Monday was a particularly grim evening; rainy, cold and dark after I left the office at 6.30pm. Oh, joy. Where’s that late, balmy Indian summer we were promised? I cycled over to West London in the drizzle as I’d booked to try out No 35, the restaurant in The Hempel Hotel nestled between Lancaster Gate and Paddington, which cheered me up a treat.
The five star boutique hotel was created in 1996 by renowned designer Anouska Hempel as London’s first minimialist hotel and the décor in every room, from the sandy low-lit lobby to the glamorous No. 31 Lounge Bar, is sleek, stylish and understated.
Housed in five Georgian townhouses with a private garden square, Hempel celebrates Zen minimalism by incorporating the traditional earth, wood, metal, fire and water in every room. Warm lighting with fire and candles and natural materials like Portland stone, Birch wood, silk wallpaper and Belgian limestone come in a warm palette of cream, honey, brown and slate. Hotels designed by interior designers really are a cut above the rest.
No. 31 offers classic and exotic cocktails – it took me about five minutes to choose from the extensive list – in a chilled, laidback environment with low lighting, scented candles and a glowing fireplace. I sat myself down on a sofa in front of the fire with a stack of design books before moving next door. Time for dinner…
The Head Chef is Michael Carter (of Arbutus fame) who offers an imaginative menu of British and European ingredients from independent producers. I started with the Trio of Organic Duck of cured breast, potted leg, poached egg and pickled vegetables. It was delicious and therefore difficult to share. My BF ordered the Teruel D.O.P Ham which came with a suitably seasonal pumpkin mousse, manchego cheese, truffle, sage and gremolata. I liked that both starters were fairly unconventional; the strong flavour of the pickled veg really cut through the duck and the pumpkin mousse was jostling for centre stage with the ham. Who says British food is bland?
For mains I had the line caught wild sea bass which came with lots of little Scottish girolle mushrooms, grilled leeks and an amazing crab and sweetcorn risotto (another scene-stealer) and my BF had the organic Angus flat iron steak which came with punchy English onions, roasted carrots and creamed potatoes.
For dessert, I recommend the refreshing pineapple carpaccio with lemongrass syrup and passion fruit or, if you’re not under the pretense of ordering “the healthy option”, the warm Valrhona chocolate pudding with poached pears and chestnut ice cream.
The maître d' was a total dude, ensured the delicious Picpoul de Pinet was topped up in our glasses and served us with a smile. You should be proud, Ms Hempel – 16 years on and still a seriously impressive venue.
The Hempel, 31-35 Craven Hill Gardens, London, W2 3EA