St James’ Hotel and Club has a magnificent entrance and the Hotel’s restaurant, Seven Park Place by William Drabble, has the opulent feel of an ambassador’s residence, with striking original artworks and funky glass lights adorning the patterned walls. As one of the smallest Michelin-starred restaurants, with only 26 covers, the dining area is luxurious and intimate, with plush banquettes and comfy chairs. I found the décor to be bold and modern and the art to be a great talking point but, according to some, it might be an acquired taste.
On arrival, Charlotte and I were immediately shown to a corner table, which was the perfect vantage point from which to observe the sweeping passes of the bread tray and enjoy a chilled glass of Jacquart Brut Mosaique Champagne. The attentive waiter must have noticed a ravenous gleam in our eyes because the bread tray soon headed our way and we were helped to a selection of home-made breads, including a very moreish walnut and raisin, and an amuse bouche of langoustine soup with truffle cream. The soup was wonderfully rich and the sweet langoustine was wonderfully complemented by a Domaine Sainte Marie 2010 rosé, which the sommelier had chosen to pair with our seafood starters.
By this time, conversation was drifting from business to pleasure; had the Hotel indeed been an ambassador’s home, the treaties would all have been signed, the negotiations completed and serious celebrations begun. The starters alone warranted much celebration. I had chosen pan-seared scallops with Jerusalem artichokes, gratinated salsify and truffle jus. The scallops were meaty and textually contrasted with the crunchy gratin, while Charlotte’s langoustine tortellini tasted light and fresh and may even have gone some way to turning the lady in her opinion of cauliflower.
Unashamed carnivores that we are, we both ordered meaty mains, although the sea is strongly represented in the main course menu as well. My veal cheek was slow cooked in Madeira and was melt-in-the-mouth tender with the grain mustard giving a zingy lift to the bone marrow mash in what could potentially have been a too-heavy dish. Charlotte remarked that her Barbon fell venison was curiously – and favourably – sweet, and that the black pepper created the perfect balance. With these more robust dishes, the sommelier selected different wines for us; for me, a rich and intense 2008 Cabernet Sauvingnon from Moulin Montarels, and for Charlotte, a vibrant and spicy 2010 Syrah, Cave Yves Cuilleron.
Cheerful and friendly Adil, the restaurant manager, was happy to accommodate our request to have a cheese board of our own selection, followed by a sweet, both to share, and we were even treated to an additional course of syrup soaked sponge with blood orange. Charlotte went on with the wine, a Muscat de Frontignan, but I was tempted into trying a ginger and pomegranate martini, which was bright and refreshing after the red wine. However, the best was still to come. The dessert we chose, the milk chocolate with gingerbread and salted caramel ice cream, was an instant favourite, inspired and intriguing. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth so I was a little apprehensive beforehand as gingerbread can sometimes be rather more sweet than gingery. However, it seemed that the ambassador here is building relationships on behalf of gingerbread men everywhere and I found it most persuasive. The chocolate crisps, which were stacked in layers with chocolate ganache, maintained their consistency even when smothered in the ice cream and the little cubes of moist gingerbread cake layered spiciness in perfect quantity over the already complex combination of salt and dark sweetness.
The petit fours were presented in a cigar box and, in the dutiful manner of visiting dignitaries, we managed to make room for some of these little delights. Although there is no ambassador in residence here, Seven Park Place had spoiled us utterly and continued to do so as we headed to Williams Bar…
Food pictured may not be as described. Menu subject to seasonal change.
Seven Park Place,
St James’ Hotel,
7-8 Park Place,
London, SW1A 1LS