The morning began with grumblings from Mr N, about our heading for lunch to a restaurant with a dress code. By noon he was appreciative that I’d insisted on proper shoes, as this was certainly the classiest dining experience of the year.
The Lanesborough Hotel in Knightsbridge (allegedly the most expensive in London), is a huge imposing building (formerly St George’s Hospital) opposite Hyde Park. Smartly dressed porters ushered us in from the rain, and suddenly we found ourselves in an oasis of festive calm. The manic two-days-before-Christmas fervour was soon forgotten as we relaxed in the luxurious bar with a beautiful open fire. We smartened up and marvelled at the art-deco bathrooms, and stashed all our wet-weather gear in the cloakrooms, and anticipated an exciting meal.
Michelin starred Apsley’s, is the first Heinz Beck restaurant outside of Italy, and the restaurant itself was bathed in light despite the dark and drizzly weather. Elaborately shiny plates with mosaic motifs decorated the tables as the extremely courteous staff seated us (and much to our delight, bought us a stand just for P’s handbag to be placed on!)
We were here on a reduced price lunch offer, but you would never have guessed it from the exceptional level of service we received. But the deal was well worth it. We began with a glass of sparkly Franciacorta, and then we had a moment of Food Geek joy as the Olive Oil was formally introduced to us. Formalities over, we soaked it up with the perfectly baked focaccia and olive bread.
After an amuse bouche it was time for starters proper. The lunch menu was small but perfectly formed, and we’d each chosen a different option. My zingy pumpkin and ginger soup was poured at the table into a dish of crispy taleggio ravioli, maintaining the different textures of crispy and soupy, and tasting amazing, D’s Octopus salad with couscous and P’s lamb starter were equally well presented and quickly devoured.
Keeping in the festive spirit, myself and P had opted for the Norfolk Bronze Turkey, being sure that it would be distinctly different to anything we’d eat on Christmas day. We were not wrong. Served with mustard seed, celery, apple and beetroot (and some surprisingly tasty Brussels sprout outer leaves), this was tangy and satisfying. D’s halibut main course looked like classy fish fingers coated in paprika, with three brightly coloured accompaniments of which the aubergine was proclaimed to be the best.
Dessert looked fantastic and tasted even better. Cocoa sable was brittle dark chocolate biscuit with the most intensely fruity strawberry ice-cream I’ve ever tasted, combined with a subtle hint of liquorice. P’s muesli crumble with yoghurt with yoghurt foam and blueberry sorbet looked like it should be breakfast, but P loved it.
Very well fed, we decided to take our tea in the cosy bar. A tray of intensely chocolatey petit fours, with heavy silverware and pretty crockery enjoyed on comfy sofas by the fireplace, made it feel like a special occasion, which is absolutely was in every sense. An affordable pre-Christmas treat this was a real gem of an experience!