This was a meal both of angelic delicacy and more earthly disappointment. Not the company, obviously, just read on.
After much to-ing and fro-ing, Aftab, Angie, Binny, Zoe and I managed to find a date that could all gather for my birthday (#bloggerproblems) we chose Celeste at the Lanesborough, excited to check off a restaurant that had been languishing on our spreadsheets (I wish I was kidding – but behind many hungry bloggers is an electronic hit list of tasty locations) for much too long. Chef Eric Frechon and Executive Chef Florian Favario hold five Michelin stars between them, so to say we were excited would be an understatement.
Spurred on by friends who had visited many times and loved the fare, we also managed to hook ourselves one of the London Restaurant Festival menus (allowing for less bank manager outrage and more champagne – my old maths teacher would be so proud). Unfortunately, it was a dark and rainy evening. We arrived shaking the rain from our coats and giggling at the rather late 21st birthday mug that arrived from Australian (thanks to my Aunty, who gave it to my Uncle who stored it between house moves.)
Fortunately, with the arrival of everyone bearing smiles, we ordered a round or two of drinks in the cozy, sumptuous bar and nattered. With everyone bearing lovely gifts to my surprise, the dapper piano player in our corner tinkled the ivories and crooned to me a lovely rendition of Happy Birthday.
Unfortunately, it meant we were really late for our actual booked time, but with a word to our waitress, she assured us that it wouldn’t be any trouble and that we could make our way over any time we wanted to wander. That had us wondering how busy the restaurant wasn’t, but hungry as we were, we trooped over eventually.
Fortunately, we settled in our seats fairly quickly and perusing the menu, chose the dishes that sounded appealing. Presented with a selection of tasty canapes (which bar the squid tart I couldn’t tell you what they were, aside from lovely bites) and warm bread with whipped butter, which we demolished. With a flare, cloches filled with soft smoke were presented and removed with a flourish, containing myself and Aftab’s perfectly seasoned Burford brown egg. It was a delicate dish, a beautiful marriage of liquid velvet yolk and lightly crisp Kadaif on a base of button mushroom duxelle.
Unfortunately, around the table in front of Angie, Zoe and Binny, the Coco Bean in lemongrass, shitake mushroom-infused broth just didn’t inspire triumphant forks despite the Michelin-starred status of the restaurant. Invited to swap a taste of our dishes, we sadly agreed and hoped that the main wouldn’t split opinion so much.
Fortunately, Zoe and I loved our slow cooked pig cheeks, served on a bed of carrot ginger puree and roasting jus. It was meltingly delicate, and across the table Angie enjoyed her sea bream served with roast cauliflower, lemon curry vinaigrette and aged Parmesan cheese.
But, unfortunately, (you were waiting for that, right?) Binny and Aftab just didn’t adore their crushed sweet potato with lime and hazelnut and lemon yoghurt. It seemed to lack a complexity and finesse that you’d expect from such a well-regarded restaurant. Our meals were sadly as uneven as my photography after a few too many glasses of birthday bubbles.
Fortunately dessert was a highlight for everyone – most of us chose the Colombian roasted coffee ice cream, caramelised pecan meringues and fudge which can’t really go too wrong – and Binny enjoyed her Blue Monday cheese mousse, pear marmalade and walnuts. To round out our meal, our waiter cracked a couple of chocolate spheres hiding sweet nibbles which were delightful.
Unfortunately, it was an up and down meal, which shouldn’t happen in a Michelin starred restaurant, especially with the London Restaurant Festival going on. Earlier in the week we had enjoyed a lovely meal at the Connaught Hotel and over the years have sampled many such offerings which really shared the magic of the restaurant.
Fortunately, the company was as lovely as ever, and a sweet birthday candled treat was an unexpected bonus from the kitchen. Blowing it out, I wished for… well, I can’t say that now can I?
Overall it wasn’t the immaculate meal at the Lanesborough that we had been looking forward to, though the surrounds were just as pretty as you’d think they would be, even in the winter evening light.
Honouring British heritage and provenance with modern European creativity, Céleste’s aim is to take diners on a culinary journey of great flavours and food with a real story, but we just didn’t feel it through every dish.
Have you ever been disappointed by somewhere put up on a pedestal?