Posts Tagged ‘Athenaeum’

The Athenaeum – not your average Christmas Dinner

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

When I see the inevitable Christmas meals being advertised, I cringe. They conjure up images of restaurants stuffed with “party” groups, eating standard Christmas fare, turkey, brussels sprouts, christmas pudding etc at inflated prices.  I had spotted a toptable deal for a Christmas dinner at £24.50 for two courses or £29.50 for three with a glass of champagne at The Athenaeum, and  I had my doubts. Then I thought why not, if I am going to have a conventional Christmas meal then I may as well go somewhere that should do it well.

So on the last Saturday before Christmas we trudged through the snow to the hotel in Piccadilly. We had a couple of good, if expensive cocktails in the bar and wandered into a near empty dining room, where we were offered our pick of the tables. The room is nicely laid out to offer a fair amount of privacy. Tables for two in the middle of the room include a small banquette arrangement, that almost forms a booth. Strangely it reminded me a bit of some of the first class seating/sleeping arrangements on long haul flights.

The service levels are exactly as you would expect in a first class hotel, which The Atheneaum certainly is. It is just smaller and more intimate than most, almost boutique like.

So what can I say about the menu. Was it limited? No, it most definitely was not. What a treat. Yes, it did have turkey in the Best of British part of the menu, but it also had a good balanced selection of starters and main courses, and several appetizing dessert options.

We began with an amuse bouche of watercress mousse and parma ham. Then for my starter I ordered the Pigeon with Girolle mushrooms wrapped in short crust pastry and my companion ordered the slow cooked ducks egg with ham hock. Both dishes were main course size portions, beautifully cooked and presented.

For main course we had Pheasant with braised red cabbage, and a perfect dish for a winter evening consisting of braised oxtail, that just fell off the bone, herb dumplings and winter vegetables. It was a large portion and I was just too full to finish it. I definitely did not have any room for dessert. However as coffee and mince pies were also part of the set menu, they finished of the meal nicely instead.

Normally the down side of this sort of deal is that the “free” champagne tends to be fairly mediocre fizz. Not the case at The Atheneaum. It was from a champagne house I know well from tastings at the Hide Bar.  Specifically Ayala a small champagne house, owned by Bollinger.  It was rather fitting – an almost boutique champagne for an almost boutique hotel. Quite stunning.  We also had a reasonably priced bottle of El Grano, Carmenere 2009. A well balanced light red wine that had a smooth almost milky texture.

Perhaps it is my Scottish upbringing that draws me to “real” bargains like The Athenaeum, and it seems I am not alone in this, as on exiting the restaurant we spotted fellow Scot, Billy Connolly – the Big Yin himself.

I would be happy to have more Christmas dinners like this one. The Athenaeum is firmly on my list of return locations.

Marks out of 10

Food 6.8

Service 6.8

Ambience 5.9

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Athenaeum – Evergreen

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Had Afternoon Tea at The Athenaeum – they’re celebrating the first anniversary of the hotel’s living wall – a vertical garden. At £27.50 for Afternoon Tea and a glass of Kir Royal (if booked via toptable), this is a lot cheaper than the fabulous Pret a Portea at The Berkeley my favorite afternoon tea venue. To be honest though I have to say that the Athenaeums Afternoon Tea it is not in the same league as the Pret a Portea.  However it is still a better than average venue to experience a typical English Afternoon Tea.

Included in the Afternoon Tea is your choice of teas, 2 rounds of sandwiches, 2 small scones, 3 items from the cake trolley and just when you think it is all over, Crumpets or Tea cakes.  Rather strangely we had lots of jam for the Crumpets and Tea cakes, when we did not need it, and not enough for the scones. You may also find  if you like stronger tea, that you need to ask for it, as the tea can be quite weak.

Marks out of 10

Food 5.8

Service 5.5

Ambience 6

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Where to eat and drink in Londons West End – Tourist Central!

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

The West End technically covers:-

Bloomsbury, Covent Garden, Fitzrovia, Holborn, Marylebone, Mayfair, Seven Dials, Soho, St James and Westminster.

That is a pretty large area, so I am going to focus on the centre of the West End or Tourist Central, i.e., places around Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus. This is mainly because finding a decent restaurant or bar in this area is a bit like finding a needle in a haystack.

So here are my top 10 recommendations, in no particular order.

1. The Albannach , Trafalgar Square – A very stylish “Scottish” Bar and Restaurant.  Open for Breakfast too. I would recommend reserving a table here rather than doing a walk in, you can make a reservation on line using their website.

2.Rockwell, Trafalgar Hotel – Two Top class bars (Upper and Lower Rockwell – Upper Rockwell is the roof top bar with stunning views), service can be a bit hit and miss.

3.Thai Square, Trafalgar Square – it’s not the best Thai restaurant in London by any means, but it is part of a reliable chain. (It has recently won an award to say it is the best – so judge for yourself).  It is also a good location for larger groups.

4.The Portrait Restaurant, in the National Portrait Gallery – reliable food, good for an inexpensive “Afternoon Tea”, great views over Trafalgar Square. Can get very busy at peak times, so I would also recommend reserving a table here via their website.

5.Asia de Cuba,  St Martins Lane Hotel – Very stylish and expensive venue, food is specifically designed for sharing, so ideal for groups of 4 or more.

6.The Mint Leaf, Piccadilly – a stylish, Modern Indian Restaurant and Bar. Good Pre Theatre venue.

7. Brasserie Roux, Piccadilly – a good choice for a pre theatre meal, the restaurant is in the Sofitel Hotel. The Hotel has a comfortable cocktail bar, which is a  refuge from the crowds. There is also the Rose Room, which is good for a more upmarket  “Afternoon Tea”.

8. 5th View Bar & Food, Waterstones, Piccadilly - For a book store cafe, this place is great, it does good reasonably priced cocktails and the food is way better that you would expect (limited choice though). Nice selection of cakes – the carrot cake is particularly good.

9.The Wolseley, Piccadilly – European Style Brasserie, very popular, stunning room – great for people watching if you can get a table.

10.Atheneaum Hotel, Piccadilly – The restaurant serves classic British food. The hotel also does a really good “Afternoon Tea” and has a bar that is both cosy and stylish (and expensive!). It also has The Pudding Parlour which I have not tried, but it does sound and look wonderful – Pudding Parlour post

 

 

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