Imbued with the energy of its central London location, in every sense it is the sum of its surroundings – a nucleus for new ideas, a hub for happenings of every kind. Lavish without being showy, dramatic without compromising on comfort and with service that’s attentive yet low-key, the May Fair redefines modern luxury with playful panache.
Nice and relaxedgenerously proportioned bedrooms, so its fun to stay in this five star luxury London hotel.
Resto tip: Gordon Ramsay
The kitchen here is cooking at very high two/three Michelin star level, service is of a very high standard here, and the main problem is getting a reservation. Clare Smyth took over as head chef in 2007 and retained the restaurant’s three Michelin stars after having trained previously at Louis XV, amongst other restaurants.
The meal began with cheese gougeres, which are always a welcome way to start a meal. A lot of restaurants make these, but not so many do them well. They should ideally be served warm, have plenty of cheese flavour and of course the choux pastry should be very delicate. Bread is supplied from the Flour Station, a selection of white, brown, black olive, rosemary and slices of potato and honey bread. This was certainly very good, though I always think that bread should be made from scratch by a top kitchen (unless you are in Paris or Lyon, where near perfect bread can be bought).
Pumpkin soup was poured over roasted cep, ricotta cheese and Alsace bacon, with a bacon tuile on the side of the plate with pumpkin seeds as garnish. This dish was perhaps the least successful of the meal, the bacon flavour coming through nicely. Ballotine of smoked confit duck with pears (pickled, poached and pureed) was served with walnuts and pain d’epice. This dish had good balance, the acidity of the pear working well with the richness of the terrine. Even better was warm foie gras with sweetbreads, carrots and almond foam and Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar. The foie gras was of high quality and had silky smooth texture yet deep liver flavour, the vinegar gave balance to the dish and the sweetbreads themselves were a triumph, having gorgeous texture.
A take on carbonara was made using soft hen egg yolk, smoked pomme puree, caramelised onions, Iberico ham, smoked bacon and onion consommé, topped with an emulsion of four year old Parmesan. This was a rich and comforting dish, it could be argued that there were a lot of flavours going on here, but it was yummy and delicious.
Scallop was cooked with with lardo di colonnata (pork lard from Tuscany) and served with apple, walnuts, celery and cider emulsion. The scallop had nice natural sweetness and was lightly cooked, the apple provided a balancing sharpness, but while this was an enjoyable dish the flavours did not really stand out for me.
Roast turbot was served with cannelloni of artichoke and parmesan, cep and truffle with a sauce of black truffle, red wine and beef. This was a very good dish, the turbot carefully cooked and well able to stand up to the rich sauce, the cannelloni particularly good, having soft texture and with lots of cep flavour packed into the pasta. I slightly preferred this to sea bass that had been pan-fried and served with rock samphire, Oscietra caviar and a veloute of caviar and oyster. The fish was excellent and accurately seasoned.
Pigeon with polenta was served with carrots and braised shallots, foie gras and smoked ventreche, and a sauce made from dates and the cooking juices. The pigeon (from Bresse) was itself excellent, the sauce very good, and I admire anyone that can make polenta taste decent (8/10). However the star dish was pork done in five separate ways: a sausage using the shoulder, roast loin with crushed new potato, bacon and spring onion, pork belly served with apple, pig cheeks wrapped in Savoy cabbage with Dijon mustard, and ham hock with pineapple. This was accompanied by an apple puree and braised pork jus. This was a well-designed dish, the various elements of the pork coming together well as a whole, enough apple to give balance, and the cooking of the pork was technically superb; the sausage in particular had superbly deep flavour.
Pre-dessert was lime and apple sorbet with lime mousse and avocado, diced Granny Smith apple, eucalyptus and shiso (Japanese mint). This was a pretty and refreshing dish, the sorbet having excellent texture and the lime providing freshness.
The bill came to £250 with some lovely wine. Clare Smyth is clearly a top class chef. Her cooking and own style have clearly developed since she took over the reins here, and the meal today was as good an overall culinary experience as you are likely to encounter in the UK.