To celebrate her final weeks of freedom before marrying her betrothed, a table for eighteen ladies was booked for my dear friend Emma at the Cookbook Cafe in London on Saturday.
The Cookbook Cafe is located within the magnificent Intercontinental Hotel on Park Lane and caters for the very hungry and thirsty at the weekend with its five star Saturday Brunch.
For £49 per head (children reduced rate and under sixes go free) guests are treated to a feast of unlimited grub, bellinis, tea, coffee and soft drinks between the hours of 12.30 and 15.30.
This was to be my first experience of a “Dubai style” brunch and so I was very eager to get started so as to take full advantage of my bottomless crockery.
The Intercontinental Hotel is a five star hotel and so, as you would expect, it was all smiles and polished decor from the moment we sashayed in.
Cookbook Cafe is located to the rear of the ground floor in the hotel. Although we arrived promptly at 12.30, the doors to the cafe were still locked, and we had to wait around ten minutes before being let in. By this stage, a large queue had formed.
I guess they wanted to be able to let guests get stuck in immediately upon being seated, however, they could have been a bit more organised, particularly as there was a formal ticketing system in the cloakroom which had also not yet been opened.
This was a tad annoying, particularly for Emma’s bridesmaids who had spent many weeks trying to choose a suitable venue. Tut, tut.
Decor in the Cookbook was pleasant enough without being particularly exciting. Think beige with modern minimalist generic looking tables and chairs. Much as you would expect from a large modern hotel and we could really have been anywhere in the world.
I was slightly surprised that they haven’t introduced a bit more creative flair into the decor, as my impression from the website was that they are trying to sell themselves as having a farmers market feel with fresh, sustainable and seasonal produce, whereas the feel in Cookbook is distinctly corporate.
Looking around me, the clientele at Cookbook mainly consisted of larger groups of fairly well heeled families and friends. Children seemed well catered for. I also spotted a Hollywood actor sitting with his friend in the corner.
After a slightly bumpy start, our lovely (and very patient) waiter Raphael talked us through how the Brunch worked.
Most importantly though he was prompt in offering us a choice of raspberry, peach or pear Bellini to wetten our whistles.
I started with raspberry. I suspect the fizz was either Cava or Prosecco as opposed to Champers but I was really impressed that the drinks came with actual pressed fruit at the bottom of the glass as opposed to being mixed with concentrated carton juice. I tried each flavour and they were all lovely and can vouch for the fact it really was unlimited refills to the extent one wanted.
Back to the Food…
Breakfast and Starter Station
All I can say about the food is “wow.”
Although you could hit it hard in any old order, I think that the intention was that we would start with the breakfast section, where there was an “eggs any which way” chef and pancakes, waffles and all the sticky sweet sauce and sprinkle you could ever dream of.
I’m more of a savoury fan and so opted to start with a classic eggs benedict. Eggs Royale (with smoked salmon) was also an option along with omelettes and other egg combinations. This was extremely tasty and a special mention is required here for the house hollandaise sauce which was mighty fine.
The Cold Market Table
After my eggs, I moved on to the market buffet. This was absolutely jam packed with choice and I was keen to try a little of everything whilst being sorely aware of the need to pace myself.
The highlight for me here was the fish: there were platters of freshly cut salmon and tuna sashimi with soy, wasabi and pickled ginger; smoked salmon with dill mayo; and tiger prawns with garlic mayo. To bulk the plate up, I opted for the aubergine couscous, caesar salad and mozerella with chopped tomato and pesto. There was also a fabulous cheese board which showcased the best of British cheese and chutneys.
Delicious all round.
Traditional Main Courses
I must admit that by this stage I was starting to feel rather gross.
As I was dropping the notch on my belt, all of a sudden Raphael appeared with the daily special plates at the table, served “family style” for sharing between six.
Despite beginning to struggle, I managed to try a little of each dish.
These were as follows:
– Gloucestershire beef medallions with slow braised in cheek, Jerusalem artichoke purée, Pomme paille and Bernaise sauce;
– Troncon of Kentish brill cooked in truffle butter served with wilted sweetheart cabbage and carrot purée; and
– Lentils and chickpea curry accompanied by coriander scented basmati rice.
All of these dishes were prepared to a very high standard. I’m a total sucker for curry and so the veggie dish was my star pick.
By this point I felt so unpleasantly full that I was physically unable to get up and pick from the desserts table.
The choice was unbelievable and each fancy was beautifully presented in miniature form.
On observing from the sidelines, biggest umms and ahhhs were for the orange and lemon macarons; the coconut ice; the chocolate torte; and the raspberry creme brûlée. There was also continental style hot chocolate available.
Coffees and teas were then served.
Funnily enough the noise level in the restaurant had gone up several notches by this stage!
Although there were a few service issues upon arrival, the rest of the service was excellent (in that we were never left with empty glasses) and very friendly.
As mentioned, I wasn’t too sure about the decor/atmosphere but frankly, after a few bellinis, who cares!
Value for money at Cookbook Cafe is absolutely suberb and the choice excellent. I would absolutely recommend it if dining with a large group as people can go up and choose at their own pace rather than wait for service.
Now – I can eat – but even I had “hit the wall” by the time the main course arrived and so my tip would be to really try to pace yourself if you have any hope of winning in wo/man vs brunch at Cookbook. To have missed the traditional mains would have been a real shame and I am sad not to have had room for dessert.
Most importantly of all, Emma loved it!
I would love to hear of any other similar brunches around that come tried, tested and recommended. Yum!