The Great World of London
The Corinthia Hotel is pretty impressive. It sits, like a grand old Dowager Duchess wearing her sumptuous finery and jewels, on a corner plot between the Thames Embankment and Whitehall, the street that is synonymous with the Government of the United Kingdom.
Originally built in 1853 and called The Metropole, back then its brochure claimed:
“That the hotel’s location is particularly recommended to ladies and families visiting the West End during the Season; to travellers from Paris and the Continent, arriving from Dover and Folkestone at the Charing Cross Terminus; to Officers and others attending the levees at St James; to Ladies going to the Drawing Rooms, State Balls, and Concerts at Buckingham Palace; and to colonial and American visitors unused to the great world of London.”
I wonder whether it was this last sentence that persuaded our lovely friends, a much younger and seriously glamorous London couple, to choose the Northall Restaurant within the Corinthia Hotel as a dinner venue for our gathering of six, since one of our party was, indeed, American. Then again, as an International TV series director of high repute, who normally lives in LA but is living and filming in London, and certainly not for the first time, he is, by now, well used to ’the great world of London’, I imagine!
He was, as people in this business so often have to be, quite delayed in joining us by last minute schedule changes, but the rest of us happily waited for him in the bar while quaffing the odd glass of champagne or three. Never has waiting been so enjoyable or time flown so quickly! Like the hotel itself, the bar is very grand, high ceilinged, chandeliered and boasts an enormous square marble topped bar where you sit side by side on pale blue upholstered chairs, as well as side tables for groups to gather around.
In due course, our film director arrived and we were led through to the adjoining dining room. True to form, this too, was very elegant with high ceilings, extra large windows, great big mirrors, graceful drapes and again, chandeliers, this time the crown of thorns type which, frankly, are not my favourite but which, I guess, are meant to give the traditional look a more modern twist. Banquettes and chairs are covered in tan leather and are exceptionally comfortable. The chairs particularly stand out because they are almost double the width of normal dining chairs. Whether this is to convey a sense of luxury or whether it is to accommodate obesity, I don’t know, but they worked just fine for me!
The menu is interesting too. It’s summery and fresh, locally sourced and what the restaurant describes as modern English. The choices look delicious and some dishes have quite unusual combinations of flavour. I won’t bore you with an endless list of what each of the six of us ordered but will focus on just a few examples.
My table neighbour was fascinated by the Tian of of Crab with Strawberry and Avocado and Bloody Mary Ketchup, saying that although he liked al the individual components, he wasn’t sure of them in symphony. As it turned out, he was right. Although fresh and light, the little round tian tasted strongly of only two things, crab and strawberry. This wasn’t unpleasant but it was kind of specialist in a somewhat odd way.
My starter of Beetroot Cured Sea Trout, Soft Herb Dressing, Keta Caviar and Beetroot Salad was tasty but its price of £14 seemed inordinately steep for the tiny amount of fish and smidgen of caviar. The Lovely Husband’s main course of Pea Risotto with Spinach Crisps and Asparagus Ribbons was excellent, the risotto nice and kernelly rather than mushy and the ingredients came together very nicely. I enjoyed my Walnut–Crust Baked Mackerel with Monkfish Liver Toast, Red Grape and Merlot Vinegar Sauce and the Wild Seabass, Curry Braised Onions, Burnt Apple Puree, Grapes and Sugared Pine Nuts seemed to go down well with the film director.
One of the charming and beautiful women in our group had picked the Roasted Salmon, Orange Marinated Fennel, Tomato Confit and Black Olive Crumbs. I didn’t taste it, but although the combination sounded most appealing, on the plate it looked as though it was missing something to round it off. My neighbour’s choice of main course was Smoked Rump of Lamb, Couscous, Crispy Aubergine and Mint Jus. The meat looked absolutely perfectly done, pink and tender, but, once again, for my liking, despite all the fancy bits and pieces, it lacked a suitably crunchy vegetable accompaniment. In effect is was primarily meat prettily presented and, of course, had he wanted to, he could have ordered a separate side of vegetables. In any case, we were replete and quite uncharacteristically, we didn’t order puds.
I think we all enjoyed our food, even if it wasn’t perhaps quite as spectacular as it sounded on the menu. What made the evening swing, was the fabulous company, the great conversations and the warmth between the people present. We left with a spring in our step, or, in my case, with a totter, since I was wearing high heels and had really rather relished all that champagne.
In this very opulent hotel environment with good food, fine wines and excellent, unobtrusive service, this was very grown-up, sophisticated dining. Our bill came to just under £400 for four starters, six main courses, three bottles of wine, service charge and VAT but not including the champagne we had in the bar.
What I wore
Scott Crolla designed Thai silk dress with brocade straps, gold Jimmy Choo Sandals, purple velvet L.K. Bennett clutch with bow.
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