A quick jaunt around the corner from Green Park, guests at the May Fair Hotel will find themselves spoilt for choice when it comes to walkable drinking and dining establishments. From Sexy Fish to Nobu, to Bar Americain and the many iconic clubs that litter Piccadilly, there’s no lack of high-end nightlife spots. Closer than all of those, however, are the May Fair Kitchen and May Fair Bar, the hotel’s in-house restaurant and lounge bar, so we went down to see how they may fair in comparison (sorry).
Lushly lit and decorated with high-top tables and warm, industrial fixtures, The May Fair Kitchen is deliciously laid-back. While diners are sparse, as is the way with hotel restaurants, the atmosphere is not lost, mainly on account staff. Funny, friendly and professional, our waiter’s intimate knowledge of the menu is a huge asset when it comes to choosing just a few dishes from the restaurant’s menu of Mediterranean small plates. While we faff around with talk of ‘healthy options’, the waiter furnishes us with a bottle of the house red - a Barbera d’Alba, Enrico Serafino (Barbera) Piemonte, Italy 2015 (£26).
One of the items recommended to us was the Gambas al pil pil (£10) - a dish of prawns flash-cooked in chilli, garlic, lemon and paprika. Sweet and juicy, they act as a perfect accompaniment to the orange and avocado salad with cayenne pepper lemon dressing (£7).
The dishes arrive as and when they’re ready, which means while at times you’ll be fork-wrestling your table-mates for the final prawn, at other points you will be surrounded by an array of steaming plates. The lobster risotto with cherry tomatoes and seared scallop (£16) appears, rich and creamy with a beautifully soft scallop perched on top, shortly followed by proper al dente pappardelle with white ragu and lemon parsley sauce (£8).
And then it arrives. The 28-day-aged rib-eye steak with warm gorgonzola butter (£18). I could dedicate an entire novella to that steak, but for now all I’ll say is that after one bite my irises have all but disappeared into my skull and I’ve passed out at the table. Okay, so the passing out is an exaggeration, but I certainly went somewhere else for a moment there. Supple, silky and cooked rare, it all but dissolves on the tongue. Mirroring my thoughts, my friend responds to his first mouthful with a string of profanities.
Amid all the steak hysteria, we’ve completely forgotten that there is still a dessert to come. We opt for the clementine and cinnamon panna cotta with fresh lemon thyme (£6) and a deconstructed tiramisu served with Disaronno espresso (£7). Both interesting twists on classic Italian puddings, they pack intense flavour and gorgeous presentation into one delicious package.
Across the hotel foyer you’ll find the May Fair Bar, its presence made clear by the glow of black-lit and neon and gentle thrum of bass. Dark, bustling and full of energy, the offers an eye-watering selection of drinks. The clientele is a refreshingly mixed bag of intimate meet-ups and larger party groups, giving the bar a spirited ambience.
When it comes to their cocktails, the bar likes to play fast and loose with the classics. First up is the Royal Fig Sour (£14). Comprised of Compass Box Great King St scotch, fig liqueur, lemon, egg white and Jerry Thomas bitters, it’s a whisky sour with some serious smoke to it. The Koshaku, a mix of Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve Malt whisky, plum wine, Tonka Bean syrup and bitters (£16), unleashes another round of awestruck cursewords from my companion.
I’d rather be damned than pass up the chance to try their May Fair Fig-Aged Negroni (£18), which ties together your basic Negroni mix of Sipsmith Gin, Antica Formula vermouth and Campari with a slug of Lagavullin whisky and crème de figue liqueur. As a firm believer that there is nothing in the known universe that cannot be made better by Scotch and figs, my faith was redoubled by the disco of flavour sensations that this drink ignites – the familiar bittersweet base underlain with peated hints and figgy high notes.
Suave, sleek and pleasantly relaxed, the May Fair Hotel’s in-house dining and drinking establishments could easily compete with many of the local nightlife institutions. A destination restaurant if ever there was one, the May Fair Kitchen offers laid-back dining with truly stunning dishes, while the May Fair Bar offers a fun and energetic environment perfect for pre-night out cocktails or a lively evening with friends.