wine & dine
MADÉVI DAILLY revels in returning to London's dining scene
Pop-up. Pop. Up. In the dark, desolate depths of lockdown, I had almost forgotten those two magical little words, carrying with them the heady promise of a joyful night out in London. I love everything about pop-up restaurants – the ephemeral, blink-and-you’ll-miss it nature of them; the playful, experimental menus; the hint of chaos in the kitchen.
Papa L’s Kitchen is a prime example of the genre. The Papa in question is chef Lawrence Gomez, an alumnus of the Ivy and Sexy Fish, who’s set up shop at the Gojk on Brompton Road for five weekends. I headed there on a quiet Thursday night, determined not to let anything dampen my first dinner out in six months – not the imposing bouncer wielding a temperature gun at the door, not the masked and visor-toting staff, not even the torrential rain that meant the venue’s bijou terrace was off-limits. Papa L, it turns out, knows a thing or two about lifting spirits. His set tasting menu is generous to a fault – he’s the sort of man who’ll ply you with eight courses and send you waddling happily home. Our waitress, wisely, warned us to take our time. We fiddled ineptly with the digital menu, conjuring small plates from the kitchen at our leisure, over four very civilised hours. Sweet potato croquettes, zingy and piping hot, opened proceedings with aplomb.
Then came a grilled chicken salad dressed with mango and avocado, tiger prawns in a rich, buttery sauce, perfectly al dente asparagus and a handsome piece of soy and sesame salmon that flaked sultrily under fork. Thankfully, Papa L had our back: courses came paired with titchy but punchy cocktails designed to guide us giddily to gluttony.
‘This meal feels like a holiday!’ I exclaimed tipsily after the first course or four, breathing in the transporting scent of pineapple, rum and coconut from a small, delightful coupe. While ostensibly influenced by the chef’s Gambian roots – plantain chips and Jollof rice featured in later courses – Gomez’s cooking trots around the globe, borrowing flavours and ingredients from different cultures and cuisines – and sacrificing, perhaps, a certain sense of identity along the way. But there’s no denying Papa L is a deft hand in the kitchen: as we left and thanked him for an immensely cheering evening, he confided the gas had cut off half-way through service. A hint of chaos in the kitchen? I’d have never noticed.
Papa L’s Kitchen runs for five weekends from 28 August 2020.
Tickets are £65, and include an eight-course tasting menu with four paired cocktails; a vegan menu is available.
Little beats a perfectly chilled glass or two of wine to enjoy during our lazy, hazy evenings this Summer. Here are some of our top tipples to savour.
Danebury Reserve 2018
Showcasing just how incredible British wine can be, this Reserve from one of the most awarded and respected vineyards in the UK recently won the Gold Medal and Best Wine by the Glass for English still wine at the prestigious Sommelier Wine Awards.
A mouthwatering delight of fresh citrus, green apple, fragrant grass and a limestone finish.
Louis Jadot Chablis
For those who prefer to enjoy fine still wines, this Chablis is an excellent choice. Established in 1859, Louis Jadot is one of the Premier Negociant names in all of Burgundy.
Hand harvested and softly pressed, this wine is perfect with oysters, charcuterie and goats’ cheese.
Taittinger Prestige Rosé
Hints of berry and peach with a light lemon lift make this a totally moorish champagne perfect for any celebration – or a stay at home treat.
A true taste of Tuscany, the wonderful multi-award-winning fine organic wines from the MonteRosola winery are well worth seeking out. Try Crescendo, a rich and characterful choice with spices, herbs and cherries, and also the excellent Merlot , Canto della Civetta, with its heady ripe dark stone fruit and blackberry flavours.
Oastbrook Sparkling Rosé 2014
Another award-winning British delight, this time from the Sussex countryside, is a sparkling delight of cherries, strawberries and fresh brioche, the perfect for a smoked salmon supper. Oastbrooke has a “Bubbles” Wine Club where you can enjoy regular deliveries, straight to your door.
Jenkyn Place Brut 2014
A final wine from deep in the English countryside is the delicious Brut 2014. Made with the classic champagne blend of 60% Chardonnay with 25% Pinot Noir and 15% Pinot Meunier, this bubbly is fresh, fragrant and delicate. A perfect accompaniment to seafood and even strong cheeses.
Taittinger Nocturne NV
Another fine fizz from Taittinger is the Nocturn NV. Taittinger remains one of the few Houses to be owned and actively managed by the family named on the label. Its origins date back to 1734 when the original house was founded by Jacques Fourneaux.
Ripe peaches and apricots are freshened with hints of zesty citrus and white blossom. Perfect with sweet or savoury dishes.
KATE WEIR revisits old-favourite hotel the London Edition to see what’s new.
A few days before London went into lockdown, I went to the London Edition hotel, an elegant Ian Scharger-backed stay on Berners Street. At the time the world felt normal, we watched the news in our room predicting – wrongly, of course – that this would all blow over. Writing this now, long after hotels and restaurants have shuttered their doors, it feels almost incomprehensible that we spent such a carefree night here and feels like aeons until we can do so again. But, in the hope that one day this will once again be our reality, I present our experience at this refined Fitzrovia stay.
This wasn’t my first visit to the London Edition; I visited the newly minted stay on a journalistic mission when it first opened its doors. At the time, I didn’t associate its Marriott branding with a place of such polish and pomp, but I was duly impressed with its idiosyncratic artworks, English country lodge rooms and Jason Atherton’s excellent cuisine in connecting Berners Tavern. I was smitten with the lobby’s olive-green-velvet fainting couches, the furry throws and cocktail carts in the upper-tier rooms, the alluring amber glow of Berners Tavern’s well-stocked bar.
And these delights have remained, except one: the basement nightclub, undoubtedly added at the behest of the Studio 54 magnate; its devolution to gym hints that perhaps some late nights proved too rowdy. Ingo Maurer’s mirrored egg still draws focus from the hubbub of the huge lobby, Korean artist Chul Hyun Ahn’s portal pulls the eye to the back of the room, close to where the Punch Bowl bar is hidden, and behind the check-in desk is a custom-made tapestry depicting an 18th-century scene. The workspace and lobby bar throng with guests, and the babel of happy diners can be heard next door.
We take a time out in our room first – it’s one of the hotel’s lower categories, but the wood-lined space with its top-drawer linen, considered tech and tongue-in-cheek photography by Dutch snapper Hendrik Kerstens make it a haven. The bathroom has a shower that could fit a few more in and the minibar is well-curated – there’s Crystal Head vodka, Patron tequila, Joe and Seph popcorn and Jealous sweets for the taking, if the price list doesn’t make you wince. But, there’s no time for snacking now, as Berners Tavern beckons.
The decadent decor in the restaurant – paintings on every inch of wallspace, cream-leather banquettes, circular chandeliers – prepares you for how indulgent the menu is – after a meal of warm bread with flavoured butters, lemon sole with capers and a gloriously dense and cheese-laden macaroni cheese with beef brisket, we can only muster the energy to stagger back up to the room. The rest of the night passes in lazy wine drinking and TV watching, with a cheeky charcuterie platter requested from room service sometime in-between. Considering its central location, the hotel’s rooms are immensely cosy and calm, so much so that we saunter down with just a few minutes until check-out the next morning. On the way out, I notice that one of the alabaster women carved into the ceiling is still wearing the red lipstick someone jokingly added during renovation – a small joyful reminder of things staying the same, much needed when everything is about to change.
The London Edition, 10 Berners Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 3NP, www.editionhotels.com/london