I found London’s dining scene vibrant, offering aficionados choices that proved to be overwhelming. My biggest question on arrival in a new city is where to eat? Fortunately there’s an abundance of both upscale London dining experiences as well as pubs around every corner. I did my homework by tapping friend Fiona Maclean from “London Unattached” who gave me a few pointers. When you have limited time to sample all the wares – a strategy is critical. But, first–
After an exhausting journey touring Dorset county in South West England, I finally reached my London hotel, The Athenaeum, located in the heart of Mayfair. I had a one bedroom Green Park suite with all the creature comforts and then some.
The mini bar was well stocked with snacks, drinks and Nepresso coffee. A spacious bathroom with sunken tub, shower stall built for a family and decorated in marble and glass. Floor to ceiling windows provided stunning views of Green Park, across the street, and Piccadilly Road. There’s an excellent gym and spa on the lower levels of the hotel and the staff – well informed and excellently trained – provided me with advice on navigating London.
Afternoon Tea at The Athenaeum
A visit to London would not be complete without putting afternoon tea on your schedule. The question is where to take tea? The Dorchester, Savoy, Corinthian or a local café? Afternoon tea seems to be everywhere you turn. I decided to keep it close to home and by home I mean my hotel. Judging by the lavish breakfast buffet and à la carte menu, I knew tea would be a treat.
Photo courtesy of The Athanaeum Facebook Page.
Tea at the Athenaeum is served in the Garden Room, a comfortable and colorful environment. After choosing my tea blend (Assam), a three-tiered tea service, laden with pastries, scones, finger sandwiches and savory bites arrived at my table. Just when I thought tea was finished, my young server rolled out a cake trolley laden with sinful treats. I couldn’t resist just one more slice of Victoria Sandwich cake and took it back to my suite.
- Afternoon Tea (£35) is served in the Garden Room at 12.30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5.30 p.m. and reservations are required.
- For gentleman there is a “Whisky Tea” offered with male-centric foods (meat pies, sausage rolls etc.) and dram of Scotch Whisky.
Benares in Mayfair
Photos courtesy of Benares Facebook Page
Benares, located in the heart of Mayfair, is the domain of two-starred Michelin chef Atul Kochhar. Kochhar’s cusine combines modern Indian flare with locally sourced ingredients and skillfull presentation.
Benares has been serving Mayfair patrons for over eight years; the décor is sleek, modern with elegant lighting and is everything you would expect from an upscale restaurant. Passing a shallow indoor pond ornamented with hibiscus flowers and floating candles, you descend into the well-lit white table clothed dining area. For a Monday night the restaurant was abuzz with businessmen and couples. Once seated, I opted to try the tasting menu (£85) which changes seasonally, instead of ordering à la carte, which was a smorgasbord of Kochhar’s best dishes.
I started with a Passion Fruit Chutney Martini, a signature cocktail with house made passion fruit chutney, Wyborowa vodka, fresh lemon juice, sugar and a dash of passion fruit juice.
The tasting menu included a variety of seafood, poultry and lamb dishes with a palate cleanser of Nimbu Pani Sorbet (lime sorbet), at the half way point. Each dish is artfully presented – Jai Tarang (Pan Roasted Hand Dived Scottish Scallops, broccoli and green peas, grape dressing) and Murg Tiranga (Trio of free range chicken: Tikka, chutney grilled, Crispy Wing) were simply mouthwatering.
They have an extensive wine list with sommelier Jeepson Lopes on hand to advise which wines would best match your chosen dishes. A glass of 2014 Cos Frappato from Sicilia and the Muddy Water Pinot Noir from New Zealand accompanied my meal perfectly.
Taking a pass on dessert, as I had no room for another morsel, I did eye-up the trio of desserts ordered by my neighboring diners with some regret.
Ting Restaurant at the Shangri-la at the Shard
Departing the elevator on the 35th floor of the Shangri-La hotel’s restaurant, Ting, you’re immediately surrounded by iconic 360-degree views of London. Floor-to-ceiling windows had me gaping open-mouthed at the scene of a toy-like landscape below. My table faced the Tower Bridge and the Thames winding its way towards Canary Wharf. The décor here is inviting, with comfortable leather chairs and settees; the staff were very attentive, immediately bringing a stand on which to hang your coat.
Lunch at Ting is offered à la carte or as a two to three course prix fixe tasting menu (£35). There are enough choices on the menu to give you a flavor of the various dishes. I chose a first course of fig and goat cheese tart which was matched with a German Riesling (Riesling, Höllenpfad, Trocken, Dönnhoff, Nahe, Germany, 2012).
Being partial to red wines, the sommelier suggests a Washington State pinot noir (Pinot Noir, Sokol Blosser ‘Dundee Hills’ Willamette Valley, USA, 2012) with my entrée of blackened cod with seasonal accompaniments. I had decided I was already finished – as another meal had been planned for the evening — when the sommelier suggested the Château Petite Védrine, Sauternes 2011 as a dessert wine to accompany the chocolate ganache – well how could I say no?
As the sun peaked through the cloudy London sky lunch was concluding — perfect time to get the camera out and start snapping the jaw dropping views.
8 Mount Street in Mayfair
I wasn’t sure what to expect from dinner at this new Mayfair establishment, opened just two weeks prior to my visit. My companion and I arrive in the early evening to find ourselves seated in an eye-pleasing environment of brushed brass walls, flowers, fashionable light fixtures and marble-topped wood tables. The menu features Mediterranean-inspired dishes with enough choices to meet any diner’s (meat lovers to vegetarians) fancy.
Our server helped us choose a red from the extensive wine list to accompany our meal. Unfortunately, the wine chosen never improved in taste. This is where General Manager, Indre Vilkauskaite, came to the rescue by suggesting a beautiful medium bodied Côtes du Rhône Brézème from 2013. We ordered appetizers of Burrata with plum tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and, my personal favorite, beetroot and goats cheese salad with pistachios and orange. Our mains of filet of beef with Malabar pepper and grilled marinated lamb cutlets and smoked aubergine were perfect.
The staff at 8 Mount was attentive, friendly and quick to ensure guests’ needs are met. Although we had run out of room, we were persuaded to review the dessert menu. In the end, we shared a delicious Tarte Tatin which finished off the meal nicely. By the time we left, the restaurant had filled up, which was a good sign, considering it was midweek.
Overall, I was impressed with the London Dining scene, but what really stood out is the high level of service at each restaurant.
About the Author: A consummate traveler from an early age, Parm Parmar, lives to explore the world. Anything to do with history, culture and food peeks her interest. Her stories appear on her blog Planet Blue Adventure, in print and on popular online travel sites. Parm is a member of North America Travel Journalists Association and Travel Massive.
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