1901, Andaz Hotel, Liverpool StreetPosted in Where to Eat & Drink Now
Marbled floors underfoot, smart European cuisine on the plate, a dramatic stain-glass cupola overhead fused with classic neo-Georgian surroundings lure diners to this slick restaurant in central London. And rightly so too.
It’s not often that the chance to jump back to the 18th century rears its head. I’ve never been able to build a time machine, but if it’s a snippet of Georgian London you’re after then 1901 could well be a portal to another world. Vaulted ceilings supported by whitewashed pillars allude to a sense of space and airiness very rarely associated with the City, church candles line the swish stone island in the centre of the dining area; if it wasn’t for the UV lights nestled behind wine bottles that have been sunken into the alcoves of the wall you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve stepped back in time and straight into King George IV’s private eatery. There’s something regal about 1901.
Above: The Speckled Island In The Centre Of The Dining Area Adds To The Buzz Of The Restaurant And Gives Diners A Choice Between The Serene And The Bustling.
The waiting staff are dressed immaculately and know when to be attentive; they’re indispensably invisible, quietly offering nuggets of knowledge when needed while sensing the precise moment to re-fill a glass with all the judgement of a tactician. As I take my seat at the granite table the waiter is keen to recommend the wine.
“Sir, if you’re after a dry white then I’d have to suggest the 2008 O Rosal Terras Valdes from Spain”, he says.
After a just single sip it’s clear that he knows his stuff. The O Rosal Terras Valdes is crisp, yet fruity on the palate and incredibly dry, a must have for a hot summer day. Without further ado we order king prawns (£13.00) and an ice pea soup for starters (£11.00).
Above: Inventive Lighting And A Vast Array Of Wine @ 1901
A delicious selection of warm breads, each served on a slab of slate are presented to us. It’s all very decadent, very rustic-chic.
“I’m sick of writing about politics”, says my partner as she sips on her wine.
I know the feeling. There’s possibly a reason why I never seem to be asked to write about politics so I reply, “I hate politics. It’s all ******* ”.
From across the table I can tell she’s shocked, but I’m in two minds whether it’s out of admiration or plain repulsion. Perhaps she thinks I’m being immature. But I stick to my guns, “politics is *******, just look at the wars waged in the name of freedom”. Two shot glasses arrive at our table.
“Sir, this is a little prawn cocktail appetiser. Enjoy.”
Of course it’s not a huge portion, but the prawns are juicy and the puréed sauce is delightful and bursting with flavour. It whets my appetite for more and I feel my stomach rumble in anticipation for my king prawn starter. Complimentary bread and appetisers always provide a different dynamic to the meal; in the case of 1901 it fills the space of time between eating a fully blown meal and drinking a glass of wine with panache. You hardly realise that you’re waiting for food in the first place.
Above: The Wine Bar @ 1901
“Seb. Do you honestly consider yourself a communist?” she inquires. It’s a tricky question to answer without sounding as though you’re an angst-ridden teenager or a hopeless romantic with no concept of how the 'real' world functions.
“I don’t. I’d only become a communist if I were the head of the party,” I chuckle to myself but she doesn’t seem amused.
I right my facial expression from a grin to a serious ‘I’m talking about important things’ face. I try again, “You see the problem is we all want a bigger slice of the pie than the other bloke on the street. We’re naturally competitive. Take that element of competition away and ambitions run wild. I suppose freedom’s a pain in the arse because we’ve always got to feel as those we’re fighting against something to achieve it, even if it’s just ourselves.”
She shrugs her shoulders, “indeed”. My partner takes a mouthful of her wine and the silence is promptly crammed with the words, “the wine is a good choice. I doubt this kind of thing would’ve been readily available in communist Russia.” We shake our heads.
Once the starters are brought from the kitchen to our plate we tuck in without procrastination. For what the ice pea soup lacks in excitement it makes up for with its refreshing, plate-cleansing properties. Combine the latter with a vibrant but dry white wine and as my partner put it you’ve got yourself, “summer on a spoon.” Quite.
For £13 a starter I was hardly expecting the runts of the ocean. However, what was presented to me in the space between my knife and fork took my breath away. Having recently returned from St. Kitts my plate had been graced by shellfish that could probably qualify as sea monsters, I didn’t think for one nanosecond that the 1901 portions would be of a similar size. The king prawns at 1901 have been caught from The Shetland Isles and would probably battle their native ponies for territory if they weren’t limited to life beneath the waves. Served with a sprinkling of Bloody Mary, avocado and mozzarella foam this dish is ideal for those who desire a grilled dish that retains the piquancy of summer without lacking a moist, flavoursome punch.
Above: The Wine And Cheese Bar @ 1901
The main menu ranges from asparagus risotto from the Wye Valley to Venison from Yorkshire. I went for Salmon from Loch Duart (£19), Scotland while my partner’s choice was monkfish from the Isle of White (£22). The majority of Ingredients used in 1901’s dishes are usually sourced from within the British Isles, this is somewhat reassuring in the age where we grow potatoes in Egypt for the one month of year we can’t grow them in the UK despite global warming, increasing fuel prices and our ability for intensive farming.
The contrast between the pink of the salmon and the pea green of the risotto meant that my main dish was awash with colour. Complete with tasty chunks of octopus (which were tender, not rubbery) and topped with parsley leaves, this was easily one the most satisfying meals I’ve eaten this year. The portion size was spot on; it had not been overloaded with risotto and the fillet of salmon was substantial in both mass and taste. This dish has a beautiful harmony of delicate flavours that excite and enliven the taste buds.
In comparison, my partner’s meal was complimented with saffron, fennel and watermelon. It’s easy to see the impact of sushi on the sphere of world food and this is exemplified by the parcels of monkfish in this dish. The meaty, yet tender flavour of this delicious fish is entwined with hints of watermelon and a smooth, light saffron sauce crowned with fennel.
For pudding we treated ourselves to desert wine. A glass of the 2000 Tokaji, Aszú, 5 Puttonyos, Oremus Tokaji from Hungary might cost a fiendish £18 a glass, but if you’ve got the money it’s worth each solitary penny. Bursting with floral aromas, the 2000 Tokaji proves that there’s more to a dessert wine than a sweet tasting alcoholic beverage.
Whatever people spew about London, one thing it doesn’t lack is class.
Expect to pay around £35 for a two course meal (excluding drinks) at 1901 in the Andaz Hotel.
Top Tip: If you need to take that all important business call while you’re at the table, don’t panic. The Andaz Hotel is the epitome of tranquillity, just head outside into the candle lit lobby and take a seat on one of the leather futons.
The Andaz Hotel,
40 Liverpool Street,
London, EC2M 7QN