Veneta, St James’s

I often get asked about my favourite restaurants in London… the Salt Yard group nearly always features amongst my top eateries list. I have tried them all: Salt Yard, Dehesa, Opera Tavern, Ember Yard and now Veneta, and can truly vouch for the high quality of inventive food, the welcoming concepts and the convivial atmosphere, in all five restaurants.


Last week I joined a small group of foodies for a tasting feast of Ben Tish’s new menu at Veneta. We were joined by Venetian chef and Instagram sensation, Skye Mc Alpine who added a touch of whimsical charm to the lunch, decorating the tables with beautiful objects and inspiring us all with her knowledge of Italian cuisine.


Veneta is the proud owner of a decadent raw bar, and we were treated to a beautiful spread of fresh seafood from Rose shrimps marinated in lardo to Crab with spiced mayonnaise.


After taking endless photos of the amazing spread we sat down for a wonderfully civilised meal. Samples of Veneta’s pasta, fish, meat and vegetarian dishes arrived in quick succession, all smelling and looking delicious.


My favourite recipes were the Chicken braised in almond milk with Medjool dates and saffron and the Wild mushroom and asiago pie and pumpkin cream with sage. Both were exceptional combinations of appealing textures and contrasting flavours. Porcini and truffle risotto with gremolata was comforting and tasty with a woody warmth from the mushrooms and luxurious truffle, the perfect Autumn dish.


Dessert included a sublime flourless chocolate, chestnut and rosemary cake made by Skye, and topped with romantic wilting roses. It seemed a shame to cut into the decorative masterpiece.

Veneta is found in the new St James’s development nearby to Piccadilly station. With a menu of brilliant Venetian food, a lavish raw bar and a typically Italian hot chocolate machine, there is something for everyone, at any time of day.

More information about Veneta and book a table here.

St Ermin’s Hotel, St James’s

St Ermins Hotel in St James’ has recently become part of the Marriott Autograph group, an ever growing collection of distinctive hotels. It is tucked away among a cluster of residential roads and it comes as quite a shock when you discover St Ermin’s grand entrance.

The venue was busy when we arrived on a Saturday afternoon – with so many facilities on site, St Ermins is able provide space for a wedding reception, business meetings and a throng of weekend tourists simultaneously. We bypassed the lobby of activity to see our refuge upstairs.

The suite was bigger than my flat, spacious and luxurious but a bit less homely. The décor reminded me of John Lewis – simple, bold, bright patterns featuring throughout the room design. The first room provided plenty of space with a dining room and sitting room combined. I wondered how often these generous extras get put to good use. Through to the bedroom, I was startled by the enormous bed and ample wardrobe space, room enough for a whole family, but the two of us weren’t complaining. With heavy materials used throughout the suite, there was a sense of grandeur and yet the overall look felt a little worn-out and dated.

The en-suite bathroom was our favourite feature. An impressive freestanding bath with a glass-walled walk-in shower then two marble sinks and a separate toilet. It was the perfect parlour for beautifying and relaxing.

When it comes to dinner, the Caxton Grill is a popular choice with guests, offering a menu of hearty English classics. With the hotel celebrating Honey Month, the drink and food menu had some honey-themed specials, this included our strong, sweet appetiser cocktails. To eat we enjoyed English classics: a well-flavoured Pressed old spot pork to start, hearty 35 day aged Rib Eye steak and chips, and an impressively ornate chocolate dessert.

Breakfast the next morning was of a similarly high quality – moist, bouncy French toast was made exactly to our wishes by the chef, with maple syrup, crème fraiche and fresh berries. Along with a cup of strong fresh coffee, it was the perfect morning meal.

St Ermins may seem a little worn at the edges but the standard is high and it is a lovely place to stay for a weekend getaway.

More information and book here.

Inamo, St James’

Conventional restaurants are so overrated… who wants to talk to a waiter when you can communicate electronically from the comfort of your table. It doesn’t take much to excite me so I found my first time trip to concert restaurant Inamo utterly thrilling.

This Oriental fusion restaurant combines tasty food with an interactive experience to create a fun new way of dining out. I have been aware of the excitement surrounding the Soho branch – now a new venue has opened in St James which I went to try last week. The interior initially reminded me of the rainforest café, bright and exotic with a buzz of childlike fun. But Inamo will appeal to adults as well as younger visitors – the food certainly has a sophisticated twist.

We took a seat at an illuminated table, the waiter (who seemed slightly phased by the whole idea) explained the concept to me, indicating the various settings and functions of our mousemat table. As well as browsing the food and drinks menu, guests can change the tablecloth images, play Battleships, watch the live chef cam, check the bill and call a waiter.

I found it all rather stressful choosing food (dishes can be placed and removed from the basket with just one click) – it is all very like online shopping, enticing and dangerous. Eventually we opted for fruit Martinis and a selection of starters. Everything arrived within fifteen minutes: deliciously sweet and succulent Spicy Aubergine, tender and in an addictive sauce, divine Chicken Satay, perfectly marinated meat with an accompanying nutty dip, served sizzling on a hot grill. We also tried the fresh Tomato and Avocado Salad, presented daintily and dressed with an unusual oriental vinaigrette. The cocktails were surprisingly good, though my passion fruit Martini took a while to arrive, just the right blend of sour and sweet, finely mixed and very drinkable.

For mains I couldn’t resist the Red Thai Vegetable Curry with impeccably cooked sticky rice. The curry was unusually thick and chock-a-block full of vegetables but had a lovely flavour and I easily finished my portion! My friend chose the Tamarind Duck Breast with orange, tomato and mazuna salad and tamarind sauce. This dish was more of a salad and arrived (unexpectedly) cold. The lean duck was lovely but needed a little extra seasoning…. we weren’t overly keen on the bizarre dressing which rather overpowered the meat.

It’s rare that I find a whole menu of desserts appealing, especially in oriental cuisine – Inamo have really excelled in presenting an assortment that sounds interesting and alluring. I wanted to try several but checking on our ‘bill button,’ I saw we were reaching a dangerous sum (thanks to the expensive second round of cocktails). Coconut Cheesecake and Thai Basil Pannacotta made the final selection. Both were uniquely oriental infused puddings, the pannacotta was a little odd served with sweet coconut foam and a tuile… I couldn’t help identifying a curry like hint in the creamy dessert that put me off. The cheesecake was a winner though – soft cake with a pleasant biscuit base and delicious contrasting cherry sorbet.

I was reluctant to stop playing Inamo’s games… good food and quirky enjoyment. I can imagine this restaurant is ideal for a fun first date.

Visit the website here for more information.