Eating in

1 Jun 2006 by business traveller

Pearl restaurant & bar

Renaissance Chancery Court, 252 High Holborn WC1V 7EN, tel +44(0)20 7829 7000, pearl-restaurant.com

The name of the restaurant comes from the fact that this is the old Pearl Assurance building, renovated into Renaissance Chancery Court (a Marriott hotel) in 2000. You enter the hotel through a large white stone archway. To the right is the CC Bar, to the left, Pearl restaurant and bar, set in the old banking hall. The room makes the most of the grand interiors of the Edwardian building, with Cuban mahogany, French walnut and rare marble. In fact, seven different types are present, including Swedish green marble in the East Banking Hall, now so rare that a metre cube costs £30,000, while a fine white marble known as Statuary has been unavailable for 40 years.

There are original works of art on the walls, but this is first and foremost a modern space. It was designed by Keith Hobbs – also responsible for Nobu and Le Cercle – and boasts a centrepiece of a wonderful chandelier made up of thousands of pearls. At the front of the restaurant is a 55-seat bar with strings of pearls dividing the space into five separate lounge areas. There are cream leather sofas and tables with mother of pearl inlay and two walnut-clad booths for larger groups.
The wine selection under chief sommelier Michael Davis is outstanding. As a result of an extremely clever device called a Cruvinet, which injects nitrogen into an opened bottle and preserves the wine, the restaurant is able to offer 54 wines by the 175ml glass, ranging from the extremely affordable (£4.50) to the sort of wine of which you'd normally have to buy a whole bottle to taste (£39 for a glass of Chateau Pichon-Longueville 1995). The wine cellar is impressive, with 1,600 wines in the restaurants and another 1,000 in the hotel.

The food, by head chef Jun Tanaka (Oak Room and The Square), is contemporary French and is well thought out and delicious. I chose a mackerel fondant with chives, horseradish and saffron-marinated vegetables, and for a main, halibut with garlic croutons, red onion compote with new potatoes, taleggio and baby spinach. The meat options are excellent, and include roast loin of spiced venison, red cabbage and autumn vegetables.
A private dining room – Silhouette – is available for up to 12 guests, so named because only the silhouettes of other diners are visible through the bronze organza floor-to-ceiling curtains which surround the entire room.

Price Set lunch menu two courses £23.50, three courses £26.50. Dinner two courses £41.50, three courses £45, tasting menu £55.
Opening hours Mon-Fri lunch 12-2.30pm, dinner 6-10pm; Sun 6-10pm.

Tom Otley

The Grill

Brown's Hotel, Albemarle Street W15 4BP, tel +44 (0)20 7493 6020

The name says it all: this is a restaurant of the old style, though it is a brand new part of the newly reopened and refurbished Brown's Hotel (see Business Traveller, May 2006). This is a restaurant with lots of smart suits lunching and lots of smart staff serving them, reminiscent of the Savoy Grill or The Ritz, particularly since the head chef is Laurence Glayzer (Savoy Grill and The Ritz) and the maître d' is Angelo Maresca (Savoy Grill). Since most of the people in the restaurant on the lunchtime I visited are probably regulars from those two establishments, it's not surprising the place has a clubbable air to it, accentuated by the original wood panelling, moss green leather banquette seating, cream linen Roman blinds and specially commissioned 1930s-style Italian lights. It's also not surprising that early reviews were polarised: you'll either love it or hate it. I loved it, but then, I like simple food done well – or rare in the case of the roast sirloin of Scottish beef that was the roast option on my visit. Choices on other days are roast pork, chicken or rib of beef, as well as pies or Lancashire Hot Pot. There's also an à la carte menu. An example of the "From the Grill" was lamb's kidneys and bacon (£17.50).

Price Starters from £9.50 and mains from £12.75. Set dinner menu two courses £25, three courses £30.
Opening hours Daily lunch 12.30-2.30pm, dinner 7-10.30pm.

