James Lawrence experiences a stellar brunch at the glamorous Mandarin Oriental Hype Park Hotel, London
If there is one foodie trend that is here to stay, then it’s the revived popularity of having brunch with family and friends. Once predicted to be a one week wonder fad, the enduring popularity of this institution is evident by the number of restaurants and cafes increasingly offering special brunch menus. A combination of breakfast and lunch that often stretches into late afternoon on Sundays, brunch is the perfect post night out cure, although many of us still think that brunch is a relatively recent phenomenon. The practice of eating a fuller meal before lunch started in England in the late 19th century, and the term also became popular in the 1930s in the US. So hardly a recent innovation!
Brunch classically involved eggs Benedict and the Sunday Times, but things have moved on considerably in little over three years. Now, you’re as likely to receive tapas as eggs Florentine and a plethora of options exist for the adventurous. And today more than ever, London is full of great places to enjoy a leisurely brunch with friends and family – my favourite venue is undoubtedly the delightful Bar Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
But regardless of whether they serve brunch or not, I’m already a big fan of Bar Boulud, a fantastic and lively spot for lunch, dinner and pre/post-dinner cocktails. From Monday-Sunday, Boulud serves up delicious, no-nonsense rustic French cooking with plenty of American inserts in a relaxed setting. What really sets it apart is the level of service each guest receives; the multination staff are trained to be exceptionally courteous, professional and helpful. It shows!
On arrival a few weeks ago, we were shown to a table adjacent to a hoard of rather lively and noisy children – not exactly my cup of tea. I requested to move and with typical Mandarin Oriental tact and courtesy we were swiftly placed on a lovely sofa table with views across to the hectic kitchen. The restaurant manages to be both intimate and modern at the same time: two interconnecting rooms are stylishly adorned with a zinc-topped bar, with plenty of wood and leather lending the venue a relaxed, informal vibe. It’s the perfect antidote to a stressful week ahead.
Feeling ravenous, we whetted our appetites with a lovely bottle of house Champagne and perused the menu. The brunch menu is short but perfectly judged and there is not a dud dish anywhere. You start with a selection from the buffet, which includes: delicious hot soup, cold cuts, breads, cheeses and a selection of savoury snacks. All wonderfully moreish, but do make sure to leave room for the main event.
A few glasses of Champagne later, and we were ready to order our mains, which swiftly arrived. You can choose from a mouth-watering selection of dishes, which include: lemon sole on the bone with brown butter, Saucisses Boudin, Noir et Blanc (Black & White Boudin sausages and silky mashed potato) and the legendary brunch burger. My friend went for the lemon sole, while I had to try the brunch burger, a heady concoction of grilled beef patty, bacon, mushroom, cheddar cheese BB brown sauce, topped with fried egg.
Conversation thereafter went dead for about 20 minutes. I was too preoccupied with my dangerously tasty burger, while my friend got lost in his perfectly cooked lemon sole.
Coming up for air, we were asked if desserts would be in order. “Is the Pope Catholic,” I swiftly replied. We devoured the freshly made waffles with salted caramel sauce in decadent fashion. I knew I’d need at least a week in the gym to work it off, but it was so worth it! The perfect end to a seamless, thoroughly enjoyable brunch.
But in the interests of fairness, I should add that London does have other venues that serve a good brunch, with all the prerequisite bells and whistles you’d want. But none can match the Mandarin Oriental for quality of food, service and ambience. And while £39 ahead isn’t exactly cheap, for this level of quality it’s the absolute steal of the century.
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7LA
Brunch is £39.00 per person, served from 11am to 3:30pm.