A calm oasis from the throngs of tourists and shoppers on one of London’s busiest thoroughfares, Regent Street, The Café Royal Hotel exudes opulence from the very moment you spot it rounding the corner from Piccadilly Circus. Flags emblazoned with the hotel’s namesake were raised high above the doors as a beacon, saving us from an ensuing lunchtime rush building up on the pavements outside. Entering the newly restored iconic landmark, we were welcomed by a string of attentive staff directing us to the heart of the hotel, where we would be dining in the Ten Room.
Overseen by executive chef, Andrew Turner, it was immediately evident that he had a voracious appetite for showcasing only the best of seasonal produce. The ‘menu du jour’ we would be dining from, I was happy to see, had an altogether British flair to it. On being presented the menu, I was delighted to see that we had arrived at the height of asparagus season – one of my favourite ingredients. The menu, I came to discover, would be available for just two weeks; a real dedication to serving seasonal produce at its very peak by Chef Turner.
The house white, Vina Tobia Blanco Rioja 2012, was a great choice that complemented the dishes throughout; delicate enough to let the flavours of the food shine through.
Salmon tartare, purple asparagus, spring onions and chilli
First up on the menu du jour was salmon tartar, purple asparagus, spring onions and chilli. The salmon, sourced from the clear waters of Loch Duart in Scotland, was beautifully fresh and expertly seasoned with a subtle kick from the chilli. An accompanying quail’s egg with still-runny-egg sat proudly atop. The dish was rounded off nicely with a cool asparagus purée to add further depth.
Asparagus and Hollandaise
My dining companion this lunch time would be @BelleOttaway, Marketing Executive at Bookatable. Asparagus with hollandaise sauce kicked off proceedings for Annabelle. The asparagus was, as you would expect on this seasonal menu, cooked to perfection, retaining a satisfying crunch. The accompanying hollandaise sauce was a decadent addition that complemented the asparagus without being too overpowering.
Skate Renaissance with new potatoes and herbs
Annabelle took over the seafood reins for the next course: Skate “Renaissance” with new potatoes and herbs. The skate, sourced in Cornwall, arrived on a bed of asparagus and broad beans, coated in a delicious asparagus purée. Too much asparagus you might think? Not for this dish. The fresh combination of flavours were an ideal accompaniment to the soft and flaky fillet of skate; lightly pan fried and sprinkled with a dusting of herbs to form a satisfying crust to break through with the back of a fork.
Café Royal chicken with spinach and sauté potatoes
Given the honour of the hotel’s namesake bestowed upon it, I opted for the signature dish on the menu: Café Royal Chicken “Regence”. The chicken, Label Anglais Café Royal chicken (Fed on hazelnuts), was served with a small trinket of Madeira sauce – not that the extremely tender chicken needed much help in the juicy stakes. I was expecting nothing less than juicy godliness for a signature chicken dish, and I’m happy to report that it delivered on all fronts. Void from the menu, the Chicken was bolstered in presence by the surprise inclusion of boudin blanc (white sausage) with confit cocks combes and fois gras. Sautéed potatoes and more of those delicious sticks of asparagus were joined by a layer of spinach at the bottom, busy soaking up all the juices from the chicken.
On to dessert, where we would come to the end of our asparagus extravaganza, right? Wrong. Here comes the WOW factor…
Secrett’s Farm asparagus and fennel pollen withy leafy lemon shortbread
Out of pure inquisitiveness I opted for Secrett’s Farm Asparagus and Fennel Pollen (Pollen taken from fennel and encrusted on meringue) served with leafy lemon shortbread. Asparagus in a dessert – this should be interesting! The presentation alone for this dish serves a WOW. Dive into the dish, however, and you are hit with a combination of flavours that are both sweet and savoury, but strangely, and put bluntly, they just work. The pastry chefs have truly outdone themselves on meeting Chef Turner’s brief of including the most challenging of ingredients for a dessert. I was most intrigued by the spherical pockets of confit asparagus that sat on the plate; seemingly defying all preconceptions that sauce should be, well, sauce-like? I am told this is achieved by freezing the liquid before slowly defrosting it in a jelly bath, leaving behind a thin casing to hold the shape together. One to try at home, folks…
Savarin of cherry and new season almonds
Sidestepping the asparagus for the final course, Annabelle went for the Savarin of Cherry and New Season Almonds with vanilla ice cream – further confirmation that there are some very skilled pastry chefs in the kitchens of The Ten Room. The dish presented was simply stunning. Soft cherry sponge wrapped around the side of the plate and was complemented by creamy vanilla ice cream and sweet cherry sauce.
The sugar rush continued over coffee with generous petits fours; the highlight – a mint marshmallow that left you leaving the restaurant with minty fresh breath.
A brief exploration of the rest of the hotel after lunch revealed an altogether French affair. The stunning grill room, originally established in 1865, has been beautifully restored to its original Louis XVI days, with details of red and gold. If it’s good enough for the King of France then maybe a cheeky glass of champagne wouldn’t be a bad ending to your Café Royal experience…
Café Royal Hotel, 68 Regent Street, London, W1B 4DY
STAR DEAL – 3 courses & a glass of Champagne £30 per person
Menu Du Jour – 2 courses for £20 and 3 courses for £26