Henrietta Hotel – London’s hotel restaurant that’s not to be missed
As somebody who eats and travels for a living, when I visit in a city I habitually avoid the food at my hotel and opt for a more authentic dining experience in the surrounding neighborhoods. More often than not, inter-city hotel food is unimaginative, overpriced and underwhelming. Divorced from the surrounding food culture, hotel food usually leaves something to be desired. This couldn’t be further from the truth for the Henrietta Bistro at the Henrietta Hotel in Covent Garden, London’s vibrant epicenter for open air markets, street performances, speakeasy cocktail clubs and trendy restaurants.
Headed by Chef Sylvain Roucayrol of Perpignan, Henrietta Bistro boasts a menu focused on food from south-western France, Basque country and Catalunya, Spain. Roucayrol, who studied under world renowned French chef Daniel Boulud, expertly weaves ingredients and techniques from these regions to create tapestry of flavors that can best be described as bold yet elegant, beautiful plates that jump back and forth between rustic and refined. Portrayed as a tapas restaurant, it would be dishonest to call the portions small. Densely packed with flavor and color, even the most delicate dish like the marinated eel with daikon radish is a revelation. Ordering a variety of plates and sharing is however recommended, since the flavors are too varied and unique for one to relegate themselves to a single dish. The burrata, a soft cheese made from mozzarella and crème, served with green zebra gazpacho and strawberry powder is heavenly on its own. When smeared across a few slices of their house made sourdough bread with espelette butter, it transcends to the divine. Grilled octopus cooked sous vide until tender then lightly charred and mixed with heirloom tomato fatoush and sumac chips is in contrast between the savory seafood and the bright crunch of peak season tomatoes. The tuna tartare with truffle and tahini is the perfect end of summer dish where prized line caught tuna is elevated even further with fresh shavings of late season truffles, piled high on top of a smear of toasted tahini.
A true highlight of the menu is the mezcal cured duck liver terrine with grilled bread. Salty, sweet, and as decadent as you’d expect foie gras to be, it is the perfect texture to counter the crunch of the charred sourdough. Lamb cutlets with black olive and aubergine is another example of a simple, expertly prepared dish by Raucayrol and his team, highlighting the freshness and beauty of late summer’s seasonal products.
To come to Covent Garden, or London for that matter, and not patronize the Henrietta Bistro’s bar would be a grave mistake; for their beverages are equally as impressive as their food. A meticulously curated list of classic and contemporary cocktails, vintage spirits and pastis to please the palate and satisfy the senses, without being pretentious or stiff; unless of course you order your drink that way. If you’re staying at the hotel and don’t feel like being social in the lounge or bar area, the in-room mini bar is fully stocked with a variety of premium spirits, beers and wine plus a pre-made cocktail expertly prepared and bottled by the team downstairs. It is also equipped with plenty of fixings to make your own delicious beverages without leaving the comfort of your room.
The Henrietta Hotel is made up if 18 boutique rooms featuring retro furniture and vintage brass fixtures with a few very modern upgrades. Elegant headboards adorn large pillow like beds that leave you feeling as though you’ve been swallowed by a cloud. A word of caution however: beds this comfortable can easily turn a cheeky afternoon nap into a missed dinner reservation. Luckily the front desk staff are not unused to this situation and can help you get a later time slot, or reschedule your dinner altogether so your light nap can easily transition into a hearty slumber.
The Henrietta is part of the Paris-based Experimental Group which is best known for their signature concept Experimental Cocktail Club. As you may surmise, this team knows a thing or two about libations. Two of their other London concepts reside just a few blocks over from the Henrietta in the Chinatown district and are must-sees on your next London food and drink tour. The sister bar to their Paris establishment of the same name, Experimental Cocktail Club offers crafted cocktails to an eclectic clientele, and their third-floor speakeasy called Opium serves late night dim-sum and cocktails from their selection of themed menus well into the night. What’s better than an Umami Martini with siu mai or a Blood Orange Wallbanger with a few steamed BBQ pork buns? At 3am you’d be hard pressed to find a better combination.
Aside from the Henrietta Bistro, Covent Garden boasts a veritable plethora of world-class dining options all within walking distance, several of which are located right on Henrietta Street. Two doors down from the Henrietta is Chef Greg Marchand’s restaurant Frenchie. A modern French brasserie with a sleek and minimal décor, opting for grey and off-white tones that allow the vibrantly colored and flavored food to be the star of the room. Go for the signature bacon scones, and stay for the lamb sweetbreads, pan roasted duck breast, and finish with the selection of raw cheese from the French country side, exquisitely paired with a crisp off-dry Riesling or a Pinot Noir from Burgundy.
Just a few doors down from Frenchie’s is Flat Iron, a rustic steakhouse painted with a quick stroke of modern. A la carte options include a flat iron steak as well as a rib eye plus feature cuts like wagyu skirt steak. The beef fat fries are to die for, paired with a side of steamed English broccoli and a selection of sauces for your dipping pleasure. Their gin & tonic menu is as eclectic as it is uncommon to pair with a steak, but refreshing and delicious none the less. As you leave he restaurant they present you with a mini gourmet ice cream cone, the flavor of which changes regularly, to enjoy as you stroll down Covent Garden’s cobblestone streets.
Another wildly popular London resident is Dishoom, a trendy concept pumping put Bombay style street food alongside a killer cocktail list and some funky Indian groves. The wait at their Covent Garden location can be lengthy, like many restaurants in the area they don’t take reservations so guests must line up rain or shine for a chance to dine. Luckily there is another location in nearby Carnaby which can be a little easier to get into and 5 other locations throughout the United Kingdom. Don’t let the kitschy menu names like the Thunderball cocktail or the Gunpowder Potatoes fool you, the flavors are worth the wait. In a country where chicken tikka marsala is widely considered the national dish, it’s safe to say that Britain loves Indian food and Dishoom is a welcomed escape from the traditional curry houses of London.
You cant’s eat all day if you don’t start in the morning. Across the road from the Henrietta is Avobar, London’s first all-avocado casual dining concept serving up a selection of Avocado toasts, sandwiches, bowls and salads as well as health-inspired beverages such as turmeric and beet lattes and a variety of smoothies. The decor is more reminiscent of a garden then a restaurant with its white washed wood, green mosaic tile walls, hand hammered copper table tops, not to mention the plethora of plants of all shapes and sizes scattered around the room. Whether you’re looking for colorful plates to photograph for your social media feed or you’re just interested in a hearty, healthy meal to energize your day, Avobar is your one stop shop for all things avocado.
Day or night, London’s Covent Garden is buzzing with activity. Locals and tourists alike come to experience the outdoor markets, street performers and vendors. Whether you’re searching for a night on the town, a feast fit for the Queen, or a beautiful breakfast to fuel your London sightseeing adventures, Covent Garden has everything you’re looking for. And it’s all just a few steps inside, or outside, the front door of the Henrietta Hotel.
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