Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Out and about: Pearl at the Chancery Court Hotel

At the end of June my mum celebrated her birthday and seeing as we were long overdue on our regular “god family” catch up we used this as an excuse to get together. We decided against afternoon tea this time, and decided to head somewhere for lunch instead.

In keeping with our penchant for girly venues (check out The Athenaeum, The Soho Hotel and Kensington Roof Gardens and you’ll see what I mean about “girly”) I chose Pearl at the Chancery Court Hotel.

I’d been showed round the newly refurbished hotel rooms and fell head over heels with the understated quirkiness of the styling: love quotes from Shakespeare engraved in the glass dressing table tops, books on lecterns at the end of the corridor with directions to rooms instead of signs and arrows suggesting “rooms 213 – 452 this way à” and each room had a little pewter critter or familiar on a perch outside it, which reminded me of the Dæmons in His Dark Materials. My favourite was the wide-eyed owl, no, the Dodo. Got to love an Alice in Wonderland reference!

Dodo at the door!

corridor directions

Also part of the show round was the Chocolate Afternoon Tea lounge area (which I once used for a corporate seminar, sadly without the chocolate fountains) which I’ll be heading back for someday soon and the girliest restaurant I’ve ever seen: Pearl.

The tables in Pearl are covered in white cloths and under-lit, yes under-lit*, in the centre, decorated with translucent pink vases containing a single pink stem, and surrounded by large, pink translucent (and possibly slightly iridescent) charger plates. It was pink-tastic without being Barbie-tastic or tacky. Well I don’t think it was tacky, but someone must have as I’m pretty sure I saw it on an episode of Footballers’ Wives long ago…

girly pink plates!

underlit, girly pink tables
But let me tell you about the best bit! The best bit are the strings and strings of soft pink pearls and sparkly pink crystals hanging everywhere – from the light fittings, from windows, from purpose-made stands to separate the sofas in the bar to create more of a booth feel. This is where I probably should have told you about the building’s heritage. Originally the banking halls for Pearl Assurance (hence the name), the bar area is large and spacious with high ceilings a long bar and shiny marble, polished glass or glossy wood on every surface, so sectioning the seating in to smaller areas makes it feel slightly more cosy and intimate whilst still being airy and light. Another interesting fact, not on the website, as far as I can see, but mentioned by the employee who showed me around, the Grand Staircase was used in a recent Bond film. It wasn’t clarified which, but I think I’ve spotted it in Quantum of Solace…

The restaurant was apparently also the filming location for Masterchef: The Professionals finale in 2010.
With the restaurant’s name (until you know the history, above), the minimalist styling and all the pearl décor and an executive head chef named Jun Tanaka you’d be forgiven for thinking that the menu would be full of Asian-style dishes. Well you’d be wrong. The menu is French. But not French in the heavy, creamy, calorific way (sorry, France is not my favourite food region!), but in the fresh, delicate and dainty way. In fact, my choices felt rather healthy – which can’t often be said for French cuisine (sadly, otherwise I’d eat LittleParis Kitchen recipes three times a day, EVERY day!).

We chose to opt for the set lunch menu as it’s waaay cheaper than the a la carte alternative, (although they often appear on with good deals for dinner and a cocktail for a reasonable price) and picked the three course option at a cost of £28.

I chose a starter of veal tongue with tuna mayonnaise (huh? Really? Yes!) which sounded like a ridiculous combination but actually tasted amazing. I was a bit scared about the veal tongue, and tried not to think about it as I ate it (it’s making me shudder now!) but it was tender and melt in the mouth and I soon forgot my offal/unusual-body-part-of-animal aversion.

My starter: veal tongue with tuna mayonnaise
My main dish was roast salmon with lightly spiced lentils pickled carrots and yoghurt dressing. It was delicious. I couldn’t get enough of it. I could have eaten another two portions. The salmon was cooked wonderfully juicy and flavoursome and was perfectly complemented by the hint of spice in the lentils, the tartness carrots and freshness of the yoghurt, all of which added an interesting combination of flavours. It was the kind of dish that warrants the title “simple yet effective”. I want to recreate it in my kitchen at home and eat it every week, and I feel kind of confident that I could, which says something about its simplicity.

My main course: roast salmon

Anyway, a little break, and dessert was on its way. I chose mandarin mousse with white chocolate ice cream. I’m not big on mousse and I’m not big on white chocolate so it was an odd choice for me, but the other option was a hazelnut parfait and I hate nuts! I’m not going to lie, it won’t be going on my Most Amazing Desserts list, and let’s be honest, it’s going to take something pretty special to knock the pineapple tipsy cake off the top spot, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was light, but tasty and hit the spot – you know, that spot that needs hitting with something sweet after a few savoury courses and some wine?

Dessert option 1: mandarin mousse with white chocolate ice cream

Dessert option 2: hazelnut mousse
I want to make mention of the service as well, as the waiters and serving staff were super attentive, helpful, friendly, polite and knowledgeable. No snooty maître d’ here!!

I’d like to head back in the evening or when it’s busier to get a better feel for the atmosphere as it was very quiet when we went in and I do like a bit of buzz in my venues, but for a nice, refined girly lunch being able to chat across a large round table without having to shout was actually rather pleasant! I’d also like to return to check out their chocolate afternoon tea and their lounge bar, which comes complete with a tapas-style buffet. Perfect location for a wintery catch up, with cheese and a glass of red by the fire and chocolate and cake in a squishy sofa… so watch this space!

The afternoon tea buffet - I'll be heading back!
Obviously we rounded off the afternoon with some cocktails in one of my old school Covent Garden haunts, Dirty Martini, before heading home for sofa pyjama snuggles and presents...and a sneaky glass of prosecco... obvs!

*I asked on the show round about the underlit tables and the reason is, that as a listed building the occupiers can’t alter any of the internal structure or permanent décor in specific areas (particularly the old banking halls – now Pearl and the grand staircase), so they can’t add in any more lighting and therefore, under-lit tables were the solution.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing post as always Mrs G, love the descriptions of the finishes and ambiance... inspiration to reach for the stars in my career. Thank you!