Feb. 12th, 2010

Restaurant Review: Rhodes W1 Restaurant Cumberland Hotel

Fine Dining: On the face of it, the menu is beautifully simple. The panna cotta, parmesan and cauliflower emulsion amuse bouche translates to cauliflower cheese; the soft duck egg, chestnut mushrooms, watercress veloute with Roquefort and truffle soldiers is clearly dippy egg and cheesy toast – and obviously confit lamb belly, beetroot, roast onion and ticklemore is lamb with a tasty sauce. Easy.

But that is on the face of it.

We are dining at Gary Rhodes’ W1 fine dining restaurant - which has just retained its coveted Michelin star - in the Cumberland Hotel by Mable Arch. As a celebrity chef who waited for years to find another restaurant of high enough standards to put his name to, we are more than aware that we’re in for a good evening.

However, we aren’t quite prepared for just how good.

My fiancé and I are lead into the main restaurant – a room which manages to ooze class without being arrogant (elegant antique mirrors, lush velvet fabrics), despite the slightly ostentatious chandeliers hanging from the ceiling – where our journey into culinary delights begin.

I’m vegetarian and Rich eats anything, so we decide to put ourselves in the hands of capable head chef Paul Welburn. While our friendly, knowledgeable sommelier Yuri promises to work his magic and match each of our eight courses perfectly to their ideal wine.

Each of our dishes arrives looking like small works of art – the attention to detail is impressive. It’s almost a shame to destroy them – but we eagerly do. Rich delves into his ballotine of foie gras, sultana, gingerbread and pineapple chutney (with a Riesling Spatlese), with relish, nodding his head in approval.

While my ‘dippy egg’ (accompanied by a glass of Les Pinots d’Alsace) is sublime – each mouthful is an explosion of intense flavours I wasn’t expecting from such a novel twist of a traditional dish.

With each course, our expectations rise – and with each dish the taste, texture, originality and luxuriousness of the food seems to outdo that of the last.

Rich is in awe of the delicate ingredients in his saddle of Balmoral venison, spiced parsnip, pomme Anna, chestnuts, pancetta and grand veneur jus (which has cleverly been matched with a Rasteau, Cotes Du Rhone Village).

Needless to say the sensation of my bursting-with-flavour onion risotto, crisp shallots, parmesan emulsion (coupled surprisingly well with a sweet Riesling Kabinett) is perfection. After five courses – and before our two-course desserts – we’re asked if we would like to try a selection of cheeses. Clearly full, the sensible option would be to politely decline. However, of course, we say yes – skipping just one of these tantalising dishes would seem like missing out. And having sampled some of the creamiest brie, tangy cheddar and, erm, fragrant blue cheese, we know we made the right choice.

Our delightful experience is rounded off with an apple parfait, green apple sorbet, warm cinnamon and apple doughnuts. Apple doughnuts in a fine dining restaurant? Delicious!

Yes, on the face of it, Gary Rhodes’ W1 offers a beautifully simple menu – stalwart British dishes with more than a hint of French. But the beauty really lies in its complexity – and the head chef’s ability to transform ingenious ideas into delectable delicacies.

There in lies the secret behind turning fine dining into fantastic dining.

To book a table in Rhodes W1 Restaurant Cumberland Hotel, where prices for a three-course meal with wine average at £80pp, visit www.rhodesw1.com or call +44 207 479 3895.

For JustLuxe Carol Driver
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Carol Driver
A journalist with more than 12 years' experience writing, subbing and editing at national and regional publications and websites in the UK.

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