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Thursday 23 August 2018

Blakes Restaurant - Lobster Paccheri to Die For in Kensington & Chelsea!

Name: Blakes Restaurant @ Blakes Hotel

Where: Blakes Hotel, 33 Roland Gardens, London SW7 3PF,  https://www.blakeshotels.com/eating-drinking/restaurant

Cost: A 3-course meal cost on average £50 per person, not including drinks or service. Starters range from £9 to £26, mains from £18 to £39, and desserts from £6 to £14 (for the cheese platter). 

About: Blakes is a small luxury hotel in Kensington & Chelsea conceived by the celebrated interior designer Anouska Hempel. Opened in 1978 on a quiet residential street in London, Blakes Hotel is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year and still is one of the most fashionable addresses in the area today.

Blakes Restaurant is set on the ground floor of Blakes Hotel, it is a stylish affair with walls and furnishings in black and gold and wood floors stained in a gorgeous checkerboard pattern.

The restaurant offers a range of Mediterranean and seafood dishes with a Japanese influence. On the mid week evening we were there, it was surprisingly heaving with a well-healed clientele, a mixture of hotel residents and locals.

From September 2018, the restaurant will see the seasonal return of seafood platters, courtesy of Italian and Brazilian Head Chefs, the Mariano Russo and Peter del Campo.

Breakfast and lunch can also be taken at The Courtyard, a lovely green open space within the hotel. The Blakes Below Bar, opened from 7pm to 1am, has live DJ and is a great spot for after dinner cocktails or just to meet up with friends for some beer or wine. Non-residents are welcome.

What We Ate: As an amuse bouche, we were served an artichoke with truffle mayonnaise and a very aromatic Spanish olive oil - simple but delicious.

The razor clam ceviche with chilli, coriander, toasted breadcrumbs spiked with lime zest had great texture contrasts and zingy flavours. We enjoyed this thoroughly.

Next up was a platter of 6 Maldon rock oysters served over crushed ice, with cabernet sauvignon vinaigrette and lemon (£21) – the oysters were plump, super fresh and utterly delicious.

The swordfish carpaccio (£14) was the weakest link of our meal - with fruity Espelette pepper, frisée and lambs lettuce and a lemon dressing (supposedly), it arrived completely unseasoned and with no dressing.  However, it did come with a half lemon, a bottle of good olive oil, salt and pepper, so we were able to season it to taste ourselves.

The native lobster Paccheri pasta with cherry tomatoes and garlic (£28) was nothing short of sublime. The tubular pasta from Naples was a great conduit for the intensely flavoured lobster bisque, and the nuggets of whole lobster that were meaty and tender. A heavenly dish.

Surrey Farm grass-fed rib-eye steak (300g - £28) had a good depth of flavour and a wonderfully black charring from the grill.

We enjoyed our mains with sides of creamy mashed potato (£5) and courgette fries (£6), which were very well made.

To finish off our glasses of red wine we shared a beautifully presented cheese platter with four different types of cheese, figs, sliced apple and grapes, jam and honey (£14).

The Vegan Tiramisu (£9) which I would normally have run a mile from, came highly recommended. It was made from soft tofu, cashew nuts, coffee and mint. Served with edible flowers, coffee mousse, it was outstandingly good. The substitution of tofu for the traditional mascarpone was a revelation, making for a much lighter, fresher mouthfeel.

What We Drank: We kicked off with a refreshing glass of Laurent Perrier Brut (£16.50). The restaurant has an extensive range of wines, Champagnes and sakes available by the glass. The entry level wines are both Italian - the white is a Verdicchio di Matelica (£38), while the red is Sangiovese from Emilia Romagna at £38.  With our starters, at the suggestion of sommelier Sarah Boukhelifa, we had a glass of minerally Picpoul de Pinet (£13). 

To partner the main courses of lobster and rib eye, we had a glass of Givry, Pinot Noir, from Domain de la Ferte, Burgundy (£16). With fresh raspberry and redcurrant aromas and soft tannins, this was a deliciously light wine with subtle complexity.

Warming to the wine list, we decided to finish our mains and cheese with a Bordeaux Saint Emilion - a Chateau Orisse du Casse Grand Cru 2012 (£105 per bottle). This was a mature, powerfully complex wine, with notes of leather, cedar and blackberry, and a long, savoury finish.

With dessert, we had a glass of Moscato Passito Terre Siciliane (£12). Rich and concentrated, with aromas of ripe grapes, raisins, honey, pear and herbs, this was a delicious dessert wine.

After dinner, we repaired to the basement cocktail lounge for a couple of espresso martinis. Open Wednesday to Sunday evening from 7pm to 1am, this is a glamorous spot with a live DJ, open to the public (you just need to sign in at the ground floor reception).

Likes: There is so much to love about Blakes Restaurant - the lobster paccheri pasta was outstanding and the star of the dinner, the rib eye, the cheese platter and the tofu tiramisu were also very good. Service was very friendly and efficient, the sommelier's suggestions were interesting and of high quality.  

Dislikes: The unseasoned swordfish carpaccio was the only snag of our dinner.

Verdict: The good burghers of Roland Garden are very lucky to have a neighbourhood restaurant at this quality level. For the rest of us, Blakes Restaurant is a hidden Kensington gem, with excellent ingredients expertly cooked and presented. We loved our meal and experience at Blakes Restaurant and highly recommend it.

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