The Athenaeum – not your average Christmas Dinner

When I see the inevitable Christmas meals being advertised, I cringe. They conjure up images of restaurants stuffed with “party” groups, eating standard Christmas fare, turkey, brussels sprouts, christmas pudding etc at inflated prices.  I had spotted a toptable deal for a Christmas dinner at £24.50 for two courses or £29.50 for three with a glass of champagne at The Athenaeum, and  I had my doubts. Then I thought why not, if I am going to have a conventional Christmas meal then I may as well go somewhere that should do it well.

So on the last Saturday before Christmas we trudged through the snow to the hotel in Piccadilly. We had a couple of good, if expensive cocktails in the bar and wandered into a near empty dining room, where we were offered our pick of the tables. The room is nicely laid out to offer a fair amount of privacy. Tables for two in the middle of the room include a small banquette arrangement, that almost forms a booth. Strangely it reminded me a bit of some of the first class seating/sleeping arrangements on long haul flights.

The service levels are exactly as you would expect in a first class hotel, which The Atheneaum certainly is. It is just smaller and more intimate than most, almost boutique like.

So what can I say about the menu. Was it limited? No, it most definitely was not. What a treat. Yes, it did have turkey in the Best of British part of the menu, but it also had a good balanced selection of starters and main courses, and several appetizing dessert options.

We began with an amuse bouche of watercress mousse and parma ham. Then for my starter I ordered the Pigeon with Girolle mushrooms wrapped in short crust pastry and my companion ordered the slow cooked ducks egg with ham hock. Both dishes were main course size portions, beautifully cooked and presented.

For main course we had Pheasant with braised red cabbage, and a perfect dish for a winter evening consisting of braised oxtail, that just fell off the bone, herb dumplings and winter vegetables. It was a large portion and I was just too full to finish it. I definitely did not have any room for dessert. However as coffee and mince pies were also part of the set menu, they finished of the meal nicely instead.

Normally the down side of this sort of deal is that the “free” champagne tends to be fairly mediocre fizz. Not the case at The Atheneaum. It was from a champagne house I know well from tastings at the Hide Bar.  Specifically Ayala a small champagne house, owned by Bollinger.  It was rather fitting – an almost boutique champagne for an almost boutique hotel. Quite stunning.  We also had a reasonably priced bottle of El Grano, Carmenere 2009. A well balanced light red wine that had a smooth almost milky texture.

Perhaps it is my Scottish upbringing that draws me to “real” bargains like The Athenaeum, and it seems I am not alone in this, as on exiting the restaurant we spotted fellow Scot, Billy Connolly – the Big Yin himself.

I would be happy to have more Christmas dinners like this one. The Athenaeum is firmly on my list of return locations.


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The Hide Bar – Hidden Gem

The Hide Bar is one of my favourite bars. They take drink seriously here, i.e., they do not do any old wines, beers or spirits.  They focus on the “good stuff” and design a lot of their own cocktails.  They also do regular wine, beer and spirit tastings in the back room.

We popped in for a quick drink at Halloween:-.

They have a pretty basic food menu, and serve some food during the tasting events (normally selected to match the beverages, e.g., Oysters and Champagne, Beer and Sausages, Armagnac and Cheese).  The food can be a bit hit and miss – occasionally very good, but more often fairly ordinary.

Marks out of 10

Food 5

Drink 8

Service 7 (Bar service and waiter/waitress service)

Ambience 7


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Delfina – Spooky?

The Delfina Restaurant is rarely open to the public in the evenings or at the weekends. It’s focus is breakfasts and lunches during the week and event hires in the evening. So it was good to get the opportunity to visit on a Saturday night, only this night was Halloween and they were doing a special menu.


The room is designed to be gallery space and lit accordingly, making it rather difficult to change to a spooky environment for Halloween. Even the tables and chairs are white. The staff dressed up though and there was the odd giant spider and some very effective light projections of witches and bats. I must admit it was disconcerting being served by Dracula and when the waiter spilt some red wine on the white table I almost did not want him to clean it up, as it looked like drips of blood adding to the atmosphere, which needed a lot of help.






The dining space is quite large and all the guests had been seated at the back of the room which meant that you always seemed to be looking out at an empty restaurant. They really are not geared up for evening dinning, they actually turned away two walk ins at 9:45 and removed the rather small sign on the curtained doors advertising the Hal loween opening shortly after.  This is a real shame as the area could easily support another “full time” restaurant.

The menu was imaginative and it was surprising just how many of my favorite ingredients it included.

We started with what I assumed was locally baked bread, i.e., too nice to be store bought, with olive oil.  For my first course I had the scallops and blood pudding, this consisted of 3 large juicy scallops and  a few pieces of thinly sliced oatie black pudding, which I really enjoyed.  Next was a fig sorbet to clean our palettes.  Then for the main course I had the pork belly, it consisted of two flavoursome pieces of pork belly (both huge). We had also ordered a side order of chips which was totally unnecessary as the pork came with mash. For dessert I had the pumpkin pie.  We had a couple of  glasses of Prosecco and a bottle of rather mediocre wine. The total cost  including service charge came to less than £50 a head, which is very reasonable for the area and for the quality/amount of food.

I also could not resist taking a picture of the very generous cheese course left on the next table, it looked great when it arrived and you can see from the picture just how much of it was left.

The service was very quick, if it had not been for the wine, I suspect we would have been finished in less than an hour, as it was we finished early enough to pop across the road to one of my favorite bars, the Hide Bar for drinks.

In the Summer Delfina also use their outside space for BBQs.

Marks out of 10 for Delfina

Food 5.9

Service 4

Ambience 3


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