In a city full of hotels, and more pertinently, hotels with destination restaurants within, a place really needs something extra to stand-out in London.
Something to make people say ‘wow’.
And the Mandrake – an eclectic, beautiful new hotel on a quiet Fitzrovia street – has managed just that.
Not only does this style-led spot have personality in spades, but its glittering restaurant – Serge Et Le Phoque, run by heavyweight French restaurateurs Charles Pelletier and Frédéric Peneau – provides just the right balance of eccentricity, glamour and, of course, fantastic food, to ensure you don’t forget it.
The dining room at Serge Et Le Phoque is full to the brim with shabby-chic juxtaposition – elegant glass chandeliers adorn unplastered, rough, bare-brick walls; an open courtyard at the centre of the hotel fills the cosy, basement-feel restaurant with lots of natural light and a welcome breeze; and there are intricate design touches at each place setting.
We enjoyed an elegant and crisp Cremant d’Alsace before happily flying through the quite lengthy French and Spanish-influenced menu.
Expect to share a lot of food here – many dishes are tiny, so you’ll need to order quite a few of the starters to kick-start the feast.
Pan con tomate, calamares a la Romana and shrimp and avocado tempura are all small plates but full of punchy flavours.
Grilled aubergine with miso and herb salad comes as merely one slice but is easily the most flavour-packed, delicious morsel of the vegetable I’ve ever tried.
I could have wolfed down another few.
Hake, elderflower, bleurre blanc, girolles and bottarga is a masterclass in how to cook and serve fish – crisp, salty skin, firm and flaky meat and a sauce so smooth and light that it enhanced the flavour of the hero product beautifully.
Presa Iberica was a solid plate of salty, umami-laden pork, although it has to be said there are better versions to be found elsewhere in the capital.
Serge Et Le Phoque’s wine list is a joy – full of well-sourced and unusual bottles, natural wines, Monmouthshire rosés and orange wines available by the glass.
The smart (but still incredibly laid back) team are on hand to give tasting notes and offered some clever matches to the menu we shared.
This is a restaurant with impressive, detailed and focused dishes in an elegant and playful room.
It would suit dates, weekend lunches, celebrations, and even just a solo bite to eat with a glass of wine.
For further information on Serge Et Le Phoque, visit their website.
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