Céleste Restaurant at The Lanesborough

I have had two jobs in Knightsbridge and I’ve often walked past The Lanesborough Hotel and admired the grandeur and exclusivity of the building. Last year the hotel reopened after a 19 month refurbishment, which cost around 60 million pounds. Needless to say, the interiors are suitably lavish and luxurious. I visited the hotel’s Céleste Restaurant last week, newly awarded with a Michelin star, to taste the food and have a sneaky peek at the new decor.

Céleste RestaurantCéleste Restaurant

The dining room is magnificent, with a large central skylight, pale blue ornately decorated walls and an elevated seating area. There is also a private dining room for up to 14 guests for special occasions. With a reservation at noon, we were first to arrive in the restaurant, so I had the opportunity to wander round and explore every beautiful detail.

Céleste Restaurant

The food is overseen by Eric Frechon, the three-star chef from Le Bristol in Paris. Everything is carefully served and presented by the organised and friendly waiting staff. We started with a glass of bubbly and some delicious bite-sized canapes.

Céleste RestaurantCéleste Restaurant

There is a very reasonably priced 3 course lunch menu available everyday for £35 per person. Keen to try the specialities of the season, we chose from the a la carte menu, which is filled with irresistible recipes. I opted for the oven baked celeriac with crushed black truffle and comte extra vieux millesime. It was a seemingly simple dish, but on the plate, a carefully prepared combination of lovely textures and subtle flavours made it truly delicious. Light and delicate, I could have eaten a second serving. The sauteed squid with black ink porridge and red wine sauce was much heavier but equally delicious, a thick starchy base with tender pieces of seafood.

Céleste RestaurantCéleste RestaurantCéleste Restaurant

We struggled to choose from the array of main course options, but eventually decided on brown hare with peppercorn, and lamb with jerusalem artichokes and goat’s curd. Both plates were strikingly arranged, with the sauces served on the side. The lamb was nicely cooked with complementing woody artichokes, black garlic and creamy smooth goat’s curd mousse. Hare seemed like a sensible choice during game season, and the saddle was richly seasoned with spicy peppercorn. I loved the flavoursome braised shoulder tortellone which was topped with a decadent piece of foie gras.

One of the experienced sommeliers looked after us throughout the meal, serving the finest complementing wines to taste with each course. The unique choices were unusual but delicious pairings that made us appreciate the food at Céleste even more.

Céleste RestaurantCéleste RestaurantCéleste Restaurant

Desserts were another highlight, we sampled three from the menu: pear with honey and spices, Guanaja chocolate with cashew nut and coffee bean, and pineapple with pina colada mousse and sorbet. The exotic pineapple dish was a work of art with finely crafted sugar in the shape of a pineapple, which cracked open to reveal tropical mousse and cream. The sophisticated cocoa dessert is perfect for chocolate lovers of all ages, with a subtle hint of coffee and a lovely warmth from the cashew nuts. My favourite though was the understated pear with honey, a beautifully balanced pudding, which cleansed the palate and satisfied my need for a sweet hit.

Céleste Restaurant

Although we were the first to arrive at Céleste for lunch, we were nearly the last to leave. I savoured every moment of our meal here, and hope to return to this magnificent dining room for another regal meal soon.

More information and book a table at Céleste Restaurant here.

Il Buco Ristorante, Sorrento

The Amalfi coast is a full of sunshine and vibrant fresh produce, so you would expect to find some exemplary restaurants serving great Italian food and wine. Unfortunately, many of the tourists visiting settle for less-than-authentic bistros which do not give a true taste of the area. I recommend turning off the busy main square, into the pictoresque side street which is home to Il Buco Ristorante, a charming Michelin star restaurant, with delicious food and lovely service. This elegant restaurant is housed within the beautiful wine cellars of an old monastery, and serves traditional fare presented with flair and creativity.

Il Buco, SorrentoIl Buco, Sorrento

If you can, sit at one of the outside tables… we were seated in an atmospheric corner with a glimpse of the ocean in the background. The shadowy alcoves of the ancient building provide a romantic setting for an intimate meal. To whet our appetites the sommelier poured us two glasses of delicious fine Italian sparkling wine.

Il Buco, SorrentoIl Buco, Sorrento

The menu is lengthy and varied, with a range of starters, pastas, meat and fish options. We followed our waiters recommendations and started with Calamari filled with porcini mushrooms, potato, mozzarella and wasabi, and the antipasti plate of Buffalo mozzarella on tomato with ricotta-filled cannoli and a selection of homegrown pickled vegetables. The calamari was incredibly fresh and artistically presented to look like a mushroom, while the rainbow plate of antipasti was a highly flavoured taste of Italy, with different marinaded vegetables and contrasting creamy cheese.

