Happy New Year! Hope everyone's had a lovely Christmas and a great start to 2013 - I know I have. To celebrate our 5 year anniversary, Charlie booked us a night in London's Park Plaza hotel in Westminster, which was a lovely short break after all the festivities at home. It's right on the South Bank, so was perfectly located for a night time wander around the city.
We definitely didn't have to walk far for dinner. Having read some great reviews, we couldn't resist trying out Brasserie Joel, located in the restaurant itself. We ordered from the pre-theatre menu which had a set price of £20 for three courses, which turned out to be fantastic value given the quality of food served.
There is a business-like feel to the restaurant, which you'd expect from a restaurant nestled in the lobby of a business hotel. The interior is sleek, fitted with red lighting and lots of glass, but as we were seated in a little corner of the restaurant it still felt cosy and intimate. There weren't many other diners, which meant that the service was fantastic.
Straight away, we were brought a small plate of fresh, warm bread, olive tapenade and Normandy butter. The olive tapenade in particular was tangy and moreish, and something that I definitely want to try making at home.
To start, we both chose the smoked salmon on toasted brioche with basil cream. I was initially skeptical about the combination of salty smoked fish on sweet brioche, but the pairing was actually delicious, highlighted by the contrasting textures of silky salmon and the crisp bread underneath.
For mains, I chose the pan fried sea bass fillets on a bed of wilted spinach, with roasted new potatoes and a creamy sauce. The sea bass was tender and flaky, and the potatoes were gorgeous - hot and buttery inside and crisp and golden on the outside.
Charlie had the steak, which in his words was 'perfectly cooked', which for him is medium rare. Even I tried some and liked it, and I'm usually not keen on red meat. He had the same potatoes as me, and seemed to enjoy them just as much.
For dessert, I opted for the chocolate panna cotta, and was so pleased that I did; it turned out to be the best dessert I've had in a while. When they brought it, I was disappointed as I thought I must have read the menu wrong and mistaken chocolate for white chocolate...
... but one dip of my spoon revealed the most delicious chocolate cream underneath a white chocolate sauce, which was flecked with vanilla seeds. The panna cotta itself was lovely and light, and rich enough in cocoa to satisfy my chocolate tooth.
Charlie had the crème brulée, which had a crisp, crunchy shell above a smooth and creamy filling. It was delicious, but in my (biased) opinion, the panna cotta beat it hands down.
Overall, I would more than recommend visiting Brasserie Joel if you happen to be in the area, even if you're not staying in the hotel itself. I will definitely be returning!
Have you eaten in Brasserie Joel, or found any hidden gems over Christmas? I'd love to hear about it!