JW Marriott Grosvenor House celebrates 90

Glitterati, celebrities and 650 guests gathered in Park Lane on 30th April to celebrate something very special. On a warm summer evening the grande dame of Mayfair, JW Marriott Grosvenor House London, celebrated 90 years. Since its establishment, in 1929, JW Marriott Grosvenor House has been a place of intrigue in the capital. As a former residence of the Dukes of Westminster it’s where the longest reigning British monarch spent summer days as a child. The official dinner and after party for the BAFTAs have taken place here for 68 years. The Royal Caledonian and The Russian Debutante Balls are also both hosted here. So it’s no stranger to entertaining on a grand scale.

The celebration in April also marked the completion of a four year renovation of Grosvenor House. I stepped over the threshold of the Park Street entrance and stood astounded at the grandness of it all. The hotel’s forecourt had transformed into an ethereal summer dream that had been inspired by Hyde Park. A yellow rose frame complete with park bench and picnic basket was the backdrop. Well-heeled guests mingled freely as Champagne, of all shades of the setting sun, flowed freely. Between clinking of crystal flutes staff in starched white uniforms weaved in and out of the crowd. They carried silver platters of delights from the hotel’s four restaurants hand-picked by Executive Chef Paul Bates.

Inside, was an open house and guests glided from one room to the next. The splendid Park Room is now a palatial nod to the most famous park it overlooks; Hyde Park. The colours are muted, the carpet echoes fallen leaves in autumn and seasonal flowers dominate the eye line. It led to the lively and atmospheric JW Steakhouse which was rollicking good fun with doors wide open and live music. Prime USDA cuts and tasting options accompanied by drinks from its Bourbon Bar were served to a delighted crowd. Corrigan’s Mayfair’s oysters, Dickie’s Black Velvet cocktails and Ruya London’s Anatolian bites were sure fire crowd-pleasers. Sweet dessert plates of orange, basil and Dorset raspberry tart and lavender cake were sublime. Nyetimber Classic Cuvee and the hotel’s unique signature Yellow Rose Tea accompanied the refined menu.

String infusions all female musicians play at JW Marriott.

Elmhurst Ballet School entertained with a thrilling pop-up and String Infusion and Super Spokes played timeless classical music. The evening culminated with a performance by the London Community Gospel Choir which I missed but had brought the house down.

General Manager Stuart Bowery added, “Throughout the 90 years of its legacy, JW Marriott Grosvenor House London has played a role, whether large or small, in the history of this beloved city. This year, following significant transformations, our iconic hotel begins an exciting new chapter. We look forward to welcoming our guests as we head into the next decade feeling inspired and fulfilled.

We certainly wish JW Marriott another enduring 90 years on Park Lane.

For more information on JW Marriott Grosvenor House visit: www.marriott.co.uk/grosvenor-house-london/

 

Mews of Mayfair Champagne infused afternoon tea ticks every box

Afternoon tea in London is having an absolute moment to say the least. I could have easily fitted a dozen in to a single month. Their resurgence and popularity is unsurprising. Summer kicked off with the wedding of the century and it was all British traditions and tiaras for us from then on.

Read my full review at Seen in the City.

 

 

 

 

StreetXO London Restaurant Review

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What’s the first thing that springs to mind when you think of fine dining at a Mayfair restaurant? Plush surroundings, formal dining and stiff upper-lipped staff? Well, not so at StreetXO London. Think street food in shady parts of Bangkok, night markets in Hong Kong or China Town Food Street in Singapore and you’d be closer to the StreetXO experience. Rules of fine dining do not apply and anything goes; chopsticks, cutlery or fingers. It’s street life for sure. You’d be forgiven for thinking that all this style comes at the price of substance. You’d be wrong. This is the London home of chef David Muñoz; he who cut his teeth at Hakkasan, Nahm and Nobu. The chef with the only restaurant in Madrid to be awarded three Michelin stars for DiverXO. Welcome to the world of David Muñoz!

The Space

I walked down a golden staircase to the dark heart of StreetXO. It was lunch time but already evening in the world of XO. Neon lights flash above the open kitchen and the fluidity of the kitchen counter appeared to carry me away on a wave and I walked past my reserved table only to walk back.

Just as if you were on a busy side street in Bangkok, of an evening, there’s much to see. Stimulation is everywhere; mirrors on the wall, blood red formica tables, leather, noise. Giant glass baubles act as lampshades and I can see what looks suspiciously like a colourful ice cream vending machine at the end of the kitchen. It reminds me of something from an animé movie. I can’t quite figure out what. All in all it works for me. I hadn’t realised what I’d signed up for but I was now knee-deep in it and I liked it. Five minutes in and I’d already forgotten the world outside.

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The Menu

I begin with a colossal cocktail. Liquid Madrizzzzz DiverXO is made of
violet shrub, lime, ginger and jasmine perfume served in a cocktail glass three times the size of a regular one. I stirred it and the aroma of jasmine was intoxicating in an ethereal sense. Pink and purple petals floated on the lavender hued drink as if it was magic. Lime and ginger was in perfect balance with the herbal violet shrub and I understood why it arrived in a large glass; you’d be willing to drink a great deal of it.

