London has a new foodie enclave. Stylist’s associate editor Gemma Crisp checks in to Covent Garden’s new Henrietta Hotel and experiences one of the best meals of her life
There was a time, not so long ago, where Covent Garden was a gourmet wasteland.
Sad tumbleweeds of Spaghetti House linguine would roll down the streets, coming to rest at the feet of those creepy ‘living statues’ who lurk outside the Tube station. Meanwhile, tourists who didn’t know any better would stumble into Angus Steakhouse/Masala Zone/insert-another-generic-chain-here while theatre-goers would do a last-minute dash from Soho rather than dine in WC2. But in 2017, the very same postcode is enjoying a comestible boom, becoming the location of choice for in-the-know restaurateurs. Petersham Nurseries, Sibarita, The Oystermen, Sushisamba and The Frog are all setting up shop, with cult US vegan import By Chloe crashing the party later this year. It’s a veritable tsunami of gluttony and none more so than at Henrietta Hotel, thanks to its patronage of Michelin-starred chef Ollie Dabbous, who has closed his own eponymous restaurant in Fitzrovia to concentrate on Henrietta’s kitchen.
Henrietta was always going to play with the big boys in the food and drink arena, given that the hotel is run by the Experimental Group who are behind Chinatown’s popular Experimental Cocktail Club, plus the hip Grand Pigalle Hôtel and a cluster of even hipper drinking establishments in Paris. Billing it as a ‘bed and beverage’, these guys know their way around serious alcohol – one glance at the minibar in my room shows shelves crammed with no less than 18 types of liquor and the teeniest bottle of Angostura Bitters (3.5ml, to be precise). The room – one of 18 – is a millennial dream: gold pineapple door knockers, navy walls offset with peach velvet sofas, curved bedheads, plump brass bedside lights and the most Instagrammable bathroom in London (pale pink walls, monochrome tiles, marble counters and a selection of toiletries from the team’s favourite beauty brands – Malin+Goetz, REN and Evolve – that is ripe for pilfering).
But it’s in the hotel’s restaurant where I have my foodie epiphany. Not only are the dishes a treat to look at thanks to generous smatterings of edible flowers, their flavours are eyes-rolling-back-in-the-head good. Steak tartare with nasturtium and crunchy rye crumb bursts with tarragon; duck egg mayonnaise on toast with white confit asparagus is akin to eating a cloud of posh nursery food on garlic bread sent from the gods; and I want to bathe in the warm tarama broth that accompanies the roasted sea bass. My husband and I both agree that it’s one of the best meals we’ve eaten in the five years we’ve lived in London – and we eat out a lot. What’s more, it won’t send you bankrupt – the most expensive starter is £13 and mains range from £18 to £28. For food this good, it’s an absolute steal. To top it off, when we eventually return to our room after hoovering up a basket of fluffy madeleines, we discover that two mini canelés – French pastries infused with rum and vanilla – have been left on our bed by the housekeeping staff. You certainly won’t find that kind of service at the Angus Steakhouse.
Double rooms at Henrietta Hotel start from £250; 14-15 Henrietta Street, London, WC2E; henriettahotel.com