The London Hilton on Park Lane has just had a multi-million-pound refurbishment and nowhere is that more obvious than in their swanky new lobby area, home now to a new bar and restaurant. The place positively glitters but when you get to the bar that all changes. Revery is all subdued lighting with red velvet banquettes and armchairs and tiny marble tables. There are lots of private corners though there is a generous glittery bar awash with extremely interesting signature cocktails.
In fact, there are three cocktail menus, one of which is devoted to variations on the theme of martinis. There is a Classics range (with favourites like Mai Tai) and then they have their Signatures. These are pretty inventive with ingredients like white port, sake, Asiatic spices, shiitake soda – and beetroot. Really? This one, Arriba Arriba, I had to try. And you could certainly taste the beetroot in there along with rose tequila, mezcal, jalapeno, citrus and “salty air”. I’m not entirely sure what the salty air is but maybe it was to do with the froth on the top. The earthy taste was unusual but it certainly grew on me.
In the meantime, my friend Gem went for a more conventional sounding Barranquilla (Glenlivet, rum, coconut, Falernum, smoked pineapple, citrus and Tiki Bitters). The coconut and pineapple gave this one a little more sweetness but not too much – it was, perhaps, like a grown-up Pina Colada. Thus refreshed, we walked the ten paces or so to the Park Corner Brasserie.
We were there to try out the new Chef’s table creations, a new prix fixe menu created by chef Jean Didier (two courses £35, three courses £45). We were there for an early supper but this is ideal, too, for lunch. It’s a bright spacious restaurant and you can either look out across the park or into the lobby itself. We chose the latter – an excellent spot for a little idle people watching.
As we were both thinking in terms of something light, I ended up choosing two starters. It was obviously something of a beetrooty night for me as my first was the Heritage beetroot, caramelised fig, feta and basil. Perfectly light and rather delicate and a mere 231 calories. The Brasserie’s menu provides the calorie counts for everything (as do many restaurants now) and it’s interesting – indeed, sometimes puzzling, what this reveals.
Gem, for instance, decided on Cured Scottish salmon with lemon curd, radish, rye load, lemon and herb butter – and this came in at a staggering 731 calories. We discussed this in some depth with our waiter Chand (who should be considering a second career as a stand-up comedian) and he explained that smoked salmon wasn’t the guilt-free dish we’d always thought it was…
Nevertheless, Gem thought it was delicious and we moved on, in my case, to my second starter, Slow cooked South Downs pork belly with crackling, celeriac slaw and apple BBQ sauce. Even this (pork belly – really?) came in at a comparatively modest 528 calories – a surprise, given it was substantial and filling with an edge of sweetness. Gem’s Wild garlic orzo, Shropshire Blue, with grilled tenderstem broccoli was even more virtuous at 368 calories and possibly the hit dish of the evening. As Chand said, if it hadn’t been for that window into the lobby, she’d probably have licked the plate.
There were some tempting desserts (and the Caramelised peach cake with vanilla ice cream was a mere 307 calories) but we were both more than satisfied and had enjoyed, too the organic Austrian Soellner Riesling, not at all sweet and very slightly fizzy. It was all very pleasant and the people watching was top notch!
For more information on the Chef’s Table at Park Corner Brasserie, Hilton Hyde Park, and for bookings, please visit www.hilton.com.