use to run Kym’s, the Chinese restaurant that previously occupied the same space as A Wong. Basically Andrew has taken on the same address as his own and refurbished it with a more minimalist taste. The result is a restaurant with shiny surfaces and none of the Chinese chintz. Not that there is anything wrong with Chinese chintz, but this style is much more in keeping with Western ‘cool’.

Chef Wong’s solid bio shows in his menu with a diverse range of dishes drawn from throughout China. During the day he serves dim sum from Hong Kong, and in the evenings the a la carte menu includes touches of the Sichuanese, etc. The pricing of the menu is also fabulously cheap, something of a bonus in this day and age.

To the starters and sweet and sour ribs (£1.50 each) were tasty if a little overcooked leaving the outer layer of the rib a bit dry. The sauce was well made and had a lovely sticky, sweet quality to it that was delicious.

Sweet and sour ribs

Sweet and sour ribs

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Boisdale Belgravia

I had never been to a Boisdale Restaurant before but I was very pleasantly surprised to discover how much I enjoyed the experience. There are four outposts: Canary Wharf, Bishopsgate, Wiltshire, plus the one that I visited which is in Belgravia. This is the original Boisdale and was opened in 1985 by Ranald Macdonald, the eldest son of the 24th Chief of Clanranald.

A happy blend between Scottish restaurant, jazz club, whisky bar and Cuban cigar haunt, this place exudes a traditional, easy charm. Some of this can be attributed to the décor, a mixture of rich reds, dark greens, mahogany and tartan-covered furnishings. But I think most of it was due to the lovely jazzy tunes being belted out by the fantastic jazz band that was there for our entertainment pleasure. Whatever the reason, the vibe at the Boisdale Belgravia works.

Boisdale are operating an Oyster Festival Menu (6 oysters plus three courses) until April 2012 which I tried. To kick off was a selection of oysters, judged by a panel from Boisdale and The Wright Brothers as being the best rock and native oysters. These included a couple of different Maldon Rocks which I loved for their meatiness, a Duchy of Cornwall No.3 which had a deep mineral flavour, and a Loch Ryan Scottish No. 2 which was voted the winner with its particularly complex flavour.

Oysters

Oysters

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Tinello

Italian restaurant Tinello has a prestigious backer in the name of Giorgio Locatelli, the one Michelin starred chef of Locanda Locatelli fame. Locatelli part owns Tinello, and it was with his blessing that brothers Federico and Max Sali, the previous head chef and sommelier of Locanda Locatelli, moved on to set up Tinello.

Tinello opened last September on Pimlico Road, on the site where L’Incontro use to be. For a restaurant located in one of London’s priciest residential areas, the restaurant is surprisingly low-key. The décor on the ground floor is clean cut and draws on the use of dark wood, red brick work and low copper lighting. The basement dining room is basic and lacks for atmosphere, so if at all possible, book for the ground floor.

Another aspect of Tinello’s low-key approach is its prices. The menu consists of a selection of antipastas, pastas, secondi piatti and desserts. But what appealed the most was the reasonably priced ‘small eats’ which ranged in price from £2 to £4.50. Given how cheap they were, we decided to try four plates between the two of us rather than have a starter each.

‘Burrata’ cheese and tomato bread (£3.20) was a combination of cheesy goodness and bread doused with a warming, rich tomato flavour. This was a lovely dish.

“Burrata” cheese & tomato bread

“Burrata” cheese & tomato bread

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Bumbles Restaurant

Omelette Arnold Bennett

Omelette Arnold Bennett

I first went to Bumbles about three years ago and remembered it for having really good food at very reasonable prices. In fact the food was so good for what I paid that I was pleasantly surprised. I discovered the restaurant purely by chance, through a friend who worked in Victoria where it’s located. It seems to the sort of place that hovers low on the publicity radar, but is well liked by locals and those in the know. Case in point – it was absolutely packed on the night of our visit.

So how did visit number two fare? Overall it was resoundingly excellent. The restaurant offers an `a la carte menu from which you can also choose three courses for £20. This works out cheaper than ordering those dishes individually, although certain items incur a supplement. There is also a cheaper limited option 3 course menu on offer for £10. We chose 3 courses from both the `a la carte and the £10 set menu so I will cover the dishes that we had from the `a la carte menu first, listing the `a la carte price of each of those dishes as I go along.

To start, an omelette Arnold Bennett with smoked haddock (£5.95) was superb. Made with a combination of gruyere, parmesan and cheddar cheese, the omelette was creamy, luscious and rich. There was a beautiful balance between the cheeses and the haddock was firm and tasty. This dish was plate-licking good although more care could have been taken in cleaning the rim of the plate before presenting it.

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