19 March 2009
Westminster Bridge Road
There are special occasions, and then there are those very rare occasions when you just find the money, dust off the dinner suit and treat yourself to places like the Marriott Hotel.
In the heart of one of London's most distinguished hotels and part of the illustrious County Hall, this amazing room combines all the finer things in life.
From the décor and the gentle music to the stunning views of the River Thames, Houses of Parliament and the London Eye and of course absolutely fantastic food - this place has it all.
While the family's favourite restaurant at the end of the road (which we all have) will suffice for the average celebration; birthdays, anniversaries etc, etc, - there are times to go the extra mile.
And crossing the Lambeth border by half a yard or two, we decided to treat ourselves to celebrate the 900th edition of the 'News'.
After being shown to reception by the doorman, and then to the lounge by the receptionist, and then to the restaurant by the front of house and then to our seats by the Maitre D’ - we were simply wowed by the surroundings.
The grand entrance to the hotel is breathtaking, while the long corridors and intricate detail of the furnishings take some beating.
Having taken our seats at a window table - the very same where a 'reputable and recognisable' cabinet member had their lunch earlier in the day - we had a look at the menu, though did our best to ignore the column down the right-hand side.
Everything was pricey. But, having not been charged to get in, just looking at the ingredients we knew just where the value was coming from: from caviar to rare angus beef - the variety was vast, while the quality all seemed top notch.
A complementary pre-starter arrived shortly after our drinks and it appeared the chef was in the mood for showing off. Some delicately folded smoked salmon was garnished with some fine caviar and was quickly polished off.
Our starters followed and immediately dispelled any fears that this would be anything akin to the nouvelle cuisine that leaves you hunting for a kebab on the way home.
The seafood pasta dish that arrived across the table looked, smelt and when I finally got a chance - tasted amazing. The tender and flavoursome Speyside salmon lay on top of a delicious crab linguine and the two combined brilliantly. A sprinkling of Avruga Caviar swam in the light sauce but still managed to add something special to the dish.
On my side of the table, a real treat. The delicious Barbary duck breast was heavily smoked and the thin soft meat simply melted in my mouth and certainly suited my taste - though, maybe not everybody's.
When I thought the duck was special, it barely compared to the medallions of fine Angus steak that arrived for my main. The tender and perfectly cooked slices arrived on a bed of gorgeous spinach and potato gnocchi among other veg.
They combined excellently and bathed in a tidy, if not underwhelming, peppercorn sauce.
My companion’s second fishy dish of the evening (amid claims of the healthy option) seemed to surpass the first. The gorgeous pan-seared snapper lay delicately on top of the rich poached quail eggs and flat-leaf parsley.
"I didn't think fish and egg could go together so well," she mused from the brim of her glass of Chablis in her finest frock. "But somehow they make it happen." As my delicate petal struggled to find a dent in the armour she did comment on a slight lack of sauce, but quickly followed this up with a compliment for the butternut squash that helped the white fish tantalise the taste-buds.
Just when we thought we would have to leave - up came the dessert menu. A rather splendid sounding bread and butter pudding was a must and a tough call between the £9's worth of British cheeses and the apple strudel proved interesting.
But the strudel it was and yet another good choice - aided by the helpful waiter.
It is fine dining at its very best but it is nothing to be scared of. The short, concise and well thought-out daily menu offers the very best seasonal dishes with remarkable choice. There is nothing out-of-the-ordinary or overly flamboyant, though the price can be something of a horror show - but if you can pass on the bill or suffer the dent in the wallet once or twice a year - you will be thoroughly, thoroughly spoilt.
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