A stone’s throw from the designer juggernauts on Old Bond Street is the grand Brown’s Hotel, one of the jewels of the Rocco Forte hotel empire. A retreat for royalty and presidents since 1837, we had dinner in the hotel’s newly reopened restaurant, Charlie’s, named after Lord Charles Forte.
Coming in to Charlie’s immediately cleansed away the hectic life of London and gave a sense of calm and homeliness, like visiting the house of a childhood school friend.
We started with a cocktail in the glamorous Donovan Bar, a wood-panelled room decorated with celebrity photographs. Two celebrity-inspired cocktails completed the scene. Swinging Sixties, inspired by Mary Quant, made with Hoxton pink gin, peach brandy liqueur, lemon, rosé champagne and guarana. A Voodoo Chile, a nod to Jimi Hendrix, was delicately made with Campari, Tio Pepe sherry, Italicus, cedarwood aroma, blood orange and lime syrup.
The redesigned space exudes quality and sophistication. The wallpaper frescoes, purposefully worn fabric on the seating and exotic bone china (try not taking a photo of the bottom of a plate!) gave an antique, homely feeling to the room. Table 16 is great as we we were in a semi-circular booth with a view of the whole restaurant allowed us to preview which dishes we might like to try.
We were offered a simple sounding parmesan crisp as an amuse-bouche. It was warm and delicious, so much so that I actually took two, though I could have easily polished off the tray.
A quintessential British menu is on offer, bringing freshness and sophistication to the dining room. Charlie’s menus are developed by Michelin-starred chef Adam Byatt who is at the forefront of the innovative British cooking scene. A veteran of the kitchens at Claridge’s, The Berkeley and The Square, he also has his own successful London restaurants.
A trolley whizzed past making its rounds, allowing filleting and slicing for some dishes, before they were plated and served at tables. This is such a nice addition to a restaurant’s service and reminded me of fine dining restaurants on a transatlantic cruise. For lunch service, Charlie’s offers a daily trolley special, adding an element of theatre and fun to your experience.
Our starters looked like little works of art on the plate. A Cornish crab salad was delicate and refreshing. The partridge, pear and pistachio terrine was served with a generous piece of brioche worthy of inclusion in a bread and butter pudding that I could have eaten on its own, smothered in an accompanying autumn compote.
For our main courses, a grilled Dover sole was fresh, fragrant, and intricate, filleted on the trolley table side. It was accompanied by a tartare sauce so good I asked for seconds. The rack of lamb with potato gratin was delightfully pink and plated up at our table. The freshness of the ingredients was evident throughout the entire dinner even down to the lemon I squeezed over my fish. Our attentive sommelier ensured that we had excellent wine pairings with all our dishes.
There were some ‘ooos’ and ‘ahhs’ from the adjacent table of four where someone had just been served a huge pie and we couldn’t help but wonder what was inside. We had to ask our waiter, who informed us it was the Sutton Hoo chicken, ham, tarragon and leek pie – a spectacular pie indeed.
We rounded off our experience with a fig tartlet adorned with a quenelle of fig leaf ice cream – new for me, but flavours that complemented each other well. A perfectly chewy macaron and chocolate truffle brought our evening to a close.
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By Daniel Chowdhury