The Handbook
The Handbook

What? Henrietta is the restaurant and bar inside the cool new Covent Garden hotel of the same name, aptly named after the street it sits on.

New? Henrietta Hotel only opened in April, successfully securing top dog Ollie Dabbous in the process, in the hope of offering Covent Garden the type of quality dining it currently lacks.

Where? 14-15 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8QH,

On the Menu: Ollie Dabbous is no stranger to producing stunning plates of food but at Henrietta the menu has more of a nod to French cooking than his previous ventures. A second nod goes towards the area itself, with the restaurant’s artwork displaying flora and fauna in homage to the former gardens of Covent Garden. This extends to the menu, with most of the dishes dotted with the most delicate of petal garnishes, ensuring every dish is as beautiful as the next. The menu is suitably seasonal and you really get the impression that every single ingredient has been handpicked to ensure the dish is as good as it can possibly be.

First Impressions: The hotel looks like it’s always been there – in the best possible way. It stands proud amongst the townhouse-type buildings on the same street but it is equally unassuming in the way that only somewhere French could be: it’s effortlessly cool. On the Thursday evening we visited, the feel was laid-back and it was busy without being loud. We wanted to stay the night – and we hadn’t even had our first mouthful yet.

The Look: Equally modern as it is retro, Henrietta combines bold colours with brass and brushed aluminium details. It manages to be inviting and yet smart, cosy yet polished and no detail has gone unnoticed, from the lighting to the fabric on the seats. The design also fully reflects the ethos of the restaurant; the dining experience is sociable and intimate thanks to the unusual geometric shapes of the tables themselves, of which each are different and quirky yet in-keeping with the overall smartness.

What We Ate: After a bowl of the best olives I have ever eaten (Nocellara del Belice green olives) we also opted for a pickled vegetable and sesame labne flatbread to share, on the recommendation of our waiter. It was divine and impossible to describe the squidgy grilled dough and perfectly balanced flavours that sat atop it – the tanginess of the veg and smoothness of the labne. The dishes are fairly simply described on the menu, leaving the rest up to your imagination, so ‘Beef tartare with nasturtium and rye’ was actually an explosion of petals, leaves, crumb and impeccably seasoned meat which was as hearty as it was pretty. That is definitely the tone here – suitably photogenic to satisfy half of your party, and filling enough to please the other half. My burrata with wild strawberries was another work of art. The creamiest of burrata was drizzled in olive oil and simply garnished with a handful of rocket and scattering of baby strawberries.

Roast seabass came in a warm, creamy tamara broth which, once again, stumps my descriptive skills. A depth of flavour you just can’t define, the sauce was rich but not overpowering and zesty yet creamy and came with the perfect amount of crunchy veg to keep me engaged right until the very last mouthful. The side salad and confit jersey potatoes we ordered weren’t necessary for my fish, but more needed for the slow-cooked saddleback pork which just came with three strips of Tropea onions, topped with an impossibly thin film of melted lardo (a type of fatty salumi, made for Henrietta in Italy using a generations-old secret family recipe). The waiter was knowledgeable about the origins of every aspect of every dish – hence our new-found lard wisdom – not to mention impeccably dressed. In fact, every single staff member offered discreet, efficient yet warm service which made our experience that bit better.

Pudding didn’t let the side down but to be sure you make the right decision, go for the homemade madeleines. A Henrietta speciality, you can’t get more French than this. Freshly baked, the menu tells you to allow 15 minutes but they’re well worth the wait. Once you’re dunking the warm dough into Chantilly cream you’ll forget you were ever full after your main.

What We Drank: Arriving early, we took the opportunity to nab one of the bar seats and watch the staff at work. Every cocktail is impeccably prepared, and our Lucky Jim (vodka, vermouth, cucumber juice) was as well-received as The Citadel (Sipsmith London Dry Gin, vermouth, absinthe, orange bitters) – and almost as strong. They’d prepare you something familiar should you wish but we suggest trying something new. Ask for a recommendation if you’re unsure – the names are poetic enough to entice you in.

With our meal we stuck decidedly French with a bottle of Chateau Haut-Segottes Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2011. A wonderful accompaniment to the French-inspired dishes – yes, even my fish.

Go With: Any foodie would love it here. Within 24 hours of our meal I had told most of my friends they need to visit so I’m sure it won’t be long before the secret it out. Regardless, I think the intimate atmosphere is here to stay and it will just always be cool. It’s the French influence!

Final Word: If you’ve never really considered Covent Garden a hub of culinary excellence then it’s time to think again. Henrietta is unassuming but effortlessly cool; high-end food for a mid-range price – it’s just got that je ne sais quoi.

Like This? Try These: Frenchie, The Barbary, Blanchette

Henrietta: 14-15 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8QH,