London hotel restaurants have been grabbing headlines since 1890, when César Ritz took over the management of the newly opened Savoy Hotel and appointed Auguste Escoffier as head chef. The French chef had already introduced London to the concept of the à la carte menu at the Carlton Hotel. At a time when most dining was still done in private gentlemen's clubs, Ritz and Escoffier created a hit restaurant that was open to all of polite society, women included.
A century later, the city's hotel dining rooms had for the most part died an unfashionable death. All the most vaunted restaurants of the time - Kensington Place, Alastair Little, The River Cafe, The Ivy and Le Caprice - were standalone destinations. Then in the early '90s Nico Ladenis and Marco Pierre White revamped the idea of the hotel restaurant with their three-starred establishments (Chez Nico at the Grosvenor House; the Oak Room at Le Méridien Piccadilly), and Gordon Ramsay followed later in the decade at Claridge's and the Savoy.
Pigeon with arroz negro and black pudding at Serge et le Phoque
Suddenly hotels remembered that star chefs could fill their hotels. Their restaurants would again be seen as dining destinations that could generate revenue in their own right - no longer subsidised by room occupancy, but actually helping to drive it.
The current crop of big-name chefs running restaurants at luxury London hotels include such culinary heavyweights as Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Anne-Sophie Pic, Alain Ducasse, Hélène Darroze, Heston Blumenthal, Elena Arzak and Eneko Atxa.
Meanwhile, new boutique hotels are casting their nets ever wider, whether championing lesser-known local talent or importing restaurant brands from abroad. Here are the best of the new bunch of new London restaurants - with rooms.
SERGE ET LE PHOQUE
A second branch of Serge et le Phoque, the cult bistro in Hong Kong's Wan Chai established by chef Frédéric Peneau and designer Charles Pelletier, has opened in a quirky boutique hotel in the West End. It's the brainchild of first-time hotelier Rami Fustok, son of the surrealist sculptor Bushra Fakhoury. Named after the mystical plant, The Mandrake is the antithesis of minimalism, a dose of theatrical, hedonistic, surreal luxury built around a courtyard with hanging garden.
Lobby at The Mandrake
Eat It's modern French with a gentle Asian accent: scallops with yuzu kosho and matcha, ceviche of Sicilian red prawn, eggplant roasted with miso, turbot for two with béarnaise and pommes frites. Sides include roast sweetcorn with XO sauce and pomme purée that doesn't skimp on the butter, while dessert may be chocolate tart with salted cherry blossom, or lemon cream with pepper jelly and dacquoise mignardises.
Octopus with aji amarillo, century egg, ginger and tobiko at Serge et le Phoque
Drink Former Clove Club sommelier Bert Blaize
has written the list of organic, biodynamic and natural Old and New
Sleep There are 30 guestrooms, three suites and a penthouse with a six-person Jacuzzi beneath a retractable roof.
Play Three bars, a multifunction room, which includes a cinema, outdoor terraces and a greenhouse. The artist-in-residence program launched last month currently features celebrity tattooist Mark Mahoney, whose clients have included Johnny Depp, Adele, David Beckham and Sid Vicious.
Charles Pelletier, co-owner at Serge et le Phoque
Don't love It's London, not Miami, so that
courtyard will be largely wasted for at least half the year.
Love The restaurant's playlist of French electronica is on a perfectly balanced sound system that allows guests to enjoy the music without killing the conversation.
Rooms from £250. 20-21 Newman St, W1T 1PG, themandrake.com
LA DAME DE PIC LONDON
The Four Seasons London At Ten Trinity Square
The second London Four Seasons occupies the former Port of London Authority headquarters at Tower Hill, a stunning 1920s limestone Beaux Arts building and now the London seat of French restaurant royalty in the form of Anne-Sophie Pic. Like her father and grandfather, Pic holds three Michelin stars at the family restaurant, Maison Pic, in Valence, in south-eastern France, and also one star at her Paris restaurant.
The Four Seasons London at Ten Trinity Square
Eat Exquisite haute creations via à la carte
and six-course tasting menu. The set lunch is more affordable, but
unfortunately doesn't include her signature berlingots - pasta
parcels filled with smoked Pélardon cheese, zucchini, green
cardamom and galangal.
