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Afternoon Tea at Sketch Gallery review: A fun and eclectic approach to a traditional favourite

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Quail egg with soldiers and caviar to start

Sketch is a unique London restaurant offering a diverse selection of bars and dining rooms. I first visited Sketch about 10 years ago and enjoyed the tasting menu at the Lecture Room. More recently, my boyfriend surprised me with Afternoon Tea at Sketch’s famous Gallery, of which I’d heard many great things.

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Cheers! A glass of Pommery Brut Rose

The Gallery is a modern European gastro-brasserie at the back of Sketch. The dining room is a square windowless room with a domed roof and pinky bronze panelling at the bar. The room is painted in pale pink with matching, plush velvet furniture – a sort of mix between a princess bedroom and a Mad Men 1960s vibe. The walls are covered with drawings by British artist David Shrigley (famous for the recently departed ‘Really Good’ sculpture on the Fourth Plinth). Since my visit, Shrigley’s 239 black and white drawings have been replaced by 91 of his newer pieces so in terms of décor, there has been a slight change.

Admittedly, the Sketch Classic Afternoon Tea is more expensive than others, but in hindsight the overall experience surpasses its cheaper rivals so you can see the difference. The Sketch Classic Afternoon Tea starts at £59pp, with the option to add-on Champagne. As we were celebrating a special occasion, we pushed the boat out and added Pommery Brut Rose. I’m normally one for traditional Champagne or Prosecco, but being in such a pink room, I felt inclined to follow the theme and opt for rose. The bubbly was served in a huge martini-style glass with long stem – which kind of reminded me of the stretched out dimensions in the Shrigley artwork surrounding me. There is a huge selection of tea in the menu and it took a while for us to commit to one type, before I finally decided on an old favourite, Earl Grey. I particularly liked the china, designed by Shrigley and available to buy. The crockery features quirky slogans such as ‘it’s not OK’ on the sugar bowl or ‘forget about it’ at the bottom of the tea cup.  Read the rest of this entry

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Shopping in style – Part 1: The history of the Burlington Arcade

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Burlington Arcade has been standing in Mayfair since 1819

Decades before the likes of Westfield came to London, those who wanted to shop in comfort headed to one of the capital’s arcades. Like the mega malls of today, these arcades featured numerous shops under one roof, providing a sheltered retail experience whatever the weather. However, as well laid out as these modern fashion meccas are, they just can’t compare to the historic and upmarket designs of the late Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian period. As part of Metro Girl’s series on the five historic arcades of Mayfair and St James, I will be starting with the Burlington Arcade – the longest and the 2nd oldest of the arcades.

In the early 19th century, the site of the arcade was owned by the wealthy aristocratic Cavendish family. The family had inherited neighbouring Burlington House through marriage when Richard, 3rd Earl of Burlington’s (1694-1753) daughter Lady Charlotte Elizabeth Boyle (1731-1754) wed William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire (1720-1764), who briefly served as Prime Minister. The couple’s son Lord George Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire, (1754-1834) inherited Burlington House in 1815 and ended up using some of the side garden to erect the arcade. His apparent reasoning for building the mini mall was to prevent the passing public from lobbing oyster shells – a common and affordable food at the time – over the wall into his home. As well as give him more privacy, it would also be a tidy earner for the estate.

Lord George enlisted architect Samuel Ware (1781-1860) to design the arcade with building starting in February 1818. While it was being constructed, the world’s oldest existing shopping arcade, the Royal Opera Arcade opened on Pall Mall in 1818. While the Royal Opera only had shops on one side, the Burlington was a double-sided arcade. Opening on 20 March 1819, the Regency-style building featured a 196 yard long walkway lined by 72 two-storey shop units. The high ceiling covered the walkway featured windows letting in lots of light, with Palladian-style, Ionic columns bringing in some style from the classical world. The arcade cost £29,329, with all shops being occupied by the end of the year. Originally, there were 47 leaseholders, including some females, with tenants and their families residing in the cramped living quarters above their shops.

