The Rubens at the Palace is a family run institution that has left avid travellers in awe ever since its beginnings in 1912. Overlooking the Royal Mews of Buckingham Palace, the hotel is one of marvel – from the rich tapestries and décor to the quality of service and hospitality.
We were welcomed into the hotel on a rather rainy late summer’s evening and were escorted to the wonderfully lavish Calvary Bar. Now believe me when I say that there are bars, and then there are bars. The striking colour theme would normally take centre stage on first gaze, but our eyes (and ears) were immediately transfixed on the lounge band – talented musicians delicately showcasing their skills to the tune of Sinatra, Ray Charles, John Legend and many more greats.
With the scene set, we wanted to get the true experience of The Rubens from start to finish, and what better way to do that than by ordering one of the Top 10 Most Instagrammable Cocktails in London? The aptly named Up In Smoke lived up to the reputation and even managed to draw the attention of a delightful American tourist, who immediately asked us what the drink was called. I opted for a Maker’s Mark Old Fashioned next to whet the appetite for what was to follow.
Ushered into the The English Grill, the dining venue looked considerably less red, but equally as extravagant. The lighting was dimmed, the evening was calm and the stomachs were well and truly rumbling.
They say the best test of a restaurant’s culinary quality comes from how the kitchen works with fish. The first dishes to arrive to the table were the Lobster “Arnold Bennett”, and the Prawn and Crayfish Cocktail served with a Marie Rose sauce. We like to believe we are relatively knowledgeable when it comes to food, but we couldn’t exactly figure out what an Arnold Bennett actually was. To put your minds at ease (and to give you a leg up should you wish to visit), the Arnold Bennett is a variation of omelette made with haddock and named after, you guessed it, novelist Arnold Bennett.
This reimagination of the Savoy’s classic dish went down well, balancing tender lobster with a crisp top. The Prawn and Crayfish cocktail was a considerably safer option and did exactly what a prawn cocktail should do, without necessarily turning any heads.
The first show of the evening came with David’s choice of starter, H. Forman’s ‘London Cure’ Smoked Salmon. Two types of salmon were wheeled over to the head of our table, delicately sliced and served alongside a portion of Morecambe Bay shrimp and traditional accompaniments. Delightfully rich and fresh, it further enhanced the fact that the best things in life are often the simplest. The staff were incredibly accommodating to our fussy palettes, and were happy for us to let them guide our choices of wine. Each dish was expertly paired with an appropriate white by the sommelier. So far, so good.
With our glasses half-empty (and promptly re-filled), we set our sights on the main course. One dish immediately caught our eyes, culminating in a temporary hush over the table. The 8oz Kobe Beef Fillet is definitely one to experience provided your wallet doesn’t mind being a little frivolous – this dish alone will set you back £60. But believe you me, it is well and truly worth every penny. Just ask the table adjacent to us who ordered 8 of them, subsequently causing a flurry of apologies from the lovely staff that served us for the unusual delay.
The famous English Grill’s famous Mixed Grill – which featured a who’s who of farm animal – as well as the humbler but equally incredible Chicken Pot Pie arrived to (metaphorically) rapturous applause. A balanced selection of potato and vegetable sides completed the meal, with the Duck Fat Potatoes being the heroes of that category. Seriously. I’d come back again for a plate of those alone. Our ever-accommodating sommelier this time paired our entrées with a variety of rich, bold reds.
The conversation and bottles were flowing and the brilliance of the restaurant’s ambiance made us feel like we were having dinner at home, surrounded by loved ones, with absolutely no care in the world. Which, you’ll find, is the perfect time to order dessert. At The English Grill, comes an English classic: the Eton Mess. It was everything you could wish for and more, as was the Baked Vanilla Cheesecake. They haven’t made either overly elaborate, but rather, once more, opting to make the simple things perfect.
With the evening coming to an end, the faint melodies of the ever-brilliant lounge band continued to saunter into the restaurant whilst the room began to empty. It was time for us to call it a night on what was a rather marvelous experience, and one we’d be happy to relive time and time again.
Visit: Rubens At The Palace