In the heart of London is the five star Hotel Cafe Royal, and with previous guests such as David Bowie, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Wolf and Sir Winston Churchill I knew I would be in good company when I stayed there.
I was very excited to be invited to stay in the hotel, which is on one of London's most sophisticated streets Regent Street, as part of their new 55 hour weekend in the capital. I arrived at the hotel, along with my partner Ryan, at 12pm on the Friday and as soon as we stepped in to the reception we felt like VIPs.
It is the most luxurious five-star hotel I have ever seen.There was a huge chandelier hanging down the centre of the ceiling, signifying the opulence of the hotel and the building within which it is housed. There were also various display cases, showcasing extremely beautiful and ornate bags, shoes, jewellery and watches. I could tell even from here that this was unlike any hotel I had ever stayed in before. Everything in the hotel was immaculate, from the gleaming staircases, to the perfectly organised bookcases and shiny nail varnish upon the fingers of the female staff. Everybody who greeted us did so with a friendly smile and was extremely charming and helpful.
Once we had checked in we were shown to our room, a Junior Suite. We were blown away by the room, it was simply stunning. The hotel offers some of London’s largest guestrooms and suites, and ours was one of the biggest. The bedroom area offered a huge bed, a flat screen television with speaker system, a sofa, chair and table, and a desk.
After we had spent some time settling in to the room, which mainly included looking lounging around on the super comfy bed and watching television from the TV in the bathroom mirror, (yes, really), we then went downstairs to indulge in the Cakes and Bubbles experience. This room was every bit as grand as ours, with an opulent gold theme, red roses in the entrance area and expensive looking bottles lined on the walls. We were shown to our table by an extremely friendly waitress, who immediately offered us glasses of champagne. We sipped on our drinks while we looked at the menu, which is created and executed by Albert Adria, World's Best Pastry Chef 2015, and David Gil, Spain's Best Chocolate Pastry Chef 2015. Safe to say, we knew we were going to get something amazing - and what we did get exceeded all expectations.
We began with savory dishes. I chose the burrata and avocado toast, while Ryan opted for the thin pizza crispy bread and jamon iberico, which had been recommended by our waitress. The dish that I was presented with was perfect, toasted ciabatta bread with avocado, burrata and olive oil. The burrata and avocado were both delightfully creamy and light, with generous portions of each topping the perfectly toasted bread. The dish was, perhaps, simple but it was put together so well with such top quality ingredients that it was wonderful to eat. Ryan had equally high praise for his dish.
Next, we moved on to sweet dishes, accompanied by even more champagne. There were lots of tempting options, so we were unsure which ones to go for, but our waitress offered some much appreciated guidance and advised that as each item was small there would be plenty of room to sample quite a lot. We started with the Cakes and Bubbles chocolate cork and the strawberry and milk ice cream sandwich. Both were delicious, but we instantly fell in love with the chocolate cork. The sponge was so light and the chocolate filling so rich and smooth like velvet. All I can say is you must try one, especially if you are a chocolate lover. We could have quite happily eaten many more of them, but with so many other great sounding dishes we chose something else to continue our sweet journey.
Ryan opted for the stroopwaffle ice cream sandwich, while it was the lightest carrot cake that had taken my fancy. The dishes which arrived were, like all the ones before them, presented in such elegant fashion. The ice cream sandwich was perhaps the most wonderfully presented, in its own personal gold box for a grand reveal. The carrot cake was indeed the lightest I had ever tasted with a delicate sponge and intense flavour. I was very impressed that all of the dishes, although small had a huge amount of flavour. Next, we moved on to the golden egg flan. The flan, which is half way between and creme brulee and a creme caramel, is not something either of us would have chosen from a menu usually, but the waitress made it sound so appetizing we could not resist. Presented in a gold egg shell, the dessert was smooth with a sharp kick of flavour. It was exactly what you would expect, and for me a small taste was enough. I was glad to have tried something different though.
We then decided to take a small break from the food and focus our attention on drinks, both choosing to have a hot chocolate. This, however, was unlike any hot chocolate we have ever had before or will ever have again. In fact, we both agreed it had ruined us for all future hot chocolates. It was so rich and indulgent, it was like drinking pure hot chocolate, but it was incredible. It had just the right consistency, thick enough to have substance but not too thick, and it was silky and smooth. Each sip was as divine as the last.
Our final two dishes were the crispy air pancake, filled with yoghurt foam and maple syrup butter, and the cheese cake, with Baron Bigod cheese, hazelnut and white chocolate. The crispy air pancake came served with a blueberry compote, and personally I did feel like the dish needed this to add that extra depth of flavour from the fruit, but I enjoyed the perfectly cooked crisp pancake. The cheese cake was an incredible way to finish the meal. It was the best cheese cake I have ever eaten, and most likely every will eat again. The creamy cheese cake topping was served by itself, next to rich buttery biscuits. Unlike any other cheese cake I've ever had, I soon understood why it was served this way. The cheese cake could have quite easily been served by itself with no need for the biscuit accompaniment, (though they were delicious and very well received), because it was just so incredible. The first thing that I tasted was the cheese, and then the hint of white chocolate and hazelnut which was just the right amount to compliment the cheese without being overpowering.