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Burlington Arcade in 1828 by Thomas H Shepherd from ‘Metropolitan Improvements; or London in the Nineteenth Century’.
Image via Wikimedia Commons

By 1828, it appeared the arcade was certainly prospering, with milliners, hosiers, linen shops, shoemakers, hairdressers, jewellers, watchmakers, tobacconists, umbrella sellers and florists among the many businesses on site. In 1830, Burlington retailer James Drew was the first in the arcade to receive the Royal Warrant. He made the famous high collars for Prime Minister William Gladstone (1809-1898) and invented the soft collar. Read the rest of this entry

Celebrate St George’s Day with the best of English at Hard Rock Cafe

© Hard Rock Cafe

Celebrate St George’s Day with a week-long menu of the finest English food at Hard Rock Cafe

Compared to the rest of the British Isles, England’s patron saint doesn’t seem to get as much attention as his contemporaries across the borders. However, with St George’s Day coming up this Saturday, Hard Rock Café London are celebrating the best of English with a special menu for one week only so you can indulge your inner patriot… and your appetite.

From 20 until 26 April, there will be an exclusive St George’s Day menu featuring an English twist on the Hard Rock’s classic burger and drink. The dish will be made from the finest English ingredients with locally sourced produce. The St George’s Day Burger comprises of the classic HR Patty with creamed horseradish, Lancashire cheese, and rare roast beef (from the oldest butcher in the capital) served on toasted bun with fresh watercress. On the side will be Gunpowder mustard (from the Houses of Parliament shop) fries with cider vinegar and Bovril gravy.

When it comes to drinks, what could be more English than a Gin and Tonic? The Afternoon G ‘n’ Tea Cocktail will feature Hendrick’s Gin infused with Earl Grey tea mixed with sweet and sour, served with a refreshing twist of basil and lime.

  • The St George’s Day menu is only on from 20-26 April 2016. Hard Rock Cafe London, 148 Old Park Lane, Mayfair, W1K 1QY. Nearest station: Hyde Park Corner. For more information, visit the Hard Rock Cafe website.

For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.

For Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.

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Heddon Street Kitchen review: Ramsay cuisine at affordable prices in a modern, buzzy eaterie

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Crab tempura at Heddon Street Kitchen

For all the years I’ve been dining out in London, I can’t believe I haven’t been to a Gordon Ramsay restaurant until now. In fact, Heddon Street Kitchen is one of the newest additions to the chef’s expanding empire, having opened in November 2014. Similar to Bread Street Kitchen in the city, the establishment is more relaxed and affordable than Ramsay’s other ventures.

The restaurant is spread across two floors with an outdoor terrace in the buzzy pedestrianised Heddon Street. We were shown to a booth in the 1st floor dining room, with its wooden bar, tiling and exposed ceiling pipes giving the venue a New York-loft feel. The menu offers European dishes with an Asian influence, with plenty of familiar favourites peppering the choices. We booked our table for the good value set menu deal, which came with a carafe of wine each.

For starters, I opted for the Tempura soft shell crab, served with coriander, sesame, yoghurt and watercress. It tasted pretty amazing – the mix of flavours and light batter really complemented the freshness of the crab. The presentation was good too, as I often find tempura can look a bit of a mess in other restaurants. My friend went for the Salmon Rilette with Avocado Mousse, which I had a taste of and was impressed. There was a generous helping of salmon for a starter so fans of the fish will be pleased.

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Generous portion: Salmon Rilette with Avocado Mousse

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Rigatoni with roasted pepper, ricotta and rocket

When it came to ordering my mains, I decided on the Rigatoni with roasted pepper, ricotta and rocket. It was quite nice, but the pasta was too al dente for my tastes. My companion fared better with the Roasted Hanger Steak with Spring Onion Mash and Peppercorn Sauce, which she said was succulent and tasty.

Finally, the reason I went off the set menu was the allure of the Chocolate fondant with salted caramel and amaretto ice cream. Fortunately it did not disappoint. As much as I love chocolate desserts, I often find them too rich and end up sharing them or leaving them unfinished. This time, it wasn’t an issue and I must confess I wanted to say ‘no’ when my friend asked for a bite! The fondant oozed gorgeous chocolate sauce and the ice cream served on a bed of salted caramel was sweet and more-ish. I have actually been back to Heddon Street Kitchen a second time since my visit and have again eaten the fondant. I actually sent my compliments to the chef via the waiter over the dessert which is very out of character for me, but that’s how much I enjoyed it.

