Royal Garden Hotel
2-24 Kensington High Street
020 7937 8000
LIKE the hotel that houses it, Park Terrace looks blandly corporate, even despite its Hyde Park views. Yet it was refurbished and relaunched in May, and while it may lack aesthetic vim, its food bears the hallmarks of a newly energised establishment – just as the hotel is far better than it looks thanks to wonderful views and five-star service. Bar a few blips, chef Steve Munkley’s menu is inventive, best-of-British stuff that is served so generously you’re bound to lurch away from the table uncomfortably full.
That fullness was largely my fault – since I’m greedy and can’t keep my hands off (homemade) bread before devouring three courses. But it’s also a flaw of Munkley’s. Take my starter: cromer crab ravioli with samphire and shellfish bisque.
The overall taste and texture was lovely. But the ravioli was vast and doughy (actually, one oversized raviolo) and the buttery bisque was served in a surprisingly large pitcher so that if you’re greedy like me, you can keep dousing your crab in the bisque. By the time I’d finished it, I already felt full. My friend Terri, on the other hand, opted for the other extreme: plum tomato consommé, a bizarrely misconstructed dish of watery pink broth. It came with a tiny mound of tomato gnocchi at the bottom of the bowl, but this did nothing to alleviate its dullness. Steer clear.
Next up were a pair of delightful mains. Terri had lavender and herb-crusted rump of Suffolk organic lamb. I’m not normally a fan of lamb, but these discs of glowing ruby looked too good to pass up, and indeed, they were meltingly tender and rich with warm, salty savour – the lavender gave the meat a new piquancy.
My pan-roasted Cornish halibut was a worthy slab of fish cooked perfectly. But as with my starter, it didn’t stop there and ended up being a deeply rich dish. The smoked garlic mash had the problem of being too filling and generously served, but also too moreish to leave. The buttery leek tart was just right, and the whole dish came awash in mussel chowder, poured at first by the waitress, then left tantalisingly in another large pitcher by the plate.
Munkley has provided a lesson in how to make a white fish dish topplingly rich.
We didn’t want any dessert, but when presented by the menu by the above-mentioned (enthusiastic Lithuanian) waitress, we felt obliged. I tried the coffee tart, served with coffee-flavoured sails of caramelised sugar. Jolly nice, but too much. Terri had a vanilla cheesecake with lemon and coriander consommé, but it was too posh for her taste, lacking the all-important biscuit base. We lingered a bit longer with our bottle of molten gold-coloured Australian chardonnay, before staggering off to find our beds.