Holborn Dining Room at Rosewood London
So many – to the extent that keeping count is a long forgotten practice – hotel restaurants are anonymous places where gastronomic intrigue goes to die. With no consciousness their kitchens dole out every kind of cuisine, a sort of culinary paralysis that is most often found when a diverse and itinerant crowd are the custom. The dining rooms often make you feel like you could be eating this pasta, that curry or even your steak and kidney pie anywhere in the world; anywhere, in fact, except your actual location. While few evoke the spirit of their setting many, frankly, are awful.
But there are exceptions. Holborn Dining Room, situated in the Rosewood Hotel, is one of them. Cavernous in size – it seat 160 covers – and beautiful in sight – all leather seats and marble pillars, it deals in British food, in terms of both dishes and ingredients. There are Sunday Roasts and High Teas, sherry trifles and Argyle smoked salmon. Sure, it leans on other cultures now and again (risotto, burgers and a corned beef hash all make an appearance), but it is emphatically British.
Things start with a nod to the collective stomach of Britain. A steaming bowl of broth, packed with tender smoked ham and juicy cockles, was a delight. It blustered with the security we seek in food. A handful of vibrant herbs lightened its mood. This wintry hangover continues through the relationship of two very on-trend ingredients – pigs’ cheek and kale. This is food built on solid foundations: good produce and technique with nothing remotely tricksy there to balls it up. Add to that Jersey Royals, tiny little pearls of (perfectly cooked) potato wrenched from the ground, kicking and screaming and your concentration wanders. It’s all so inherently familiar and British that you hardly notice how reliable it all is. It’s the kind of food that demands your affection without you knowing.
Chicken paillard came with mango salad, curry sauce and a whole heap of international influence. The chicken was as moist as paillard gets and the curry sauce delicate and aromatic. No wheels are turned but time and again, the kitchen tick all the right boxes.
Ditto the staff. The chances of someone kneeling down to take your order here are miniscule. Conversations are short and sweet with food and drink flowing at a pleasant pace. Cocktails – especially the Gentry, a Pimms and cucumber number – are like the food before. Reliably excellent.
Not everything worked so successfully. Fried squid arrived limp and things only got more flaccid once desired acidity failed to arrive in a gentleman’s relish mayonnaise.
All other misfires are much more bittersweet. The list of puddings reads like a dream. Such are the joys of Bakewell tarts and treacle puddings that a kitchen is almost damned before it’s started. The bakewell looked like something familiar but in reality was little more than fine raspberry jam, puff pastry (and lots of it) and raspberry ice-cream that rippled with as many crystals as it did fruit. The steamed treacle and whiskey pudding failed on two fronts. Though light in texture, its exterior didn’t have the sinister, dark as sin glint found on many glorious treacle puddings. It looked pale and sad. And the whiskey? Nowhere to be found. The twee little milk bottle filled with silken and delicious custard confirmed that this was a rare case of style over substance.
Pudding caveat aside, Holborn Dining Room has much to be adored. Hosting one of the city’s best looking rooms and serving a brand of assured and confident food, if you’re looking to escape the streets of Holborn, there aren’t many safer bets around.
Holborn Dining Room: 45/60
To book a table at Holborn Dining Room, 252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN, call 0203 747 8633 or for further information visit here.