Cookbook Cafe suffers from the lofty expectations that come from being located in a five star hotel. Although it has a lot of excellent qualities, consistency is lacking.
The Cookbook Cafe is undoubtedly a beautiful venue. Large windows overlooking Hyde Park Corner flood the space with light during the day and create a dramatic atmosphere in the evening as London comes alive in lights. Inside, the decor is muted but immaculate, perfectly suited to a brunch or lunch. Dark wooden tables and black leather sofa seating surround a large serving counter and banquet style tables. It’s very personable and warming despite the neutral cream decor. Dim spotlighting creates an ambience in the evening and quirky touches include lined paper instead of placemats and a wooden spoon themed series of artwork on the walls. It’s all perfectly put together and doesn’t suffer that contrived undertone so often observed in 5 star hotels.
In the day, especially for their brunches, Cookbook Cafe comes alive with activities for children, which is well received as families make the most of the perfect location. In the evening the atmosphere is more muted, suffering from its more laid back appeal as the hotel’s other restaurant Theo Randall thrives. Still, the staff are extremely friendly and well versed in etiquette - as you’d expect from such an establishment - and the service is far from intimidating.
The British menu is varied, well put together and it’s hard to choose between the delicious sounding dishes. Brunch is also highly recommended with all inclusive prices for a huge selection of dishes. Unfortunately, consistency seems to be an issue and although this is the casual restaurant in the hotel the prices are still in the £15 - £26 range for a main course.
A starter of pan-fried Cornish lobster cakes with wilted greens, mango basil salsa and Japanese chilli dip (£12) is a delight. The lobster is fresh and flavoursome with a delightful fishy undertone that's complemented by the sweet mango basil salsa and heat from the Japanese chilli dip. Unfortunately, the monkfish cheeks with thyme marinated English tomatoes, lobster and sweet onion salsa (£12) is a disappointment in comparison. Overseasoned to the point of being dreadfully salty, the perfectly cooked, fleshy monkfish is overpowered and the sweet onion salsa is lost. It’s a shame as the dish is actually beautifully presented and well cooked.
For mains, the Mediterranean farm raised sea bass, Brixham squid and crab with biriyani rice, lemon grass, lime leaf and peanut sauce (£23) is delicious. The sea bass is meaty with a perfectly crisped skin and the squid rings are delicate, well seasoned and complement the fish well. The rice is fluffy and light with a delightful undertone of lemon grass and the peanut sauce adds a perfect sweetness to the dish. Unfortunately, the grain fed Wiltshire sirloin steak,
tarragon, bearnaise sauce, hand cut chunky chips and green beans (£26) doesn’t fare so well. Although the creamy bearnaise sauce is rich, the chips are crisp and fluffy and the buttered green beans are crunchy, the steak is tough. Whilst cooked to specification, a medium rare steak that’s closer to medium is chewy and unappetising - surprising, to say the least.
Finally, desserts again suffer from a lack of consistency. The vanilla bean cheesecake (£6.50) is dry, lacks in flavour and is a very poor example of the dessert whilst the Weald of Kent strawberry creme brulee is rich and creamy with a sweetness that’s just the right side of sickly.
The wine list at Cookbook Cafe is well put together and very reasonably priced given the quality of the selection. Recommended for red meat dishes, the Terres de Truffes Terraventoux, Syrah Grenach 2008 is an exquisite red wine with a spicy fruit flavour and smooth finish. If you’re not sure what to order then the knowledgeable staff are more than well equipped to help you match your choice to your food.
The Last Word
When it’s good it’s very, very good, when it’s bad it’s, well, okay. Certainly not a bad restaurant by any stretch of the imagination, with a few tweaks to some of the dishes this could be worthy of the same 5 stars afforded to the hotel. Do add a star if you’re visiting for brunch, however.