Background Located on Cadogan Place in London’s Knightsbridge, The Carlton Tower Hotel (a Jumeirah property for the last decade) is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, as depicted by the “1961-2011” topiary currently on display outside the hotel’s front entrance. The Rib Room has been there from the start, and was relaunched last month following refurbishment by designer Martin Brudnizki, responsible for the recent Ivy Dubai opening at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers (see online news June 12), as well as projects including Scott’s in London, and Rocco Forte’s Villa Kennedy hotel in Frankfurt.
What’s it like? The refurbishment project has seen the bar, previously located to the left as guests entered the restaurant, relocated to a larger space on the right set down from the dining area. This has meant the open kitchen concept has now been lost (as the kitchens are located behind the new bar), but the cocktail bar has been given more prominence, with a long marble top and an impressive-looking selection of spirits including over 15 gins served with bespoke handcrafted bitters. The relocation has also freed up space for a new private dining area and glass–walled wine cellar / cigar humidor where the bar used to be.
The restaurant’s famous artwork by Polish artist Feliks Topolski has been retained throughout, with the long sketch previously stretching above the old bar now repositioned to the far end of the room. This sketch was drawn up in preparation for a one hundred-foot mural of Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation in 1952, commissioned by the Duke of Edinburgh for a corridor in Buckingham Palace.
Décor has been updated from the wood panelling that dominated the ceiling and walls, to a lighter pallet with large antique mirrors at the far end, and the dated-looking red seats have been replaced by dark wood chairs with emerald upholstery. Lighting from the aged geometric bronze fixtures remains dimmed, providing a private setting for diners, with regulars including F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone. When I visited on a Monday evening, the clientele was mainly male and predominantly business-oriented.
The restaurant also plans to open a heated smoking terrace at the front of the property in the near future, enabling guests to choose from the new cigar selection and smoke on the premises. The new private dining area will have direct access to this terrace.
The food The revamped Rib Room has employed the services of head chef Ian Rudge, previously at Nigel Haworths’s Michelin-starred Northcote near Blackburn. As the Rib Room name would suggest, the roast rib of beef remains the restaurant’s signature dish, with a strong Grills selection including nine-ounce Aubrey dry aged sirloin, rib eye and fillet steaks, Cornish lamb cutlets, and calves liver with sweet cured Suffolk back bacon.
Both myself and my guest had steaks (the fillet and the sirloin), which were cooked to perfection and came with a sizeable side order of crunchy steak fries and a Portobello mushroom with slow cooked plum tomatoes. Sides are available for £4.
Starters included the classic prawn cocktail, as well as Loch Fyne smoked salmon, roasted lamb sweetbreads, Orkney scallops, smoked Lambswood duck breast, and beef tartar prepared at the table. Prior to the revamp the restaurant was officially called The Rib Room and Oyster Bar, and Loch Fyne Angel oysters are still available as a starter choice.
Aside from the grills mains included a caper crusted rack of Launceston lamb, neck curry, shallot compote, Jerusalem artichoke and coriander (£26), and a two-person choice of black truffle roasted Cotswold whole chicken, caramelised chicory, pan seared foie gras, buttered baby carrots and a wild mushroom sauce (£50).
Emphasis was constantly placed on provenance – beef is sourced from the Duke of Buccleuch Estate in Aberdeen, while the cheese selection is from Sussex cheesemakers Alsop and Walker, and included a brie, a blue, and a “Five Ashes” variety – so called both because of the location of the producer near the vilage of Five Ashes, and due to the ash coating surrounding the cheese. Personally I could have done with a cheese board with a little more bite – even the blue variety lacked the required kick for my taste.
Desserts included a moreish treacle tart with lemon thyme clotted cream, a black forest chocolate delice and an autumn fruit pudding with mulled wine and cranberry ripple ice cream (all £8.50).
The service and atmosphere Service was excellent throughout – the wine list was presented on an iPad and left with us until we were ready to consult the sommelier, and waiters were attentive without crowding. My guest felt the portion of béarnaise sauce brought with his steak was a little on the miserly side, and twice asked for more – both times this was brought within seconds.
When we sat down at around 7pm, the dining area was almost completely empty, but the buzz from the bar meant that we didn’t feel like we were in a deserted restaurant. As the night wore on the restaurant became increasingly busier and the bar gradually emptied out, and by the time we left at around 9.30pm most of the tables around us were occupied.
Private dining There are now three private dining choices: The Boardroom taking up to 16 guests, The Buccleuch with space for 12 diners, and The Topolski for up to eight people.
Verdict Excellent – impeccable service, superb steaks and a setting that manages to combine a buzz from the bar with the private, intimate dining space.
Price In 1961 Tatler said of the Rib Room, “It is certainly some of the best meat in London, and about the most expensive”. While prices might seem slightly more reasonable these days, those with modest budgets may baulk at steak prices starting from £26 for a rib eye (including steak fries but not sides), rising to £38 for the fillet and £40 for the roast rib of Buccleuch Aberdeen Angus. However the restaurant also offers a set menu for £19 for two courses and £25 for three courses, and bar appetisers are available including a trio of mini Aberdeen Angus beef burgers (£12) and devilled crab cakes with sweet corn mayonnaise (£11). Cocktails start from £15, with wines from around £30.
- Breakfast: 7am to 10.30am (Monday to Friday), 7am to 11am (Saturday); 8am to 11am (Sunday, Bank Holidays)
- Lunch: Noon to 3pm (Monday to Friday); 12.30pm to 3.45pm (Saturday to Sunday)
- Dinner: 6.30pm to 11pm (Monday to Saturday); 6.30pm to 10.30pm (Sunday, Bank Holidays)
Contact Jumeirah Carlton Tower, Cadogan Place, London SW1X 9PY; tel +44 (0)207 858 7250; theribroom.co.uk