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Friday, 31 January 2014

London Restaurant Reviews - The Mirror Room

Words & Photography by Felicity Spector and Luiz Hara

Where: Rosewood Hotel, 252 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EN

Cost: Small plates priced from £9 to £16, main courses from £13 to £21, while some dishes to share ranged from £19 to £75 for a rib of beef.

About: The Mirror Room is billed as the highlight of the newly refurbished Rosewood Hotel, the reincarnation of the 5-star Chancery Hotel around the corner from Holborn station. Its American owners have spent an astonishing £85 million on the refit, including a suite in its own wing, so vast that it has its own postcode. Plus, we were told, a cool £500,000 on the dining room silverware alone. Be sure to take care with the glasses in the bar - they cost €150 each!

Designed by New-York based Tony Chi, the Mirror Room itself is a long, astoundingly dramatic space, with a highly intricate mirrored ceiling, a huge fire blazing at the end, and the biggest vase of flowers I’ve ever seen in the centre, from the high-end florists McQueens. Décor is Chinese influenced, with plenty of glossy black lacquer and some very grand sofas and chairs.

The man behind Mirror Room’s kitchen is Bjorn Van Der Horst of the late Eastside Inn who received rave reviews for his Clerkenwell restaurant before it shut.

Prior to dinner, we had a couple of cocktails in the Scarfes Bar, a cosier and more intimate room with beautifully judged lighting, a blazing fire, antique books, and very comfortable chairs.

Illustrations come courtesy of the caricaturist Gerald Scarfe. Here, the comprehensive drinks menus - including more than 200 single malts, come hidden inside antique looking leather book jackets, and there’s live music every night. The staff were fantastic, very knowledgeable and friendly: nothing seemed too much trouble.

The more casual Holborn Dining Rooms is set to open shortly in the hotel, which will be another, perhaps more affordable dining option at the Rosewood Hotel.

From the book lined comfort of the Scarfes Bar, we were led into a stunning corridor, shimmering in a sort of bronze light, then through to the vast expanse of the Mirror Room. “It’s the first place I saw which made me simply say - wow”, said our waitress: and there certainly has been no expense spared on this lavish and luxury space.

What we ate: The menu is divided into a range of ‘small plates’ from which you could easily construct a meal: five between two people, we were told, might be a good selection. Of the large plates, there were a lot of sandwiches, mixed with some more conventional main course dishes and three larger ‘sharing plates’.

The excellent sourdough bread came with a flavoured butter, which changes daily - a clever idea: on the day we went, it was golden raisin, walnut and thyme, which lent a pleasant sweetness and crunch.

I started with a pheasant and chestnut soup (£9), which was exquisitely made, with a rich flavour from the pheasant stock, and plenty of trompette de la mort mushrooms, along with pieces of sliced chestnut to add texture to the creamy veloute style broth.

We also tried the foie gras with almond and coffee (£14): rich, with just a hint of bitterness from the coffee and an almond foam which balanced the unctuous liver very well indeed.

A rose veal tartare (£16) was hand chopped yet remarkably smooth, simply seasoned with just a hint of caper and parmesan - an excellent effort.

For mains we had another of the small plates - gnocchi with morels - wheat rather than potato based dumplings (£11), which came with an intense mushroom sauce and plenty of morels.

The ‘crispy Dover sole, chips and truffle mayonnaise’ (£19) was also a success: two substantial fillets of perfectly cooked fish in a tempura batter, crisp, fluffy chips in a small Jenga type tower alongside a pot of very good truffle mayonnaise. I also ordered an off-menu selection of steamed vegetables, a prettily arranged selection served al dente.

Desserts were a particular highlight: the menu offered a few options including the tempting sounding “patisserie from the counter” (£8).

We were invited to view the selection with our obliging waiter, who talked us through the various options, including a cheesecake, various biscuits and madeleines, and a selection of French pastries.

I chose a blackberry frangipane tart, a pleasingly generous slice cut from a whole tart, with some raspberry coulis on the side. It was excellently made: crisp, thin pastry, moist frangipane with the tartness of the berries cutting through the almond sweetness.

We also tried a dessert from the main menu - ‘chocolate, candied chestnut, Lagavulin cream and vanilla meringue’, which came in a glass, an indulgent twist on a Mont Blanc and very alcoholic.

What we drank: There was a good range of cocktails created by the in-house barmen in the Scarfes Bar - served with special daily changing ice-cube shape (which I’ve never heard of before) in those expensively heavy and gorgeous Ralph Lauren glasses.

We had a glass of Hats Off, a delicious concoction of tequila, Aperol, lemon and grapefruit juices that was refreshing and with the right amount of bitterness from the Aperol (£12). We also tried The Humidor made from Chivas 18-year old whisky, dry white Port and Absynthe among other ingredients (£12). This was a strong and very well-made cocktail and my favourite of the evening.

In the restaurant, the vast wine list was expertly navigated by our sommelier who suggested a glass of Pinot Noir to go with the foie gras and veal tartare starters. He had specially opened a bottle of Domaine Pierre Danoy, normally not available by the glass, but priced at £60 a bottle.

With the Dover sole main came a glass of 2009 Lucien Le Moin white Burgundy at £18, fresh and citrusy with hints of butter and spice, chosen to match the beer batter on the fish.

Water came served in stainless steel cups lined with copper, a very grand touch.

Likes: The service was wonderful, with extremely friendly and expert staff, from the Polish waitress in Scarfes Bar who exuded enthusiasm - to our sommelier and waiter, they all went out of their way to make us feel comfortable. The desserts were the highlight for me, while my companion had high praise for the tartare and foie gras, where the quality of the ingredients, and the care taken with their preparation, were evident.

Dislikes: We were there on a quiet midweek night, and although there were a few occupied tables around us, with the restaurant being so spacious, it felt a little lacking in atmosphere.

Verdict: If it’s a grand experience you’re after - this is definitely the place. It has that ‘wow’ interior the like of which you’ll rarely find in London as well as excellent cocktails, food and desserts. The Scarfes Bar was very relaxing and would make an excellent place to meet - especially with the live music. Recommended.

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