When she still lived in London, before flying back to her native Texas, my lovely friend Kate lived over in the beautiful postcode of SW7. She and I had a monthly dinner get-together, where we would catch up over crepes or some good lasagne, and get each other up to speed on all the goings on in our lives. Those dinners were great fun and I always looked forward to good company and yummy food. These little events are part of the patchwork which can make our days and weeks and months all the more enjoyable, don't you think?
Since Kate returned to the States I've found myself in the Gloucester Road/South Kensington region a little less. I found myself back there last week though, when I was kindly invited by Millennium Hotels to a meal and a look around two of their properties on that side of town.
We met at seven in Humphrey's Bar, the ground floor bar at the Millennium Gloucester Road. I love a good hotel bar and can happily while away a good few hours over a cocktail or two, writing or people-watching to my heart's content. Humphrey's is a nice little spot, and was ideal for an evening drink with a great cocktail selection, low lighting, and that sophisticated, slightly louche atmosphere a good hotel bar should have. They always conjure secret assignations up in my mind - perhaps a childhood watching too many Bond films is to blame for that association!
I enjoyed chatting with Alex, the general manager of the hotel and sipping a chilled glass of prosseco while I learned a little more about the hotel and Alex's role within it. I love hearing about the ins and outs of various establishments! While we were in the bar a platter of canapes was brought over from Bugis, the Chinese/Singaporean restaurant in the property. They all looked delicious but I must confess to only nibbling at a couple - I'd heard our meal was to be an Italian feast and that's my favourite cuisine; I was intent on saving myself for that!
After we had all arrived and had a drink we moved from the Millennium Hotel around to the Bailey's Hotel, the other property the group were showcasing on the evening. Bailey's is about to complete a major renovation (the last few drop-cloths and paint pots were still in place) and it is looking fabulous! One of the grand dames of the West London hotel scene, I loved looking around this hotel and exploring a little. We were guided on this part of the tour by the manager of Baileys Hotel. I was fascinated to hear about the decor decisions that had been made, such as each floor having its own colour scheme and theme. We got to have a good look around one of the suites as well, which was beautiful; after our fabulous honeymoon I've gained a newfound love for the suite life!
After our little walk around, we headed down to the restaurant, which is where my initial story ties up with the event. When I used to head across town to meet Kate, we'd always meet at a restaurant called Olives. I discovered that Olives is the Italian restaurant *in* Bailey's Hotel! So I already knew what my main course choice would be - their superb lasagne.
The meal was delightful. The chef prepared a family style sharer for both the starters and desserts so we could try a range of items, and we all chose our main courses. As the menu was about to change a little it was a great way to sample some of the different dishes on offer. My favourite starter was the calimari - crisp and chewy in perfect proportion, served with a creamy garlic mayonnaise. I also tried the spicy tapenade on flatbread, paired with creamy mozzarella burrata; I would not have usually ordered that combination so was pleased to try (and like!) it.
Main course was the lasagne, which was just as good as I recalled - savoury, fresh, with decadent, thick sauce and pasta made fresh in house. It's making me hungry just thinking about that dish.
By pudding time I was pretty stuffed, but in the interest of a fullsome review I tried a few pieces of the dessert offerings. My absolute favourite was the white chocolate and lavender creme brulée, with shortbread to pair. I tend to steer clear of lavender in puddings as it can overpower the dish so easily, but this was perfectly judged - the fragrant, floral notes of lavender complemented the sweet and smooth white chocolate so well. The shortbread on the side added a little extra kick of crunch too. While we enjoyed our puddings we were able to meet with Davide, the hugely talented chef in charge and to quiz him on the menu!
Thank you to Millennium for inviting me to have a look around the hotels and for your kind hospitality. I will certainly return again before too long!
Disclosure: I received my meal and drinks for free. My opinions on the lasagne, and other elements, are all my own.