The BBC documentary A Hotel for the Super Rich and Famous gives a flavour of what Corinthia London is like. There’s a scene in which food and beverage director Thomas Kochs fusses over the latest sandwich selection for afternoon tea, all fastidiously cut with a set square. This vignette alone gives a sense of the ludicrous attention to detail that customers expect in a luxury hotel: everything from the shape of the ice cubes to the structural integrity of the bog roll. It’s a polished sanctuary amidst the bustle of Embankment, metres from well-trodden Whitehall (the very street where I joined thousands of others on no fewer than three pro-EU marches), a magnet for rich tourists benefitting from the weak pound and a hangout for civil servants cashing in their redundancy cheques now they’ve washed their hands of Brexit. Right now its inherent decadence has a ‘last days of Rome’ feeling as the surrounding country crumbles.
The food and beverage operation is a serious one though and the Corinthia has not one but two excellent restaurants. Tom Kerridge’s Bar and Grill has somewhat taken the limelight since it opened in 2018, what with Kerridge’s meteoric rise to Michelin fame and his widely-publicised weight loss providing inspiration to many. The other restaurant, The Northall, predates Kerridge’s arrival of course, but has since tried to up its game with new chef André Garrett at the helm (formerly of Cliveden). It provides guests with a slightly different take on what is essentially the same kind of cuisine. (They say their USP is sustainability but show me a chef worth their salt who isn’t already aspiring to this – and rightly so).
The dining room itself is inherently relaxing. It’s a place you want to linger in. It has been sensitively designed with mirrors and large windows to maximise natural light. In the evening the dimmed lighting is at just the right level. The banquettes, sadly, are not at the right level. It’s a bugbear of mine when restaurants make either the seats too low or the tables too high. A friendly server quickly and unceremoniously remedied the situation by proffering a cushion.
Throughout this meal, service was attentive, smiley and with no forced errors. It was duly noted that waiters were trusted to freely pour wine without measuring and the wine itself was temperature-controlled.
The menu, on one A3 card and printed in a no-nonsense typeface that screams 5 star hotel (with prices to match), is mercifully free of concepts, small plates or other flowery language (all things I have slender tolerance for).
Delicious, warm bread arrived within minutes. And then, a lobster bisque with cognac, braised lentils and Alsace bacon. This was really well-balanced, smooth and luxurious, and took into account that the bacon would lend natural saltiness to the soup.
My companion dived in with Colchester rock oysters (£4 a pop) with all the appropriate accoutrements and was in raptures about the sole (even if that did remind me of Bill Nighy’s civil servant character in The Constant Gardener where he waspishly admonishes Ralph Fiennes with the line “you should’ve had the sole meuniere.” That dish is 50 quid though – all the better that he was paying).
If I’m going to pick holes, a main course of Norfolk black leg chicken was just a shade – literally by a gnat’s wing – overdone. The jus gras, too, was just slightly over-reduced in that lip-congealing way, but the flavours were sensational. Smoked pommes puree on the side were enriched with egg yolk and utterly divine. I could definitely eat that again.
Cheesecake, in cuboid form, was light and free from stodginess, though didn’t quite melt in the mouth like Tredwells’ legendary gin and tonic version. I’m not convinced stewed apple works as an accompaniment either.
The revamped Northall still embodies the luxury of the hotel, and like a new Bond film stays true to its roots whilst trying to keep up with the present. An expensive price tag is to be expected, and pleasingly in this case, the value seems fair for the quality of ingredients, their treatment and how the staff treat their customers. I would return (when more solvent).
10a Northumberland Avenue
by J A Smith