The newly opened Henrietta Hotel, from the Experimental Group (Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, Experimental Cocktail Club, Joyeux Bordel), sees acclaimed chef Ollie Dabbous shaking off the industrial décor of his eponymous Fitzrovia restaurant.
Split over the ground and first floor mezzanine of the Covent Garden hotel, a grand, renovated Victorian townhouse, the rooms are light, airy and relaxed, with plush, racing green velvet seating, oak flooring, terracotta tiles, copper detailing and a glass roof between the two halves of the building flooding the room with natural light.
It’d be churlish not to imbibe at The Henrietta, given the Experimental Group’s pedigree and the fact that cocktail historians Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller consulted, so go for the refreshing, cucumber-based Lucky Jim and something to graze on while you look over Ollie’s seasonal, ingredient-led menu.
Pillowy grilled flatbread smothered in sesame labneh and topped with sharp, crunchy pickled veg, spring blossoms and dukkah proved the perfect appetizer.
For starters, duck egg mayonnaise on toast with white asparagus was rich with truffle and pleasantly reminiscent of that staple afternoon tea sandwich, but it was creamy burrata served with sharp-but-sweet wild strawberries, fennel pollen and bittersweet tarragon that really impressed us.
Roasted seabass for main was accompanied by a deeply umami, smoky tarama broth, fragrant lovage oil and tangy pickled courgette, which acted as the perfect foil to its platefellows.
A must-order, though, is barbecued quail; the bird is skewered with a liquorice branch for its final flash on the grill, lending a beautifully rounded sweetness to partner with the char of the meat, earthy fenugreek and nutty bed of toasted wheat and almond.
Even the sides are worth a mention here, particularly on-trend charred hispi cabbage served with a tangy rapeseed oil vinaigrette which would convert even the most ardent brassica bashers.
Desserts are simple – green apple sorbet, soft-serve cherry blossom ice cream – but the wait for buttery, freshly baked madeleines with Chantilly cream is more than worth it.
Elegant and refined but accessible, the experiments have paid off and we wouldn’t be surprised if Henrietta quickly draws the crowds you’d expect from a restaurant with Ollie Dabbous at the helm. Get in while you can.
The Henrietta Hotel, 14-15 Henrietta Street,London WC2E 8QH
Words | Sarah Kingsbury, June 2017