Overall, we had a good experience. The starters and dessert were what made my meal for me. The service was friendly and attentive and the booths incredibly comfortable for us girls to have a catch-up over dinner and wine. I’ve already returned once and I expect I will do so again, if not only for the fondant!

  • Heddon Street Kitchen, 3-9 Heddon Street, Mayfair, W1B 4BE. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus or Oxford Circus. For more information and booking, visit the Heddon Street Kitchen website.
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Indulgent: Chocolate fondant with salted caramel and amaretto ice cream


For more of Metro Girl’s restaurant reviews, click here.

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Amaranto review: Fine Italian cuisine in sleek surroundings at the Four Seasons

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Delicioso! Sfogliatina Fior di Latte – Semi-Soft Cheese and Courgette Tart

Park Lane is one of the most exclusive addresses in London and is home to some of the capital’s grandest hotels. Over the years, I’ve gradually been stepping inside these hotels to sample their bars or restaurants. For my mother’s birthday, we booked a table for six one Saturday evening. Although the restaurant was fairly busy on the night in question, we were fortunate enough to be placed in the private dining room – which had folding doors separating it from the rest of the restaurant (which were open so we weren’t quite ‘private’). It was nice to have a bit of intimacy within our group and we felt like it had elevated our experience. I personally loved the contemporary interiors – the restaurant was a mix of red and black, very sleek and Asian-influenced design. Although the night in question was a bit chilly, there is also an outdoor terrace for up to 20 diners for warmer days and nights.

After ordering a bottle of champagne to kick off proceedings, we then ordered from our set menu. I opted for the Sfogliatina Fior di Latte – Semi-Soft Cheese and Courgette Tart. The presentation was brilliant, but being pastry, that soon went out the window as I tucked in and my plate was soon a mess thanks to the flakes. The tart was light and fluffy and the cheese was lovely and creamy, making it a nice way to ease myself into the three-course meal.

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Roasted Halibut with Fennel Marmalade and Sauce Rouille

For my main course, I decided on the Roasted Halibut with Fennel Marmalade and Sauce Rouille. The presentation was very good, with some raw cabbage sticking up giving the dish a quirky injection. The halibut was cooked well, with its mild flavours well complemented by the marmalade and sauce. We’d ordered spinach and broccoli on the side, which really completed the dishes.

Finally, I was in a very indulgent mood when it came to dessert and ordering the Chocolate Soup. Presented a mousse-looking pudding in a bowl featuring brownie chunks, lemon compote, grapefruit segments and chocolate swirls, the waiter then poured hot chocolate sauce over the top, giving a sense of theatre as I watched part of the pudding collapse as it melted. It was very creamy and rich – tasting gorgeous. Meanwhile, my sister ordered a lighter but zesty Orange Tartlet with Vanilla Sauce and Milk Ice Cream, which she thoroughly enjoyed.

Overall, the food, ambiance and service were brilliant. Our wine and water glasses were always topped up, with the waiters happy to give rounded and enthusiastic explanations to any menu questions we had.

  • Amaranto, Four Seasons Hotel, Hamilton Place, Park Lane, Mayfair, W1J 7DR. Tel: 020 7499 0888. Nearest station: Hyde Park Corner. For more information and booking, visit the Amaranto website.
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Choco-tastic: The chocolate soup was a creamy, rich dessert not made for sharing (ha!)

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Zesty: Orange Tartlet with Vanilla Sauce and Milk Ice Cream


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High tea in historic surroundings: Cuisson launch pop-up Afternoon Tea parlour in Burlington Arcade

Cuisson © peter miranda

Afternoon Tea delights created by pastry chef Hideko Kawa will be on offer at the Cuisson pop-up in the Burlington Arcade
© Peter Miranda

When it comes to a treat like Afternoon Tea, shouldn’t you drink it in an equally glamorous postcode? Well, from this April for 11 weeks, a pop-up tea parlour is coming to Mayfair in the iconic Burlington Arcade.

