Walking down Park Lane you’re almost falling over yourself with five-star hotels to visit, be it for a cocktail, afternoon tea or maybe if you’re feeling plush or in charge of an expenses card, an over night stay.
As there are so many it can be hard to pick and as most menus require you to spend a month’s budget over one meal, it’s important to pick the right place. The competition is fierce but one which has managed to retain it identity without becoming outdated is five-star The Athenaeum.
One of the best things about the hotel is its whisky bar, serving more than 270 different varieties of the amber spirit. It’s lovely and traditional and as a whisky novice, I was a little out of place, but the staff are friendly and helpful and ready to help you pick out a good drink if you’re not a connoisseur.
After a warm-up drink in the bar, my friend Rav and I tried out the hotel’s restaurant last week. It’s an elegant room, with padded chairs covered in velvet and cushions making you feel a little like royalty. The room is also set out well for intimacy as each of the tables are cleverly placed in booths leaving you quite separate from your fellow diners.
The menu is simple but successful with classic British dishes cooked well. We had the onion soup, creamy and subtly infused but nothing too special with tuna carpaccio, which was brilliantly delicate with a slightly spicy edge from the peppercorn coating.
Onto the main meals, salmon parcels with a green salad and wild mushroom risotto. The salmon was fresh and juicy wrapped in flaky pastry with spinach squished into the mix whereas the risotto, possibly a bad menu choice on Rav’s part, was pretty bland.
By this stage, after sharing a bottle of Riesling and after our initial whiskey starters, things were beginning to feel a little unbalanced. To soak up the alcohol we ploughed on to puddings and went for a squidgy chocolate pudding and a beautifully light crème brulee with crunchy shortbread biscuits on the side.
All in all the night was pleasant but nothing out of the ordinary. It’s a classic place built on tradition and everything from the décor to the food served up is based on this idea. The average age of most of the punters is around 50, so if you’re not of this age maybe find some older friends or take your parents along.
If you’re looking to go somewhere traditional it’s a strong contender in Mayfair and you won’t be left with too much of a financial hangover.
This article was originally written for Who’s Jack.