SteamedXO club sandwich was the first to arrive. Suckling pig, ricotta, runny fried quail egg and chilli mayonnaise on a soft bao; it was wondrous. Galician octopus who spoke Indian was octopus served on roasted tomatoes, butter masala and squid ink crackers. It was an intensely colourful, aromatic dish. Three perfectly steamed soft buns arrived just in time for me to soak up the last of the butter masala with. A green asparagus salad of green olive emulsion, oranges and spicy chlorophyll acidulated oil was nothing short of spectacular; a raw, tangy tower of green delight. The standout dish however, was the Spanish socarrat paella with roasted chicken wings and Japanese white sesame dressing. Socarrat (derived from the word socarrar meaning to singe) is an essential part of paella making. Served with StreetXO’s chicken wings and sesame dressing it was a gastronomic bulls eye.

As luck was on my side I was able to try not one but two desserts on the menu. Guava cheesecake, caramelised popcorn, lemon gel and sablé butter cookies arrived in a box as any true gift should. Spicy strawberry with cream, white chocolate and strawberry sponge was also presented in a box complete with a lid. Both dishes were staggeringly beautiful and caused anarchy on the palate. Rebellious deserts that left their mark on my heart; they were exceptional in taste and texture whilst also rather generous in quantity.

All of these tasting dishes are on StreetXO’s express lunch menu which is just £25 per person and available Tuesday to Friday. That’s not a typo. It really does say £25 per person. Drinks and desserts are extra of course. We have to pinch ourselves to remember that this is Mayfair fine dining. Given the creativity of the dishes, the dining experience and the heritage of the chef this is an incredible menu and one that London truly deserves.

 

 

 

StreetXO is located at: 5 Old Burlington Street, W1S 3AJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

How London restaurant Ikoyi conquered the final frontier

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Taste of London does many things for London and of course, for food in the capital. I discovered two things here this year. One of the things is the wonderful Ikoyi and its introduction of West African fine dining to London. The restaurant was founded by childhood friends Jeremy Chan and Iré Hassan-Odukal. Since their opening last year the dynamic duo have gained a loyal following of food connoisseurs. I was pleased to catch up with one half of Ikoyi’s innovative team, chef Jeremy Chan, at Taste of London. We talked about how Ikoyi conquered the final frontier:

GTW: What do you find most exciting about African ingredients and how do you use them in your dishes?

JC: I love West African ingredients for their pungency, umami, bold heat and intensity. We use hundreds of different ingredients from around the globe and not only from West Africa. I strip the ingredient of it context and culture then use it in its original setting. I look at it objectively. We think of this as an academic exercise. I’m always asking new questions about old ingredients. Something that’s not been done before. For instance, we use a fermented bush mango seed in a dessert; Ogbono. It’s traditionally eaten with a meat stew in Nigeria. At Ikoyi we use it to create a sour and salty caramel akin to a whey caramel. The results are a combination of the new and the familiar.

GTW: What unusual flavour pairings have you included in your menu and how do you go about sourcing ingredients you need?

JC: That has to be coffee and octopus. The sauce is bitter, sweet, smokey and pairs well with the tender but textured Octopus. With the sourcing side, firstly I read a lot on cooking, cuisine, medicine and history of West Africa. Then I make a list of products to test based on their chemical properties as well as flavour. I then look online and speak to any contact I have in the region to put me in touch with a supplier. Often I get bags of spices brought over in suitcases!

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GTW: So, the focus is on bold heat and umami. What would you say are the best examples of this on your menu for those who might need a little help choosing a dish?

JC: All of our dishes are based on concentration of umami and not always in heat. This shines through mostly with the chicken oyster dish which is glazed with fermented locust bean and smoked eel jus.

GTW: Have you been surprised by the positive reaction to Ikoyi and to West African cuisine in general? 

JC: There has been a surge in interest of African cuisine largely because sophisticated diners are always on the lookout for what is new. I think Africa has remained one of the last frontiers in food. However, it seems that the interest in African food comes with expectations and pre-judgments which makes it challenging for new expressions. Yes, of course there is interest but it seems ephemeral. In many cases it doesn’t scratch beneath the surface.

GTW: How do people who have never experienced West African food react to it?

JC: It depends on the guest. I think people who have a global mindset whose taste receptors have experience with a broad range of flavours will find our food delicious. People who have grown up in a singular culture less exposed to spice & intense umami may find our food overpowering.

GTW: What do those acquainted with West African cuisine make of it?

JC: For those acquainted with West African food, it depends if they come to the restaurant expecting West African food or not. Ultimately if you come to Ikoyi without an open mind you’re probably going to be disappointed. Our intention is to demonstrate our passion for cooking and making people feel good.

GTW: What are you most looking forward to showcasing at Taste of London and why was it important for you to be a part of it? 

JC: We wanted to be a part of Taste of London to access a broader range of guests who may have heard of Ikoyi but have yet to walk through our doors. We also liked the idea of interacting with people and talking through our concept to convey the message of Ikoyi outside of the restaurant. We also thought it would be fun for our chefs to cook in a different setting.

 

 

Ikoyi is located at: 1 Saint James’s Market, SW1Y 4AH. For more information visit: www.ikoyilondon.com