Five of us are in the elevator trundling up towards Brooklands restaurant on the top floor of The Peninsula London. The elevator is small and probably a bit too full; the mechanics are groaning, and the lights are flickering. My fellow elevator friends and I are smiling at one another, but inwardly I am panicking that we are about to be stuck between the floors of London’s newest five-star hotel.
When we finally arrive at the top in one piece, however, it turns out those flickers and groans were intentional – the journey up to the restaurant was supposed to mimic the take-off of a hot air balloon. This might not sound like the usual way to enter a restaurant (I think I’ll take the stairs next time), but this is the whim of the Kadoorie family – owners of the Peninsula Hotel group by day, and motorsport and aviation enthusiasts by night.
The embodiment of this enthusiasm doesn’t end there. Head left when you exit the elevator to the main dining room and a staggering replica of the original Concorde plane, cast in aluminum suspends from the ceiling, looking down on diners. Head right and you’ll find the impossible-to-get-a-seat-at Brooklands Bar, where the menu is arranged by Mach rating – from weakest to strongest.
The food, thankfully, is a whole lot nicer than what was likely served aboard Concorde. Claude Bosi has assumed the role of executive chef and with him has arrived a menu that is slick, confident and clever, and clearly reaching for the (Michelin) stars.
The appointment of Claude Bosi as Brooklands’ executive chef was a clear symbol that Peninsula London was aiming high with its restaurant offering. The French native and adopted Londoner is a mainstay in the Michelin guide – his first UK restaurant, the now-closed Hibiscus, peaked at two stars; Bibendum, fittingly located within the original Michelin headquarters, holds the same accolade.
At Brooklands, Bosi’s right-hand man is chef de cuisine Francesco Dibenedetto. A long-time collaborator – Dibenedetto was executive chef at Bibendum and head chef at Hibiscus before that – it’s hard to imagine who better to be entrusted to uphold Bosi’s esteemed reputation.
Although there is an a la carte option at Brooklands, heed good advice and go for the tasting menu – there’s a choice between five courses (£175/ $221) and seven courses (£195/ $247), one meaty, one veggie. Bosi looks almost solely to the British Isles for his ingredients, utilizing relationships with the nation’s best and most sustainable suppliers.
My visit was in January, and therefore, in the midst of New Year’s resolutions – Dry Jan was fortunately not on the list but vegetarianism was. I imagine convincing a French chef to create a dedicated vegetarian menu is a challenge – whoever took on that task has been duly rewarded; Bosi’s meat-free options are great.
Bar one occasion – when my companion’s enticingly pink Lake District lamb chops came with not one but three sides and sauces yet my poached St Ewe egg, wrapped up in crispy kataifi-style pastry came with… none – I had no regrets about my commitment to eat less meat. Brooklands has gone to great lengths to ensure its vegetarian offering is as, if not on some occasions more, interesting as its standard tasting menu.
The ‘coronation chicken,’ for example, (a deft play on the British on the classic, which sees a quenelle of smooth chicken ice cream dolloped in the middle of creamy coronation-style sauce and topped with crispy onions) is easily made veggie with cauliflower ice cream. The madeira-marinated foie gras parfait sandwiched between two delicate thins of pastry is quickly turned duck-free with a trade for thick, sticky mushrooms.
Dessert, though, is my real highlight. The Best of British Apples reveals itself to be a pile of gently spiced chunks of apple (think: Grandma’s apple pie) encased in golden pastry, while Scottish Cep, Banana and Crème Fraîche is deliciously reminiscent of a foam banana sweet. The sweet treats don’t end at the dessert or even at the petit fours – each guest gets a little goodie bag to take home, ours containing the softest apple crumble cake I’ve ever tried. Warm yours up and have it for breakfast the next morning.
The aviation theme runs thick through Brooklands, but it is beautifully executed with impossibly intricate details at every turn, with a design from Archer Humphryes ensuring the Kadoorie family’s love of trains, planes and automobiles doesn’t veer too far into gimmicky territory.
Aside from the showstopping Concorde replica suspended from the ceiling, there’s the carpet that displays the constellation that would have been seen from the plane, a digital projection of the view guests would have during the flight and even an airplane-style bathroom (albeit a little roomier).
Both the main dining room and Brooklands Bar have commanding views over London, and in summer, the terrace will open to guests too. For more intimate occasions, book the 22-seat Mach II dining room, named for the speed at which Concorde flew.
Brooklands Restaurant, The Peninsula London, 1 Grosvenor Pl, London SW1X 7HJ, peninsula.com