There was a time when no one, other than those men who ‘travelled in ladies underwear’ would consider dining in the hotel restaurant. These days, especially in London, the restaurant and bar scene has changed so much that often hotel restaurants are the destinations of choice for those seeking fine food and service. Thus Lady C and I had no hesitation to dine at the Royal Horseguards own restaurant “One Twenty One Two”, somewhat convenient as we were staying in the hotel.
Naturally we began our evening in the Equus Bar, it would not be an evening out for us without a cocktail of two! The bar is next door to the restaurant, with décor described as ‘Gentleman’s Club’ – I have to say, it was nothing like my own Pall Mall club, much more of a modern take. Think rich fabrics, portraits, wood and leather but with a contemporary twist. The bar is well laid out with a choice of seating, from bar stools, to tables and more private areas. We chose two chairs in a corner and perused the menu. Too much choice combined with too much gossip our waiter discreetly waited, but seeing that time was drawing on; I called time and waived him over. In such situations, I always like to be guided as it is a great way to discover new tastes. Thus I went with an Aperol Spritzer (made with Prosecco, rather than the Venetian tradition of white wine) and Charlotte stuck with her pre dinner favorite a Mai Tai.
As the effects of the BBC buffet lunch were (thankfully) wearing off, we decided to go next door into the dinning room to eat. Our table was quite private, in a smaller section of the dining room, that had about six tables, mainly for two. Table, seat, menu, wine list. All flowed smoothly, just how I like it. Of course Charlotte and I were still on a major catch up, but the discrete staff still managed to offer us some of the delicious freshly made breads and offer us an aperitif.
Champagne is our natural choice and we plumped for a fabulous Ruinart Blanc de Blancs A.O.C. This is the only Blanc de Blancs Charlotte will drink, so that was her sorted then! We decided, after a quick chat with head sommelier Miguel Angel Hernandez, to stick with the Ruinart for our first course, which followed a mackerel appetiser. Not my favorite fish, but they were fresh and tasty. Charlotte plumped for diver caught scallops which came with a garden pea and mint soup and a truffle scented cream. I opted for a Cornish crab mousse that came served with fresh crab flakes, a very piquant Bloody Mary dressing and a delicious celery sorbet. Miguel was right to suggest we stuck with the Ruinart as it complimented both dishes perfectly.
Unexpectedly, this was followed by an intercourse (well granny always called it that, but its often referred to as a ‘Middle Course’ now for obvious reasons). This comprised or a slice of ‘compressed’ watermelon, dressed with Cumbrian air dried ham and ‘Raspberry vinegar Caviar’. The watermelon had been vacuum packed to compress it and remove some liquid. It held its flavour and texture, but was much more intense. A little as though it had been ‘cooked’ in lemon juice. Despite both of us having a good knowledge of wines and especially Champagnes, I always like to ask the Sommelier (or barman for that matter) for advice. This way you discover wines that you may not have chosen and the ‘intercourse’ was a tricky wine match. Miguel suggested “Whispering Angel” Château D’esclans A.O.C from the Cote de Provence. I have to say, I would not have chosen a rosé, but it worked beautifully.
After running to type with scallops – I kind of knew what Charlotte would opt for next – she loves steak – rare and practically living. Guess what – she did, choosing the Medallions of Casterbridge Beef fillet that arrived with a herb crusted bone marrow and a green peppercorn jus. I went for Cotswold spring lamb that presented itself with a minted potato puree, baby carrots, leeks, courgette and a Sauce Antiboise. Whilst mine came with a ‘dressing’ of vegetables, Charlotte’s was pretty naked, so we choose some French beans and shallots, Broccoli and almonds and creamed potatoes to join our feast. With this blood fest we needed a big red and, again we trusted our Sommelier to choose for us, bringing a super Rosso di Montalcino from Castello Banfi in Tuscany.
I have to say we were pretty full, but the dessert menu mentioned something called ‘British Seaside’ – we were intrigued and thought ‘why not?’ A miniature stand of four tiny ice cream cones arrived. It was fun, fresh and delicious. Just the right end to a delicious meal.
Having been intrigued by one of the house cocktails in the Equus Bar earlier that evening – the “Winston Churchill” a frequent hibitué of the hotel, I suggested we took a nightcap after dinner. I tell you I practically had to *drag* Charlotte! The Winston Churchill did not disappoint. Basically a variant of a Whisky sour, mixing a home made tobacco syrup with bitters and (I suspect Islay malt). It was amazing, if you like whiskey cocktails you must try it. And as the great man said himself “Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.” so Charlotte and I continued our efforts in the bar.
One Twenty One Two Restaurant
The Royal Horseguards Hotel
2 Whitehall Court
London SW1A 2EJ