It probably wouldn’t be much of a surprise if a ‘you’re never further than ‘x’ metres from a restaurant in London’ worked its way into the capital’s consciousness. As – if you hadn’t noticed – London has quite a lot of them dotted through its sprawling boroughs. But despite these volumes, there are a select few that have met the ultimate accolade of a Michelin star (72, to be exact), and with that offer a truly unforgettable, one-off experience that you’re still likely to be regaling tales of long after your plates have been cleared. No matter how satisfying your pit-stop burger may be (and there are a lot of those in London, too), there just isn’t quite a match for the granddaddy of London’s dining offerings: a Michelin-starred tasting menu.
This is where flair comes to the fore, multiple disciplines are explored and plates that look like miniature works of art inspire awe and wonder. And Céleste’s menu offering, teamed with its truly stunning Venetian dining room, impeccable service team, and masterfully matched wines, is this breed of aforementioned rarity.
The dining room is a swirl of its namesake light blue: all Wedgwood duck-egg hues, softly set against the glint of crystal chandeliers, and an encircling gallery of Italian Renaissance paintings. The magnificent skylight is covered on the evening of our visit, evoking a sultry intimacy in the dining room (lunchtime visitors can catch the light-bathed room in all its glory).
Winning a Michelin star in the first edition of the guide after its opening (it was launched after the mammoth refurb of The Lanesborough Hotel), the Céleste menu comes courtesy of head chef Eric Frechon and Executive Chef Florian Favario (who between them hold a full-hand of 5 stars). We visit on the launch of their latest seasonal tasting menu: a journey through the cream-of-the-crop produce and unabashed ingredient-sorcery.
We start with a gorgeous arrangement of canapés: foie gras with autumnal fig, mushroom in a pastry cup and a tangy mango gel. These bitesize pieces set the tone: a kitchen with the firmest grasp on their skill set, with plenty of room for adventure and innovation.
Then the most delicate millefeuile: rich, meaty foie gras piped between crisp, light-as-air pastry, gorgeously blended with the wintry, cosseting flavours of pear and cinnamon.
Next came meaty, juicy chunks of native blue lobster mixed with the grainy-ness of charred cauliflower, and a bleeding richness of frothy curry oil foam. A highlight dish would be difficult to choose, but this one just might pip the other sublime plates for the crown.
A meaty, gloriously cooked piece of halibut was the fish course, with the nautical pang of the sea mixing with the richness of chicken jus and truffle oil. Dreamily mixed textures included earthy slivers of mushroom, while toasted hazelnuts brought a contrasting crunch.
Next, a chunk of rosy, gamey roe deer, served atop beetroot, and the aromatic swirl of juniper berries and a heady port jus. In true exacting-standard style, we watched our waiter emerge from the automatic-door wine vault and monitor the temperature of the accompanying red before pouring.
A delightfully different cheese course consisted of whipped blue cheese, with pear pieces concealed within and a biscuitty topping. Saying goodbye to the laborious chopping and spreading is the way forward.
Rounding things off (not counting a pick ‘n’ mix of petits fours, revealed after smashing into a glossy chocolate bauble), came chocolate mousse and crunchy nuggets of candied cashews, all concealed within a flawless, tempered chocolate tube.
It’s true that this isn’t the sort of food you’d eat (or could find) regularly, but that’s simply what makes it so special, and Céleste is meal-of-a-lifetime type stuff. London: your dining scene is brilliant, but restaurants like Céleste are in a different league. Friends: expect me to be talking about this one for a while.
Céleste at The Lanesborough
Lanesborough Hotel , Hyde Park Corner, London, SW1X 7TA