Who wouldn’t be over the moon to be invited to cocktails and dinner on a Friday night at the spectacular One Aldwych?
My friend and I posed for pics in the coloured lifts (I know it sounds naferoo but the lighting is just so brilliant) before heading to our reserved table in the grand One Aldwych bar. I love it there. Those huge arched windows and the vast room with high ceilings that still allows for intimacy in pockets and isn’t, like most cavernous bar rooms, noisy to the nth with other people’s clattering and conversations. I’m certain those award winning bar staff mix cocktails with mufflers attached to the shakers.
We were seated next to the windows and the ever attentive staff asked us which cocktails we’d like to try. The choice is immense and I’d recommend anyone check out the numerous Classic Cocktails (Sazerac, Martinez), one Aldwych Collection (Purity, Spanish Fusion, One Negroni, One D.O.M etc) champagne cocktails (Lavender Kir Royal, Watermelon & Lime, Valentino Red etc) which I could happily work my way through until I could no longer stand. I may take it as a challenge at another point. We opted for a classic Vodka Martini (Tina) and a glass of champagne (me). We kept to familiar territory whilst we chatted. Then, Pedro, one of the head bar staff insisted that we try the One D.O.M which had just won the hotel a Top Bartender Award. This was a smooth, lemony, slightly sweet, easy-to-drink cocktail made from Benedictine, Zorokovich 1917 vodka, fresh lime, honey, kaffir lime leaves, topped with egg white, served in a martini glass.
Our dinner reservation time came too soon as One Aldwych’s bar rocks you softly into a feeling of relaxed, easy-going security where time flies, and we made our way to Indigo restaurant. We were seated at a place on the balcony overlooking the bar. Now, you’d think it would be noisy and intrusive but not so. In fact, I commented on this to Tina. Our waiter and I had a conversation on wine. It turns out I know a lot more than I think about wines and their depth and suitability for certain dishes. We settled on the Chablis for our first course which was to be my first experience with crab (Bruschetta of hand-picked Colchester crab, rocket and lemon oil) while Tina chose Escabeche of Mackerel.
The crab was dry but flaky, hinting of lemon and moreish and there was plenty of it – in fact it could easily have been a main course. With the slight sharpness of the Chablis, this was a match worthy of Match.com. Tina said that her mackerel was rich but not over-powering with a dressing that cut through the oiliness of the fish and polished it off in no time. We talked incessantly as two friends do, but stopped to take in the setting every now and again as the lights dimmed and the evening progressed.
It was soon time for our main courses. Tina had ordered Chorizo covered hake, artichokes, grilled beans, olives and aioli while I plumped for 28 day dry-aged steak with slow roasted tomatoes, fries and a red wine jus, as it’s a piece of meat I wouldn’t normally cook at home. The hake was deliciously soft with a slight peppery taste due to the chorizo (Tina pronounced it ‘sublime’) while my Rib-eye steak was presented with the tomato & rocket piled on top. The rib-eye did surprise me by being so fatty (which I was assured was normal) but was also cooked to perfection. I’d asked for medium-well. Our sides were splayed across the table as we picked from fries and various veg. The red wine jus was EXACTLY right and I left wishing I had a modicum of skill of being able to reduce quite like the chef. The excellent Cotes du Rhone provided the right balance of light-robust with enough swagger to hold court on its own.
We were almost about to let dessert go but had taken so long chatting that we were both encouraged to try some by the patient waiter. As a non-dairy person I had the Pineapple carpaccio, mango, lime, candied chilli and coconut sorbet (excellent) while Tina asked me to surprise her with my choice. I opted for Peanut butter parfait with marinated cherries on advice of our waiter. She declared it fabulous. The waiter had confidently said she would. We finished with a coffee and some chocolate coffee beans.
All in all, it was a slow relaxed vibe with no-one rushing you from your table or with the expectation that you should leave for other sittings. I can see why people choose this restaurant. It’s on form enough with top class service and food to give the air of haute cuisine but has an intimate and relaxed feel that allows conversation to flow. It’s not a restaurant where one would crane one’s neck to see other guests and to be there for the spectacle (aka The Delauney or Balthazar) but is the perfect choice for getting to know someone or, indeed, for catching up on gossip or business. The three course meal for two with wine was approx £117 plus service.