We had enjoyed our meal sat in a window seat and we couldn't help but notice that a lot of the passersby looking longingly in to the restaurant. I have to admit I wasn't surprised given it's opulence and grandeur, and I feel so lucky to have been able to enjoy the food there - and in such a gorgeous setting. It really is an unforgettable experience.
We left with full stomachs and huge smiles on our faces, after leaving our compliments to the chefs and the front-of-house staff, who seemed genuinely pleased and humbled by our gratitude and compliments. After a short relax in the room, we made our way down to the hotel’s Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Spa as I had a facial booked in for early evening. We were shown around the spa by a member of staff and then, after getting changed in to our complimentary robes and slippers, we went to relax on one of the loungers by the swimming pool.
The spa area, like the rest of this fantastic hotel, was elegant and extremely inviting. It had a clean, modern feel and everything was offered to the highest possible standard. There were some complimentary toiletries in the changing room, should you have forgotten anything, which was very useful. In the spa area itself, everything was very neat and tidy and I noticed staff were very attentive here too, instantly picking up any discarded towels and clearing away any used water cups by the various water stations to reflect a clean place and a calming atmosphere. There was soft aromatherapy music playing in the background and soft lighting, both of which invited an instant feeling of relaxation.
I left Ryan swimming lengths in the pool while I went to enjoy my facial, which lasted for around 50 minutes. There's a special waiting area, which offers clients a place to enjoy water and healthy snacks like apples before their treatment. My therapist came to the room to collect me exactly on time and introduced herself with a smile, which instantly put me at ease. She took me through to a treatment room and explained the treatment then, offering me a choice of oils. I picked oils that were best suited for relaxation as I wanted to continue feeling the same sense of serenity I had gained from the wider spa. The treatment itself was wonderful. My therapist was clearly well prepared and an expert in her field as she was thorough and attentive throughout. I felt extremely well pampered and cared for, and I felt all my stresses melt away - the true sign of a wonderful beauty treatment. My therapist took great care to be delicate and soft with her touch, but from her variety of movements and the use of various products it was clear that she was an expert at giving this treatment. When the treatment was (very sadly) over, my therapist brought me another glass of water to rehydrate and showed me to another relaxation room, where I took a few moments to savor my serene feeling before I went back to the main spa. When I returned to Ryan, he told me that my skin was glowing - another true sign of a truly wonderful treatment. My skin did indeed feel smooth, but also hydrated and fresh, and the smell of aromatherapy oils was lovely.
We spent the rest of the evening relaxing in our room, still amazed by our incredible surroundings. The next day, we woke feeling well-rested and ready for the day after a very good night's sleep in the comfortable bed which had made us feel like we were being cuddled by a marshmellow. After getting ready, and enjoying the lovely powerful shower and luxurious shower products, we went down to the main hall for breakfast. We were shown to a table by another immaculate and friendly member of staff, who offered us a newspaper and a menu to look at. He returned a short while later to take our orders. The breakfast was the mixture of continental and cooked breakfast that you usually expect from hotel stays but again, in line with everything else in the hotel what we were actually served exceeding expectations.
I ordered a cheese omelette for my cooked breakfast option, while Ryan chose the scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. Each dish was served with toast, and we also had a bowl of yoghurt and granola, along with a plate of pastries to share - all washed down with tea and juice. I must confess there was so much food, it didn't actually all fit on the table. Each of our eggs were soft and fluffy, with the perfect amount of seasoning. My omelette had a good amount of cheese, evenly distributed and Ryan clearly enjoyed his salmon, judging by the speed at which it disappeared from the plate. There were three different pastries, with one of each for both of us, a classic plain croissant, a pan aux chocolat and one filled with creme patissiere. We both agreed that while all were exceptional, it was the creme patissiere that was the shining star of the table. It was all so delicious, but there was so much we simply couldn't eat it all at 10.30am in the morning, though we very much appreciated the huge amount of choice we had.
After that, we left hotel for an afternoon of exploring the shops on Regent Street which were right on our extremely luxurious and afflent doorstep, and also the shops of nearby Covent Garden. We returned in the late afternoon to get ready for our evening meal.
The Laurent, where we dined that evening, is run by Executive Head Chef Laurent Tourondel and Head Chef David Cutcliffe. The restaurant itself was a decadent as the rest of the hotel, with plush setting and dim atmospheric lighting. We settled in to our seats, hungry and excited, with the memory of the delicious food we had been served the day before still very much at the forefront of our minds.
Our waiter gave us or menus and allowed us time to consider our options. Unfortunately, I found the vegetarian options to be very limited - and also mostly included ingredients that I do not personally like, such as wild mushrooms. One of the other options was a vegetarian sushi dish, which again I do not like. I appreciate these are my own personal tastes, but the options were still limited. My advice to anyone with any dietary requirements would be to ring ahead to the restaurant before dining to ensure there is food on the menu you would like.