Drink The wine list is focused on the Rhône, where Maison Pic is located, but covers all bases and takes a few unexpected turns with Asturian ice cider and fruit-infused sakes. English sparkling wine is listed beside Pic's own-label Billecart-Salmon.
Sleep The 100 rooms, including 11 suites, are elegantly decorated in greys and creams with a subtle maritime theme in keeping with the building's history.
Play Spa, nail salon, fitness centre, swimming pool, a lounge, two bars and a restaurant, Mei Ume, serving Chinese and Japanese cuisine.
La Dame de Pic
Don't love This is tourist territory; there are
few reasons for Londoners to come to Tower Hill.
Love The view of the Tower of London.
Rooms from £450. 10 Trinity Sq, EC3N 4AJ, fourseasons.com; ladamedepiclondon.co.uk
The second European property in the US-based Nobu Hotels portfolio opened in July on an uncharacteristically leafy Shoreditch side street. Its centrepiece is a 240-seat dining room, the third in London serving Nobu Matsuhisa's American-tempered Japanese-Peruvian fusion.
Eat As well as Nobu classics such as miso black
cod, jalapeño yellowtail and rock shrimp tempura, there's a range
of specials not yet available at the 36 other Nobu restaurants
around the world, including roast lobster with Hokkaido scallops
and coriander cream, and sea bass with yuzu kosho and truffle
honey. Dining venues include a 10-berth sushi bar, an 18-seat
chef's table, the main dining room and the lobby lounge.
Drink Expect vintage sake, rare Japanese whisky and crossbred cocktails such as the sake-based Oni Negroni and the Meridian 77, a pisco sour with lychee and shiso.
Sleep The luxe minimalism of the public areas extends to 143 rooms and seven suites, which feature concrete walls and simple globe lighting.
Play A rooftop bar and terrace are due to open next year. For now, there's a Pilates and yoga studio, two treatment rooms, a gym, sauna and steam room.
Tai dry miso at Nobu Shoreditch
Don't love Although the hotel design is
stunning, there's not enough on the menu to distinguish Shoreditch
from the brand's other restaurants. And the roll-out continues.
Nobu hotels with dining rooms are coming to Palo Alto, Riyadh,
Marbella, Los Cabos, Chicago, Toronto, Barcelona and Bahrain.
Love The breakfast menu is worth getting out of bed for. Look forward to matcha waffles and chicken, scrambled egg donburi and the Matsuhisa Benedict, which includes crisp tofu, spinach, snow crab, shiso béarnaise and salmon roe.
Rooms from £240. 10-50 Willow St, EC2A 4BH, nobuhotelshoreditch.com
The eclectic boutique-hotel portfolio of the Experimental Group (Paris, London, New York and Ibiza) has expanded to the West End. The follow-up to the Grand Pigalle in Paris, the Henrietta occupies two converted townhouses just off Covent Garden's famous Piazza.
Lobby bar at The Henrietta
Eat The menu is overseen by Ollie Dabbous,
whose eponymous Fitzrovia dining room was one of London's most
acclaimed until it closed earlier this year; it's due to reopen in
a new location next year. Expect pretty plates that follow fashion
but always deliver - grilled flatbread topped with crab, garlic
butter and herbs, pâté de campagne with pickled cucumber and
violet mustard, and barbecued lamb with charred socca.
Drink Cocktail authorities Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown have named drinks after books published by Victor Gollancz, who once operated from this address and whose authors included George Orwell, John Le Carré and Kingsley Amis. Try a Lucky Jim - vodka, dry vermouth and cucumber juice - actually created by Amis for the launch of the book in 1954.
Sleep The 18 guestrooms, designed by Dorothée Meilichzon, who has worked on all the Experimental Group hotels, are full of character, clever retro touches and Gallic elegance. Play The restaurant aside, it's the bar or to bed (although there is 24-hour room service).
Guestroom at Henrietta Hotel
Don't love The odd-shaped dining room
Love Madeleines flavoured with tonka beans are served warm from the oven with Chantilly cream. And the minibar features freshly mixed cocktails.
