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Laurent Perrier Champagne Flight and Dinner at Bistro 51, Taj St James’ Court
Perhaps you’ve noticed the little red spoon symbol on the bottom of some of my restaurant reviews? They are spoonback, an indication that a snippet of my review is on a bigger restaurant rating website. I’ve been posting quite a few reviews recently and Zomato sent me a voucher as a thank-you for my contributions. My voucher entitled two people to go along for a Laurent Perrier champagne flight and the chef’s menu at the Taj St James’ Court. Anything that involves champagne is always welcome. So, on a wet Bank Holiday Saturday, I made my way there to meet a girlfriend for supper.
The last time I was in a Taj Hotel was in India and I’d forgotten the exemplary level of service throughout the group. Every one of their hotels has made me feel welcome. There are stand-out moments, like the time the Connemara in Chennai sent out for Calamine lotion at 2 in the morning because my legs had been so badly attacked by mosquitoes, or the time I arrived at Fisherman’s Cove with a dreadful cold and was greeted with something approaching an Indian hot toddy. At the Taj St James’ Court, it was simply the smile on the guy serving us with champagne.
The tasting flight comprises three Laurent Perrier champagnes with matched canapes of scallops, smoked salmon and a vegetable tart. We both particularly enjoyed the pairing of Laurent Perrier Rose with the salmon canape and I have a sneaking suspicion we’ll be visiting again for more, at £20 it’s a lovely alternative to cocktails before dinner.
We went on to dine in Bistro51, one of the hotel’s restaurants. I hadn’t realised that I’ve actually eaten at St James’ Court before, at Quilon, the Michelin-starred Indian fine dining restaurant. In fact, Quilon has been refurbished since I visited, so I think I must be due another trip soon. Bistro51 offers a well-priced range of European bistro dishes and Asian specialities. It is quite relaxed, despite the white table linen and silver cutlery and we found plenty to choose from the Chefs Special Dinner Menu (three courses for £30).
I started with sesame crusted tuna with pink grapefruit salad and wasabi potatoes. Deep rose coloured tuna was seared with a crunchy white and black sesame coating and just a little tang from grapefruit and wasabi potato.
My companion enjoyed the Samosa chaat with sweet yoghurt, tamarind, mint and chutney.
For my main course, I chose a bistro classic of grilled salmon fillet with asparagus and vierge sauce. The salmon was nicely cooked and the dish was light and fresh. It’s hard to say too much about a well-executed classic, there simply wasn’t anything to fault.
My companion’s palak gosht (lamb and spinach curry) came with rice. It looked stunning, a deep emerald green, and she managed to eat a very generous portion, despite our earlier champagne and canape indulgence.
For dessert I chose the Manuka honey flavoured yoghurt pannacotta with berries and basil soup. One of those visually stunning desserts, the pannacotta was light and yet creamy, making for a fresh finale to the meal. I’m not sure it was basil soup, though, it seemed closer to mango or passion fruit.
My companion’s Bakewell Tart with balsamic glazed strawberries and lime mascarpone cream would have been my own first choice if strawberries were not off limits.
Bistro51 is the kind of place where you could meet friends, relax after a long journey or enjoy a working lunch or dinner. You don’t need to think too hard about the food because it’s all good, and it’s not at all challenging. Service is friendly, efficient and helpful. All in, a good to excellent offering at a very reasonable price.
I used to like working with UrbanSpoon. When I heard that Zomato had taken them over, I was on the point of quitting using the spoonback at all. Then I met up with one of the team and learnt a bit more about the plans that Zomato had to improve things. I was encouraged. Now, there are still things that used to exist on UrbanSpoon which appear to be lost for ever. I particularly liked the fact that all the reviews from professional critics were in one place, alongside blogger reviews. Zomato relies more on the public, so now you can see blogger reviews and general reviews for each restaurant, while if you want to read the Jay Rayner or Giles Coren critique you’ll have to buy the paper. What that gives is a different perspective and on some levels, I miss seeing the ‘expert view’ lined up against my own.
St. James’ Court,
A Taj Hotel
54 Buckingham Gate,
London SW1E 6AF