What: The team behind Serge et Le Phoque, the Hong-Kong based Michelin-starred restaurant, has branched out into Fitzrovia’s new The Mandrake Hotel. The original site is part of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Diners Club list of destinations to watch- so although it’s not on the list, it has been recommended by a panel of around 1,000 independent experts worldwide. The group chose London for the opening, in a move that surprised critics – Paris seemed the most obvious destination given that co-founder Charles Pelletier has already had success in the French city when he was part of the team that opened the famous Le Chateaubriand. “There’s more freedom in London, more rock & roll.” Pelletier says. “Something cool is happening here; the city is booming. People come here to eat at amazing restaurants”
Who: Alongside Pelletier is Frederic Peneau, and the duo have also teamed up with hotelier Rami Fustok on the project. The restaurant also has former The Clove Club sommelier Bert Blaze in charge of the wine list.
The vibe: As you would expect from a boutique 34-bedroom hotel in Fitzrovia, it is undeniably stylish, while still maintaining a relatively relaxed atmosphere. With 58 covers, a 16-cover private dining room and three bars, the space is light and elegant. The founders say that the menus change from table to table, veering away from the traditional rigidity of fine dining menus. “We will evolve to suit our customers’ needs because we want them to have a fantastic experience”, says Pelletier. “For those who choose the chef’s tasting menu, someone from one table could get something completely different from another, based on personal preference. We will cater to people as much as possible while staying true to our menu.”
The menu: The food at the new location demonstrates the same progressive skill that earned the Hong Kong flagship its Michelin star in 2015. The menu runs all day, and overnight guests will find that the minibars in the hotel rooms are stocked with treats from Serge et Le Phoque’s kitchen. Ingredients span both the local and international, and will “evolve alongside the seasons”, says Peneau.
“We use modern French techniques with high-quality British ingredients, as well as import from France and Italy.” Where Serge et le Phoque in Hong Kong reflects Chinese and Asian ingredients, the UK counterpart is clearly influenced by the European ingredients available. “We are always inspired by our environments”, says Peneau. A scallop, anchovy, fried leek root, dried shitake and matcha tea dish is umami rich, with balanced textures. Octopus, century egg, ajj Amarillo, tobio and ginger is a more daring offering, which can be followed with the French specialty cake ‘dacquoise’, a creamy, vanilla nougatine option layered with almond and hazelnut meringue. There is also a considered list of natural, organic and biodynamic wines.
And another thing: The duo are keeping the industry guessing as to their future expansion plans. “There are no plans yet for another Serge,” says Pelletier, adding tantalising, “but we will see.”