We all have our own unique relationship with London - any place for that matter. Some take it for granted; others regard it with naked awe. Witness the joy tourists exhibit upon being face to face with that big clock thing, while downtrodden Londoners push their way past, quietly seething at the ground.
It isn’t just a matter of impressions, either - it’s about the places we frequent, the circles we keep and even the food we eat. Consider Dukes Hotel: I imagine if you stayed here for a few days, and ate nightly in its restaurant – Thirty-Six by Nigel Mendham - you might have a slightly different perception of the capital than the Pret-parade, or commuters as they are more commonly known. You’d probably feel like you were in a Bond movie, or at least some kind of Cold War thriller.
Yes, it’s safe to say that if, by some bizarre turn of fate, I was tasked with acting as concierge to an ambassador or some kind of commonwealth dignitary, this is where I would take them – for a cosseted slice of Albion. Because, sandwiched between Green Park and The Mall, this boutique hotel is truly something else.
Sure, it doesn’t carry itself with the same flamboyance of The Ritz or Savoy, and it certainly holds no truck with frippery, but for that it must surely be commended. Think of it as an elder, wiser sibling to an A-lister – living a quiet, dignified life as an accountant while the younger is sprawled across the pages of Heat. Dukes is an institution, and it knows how to behave itself, thank you very much.
And for a “baby grand”, there certainly is some very grown-up food to be enjoyed. Led by chef Nigel Mendham and (shh!) with a MasterChef: The Professionals contender in its ranks, the kitchen is clearly in capable hands – and mesmerises with its intricate creations on a wet and wild Monday night.
We begin with a luscious soup of broccoli, vividly smooth and a little aerated at the surface, perhaps, adorned with pine nuts and goat’s cheese – nothing too tricksy, just simple, elegant cooking.
What follows is slightly less folksy: a sultry celebration of John Dory (seriously, why is this fish not on more menus?) comes punctuated with curried elements and cauliflower and coriander.