Il Buco, SorrentoIl Buco, Sorrento

The meat and seafood dishes sounded tempting, but we couldn’t resist ordering pasta for our main course. Homemade ravioli filled with rosemary scented lamb and Ischitana sauce was a delicate dish, exquisite little parcels of tender meat in a traditional tomato-based sauce. The Linguini with lemon scented scorpion and zucchini flowers was an instant reminder of the sea, plump pieces of zesty fish entwined in a pile of fresh pasta.

Il Buco, SorrentoIl Buco, Sorrento

The desserts on offer were classic with bold flavours. I opted for the Amalfi lemon dessert which was served with biscuit crumb and a froth of limoncello, and my dining partner chose the chocolate dish. After a big meal the light and creamy lemon posset-type mousse was the perfect palate-cleansing finale. The chocolate pudding was slightly more refined, an offering of contrasting textures of chocolate served with fresh strawberries and pretty edible flowers. Feeling weary after our Italian feast, we finished the meal with strong macchiatos to get us ready for more city exploring.

More information and book a table at Il Buco here.

Caprice, Four Seasons, Hong Kong

The best restaurants in Hong Kong are located inside luxury hotels and the Four Seasons has two of the finest in town. I was lucky to eat at both during my trip; truly different but equally memorable dining experiences.

Caprice was opened by a team from the prestigious Le Cinq in Paris and quickly received two stars from the Michelin guide. The outstanding service and immaculate French cooking soon earnt head chef Vincent Thierry a third star – the ultimate accolade. When current chef Fabrice Vulin took over in 2013 the restaurant went down to two once again, but remains known as one of Hong Kong’s most celebrated eateries, and for good reason.

The grand dining room features opulent chandeliers and beautifully crisp white dressed tables. The open plan kitchen adds some drama to the room; I was particularly impressed to see all the chefs wearing tall white hats as they worked. We sat at a lovely table overlooking the harbour, and with floor to ceiling windows the room was wonderfully light even on a cloudy winter’s day.

Champagne was the perfect start to our French feast. We were served a variety that had more of a savoury taste as to complement our opening dishes best. Jerusalem artichoke veloute with beef tongue mille-feuille was a mouthful of heaven – creamy and subtle soup with a hint of meat, just to add a little salty seasoning.

Lunch guests can opt for the reasonable ‘set menu’ that offers two courses for £40 or three for £45. Despite the low price point there is still plenty of choice and variety, but to try the showstopper dishes it is best to pick from the à la carte. Everything sounded divine, with a noticeable inclusion of seasonal delicacies, such as Périgord black truffles.

Potato Gnocchi with beef and truffle consommé and colonnata pork toast was my ideal starter, light yet rich in flavour. The crystal clear consommé was poured over the delectable soft gnocchi and topped with shaved truffle. Poached duck foie gras was a great choice in the unusually chilling weather; a comforting and luxurious piece of velvety foie gras with Japanese inspired Daikon radish, black truffle and duck consommé.

For main course I ordered the Caprice signature dish, Caramelised Pigeon Breast with Moroccan spices and couscous style vegetables. It was the tenderest pigeon I have ever tasted, with a thin crisp skin, and seasoned beautifully with an array of fragrant spices. Often I find pigeon chewy but this meat melted in the mouth. Vegetables were served on the side, a pretty little accompaniment, dressed in an aromatic herbaceous jus. For seafood lovers the Royale Langoustine à la Plancha was a regal dish. Plump peach-coloured langoustine pieces sat amongst a pool of vibrant green watercress coulis and are sprinkled with Kristal caviar… it was almost too handsome to eat.

Struggling to pick just two desserts from the list of tempting recipes the waiter surprised us with a third. An exciting prospect, but my stomach groaned in protest at even more food. Each was as flawless as the next, but we both favoured the Passion Fruit and Victoria Pineapple soufflé with exotic sorbet, a tropical warm pudding with a light springy texture. Crispy Feuillantine with creamy Macae chocolate, Tanariva and Guanaja Chantilly was the showstopper in terms of presentation. Wonderfully assembled, hovering above the plate on thin chocolate rings and decorated with frozen drips of chocolate; it was a true work of art. A little less classic was the Grand Cru Chocolate Sphere with Agen’s dried plum marmalade and black truffle. This innovative dessert was too decadent for me, but brilliant nonetheless. A dense mousse with a strong truffle perfume, encased in a shiny chocolate layer and covered with gold leaf and truffle ornaments.

After travelling for four months and adapting to local food and specialties, I relished the French flavours and expertise at Caprice. This remarkable restaurant was a highlight of my time in Hong Kong and the best example of French cooking I have tasted outside of the country itself.

More information and book a table at Caprice here.