The Lanesborough is a true British landmark, the much-loved hotel having graced Hyde Park Corner since 1991. Through the years, many talented chefs have taken the helm in the dining room, and it is now under the expert stewardship of Shay Cooper – some of you may remember his Michelin-starred turn at The Goring. The Handbook contributor Katie Renouf shares her experience with the new Sunday lunch offering.
There’s something about the dining room at The Lanesborough that makes you feel like you’re appearing in a glamourous movie. The clink of crystal, that beautiful glass ceiling sending sunlight dapples across the plush carpet, the tinkling of the piano…. ahh. What a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
I am thrilled to be invited to sample Executive Chef Shay Cooper’s new Sunday lunch menu. At the same time, I am curious to discover how a beloved traditional meal – generally known for being oversized and a bit haphazard – can be finessed and elevated to five-star standards.
We take our seats on the restaurant’s raised back level, giving us a lovely view of the bright space. We are served chilled glasses of Gusbourne sparkling rosé, which is beautifully crisp and refreshing. A basket of crusty brown bread, still warm from the oven, also makes an appearance.
The Sunday lunch is a set menu of 3 courses with a couple of options at a small surcharge. The menu has some regular items, such as the roast sirloin of beef and the whole Dover sole, both of which are expertly carved tableside on antique trolleys. The rest of the menu varies depending on the best produce available, with seven choices per course, so you can be sure there is something for everyone.
For the first course, I select the crab salad, and my friend opts for the mackerel dish. Both arrive looking an absolute vision; the crab neatly piled on a rosti-style shredded potato and the mackerel nestled on a perfectly crisp potato pancake with spheres of apple gel. My crab is delicately sweet and succulent, accompanied by an aerated coronation mayo which complements the dish perfectly without overwhelming it.
For my main course, I’m sorely tempted by the seabass in seafood bisque but decide to pass on it in favour of beef Wellington: one of my very favourite dishes. When it arrives, I am very glad of my choice; medium-rare fillet of beautiful Irish beef encased in the smoothest parfait and a crisp pastry outer layer. The glossy, rich sauce tumbles over some perfectly turned baked carrots and the silkiest butternut squash puree.
My friend opts for the sirloin of beef, carved tableside. It arrives looking resplendent; a huge piece of meat guaranteed to have sections cooked to every taste. It comes with a velvety sauce and traditional roast potatoes, rainbow carrots and kale.
The silence that descends on the table as we eat our mains is one of pure contentment. Perfectly cooked meat, perfect colours, perfect flavours. The fillet in the centre of my Wellington is so tender you could eat it with a teaspoon.
We’ve already been thoroughly spoilt this afternoon, so dessert feels more than a little bit naughty, but there’s no chance of us sitting it out. Again, I’m drawn to several options but finally choose the yogurt ice cream sandwich. This is pleasingly light: fluffy ice cream with a thin sliver of sponge and jelly, encased in paper-thin wafers, topped with a strawberry sorbet. The slightly sour tang of the yogurt balances the dish well and stops it from being too sweet.
My friend’s lemon tart is bound in beautifully thin, crisp pastry that has a perfect “snap” to it, topped with an Earl Grey-flavoured meringue and candied rind. She tells me it is excellent – further evidenced by her not offering me any. Charming.
Our meal draws to a close with some very tasty little petits fours and a much-needed peppermint tea in a feeble attempt to combat the luxurious meal I’ve just consumed.
The service is a very important part of the Lanesborough experience. Throughout the meal, staff seamlessly appear at our table to top up glasses and clear plates. They are polite and friendly without being overbearing – something which sounds simple but is all-too-often neglected these days.
The wines that Raphael selected for our dishes were elegant choices that complemented and elevated the food, my favourite being the honey-tinted FMC served with my crab dish.
And finally, a special mention must go to legendary pianist Brian Morris – having been part of the hotel for more than 25 years, it is a real joy for Sunday lunch diners to experience him playing in the dining room.
Sunday lunch served 12-2pm, reservations advised
Hyde Park Corner, London SW1X 7TA