Tried & Tested

Restaurant review: Laurent at Café Royal, London

16 Jul 2018 by Mark Caswell
Laurent at Café Royal

BACKGROUND

Hotel Café Royal on London’s Regent Street opened in 2012, following the renovation and conversion of the iconic Café Royal, which was famous as a meeting place for the likes of Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth Taylor, Winston Churchill and Princess Diana.

Business Traveller reviewed the hotel shortly after it opened in 2013.

A recent £5 million project has seen a new double height lobby and reception added on Air Street – part of this revamp saw the closure of the Ten Room restaurant on the ground floor, replaced by Laurent at Café Royal on the first floor.

The hotel is a member of The Set – a collection of luxury properties also including the Conservatorium in Amsterdam, and the newly reopened Hotel Lutetia in Paris.

The redesigned lobby at Hotel Cafe Royal

WHERE IS IT?

Steps away from Piccadilly Underground station, in the middle of the West End. Although the hotel’s entrance on Regent Street is the most prominent, the revamp means that the Air Street option now feels like the main entrance. In any case the restaurant can be accessed from either entrance.

THE VENUE

The revamped lobby and restaurant were both designed by Italian architect and interior designer Piero Lissoni, who was also responsible for works on the Hotel Café Royal’s sister property Conservatorium in Amsterdam.

The new restaurant is split across two spaces – a wrap-around balcony overlooking the lobby area below, and a separate bar and dining room.

The main room (pictured above) features a backlit marble-walled bar, dark wood panelling and around ten tables of varying sizes, while the balcony area has a window looking through to the restaurant’s kitchen, and guests also get to admire the enormous Murano glass chandelier hanging from the centre of the ceiling down through to the lobby.

When we visited guests were being encouraged to sit in the main dining room, which had the advantage of creating a buzz in this area as it filled up, but did leave the balcony area a little sparsely populated, at least on this Monday evening in mid July.

Laurent at Café Royal

THE FOOD AND DRINK

Laurent at Café Royal is the first UK restaurant by Laurent Tourondel, a French chef who founded the BLT Group (Bistro Laurent Tourondel) and whose current restaurants include L’Amico and The Vine in New York, and The Alley in Miami.

Assistant restaurant manager Matteo Guardi described the menu as “an alternative take on the traditional surf ‘n’ turf”, with a range of sushi, sashimi and nigiri dishes, alongside steak options including Aberdeen Angus, Japanese Wagyu, USA Creek Stone Farm and USA Snake River.

We chose to have a selection of the Japanese dishes to start, opting for spicy tuna sushi (eight pieces for £16), the grilled octopus with Jersey Royals, lemon aioli, ‘nduja, cured olives (£12), and the crispy wagyu beef nigiri (three pieces for £16).

The octopus was delicious – beautifully tender and perfectly matched with the aioli and olives, and the wagyu nigiri were packed with flavour and melted in the mouth. The spicy tuna sushi however were a little disappointing – lacking in flavour, and to be honest, not particularly spicy.

Spicy Tuna Sushi at Laurent at Café Royal

The starters were served with a baked “popover” instead of bread, which was new to me, but one of the highlights of the entire meal. Wikipedia describes them as an American version of the Yorkshire pudding, but they are so much more than that – a thick gouda, cheddar cheese and black pepper crust giving way to the warm, soft floury batter within.

The restaurant also offers a breakfast choice of a baked popover filled with spinach, roasted Yorkshire ham, poached eggs, and truffle Hollandaise, which is making my mouth water just thinking about it.

A plate of popovers at Laurent at Café Royal

For the main course my guest chose the Aberdeen Angus fillet steak (£38), while I went for the USA Creek Stone Farm fillet (£41) – both were cooked perfectly to the requested medium rare, and full of flavour courtesy of the cooking over cherry oaks chips in cowboy butter (a popular US concept of butter mixed with garlic, mustard, paprika, black peppers and herbs including parsley, chives and thyme).

For dessert we chose the hibiscus and red berry crepe soufflé, with lime frozen yoghurt (£18). This is served in the pan for two to share, and was absolutely delicious – light and fluffy with the sweetness from the berries contrasting with the cool tang of the frozen lime yoghurt. Perfect if you’re not looking for a heavy chocolate ending to a meal, but bear in mind it is cooked to order so does take a little longer to arrive.

Other dessert options included a chocolate tart “mousseuse” (£9), a milk chocolate peanut butter croquant (£9), and coconut meringue with wild strawberry (£14).

Angus Aberdeen Fillet Steak at Laurent at Café Royal

THE SERVICE

In the main this was excellent. When we were at the bar waiting to order a drink, two members of staff were chatting and took a while to register us, but aside from this staff were attentive, knowledgeable and cheerful throughout the meal.

VERDICT

An excellent addition to the hotel’s F&B offering, with an interesting range of dishes across the menu. Ask for a table in the main bar room for the best atmosphere, and definitely ask for a popover.

Laurent at Café Royal

FACT FILE

OPENING HOURS

Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, from 0700 to 2230

CONTACT

Laurent at Café Royal, Hotel Café Royal, 68 Regent Street, London, W1B 4DY; tel +44 (0)20 7406 3310; laurentatcaferoyal.com

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