Bespoke dining company Cuisson is teaming up with Laurent-Perrier for a special, modern interpretation on Afternoon Tea. With the menu overseen by talented pastry chef Hideko Kawa, guests will have the chance to eat her stunning creations in a former jewellery store in the 19th century shopping haven. Kawa trained at Le Cordon Bleu, before starting her career at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and moving on to perfect her pastry skills under Helene Darroze at The Connaught, eventually becoming Head Pastry Chef at The Fat Duck. Meanwhile, Cuisson have been bringing chefs from Michelin-starred kitchens together since 2012 to create pop-ups and special events.

The tea will be served in quintessentially English Wedgwood bone china, while some of the food will be presented in the jewellery boxes. For those who want something a bit stronger, the tea will be paired with Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé. Among the many delectable food served will include coronation chicken terrine, smoked salmon cornet caviar, Laurent-Perrier Champagne trifle and Cuisson choux pastry with caramel and candied herbs.

  • Cuisson Pop-Up Afternoon Tea will take place at 66-67 Burlington Arcade, Mayfair, W1J 0QJ. Tickets: £65 for Afternoon Tea for one including two glasses of champagne. From 8 April until 26 June 2015. Nearest tube: Green Park. To book, visit the Time Out London website.

For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.

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Galvin at Windows cocktail bar: Take a ‘French Lover’ on the 28th floor

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The view looking west from Galvin @ Windows on the 28th floor of the Park Lane Hilton

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The intimate bar features comfortable seating and low lighting

As you may have noticed from previous blog posts, I’m a sucker for a good view. As London becomes more built-up with more skyscrapers popping up, the skyline is constantly evolving with some buildings losing their good views altogether.

I finally had the opportunity to visit the Galvin at Windows cocktail bar at the Hilton Park Lane for a friend’s birthday this week. Situated on the 28th floor – with the Windows at Galvin restaurant next door – the views are awe-inspiring. To the south-west, you can see Hyde Park Corner, Albert Bridge and Battersea Power Station and to the north-east, the shining beacon of the BT Tower. The bar has floor to ceiling windows (hence the name Galvin at Windows) on two sides, with low-lighting and comfortable seating giving the space an intimate feel.

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Cheers! Sip a French Lover or a Mojito

Although described as a cocktail bar, there is a wide range of other alcoholic drinks, including an extensive whisky collection. However, we had specially timed our visit for the bar’s ‘Blissful Hour’, a January offer for two-for-one cocktails between 5 until 7pm on Mondays and Tuesdays. Included in the offer were the popular Mojito, Cosmopolitan and Martini (very strong indeed!). Although I initially went for my personal favourite – the Mojito, I also tried the French Lover – Galvin’s own version of the Cosmopolitan, made with Grey Goose Vodka, grapefruit juice, Grand Marnier and Sweet & Sour. It was refreshing, sweet and delicious and it turned out to be the most popular order amongst us five women at my table. Outside the offer, the extensive cocktail list starts from £13.50, or if you’re detoxing, there is a selection of ‘mocktails’.

Overall, the service was attentive and friendly, and our seating was incredibly comfortable – it would have been quite easy to sit quaffing for hours. Although my group were saving ourselves for a dinner afterwards, there is a bar menu for those who feel a bit peckish. I would highly recommend the bar for a location to celebrate a special occasion. I’m looking forward to trying out the restaurant next door…

  • Galvin at Windows cocktail bar, 22 Park Lane, Mayfair, W1K 1BE. Opening times: Mon-Wed 11am-1am, Thu-Fri 11am-3am, Sat 3pm-3am, Sun 11am-12am. Reservations highly recommended. Dress code: Smart casual, no sportswear. Nearest tube: Hyde Park Corner. For more information, visit Galvin at Windows website.

For other bar/restaurants with very different views, read Metro Girl’s blog review on the Oxo Tower or Vertigo 42 Champagne Bar review: Hope you’ve got a head for heights… and bubbles.

Or if cocktails in a decadent setting appeal to you, check out our post on the Beaufort Bar at the Savoy Hotel.

For Metro Girl’s tips on restaurants with a view on London, check out our guide to eating with a vista on Urbanspoon.

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Drink or eat? The cocktail bar is situated next door to the restaurant

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