When it comes to restaurants, London is brimming with a plethora of hidden gems. Prohibition-style speakeasy restaurants are popping up all over the capital; pass behind sliding bookcases, meander down steps into basements, poke your head around nondescript, unnamed doors, and even walk through fridges: all in pursuit of that elusive hidden gem.
Far less discreet than our speakeasy brethren, my eyes have recently been opened by a far grander and more accessible ‘hidden’ dining experience: the hotel restaurant. Having recently visited The Ten Room, nestled in the heart of the Cafe Royal Hotel, I felt further investigation was needed into the restaurant offering from the capital’s world class hotel scene. This investigation would bring me to The Grill at one of London’s most luxurious hotels, The Montcalm.
At the top of Park Lane in Marble Arch, The Montcalm Hotel has been given a 5* rating by the AA. Not immediately evident on arrival at the hotel, The Grill in fact takes up a whole wing of the ground floor, just off the main receptions area. Popular with tourists, the dining room catered for afternoon tea aficionados as well as its lunchtime menu, and joining me for lunch today would be Bookatable’s very own @BuddyBudStar.
Attentive staff welcomed us to The Grill with a glass of prosecco and a beautiful board of breads while we perused the menu. The accompanying sundried tomato and olive relish was a revelation, spread liberally on every morsel of bread we could get our hands on. Resisting the urge to order more, the arrival of the first course stopped us in our tracks.
Next up was the fish course, and I opted for the squid with pecorino crumb, squid ink pearls, saffron potato and baby leek: a stunningly presented dish constructed by head chef Andrew Ives, formerly of Knebworth House. The pecorino crumb acted as a crunchy protective layer for the fresh, succulent squid within. The squid ink pearls scattered over the plate not only looked like balls of exquisite caviar placed one ball at a time, but created a beautiful accompaniment to the soft saffron potatoes.
Buddy’s fish course consisted of citrus North Atlantic sea trout, mussel ‘popcorn’, chive and lime crème fraîche. With the quality salmon rightly left to its own devices with the slightest touch of seasoning, the ingenuity of this dish came from the mussel ‘popcorn’. Whole mussels surrounded in potato and deep fried almost popped in the mouth when devoured. These two light fish dishes awoke the taste buds nicely as the kitchen fired up the stoves, and prepared to showcase its meat credentials. After all, this was a grill…
A good grill cooks a good steak. A fantastic grill, on the other hand, serves up an Angus sirloin steak, bone marrow croquette, parsley & shallot salad, and triple-cooked chips served alongside the most delicious peppercorn sauce I have come across in recent years. Yes, the steak was very good – requested medium rare and served just so. The garlic butter was cheekily served on the plate inside a slice of bone that slowly melted as the heat of the plate dispersed it underneath the steak. The bone marrow had not gone to waste at the expense of showmanship as, surprisingly, this was served inside the upstanding croquette. Crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle, the smooth potato and bone marrow filling melted in the mouth.
Sticking with the meat critique, Buddy opted for pot-roast fillet of free-range pork, crispy cheeks and Oakwell black pudding, rhubarb and ginger coulis, and baby root vegetables. Diving straight into the Oakwell black pudding, Buddy concluded that it was “one of the best” black puddings that he has ever tried. Not surprising, then, that the black pudding is a previous silver medallist in the Concours du Meilleur Boudin of the much prized French Confrerie des Chevaliers du Goute-Boudin, which rewards those who create particularly outstanding blood sausages (boudins). As expected, the pot-roast fillet was succulent and juicy, and accompanied by a bold combination of rhubarb and ginger coulis, the dish was a great success. A beautifully deep, red Catena Malbec wine from Argentina held its own in accompanying the two strong, flavoursome meat dishes.
Although not the strongest of all three courses, dessert showed flair in presenting deconstructed versions of British classics. Caramelised Granny Smith and cinnamon crumble with apple peel ice cream was my pick of the bunch. If you like apples, then you will love the ice cream on this dish: super strong and tangy. Buddy’s final dish was banoffee cheesecake mousse, baby banana fritters and salted caramel sorbet. The hot fritters were offset beautifully by the ice-cold caramel sorbet, and the smooth cheesecake mousse was a decadent addition to the dish. Our time at The Montcalm ended with a treat of Warre’s Heritage Ruby from Portugal’s Douro Valley, a rich fruity port.
Here’s my prediction: hotel restaurants are on the cusp of a revival. Push aside the underground speakeasies for now, and bask in the splendour of these sparkling, hidden gems.
The Grill at The Montcalm
34 – 40 Great Cumberland Place, London, W1H 7TW