Proustian Moments at The Athenaeum

Proustian Moments at The Athenaeum

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The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences building was originally a gentlemen’s club called the Junior Athenaeum, the word loosely translating as library after Athena the goddess of wisdom. It later passed to the Rank Organisation who welcomed their movie stars to stay when filming in London studios. Since the 1990s it has been family run.

The Bar

Mayfair’s five star Athenaeum Hotel has recently undergone a multi-million pound refurbishment with their former 100 label Whiskey Bar taking on a new modern look, glass and mirrors, velvet seating and an ‘art piece’, consisting of a loop of hundreds of clips from movies showing men lifting women in the air or over the threshold projected onto a screen; fun but distracting if you sit facing it for too long! The new Bar has widened its appeal to include artisanal spirits, Champagne and signature cocktails, so we thought we should try out a few of bartender magician Giancarlo Mancino’s latest creations.

As well as the drinks menu there’s a set of cards, so we could discover exactly what was in each cocktail, a picture of the drink in question listing its ingredients and the method of mixing them; reading glasses were needed for the small print! The Double Bellini topped with a white peach foam wasn’t quite as peachy as expected and didn’t transport me back to Harry’s Bar, but the Champagne Julep with Fair-trade goji berry liqueur, strawberries and lots of mint was certainly a step up from a Mojito.

Next to try was the Konik’s Tail Vodka and Sake Collins containing yuzu puree and shiso leaves, deliciously citrusy, definitely not over sugary but at the same time reminiscent of childhood sherbet sweeties.  After that although we were certainly far from feeling half dead, our waitress recommended we try the Corpse Reviver. What a discovery! The combination of flavours of Kummel, lemon juice, Tarquin’s handcrafted Cornish gin, (apparently made with the addition of Devon violets and orange zest,) lavender syrup and the star ingredient, Frangelico, an Italian hazelnut liqueur, made for an extraordinarily unusual result, unlike any other cocktail I’ve ever had. Again we tried to work out what it reminded us of, enhanced by the flavour of nuts it seemed to capture the essence of the countryside in autumn.

The Athenaeum Hotel building was originally a gentlemen’s club called the Junior Athenaeum, the word loosely translating as library after Athena the goddess of wisdom. It later passed to the Rank Organisation who welcomed their movie stars to stay when filming in London studios. Since 1990s it has been family run.

Galvin at the Athenaeum

Michelin starred chefs, brothers Chris and Jeff Galvin have recently taken over the hotel’s restaurant and have decided to made a break from the usual French inspired menus of their other successful restaurants and in this new venture at the Athenaeum Hotel they are championing everything British; seasonal British produce from independent growers and farmers as well as creating British dishes with a modern take.

Their philosophy of honesty in the food they serve and the importance of people and hospitality certainly permeates this establishment. The tables are well spaced in a modern unpretentious setting, lots of wood and British designed fittings. The waiting staff are knowledgeable and as for the cuisine, they go for simple presentation and a distinct absence of minimalism, dots or squiggles on the plates.

My friend opted for the Black figs, goat’s curd and Woodhall’s Cumbrian air dried ham, full of serious flavour, while I, as ever unable to resist it, went for the Poached lobster and cauliflower salad, a very light creamy sauce sprinkled with British black caviar and the lobster succulent and tasting of the sea, engendering more reminiscence. I followed with slices of pink Haunch of Denham Estate venison; celeriac puree with crisped kale, barley, blackberries and red cabbage were just the foil for the recognisably flavoured venison, all portions perfectly sized. A glass of Elegance Rosé Côtes de Provence for me and Sauvignon de Touraine for my companion who chose Linguini with brown shrimps, chilli and coriander; the tiny brown shrimps bringing back another memory, Morecombe Bay.

She couldn’t resist the idea of that old favourite Floating Island, the foamy island light as a feather in its delight of crème Anglaise, and for me the Organic lemon cheesecake with lime sorbet, wonderfully tart and sharp with very crunchy biscuit base. This was not the end of the evening’s surprises. Our waitress suggested accompanying these treats with a pudding wine and recommended the Moscato d’Asti Chiaro. This light, slightly petillant wine was served very cold and rounded off the meal in the most delightful way making for a memorable evening full of Proustian reminiscences.

A 3 course Prix Fixe menu for lunch or early dinner is good value. Private dining and afternoon teas, Sunday lunches and events are available too.

www.athenaeumhotel.com

116 Piccadilly, London W1J 7BJ

020 7499 3464

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