Tom Otley


Melia White House Hotel, Albany Street, Regents Park NW1 3UP, tel +44 (0)207 391 3000; solmelia.com

The name Albufera comes from a lake just outside Valencia, and this restaurant is an oasis of Hispanic food in an area notably lacking decent eateries. The Melia White House is the only Sol Melia hotel in the UK although the chain has nearly 350 properties worldwide, the majority of them in Spain. This heritage – and the fact that many of the hotel's guests are Spanish – has led to head chef Antonio Belles (The Savoy and Hotel Arts Barcelona) creating a menu full of seafood and paella dishes.

When we visited, the elegantly designed restaurant was quiet, although as one of our six waiters pointed out, the Spanish don't even entertain the idea of eating until later, so you can expect it to fill up as the night progresses.

The only way to start a Spanish meal is with a selection of tapas, and we plumped for a mixture of meat and fish dishes, including a delicious choricitos de jabugo con lentejas (small pieces of chorizo in a rich lentil sauce, £5.50), chicken croquettes (£4.95), and cod carpaccio with tomatoes and black olives (£6.25).
The restaurant offers a varied selection of seafood dishes, from lobster cazuelas (a casserole served with rice) to grilled baby squid in a herb sauce. But if you're dining with a colleague or partner the paellas are something of a speciality. They are typical of the Valencia region and, feeling slightly lazy, we chose El Senorito (literally "Sir"), so called because the seafood has been peeled and de-shelled, meaning all Sir has to do is move fork to mouth and repeat until satisfied. Paella dishes start at £15.95 per person for a minimum of two people. For those with seafood allergies there is a chicken and vegetable alternative.

Having ploughed our way through the main course, an enormous cheese table with quesos from all over Spain was wheeled in – the smell alone would be enough to lure all the mice of London to the hotel doors (not that there were any in sight, I should add).

For anyone with an ounce of space left after all that, the various sorbet and ice cream desserts are a light way to finish a great meal.

Prices Starters from £4.95, mains from £15.95, desserts from £6.25.
Opening hours Mon-Sat 7-10.30pm.

Mark Caswell

The Rib Room and Oyster Bar

Jumeirah Carlton Tower, Cadogan Place SW1X 9PY, tel +44 (0)20 7858 7053, jumeirahcarltontower.com

This is a carnivore's paradise, although the seafood is also excellent. The restaurant has been open since 1961 and is formerly of the Hyatt. It still attracts a certain crowd – most of the diners were in suits, though it was a younger clientele than I was expecting, and there were even a few families. Service is excellent, and discreet. F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone was at the next table, but it was only when he was leaving that another diner went up to introduce himself. Our service was likewise faultless. The wine recommendation was tactfully negotiated, and when the wine was suspect, it was removed without a quibble and a replacement brought.

Refurbished in 1999, the deep red of the leather banquettes retains the club-like atmosphere. An imposing bronze bull carving is positioned by the bar, and a triptych fossil sculpture by Renn & Thacker Visual Artists in Partnership can be viewed as guests enter through the Sloane Street entrance.

The food is by Donato Russo and is traditional and delicious. The signature dish of roast rib of Aberdeen Angus beef comes from the Scottish estate of the Duke of Buccleuch. It is recommended to be served medium rare, and was excellent when presented that way. It is served with Yorkshire pudding and baked potato (either 280g for £28.50 or 450g for £35); side dishes to accompany it include spinach and cauliflower cheese. The Caesar salad to start was lovely, and fairly huge.

Other options include wild sea bass with chargrilled summer vegetables and home dried tomatoes, roast rack of lamb with brioche and tarragon crust, and from the Oyster Bar, Loch Fyne and Cuan Rock oysters plus sevruga and beluga caviar.

Price Starters from £10.50, mains from £22, desserts from £8.
Opening hours Mon-Sat lunch 12.30-2.45pm, dinner 7-10.45pm, Sun dinner 7-10.15pm.

Tom Otley

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