We arrive, inevitably, just as the snow does. The piercing cold makes us huddle in our coats, like refugees fleeing the winter, and the short journey between Liverpool Street and South Place is accomplished with much gasping and shivering. ‘So this’, I announce to nobody in particular, ‘is how Russians must feel every day.’ I suspect that this is hyperbole. In a country where the president’s re-election is but a formality of protocol, there is very little to look forward to. As one approaches the glamorous and buzzy South Place, there is a very great deal to be excited about.
The first thing that one notices is that it’s fun. A big, noisy restaurant on the ground floor – the South Place Chop House – lures in its fair share of City boys and girls, but there is also plenty of other jollity lurking in the slick corridors, whether it’s the ‘city speakeasy’ Le Chiffre, named after the James Bond villain, the ‘surprise oasis’ of the Secret Garden – a long way from Frances Hodgson Burnett with its emphasis on cigars and champagne, although come to think of it their addition might well have made the book a rather more readable one – and, of course, the Michelin-starred flagship in the D & D group, Angler.
Lurking discreetly on the seventh floor, and offering views into City offices (especially the poor felons lurking on international conference calls late into the night), it should be said at the outset that Angler is serving some of the best seafood in London. Courtesy of its executive chef Gary Foulkes, who used to be head chef at The Square (before it went downhill), this discreet and decidedly delicious restaurant offers style, sophistication and succulence in equal measure.
There is a nine-course tasting menu with detours into pasta and meat dishes, but we decide that the slimmed down, six-course version is just the right balance of sybaritic abandon and health-consciousness. Foulkes’s cooking is more than worthy of its star; dishes of tuna tartare with wasabi (pronounced by my wife to be the best one she’s ever had), turbot with an almost outrageously umami-rich sauce and roast cod with squid are utterly exemplary. The sommelier pairs each new delight with a more than decent-sized glass of wine; not even a late outburst of rage by our daughter can dampen the spirits.
And then it’s back to the room, or, to be more precise, the studio. With enormous floor to ceiling windows, a Bang & Olufsen TV complete with free film library – we wanted to watch Dunkirk again but decided that it wasn’t really the right sort of ambience for Christopher Nolan’s intense masterpiece – and a bathroom that allows one to shower while overlooking the City before one – this is the stuff of plutocratic fantasies.
The emphasis is firmly on luxury, which means that it’s a shock to the system the next day, after an excellent breakfast in the downstairs Chop House, to leave the warm and comfortable environs and head out, shivering, into the great outdoors. And yet, even if our bodies are cold, our hearts and spirits have been warmed by our stay. We may not have tucked into the minibar – complete with lime and lemon waiting for one – nor ventured into the upstairs Angler bar, but we’ve had a wonderful time. Chances are that you will, too.
South Place Hotel, 3 South Place, London EC2M 2AF. For more information, including details of the restaurants, facilities and what’s on at the hotel, visit www.southplacehotel.com.