I explained my problem to the waiter, who was very understanding with me and went to speak to the chef to see what could be done. He returned with a different set menu and said the chef would be happy to cook me something from this, and I was overjoyed to find it included a butternut squash risotto for a main dish - one of my favourites. I ordered this, along with the jerusalem artichoke velouté or starters. I hadn't really had artichoke before, so I wasn't sure if I would like this dish, but I decided to give something different a try.
Ryan ordered an array of dishes to try as he simply couldn't choose, including a spicy tuna sushi dish, black angus steak tartare, onion rings, salt and vinegar chips, crispy wagyu beef nigiri and also a Japanese wagyu kagoshima sirloin. He'd heard that wagyu beef was divine and I can say that he was definitely not disappointed. He ate every mouthful with delight. I've never seen him look quite so happy when he ate a meal and he said it was the best piece of meat he had ever eaten and a real treat. He also enjoyed his sushi.
My velouté was also delicious. Apparently, it is one of the five 'mother sauces of French cuisine listed by Auguste Escoffier in the 19th century, and I can see why. It was so rich, with delicate flavours of parmesan and black truffle, it simply melted in the mouth. I could have quite happily eaten more, but I knew I had a main dish coming. My butternut squash risotto was perfect, it included cavolo nero (or a variety of kale commonly used in Italian cooking), and sage brown butter. LIke the dish before it, it felt indulgent and rich - but just in the right amount, it wasn't too much. I savoured every mouthful, and I have to say I feel this risotto has most likely spoiled me for any future risottos I will eat. I had side dishes of purple broccoli, which came with toasted almonds, and gratin potatoes. Each of these were excellent. I can only say that I wish all vegetables tasted that good and I wish I knew the chef's secret.
After such a wonderful meal, we both felt extremely satisfied, but there's always room for dessert - especially in such a fantastic restaurant. Ryan chose the salted caramel sundae, which came served with salted caramel kettle popcorn and hot fudge, while I opted for the braeburn apple tarte tartin, which was served with vanilla creme fraiche ice-cream. The desserts, as with every other dish, were served promptly and with a genuine smile from our waiter - who I have to add had been very attentive with us all evening. We fell in to a happy silence as we both happily ate our desserts, enjoying the sugary goodness. The apple filling my tarte tatin was sweet and ample and the pasty beautifully thin and flaky. The portion was so generous I simply could not finish it, though I did feel bad about leaving part of such a wonderful dish. Ryan's sundae was also equally plentiful and delightful, but he had no trouble finishing it in around five minutes because he enjoyed it so much.
After we had finished, we gave our thanks to the staff who had served us and returned to our room - extremely full and ready to relax in our extremely comfortable bed.
The next morning, after another perfect night's sleep, we decided we would order room service. After all, if you can't have breakfast in bed on a Sunday morning then when can you? We leisurely browsed the menu while lounging on the sofa in the complimentary robes and slippers. The menu was extensive - the largest breakfast menu I have ever seen - but I eventually settled on the vegetarian breakfast and Ryan chose the eggs benedict with a side of hash browns. This was delivered to our room within half an hour, along with a fresh plate of pastries to share, a bowl of granola and yoghurt each, a pot of tea to share and some fresh orange juice and a rack of toast.
I must admit that I have never ordered room service before, so I was not really sure what to expect, but I definitely was not expecting what we got. I thought we may get a tray of food each, albeit a beautifully presented one. What arrived was our own personal table, which was set up in the middle of our room and laid perfectly. Eating this way made me feel like a film star, and I am quite certain I will never experience room service quite like that again.
The food itself was amazing, and again the portion sizes were extremely generous. The say good food invites us to eat with our eyes, and this array of dishes certainly did that. The table was alive with colour, from the bright red of my ripe tomatoes to the green of the avocado and the creamy yellow of the scrambled eggs and also the hollandaise sauce. We sat and happily devoured it all, somewhat in a state of shock over just how amazing everything was - from the food itself to the way it had been presented. A highlight for us both was the wonderfully crisp and hot hash browns. These potato-filled delights are what we both look forward to most about a cooked breakfast, and I am happy to say these were golden brown with the perfect crunchy crumb and a soft filling.
My breakfast also included vegetarian sausage, scrambled eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, and avocados. It was, without doubt, the best vegetarian breakfast I have ever had. I was delighted to have the option of vegetarians sausage, as so often a vegetarian cooked breakfast is a disappointing plate of eggs on toast. That was definitely not the case here. Overall, I can not praise the breakfast highly enough.
As part of the package we were enjoying - which allows guests to have an early check in on the Friday and a late check out on the Sunday to be able to enjoy a 55-hour weekend exploring London - we had been given checkout at 4pm.
Once we had finished our breakfast and allowed it to settle, we decided to spent our last few hours relaxing in the spa - splitting our time between the pool, sauna, hammam and jacuzzi. When I closed my eyes, I felt transported to another lovely world, taking in the scents of aromatherapy oils and the soft sounds playing over the speakers. This was the definition of true pampering and relaxation and I did not want to leave but sadly, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end - even the very best things.
We checked out at exactly 4pm, wanting to savour every last second in this incredible, luxurious hotel, and left feeling so grateful to have had the opportunity to stay there. I am certain it was an experience of a lifetime.