I use the Eurostar often, to visit family in France or visit one of the many easy-to-reach cities for a short European minibreak. Whenever I travel I can’t help but admire the magnificent St Pancras Renaissance Hotel which towers over the station, one of London’s most regal and glorious architectural feats. In my opinion the best Eurostar trips begin with a stay at St Pancras Renaissance Hotel and end with drinks at the elegant hotel bar, The Booking Office… So you can imagine my delight when the hotel team asked me to join them for a day trip to Lille in search of ingredients for the new‘tails of Discovery cocktail menu.
After a blissful night’s sleep in one of the hotel’s luxurious Chambers Junior Suites I awoke to the station tannoys, announcing exciting departures for the day ahead. I put on my most suitable French market-day outfit and hurried downstairs to meet the rest of the team. A few minutes later we were sitting in the Eurostar lounge awaiting our train to Lille, breakfast picnic baskets in hand. I was travelling with a few of the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel team and Terence Sestili the cocktail mastermind behind the menu at The Booking Office. On the short train ride (just 90 minutes from London to Lille) we learnt how to make Terence’s special Bloody Mary’s, complete with homemade tomato juice and fragrant citrus essences.
Once in Lille we were on a mission to collect everything on Terence’s shopping list for a trio of unique new cocktails: perfectly ripe white peaches for the Peach Bellini, porcini mushrooms for the Mushroom Martini and rare purple potatoes for the Lavender Vesper. We wandered round several local markets, chatting to the stall owners in broken french and examining the beautiful fresh produce. Terence was filled with passion as he smelt and felt all the fruit and vegetables, obsessively finding the best possible produce for his drinks.
After a few hours we proudly settled for lunch, satisfied that we had ticked off every ingredient on the list. Lille has a rich culinary heritage, and we enjoyed several speciality dishes (mostly involving maroilles cheese) at Estaminet Au Vieux de la Vieille in the older historic part of town. It’s amazing that you can be in London for breakfast and Lille for lunch!
After lunch it was time to head back home. But before catching the train we had just enough time to visit the famous second-hand book and antique market in Lille, where Terence and I chose three stunning vintage glasses to serve his cocktails in.
Back at The Booking Office it was time to use our lovely Lille ingredients… inspired by our brief visit to France Terence gave me an enthusiastic and expert cocktail classic, treating each ingredient with care and attention. He showed me techniques to get the right texture of peach, and how to ensure the purple potatoes keep their vibrant lilac colour. Terence is a true performer and it was great fun to watch him make each of the drinks with dexterous skill and love.
We tried the cocktails with an array of accompanying snacks from the new bar menu. Each drink has a plate of food, designed to match and complement the qualities of that cocktail. I loved all three cocktails and was amazed by the intense but distinct flavours of each. For a light summer aperitif the Peach Bellini is the ultimate classic, mixed with the freshest sweet fruit and a touch of sparkle. After dinner try the Mushroom Martini, earthy in taste with a velvety smooth texture. And for something a little exotic order the Lavender Vesper, which tastes as beautiful and serene as it looks.
The Booking Office’s new cocktail menu is filled with thoughtful touches and genius creativity. Next time you hop on the Eurostar arrive a little early and treat yourself to a tipple before the train ride, it is the best way to start any journey!
More information about the ‘tails of Discovery cocktail menu here.
This is a sponsored post in collaboration with St Pancras Renaissance Hotel.