Pret a Diner, The Bohemians, Cafe Royal

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.

The Burlington Social Club by PRET A DINER

Last week, PRET A DINER launched The Burlington Social Club, London’s first pop-up members club in the fabulous Senate Rooms at The Royal Academy. Industry heavy weights from the worlds of fashion, design, media and music came together to celebrate this unique drinking and dining concept, which Kofler & Kompanie has become renowned for.

Guests were invited to discover the unique PRET A DINER social drinking and dining experience with Michelin starred dishes and innovative cocktails, and RA Now, the first ever show at the Royal Academy to showcase works by all of the current Royal Academicians.And it is not just the food and drink offering that impressed – guests were treated to a feast for the eyes, as well as the stomach, with creative direction from Contemporary Neon Artist, Olivia Steele.

Among the crowd were Danny Rampling, Vince Kidd, Vas Blackwood and Olivia Hallinan who enjoyed sushi by Michelin starred chef Ollysan and PRET A DINER signature dishes including Teriyaki Ox Cheeks with parsnip and baby vegetables and Tuna Tartar with ponzu jelly, shisho snow and wasabi soy sauce. Guests also enjoyed cocktails from some of Europe’s best mixologists, including TBSC Ginger Fizz, a cocktail of gin, ginger, raspberry, lime, sugar and soda and 6BG Sour, a mix of vodka, basil, lemon and sugar.

The Burlington Social Club is open to members today until 17thNovember. Members can choose the lounge, or one of thirty seats on the edge of the central grand scaffold structure of exposed scaffold poles, aged wood and glass, which act as a virtual amphitheatre, allowing guests to observe the mastery of world renowned mixologists like Marian Beke and Stephan Hinz. A range of innovative cocktails are on offer, including ‘Tomba’, an injection of ginger, tomato, basil, coriander, salt pepper and lemon and ‘Coquetier’, an eggshell filled with rum, pimento, chocolate, Bitter’s, PX, protein and cinnamon.

Those who sit at the bar can also watch in awe as PRET A DINER chefs prepare a range of delicious Asian inspired petite food with dishes such as Teriyaki Ox cheeks with parsnip, local baby herbs and orange, one hour egg with mushroom foam and la ratte potato and chicken skin and tofu panna cotta with sea bream sashimi, shimeji and soy foam. Those with a sweet tooth will not be disappointed, with options such as salty caramel crème, apple sorbet and fir tree crumble and the infamous PRET A DINER crème brulee. And if members want something a little special, they can choose three or five dishes from the menu and receive an accompanying cocktail to match their chosen flavours.

A combination of a world-class cocktails and culinary trends, PRET A DINER at The Burlington Social Club is set to provide an exclusive drinking and dining experience.

Open daily from 6.30pm – 12.30am

Cocktails from £9
Sushi from £4 per piece (5 pieces for £22)
3 course petite food menu with accompanying cocktail – £55
5 course petite food menu with accompanying cocktail – £75

http://www.pretadiner.com/

Pret-a-Diner, Italians do it Better

Pret-a-diner is the most exciting dining concept of the year, but you’d be very mistaken if you thought it was just a culinary experience. The German company Kofler & Kompanie first set up their successful pop-up restaurant, the Minotaur last year at the Old Vic Tunnels – celebrities, foodies and critics were all begging for a table. I went along for the opening of Minotaur but regretfully never had the chance to try the food. This year I ignorantly turned up at the same location for this season’s ‘Italians do it Better’… and had to sprint across London to find the new, correct venue.

Through the doors of Mayfair’s 50 St James’s is a magical world of temptation and titillation. Pret-a-diner has temporarily occupied this tired and dated building transforming it into a wild and wonderful place of mysterious allure… opulent and extravagant decor, eccentric and thought-provoking art and best of all, some of Italy’s most talented Michelin chefs have been invited for a ten day residency each, including Viviana Varese, Norbert Niederkofler, Accursio Craparo and the Costardi brothers. There is a choice of two menus each evening – a classic and a more creative option.

The main hall is set up like a magnificent and crazy basketball pitch lit to the extreme and dressed with wacky contemporary artworks. It’s designed by Benjamin and Philip Wyatt with an art exhibition by the prestigious Gazelli Art House and fabulous installations including some Emin-esque neon signs by Olivia Steele, and other works by Monica Bonvicini, Aron Demetz, Vittorio Corsini and Giovani Ozzola. Downstairs the stylish cocktail bar is controlled by cocktail coinesseurs 69 Colebrooke Row which I was lucky enough to review quite recently.

I went to try Viviana Varese‘s simple but innovative menu on her opening evening.  A group of excited individuals, we sat at a beautifully decorated wooden table, with the pret a diner newspaper, Il Corriere as the unusual place mat. The set menu is priced at £75 per person, which is expensive for a concept that intends to make fine dining fun, however after the experience it seemed worth it… and is certainly very memorable.

Amuse bouches arrived first along with steaming brown paper bags of bread. To start the Viviana presents ‘Spoonwise’ a soft and fleshy zucchini flower, stuffed with fluffy creamy ricotta and floating in vibrant light tomato water. It was my ideal first course, light and full of flavour… courgette flowers are seriously underrated, paired with the right flavours they are an exemplary ingredient.

I avoided most of the next course, due to my aversion to seafood. ‘King Polpo’ is octopus with a duet of potatoes elegantly arranged in a glass with a succulent sauce, the dish is a bizarre combination of hot and cold, each mouthful is different. The table nodded in appreciation, apparently the octopus was the softest ever tasted.

The main was perhaps the most imaginative and artistic course: a clever dish with duck breast, foie gras and raspberry. Rich and fruity with a wonderful cut of meat and creamy foie gras… the raspberry took some getting used to but was a distinctive and attractive accompanying flavour. There is the option to ‘pimp it like an Italian’ – upgrading the dish to beef fillet with parsnip, edamame and Asia jus, but for this privilege you must find a further £13!

Dessert was my favourite, and after finishing my own, I proceeded to take donations from the rest of the table, I savoured every mouthful. The ‘Golden Dome’ (pastieries, candid lemon-orange peel and vanilla) is a light, airy and sweet pudding, a genius combination of vanilla and citrus components.

The food is the star of Pret-a-Diner, but it is about so much more… when I visited I was overwhelmed by the sensory overload, an explosion of invention, creativity and expertise. I cannot wait to see and taste whatever Kofler & Kompanie have next in store for us…

Pret a Diner is open until 30th June and The Costardi Brothers’ menu has just begun. Christian and Manuel Costardi run Cinzia of Vercelli, a hotel and restaurant that has been in their family for generations; their motto is ‘tradition and innovation’ and their dishes are their way of expressing their love for the important people in their lives. Their menu promises to be spectacular.

For more information and to book visit: www.pretadiner.com