David Harfield gets cinematically wistful at Corinthia Hotel’s superb The Northall.
It’s one of those films that everyone quotes, references and reveres, yet many haven’t actually got around to watching: Citizen Kane. Orson Welles’ masterpiece introduced the enigmatic, “Rosebud,” into every aspiring film buff’s vernacular as an emblem of childhood innocence; however, it isn’t just nostalgic yearning that makes me recollect the iconic film as my date and I take our seats in The Corinthia Hotel’s The Northall restaurant, but more the sheer grandiosity and opulence of the venue, not unlike the set of ol’ Orson’s dreams. Oh, and we also have a single rosebud floating in a small jar of water on our table.
With modern décor stretching from the multi-candled chandelier over the main bar where I drain a delicious martini whilst kicking my heels and waiting for my girlfriend to arrive (she is on time, but I am early, so in my book that makes her late), to the leather booths that encircle the restaurant, creating a horseshoe of tables in which marble islands are laden with wine bottles, glasses and beautiful flower bunches, the restaurant is a chic and stylish destination for hotel guests and dining patrons alike.
The background music has an edgy, contemporary feel, with a Bon Iver album track seguing into the even more arcane Smith’s ‘Baby, It’s You’, a song I last heard in the lapdance scene of Tarantino’s gore fest Death Proof. Before I get any ideas, our glasses are topped up with a glass of Laurent-Perrier Champagne and we tuck into a huge rock oyster each, the combination of which, in my defence, are only going to excite a man’s libido. However, I avoid getting ejected from yet another restaurant for throwing dollar bills at my girlfriend’s frankly unamused face due to the arrival of a pair of outstanding starters.
A shredded mound of dressed crab is encircled by discs of pickled beetroot, turrets of avocado purée and blobs of ricotta; the crab meat is incredibly light yet very flavoursome and the pairing of Parmesan-infused crisped wafers is inspired. A slow-cooked duck egg is nestled in between two cubes of pickled watermelon and wrapped in thin slices of Cumbrian ham on a slice of watercress panna cotta. It’s a damned impressive collection of flavours, yet I’m glad that the chef is not above sprinkling bacon dust over the egg, proving my theory that even the most refined of dishes can be improved by the addition of the porcine comestible.
The menu lists the origin of where the main ingredients of each item are sourced, which is a boon for any advocate of locally-sourced fine dining; the Dover sole hails from St. Ives, Cornwall and is served meunière with nut brown butter and lemon juice as well as a scattering of shrimp, capers, croutons and chopped parsley and is a perfect example of how such a fish should be served. My Josper grilled Cumbrian sirloin is another consummate exemplar of cooking prowess, crisped on the outside yet red and tender on the inside, with an accompanying halved tomato so sweet it almost tastes sundried and a wildly decadent port and shallot sauce completing an inimitable main course.
On to desserts and our waiter, who has been on hand all night with perfect wine recommendations including a gorgeous oaked Pouilly Fuisse from Burgundy and a rich and velvety South African Scaramanga, is one of the best restaurant staff that I have encountered in years (informative, arch, absolutely hilarious), and says that the smoked sea salt caramel that comes with the hazelnut sable Breton is the best thing to come out of England in years. He ain’t wrong. The globe of caramel is a culinary oxymoron, the frozen chargrilled texture offering a delicious confusion as the sweet, nutty and creamy flavours of the rest of the dish are also thrown into the mix (or mouth).
For the majority of us, The Northall is a venue for a special occasion (to be honest, if I ate like that at every meal, I’d end up the size of Welles in his later years), yet I may find myself creating more and more spurious anniversaries to facilitate this “Darling, do you remember in June 2009 when I finished second in Monopoly? Well, guess where we’re going to celebrate this year?!” And, like any great piece of art or Charles Foster Kane’s ‘Rosebud’, this meal will be indelibly etched in my memory.
The Northall, 10a Northumberland Avenue, London, WC2N 5AE, England
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7321 3100
The Northall is located in the Corinthia Hotel London with its own entrance on Northumberland Avenue. Embankment Tube station (Bakerloo, Circle, District lines) is less than a minute’s walk, Charing Cross Mainline Station is a 5-minute walk. The restaurant is open 7 days a week for Breakfast from 6:30am to 10:30am (7:00 to 11:00am at weekends); Lunch from 12noon to 3:00pm (12:30 to 4:00pm on Sundays and Dinner from 5:30pm to 11:00pm.
Type of Restaurant:Modern British Restaurant
Insider Tip: Treat yourself to a cocktail in the excellent bar before (and after) your meal.
Price Band: High
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
David Harfield is the director of PepperStorm Media and writes about his three passions: food, booze and travel.
Photographs courtesy of The Northall and Corinthia Hotel London