You never know quite what to expect at a Pret a Diner event. The concept was founded by KP Kofler who hoped to create an extravagant sensory experience combining Michelin star food, cocktails, art and music. Recently the creative company returned to London for a stint at Cafe Royal’s exclusive private members club. This season they present ‘The Bohemians’, an evening which shakes up the tradition of this historic hotel and assaults you with inventive food and expressive artwork.
The Cafe Royal’s executive chef Andrew Turner is joined by two New York based chefs: Patti Jackson (Michelin star restaurant, Delaware and Hudson in Brooklyn) and West Village resident Ryan Tate (Blenheim, Le Restaurant). The three have teamed up to create an indulgent four-course menu which is paired with an optional wine flight. Drinks for the evening are curated by Tiziano Tasso (Club Bars Manager at Café Royal) and Dominic Jacobs (Jacobs Chase and The Whip).
Walking into the glamorous but discreet Cafe Royal Hotel, everything seemed to be running as normal with no indicators that a bohemian bonanza may be underway somewhere in the building. First we were taken through to the bar area to trial the bespoke bohemian cocktails, which were strong and delicious. Colourful paintings by Ryan Hewett and Jake Wood-Evans clash with the ordered and sensible surroundings.
At 7pm we were taken through to the dining room, a smart interior which has clearly been given a Pret a Diner makeover. The room was ablaze with a pink lighting that suddenly made it feel much later in the evening than it actually was. Despite the wacky decor and grungy beats from the DJ on the decks it was a civilised scenario, hip waiters in t-shirts and tattoos attending to the tables with the utmost decorum.
The food was refined yet quirky, some of the dishes excellent, others less inspiring. The plate of mini bites arrived slightly haphazardly presented but intensely flavoured with strong luxurious ingredients. We particularly enjoyed the cheese and truffle mousse and the NYC inspired Dutchy Pretzel bread.
The Tuna Carpaccio with pickled vegetables was created by Andrew Turner – the tuna was smooth and silky with a zingy sauce and a little boiled quail’s egg for a touch of richness. For main course there was a choice between Duck or Seabass. The duck was a little undercooked for me but deeply flavoured, served on a bed of seasonal asparagus. The highlight of this dish was the crispy croquette which was cooked to perfection and filled with slow cooked tender meat. The seabass was light and fragrant on a pretty bed of red pepper sauce and delicate fennel and dill.
Dessert was a child’s paradise… a giant meringue holding strawberries, maple vacherin and buttermilk. Paired with a lovely glass of French dessert wine which made it a more grown-up affair.
We visited Pret a Diner early in the evening, and it whizzed by in flash as we enjoyed the decadent offerings that were continuously brought to our table. I imagine later on, with the room filled to capacity it might be a less sober and more thrillingly raucous evening. Walking out into the daylight, it felt like we’d stepped out of a bohemian bubble and back into the real world.
Continues until 23 May, more information and book here.