Caxton Grill – a Relaxed Dinner in Refined Setting
St Ermin’s Hotel is a rather grand hotel with a lobby which always reminds me of a wedding cake, resplendent with white stucco plaster with a sweeping marble staircase running up the centre of the space.
Despite the grandeur though, it’s a remarkably accessible place, one of the first to keep their own bees (which you can now visit in their own special balcony gallery). Right now, they have a free ice-cream cart at the entrance of the hotel, much to the delight of younger guests.
I first came across the Caxton Grill when the remarkable Adam Handling was the head chef and have loved the place ever since, even though he’s now moved on to run his own restaurants in Hoxton and Covent Garden together with managing the restaurant at the Cadogan Hotel. This year, St Ermin’s have a chef taking part in M Young Chef of the Year and although I couldn’t make his ‘night’, I was lucky enough to be invited back to The Caxton Grill to try the food again.
After a drink on the pretty terrace, which has a special pink, provencal theme for summer, we made our way down to the Caxton Grill.
Hotel restaurants tend to fall neatly into one of two categories. Some are essentially restaurants catering just for the hotel guests. Steak and Chips, various chicken dishes and perhaps a pasta plate or two. You eat there because you don’t want to go out after an international flight, a heavy day of business or just too much sightseeing. Then there are destination restaurants where you’d eat for a special occasion. Alyn Williams at the Westbury, Dinner by Heston at the Mandarin Oriental or William Drabble’s Seven Park Place at St James’ Hotel and Club.
It’s rare to find somewhere good enough to be a destination in its own right and yet comfortable enough to cater for the travel-weary guests. The Caxton Grill is somewhere that manages to be just that, thanks to a well-planned menu, innovative use of their own rooftop terrace for growing fresh herbs and more, a Josper grill and an enthusiastic team in the kitchen who balance the kind of comfort food that a traveller craves with creativity and flair.
I started the evening with a fillet beef carpaccio served with artichoke, garlic and anchovy dressing, pickled onion and garden leaves, a delicate garnish of baby dill and a few sprigs of rocket. Delicious.
My companion’s hand-dived scallops were plump and beautifully caramelised mouthfuls that made me feel just a little jealous. Served on a plate with courgettes and their flowers the dish looked stunning.
Next up for me was Cornish whole lemon sole, served on the bone, with a side order of French fries and a mixed leaf, shaved fennel and garden herb salad. A simple but beautifully executed dish which hit the right spot for me.
My companion was visiting from Wales and told me that she knows all about Salt Marsh lamb;) Of course, she ordered the Organic Welsh salt marsh lamb cutlets (served pink) and cooked on the Josper. Delicious with a sweetness and a delicate char that I could easily have devoured myself. She ordered the hand-cut fat chips to complement her meal together with a plate of green beans with pickled shallots and chicory, an unusual but delicious way to enliven simple seasonal vegetables
The menu at the Caxton Grill as a whole comprises a range of garden dishes which are grown on the St Ermin’s rooftop kitchen, Grills cooked on the Josper and a few ‘dishes’ – roast cod with fresh beans, mussel emulsion and chive oil or pan-fried red gurnard with Mediterranean fish soup and couscous. It’s an uncomplicated menu but and one which depends on excellent sourcing, seasonal ingredients from the rooftop garden and simple sauces, again using ingredients that they grow themselves.
I went on to order dessert while my companion picked the cheeseboard.
Hers arrived looking for all the world like a still life, with a fabulous selection of cheeses, chutneys and crispbreads.
My ‘mojito’ was a playful take on the drink with a lime chiboust (a crème pâtissière lightened with stiffly beaten egg whites), brown sugar, rum and mint. A beautiful dish to finish the meal.
Our wines were paired for us carefully through the meal and everything from the butter laced with herbs from the hotel’s garden had a personal touch.
There’s a simple bar menu too. And, there’s a fabulous afternoon tea at St Ermin’s Hotel that changes with the seasons but which always has a focus on honey from the bees that are kept on the roof of the hotel. Right now there’s also a special alfresco menu on the pretty first-floor terrace and some stunning pink cocktails!
I do suggest you try for yourself. You won’t regret it!
St Ermin’s Hotel
2 Caxton Street