It’s surprisingly difficult to find a secluded, leafy cocktail venue in London away from the hustle and bustle, let alone one that boasts the incredibly central and prestigious address of Park Lane. Returning for a second year, guests of the Secret Garden at Four Season Hotel London at Park Lane are once again basking in the British sunshine with smug grins at having discovered just such a spot. We certainly were after a recent visit to the hotel’s restaurant Amaranto had alerted us, and when their own music drowned out the Justin Bieber concert and the ensuing screams sounding from nearby Hyde Park, I knew where I would rather be…
Nothing could be more thirst-quenching in a heatwave than being presented with a chilled flute of Veuve Clicquot, while the iconic orange branding featured on the umbrellas and seating of the Secret Garden’s upper Veuve Clicquot Champagne terrace proved the perfect spot to sample Chef de Cuisine Eliano Crespi’s around-the-world inspired tapas menu, small street food style dishes designed to share with friends, or in my case one very greedy husband.
The piadina, a thin pizzette-style sandwich filled with stracciatella cheese, parma ham and rocket, is great finger food and brought back fond memories of trips to Italy. The oozing Spanish-inspired scamorza and pecorino croquettes with basil pesto were equally evocative of holiday, while there was some fun Asian-fusion going on with the crispy calamari alla Romana, presented on faux newspaper and served with a fiery wasabi mayonnaise. The grilled chicken skewers served with roasted pineapple and a Malaysian peanut sauce were a classic I couldn’t do without, an exotic finale to a delicious selection of light bites, ideal on a scorching hot day.
The waiting staff are snazzily attired in white shirts and braces, with a slick, charming service style that never leaves your dish of nuts or glass empty – a dangerous thing indeed when cocktails are this expertly mixed, whether you opt for one of the classics or a Four Season’s twist such as the Hennessy Fine Champagne cocktail with homemade bitters, the Margarita featuring orange alongside the usual lime, a Veuve Clicquot Bellini made with raspberry or strawberry, or the refreshing Secret Garden Spritz, a luxurious take on a traditional Aperol Spritz made with grapefruit and Veuve Clicquot (what else?) – the only trouble is going back to the humbler prosecco.
The garden features impressive planted arrangements such as abundant white hydrangeas and canna lily that really stand out against the vibrant sunshine orange of the Veuve Clicquot, while white begonia flowers, blue salvia and agapanthus frame the more relaxed atmosphere of the Hennessey Lounge. In-house floral designer Rosalind Ackerley has once again succeeded in creating a lush, dual-vibe space that feels more South of France than Central London, and time simply flies by. If it does get a little cool, you’ll be offered a monogrammed throw to encourage you to stay a little longer.
There is ample seating, from the colourful tables and chairs of the elevated Veuve Clicquot Champagne terrace or the more relaxed ground floor Hennessy Lounge with comfy sofas, popular with cigar lovers, but best of all is the strict no booking policy, meaning it’s always a good idea to drop by when the sun is shining. Whilst it’s an obvious place to arrange to meet friends for champers and tapas – after all it is the social season – my selfish side would like to keep the Secret Garden precisely that. I just need a few shopping bags for company. Well, we are in Mayfair darling.
The Secret Garden at Four Seasons Hotel London Park Lane is open from 12pm until 11pm daily. No reservations. For more information please visit the website.