Rooms from £220. 14-15 Henrietta St, London, WC2E 8QH, henriettahotel.com
Red Rooster is the London offshoot of the Harlem soul-food joint run by Swedish-Ethiopian chef Marcus Samuelsson (the original was a favourite of Barack Obama, who has his name on the signature short ribs). Red Rooster is located in the basement of The Curtain, Shoreditch's newest boutique hotel, named for the road it stands on (itself named after the Elizabethan playhouse that once stood nearby).
Eat Southern soul-food classics appear
alongside dishes from Samuelsson's Scandinavian childhood and the
flavours of his Ethiopian roots. That means cornbread, Swedish fish
tacos and down-home dishes with names like Ol' Man Shrimp 'n' Grits
and Fried Yard Bird.
Drink The cocktails rejoice in names such as Madame Baker, a Spritz, and Harlem Hellfighter, a savoury blend of Calvados, grapefruit, bitters and beer. Taco bar Tienda Roosteria, set on the ground floor, does a good line in tequila.
Sleep The 120 clubby rooms mix exposed brickwork, hardwood floors, 1970s rock photography, green Chesterfields and tartan cushions. Marble bathrooms with rain showers double as steam rooms.
Play The rooftop pool is too small for laps, but there's a 24-hour gym with cycle and yoga classes. A co-working space, screening room and members' club get the East London creatives and hotel guests mingling.
Private dining room at Red Rooster
Don't love Although it's billed as "a London
original", the hotel and its restaurant feel entirely New York. No
surprise, then, that it's the first European opening for Manhattan
hotelier Michael Achenbaum.
Love Red Rooster takes bookings until 11.30pm and sells booze until 2am. There's live music six nights a week and a gospel choir during Sunday brunch.
Rooms from £290. 45 Curtain Rd, EC2A 3PT, thecurtain.com
NEW RESTAURANTS IN ESTABLISHED HOTELS
These new restaurants in established hotels in the UK capital are flaunting modern Mexican magic, French finesse, reimagined pub grub and the best of British tradition. And should the need arise, you can get a room.
THE GAME BIRD
The Stafford London
A discreet, luxurious presence in St James's since 1912, The
Stafford's revamped dining room strikes the right notes. Executive
chef James Durrant's menu delivers updated British classics with an
emphasis on meat and game, stews, pies and Sunday roasts. It has
probably the world's poshest egg and chips, roast pigeon with
parsnips, a chicken Kiev stuffed with so much truffle butter it's
served with a special leather bib, and old-fashioned
The Stafford, 16-18 St James's Pl, SW1A 1NJ, thestaffordlondon.com
Roast pigeon with parsnips
Jean-Georges Vongerichten returns to Mayfair with a new venture,
having established his pioneering French-Asian fusion restaurant in
the Connaught's sister hotel, The Berkeley, in the late '90s. With
a kitchen overseen by Anshu Anghotra, the eclectic,
unapologetically luxurious menu includes a caviar section, a
truffled cheeseburger, prime cuts of British beef and pizza topped
with more truffles.
The Connaught, Carlos Pl, W1K 2AL, the-connaught.co.uk
Inside The Connaught
Intercontinental London Park Lane
Martha Ortiz, of Mexico City's award-winning Dulce Patria,
introduces modern Mexican to Park Lane. Her theatrically presented
menu, divided into Overture, Main Act and Final Curtain, includes
elaborate takes on guacamole, ceviche, mole and churros.
Intercontinental London Park Lane, One Hamilton Place, Park La, W1J 7QY, ellacanta.com
The guacamole at Ella Canta
The Wigmore is a deluxe homage to the British boozer with a menu
overseen by Michel Roux Jr of Le Gavroche fame. In the heart of the
West End, cask ales, craft beers and classic cocktails are the foil
for pub snacks such as masala-spiced Scotch eggs, stovetop cheese
toasties, and suet-crusted ox cheek and ale pies.
The Langham, 15 Langham Place, Upper Regent St, W1B 1JA, the-wigmore.co.uk
The bar of The Wigmore
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