Isn’t it funny how some words in your language can evoke such strong feelings? A friend of mine recently asked her Facebook friends what their favourite English words are and the variety was quite astonishing. Some words are obviously pleasurable to roll off the tongue: sibilance, bibulous, scintillate, onomatopoeia or molybdenum. Some seemed innocuous enough on paper but made people want to wash out their mouths: Scunthorpe, pustule, gargle or squirt. One of my best friends wants to break out in hives if she has to say “moist” – which just goes to show how individual tastes can be in these matters.
One of my favourite English words is louche, which carries connotations of an activity which is both decadent, indulgent and just a little bit disreputable or rakish. To me, it harks back to the upper class life of the 1920s and always brings to mind breakfast in bed, pink gin on the terrace in the mid afternoon, absinthe evenings in smoky jazz bars, and restorative brunches, taken in a slightly delicate state wearing sunglasses and an elegantly rumpled outfit. I wasn’t in a particularly delicate or rumpled state when I recently went to sample the new Sunday brunch menu at the Hotel Café Royal’s Green Bar, but it still feels pretty louche to step out of the hustle and bustle of Regent Street, through the hotel lobby with its glorious original Grade I listed floor and stained glass, and into the cool, modern interior of the Green Bar, so called not only for the green Absinthe that they serve, but also for the rather gorgeous outsized green glass tiles that cover the walls.
The most challenging thing that you have to do once seated is to choose which of the freshly-made bottomless Bloody Marys you wish to sample first: the classic; the Oriental made with ginger; or the Breakfast Mary made with beef stock reduction. I sampled the latter and it is really quite addictive if you are an umami addict like me, but for a fresh, zingy burst of flavour, my money is on the Oriental. Having polished off our first bloody Marys we headed for the bar counter where the food (a menu created by executive chef Andrew Turner) was set up buffet-style. There was a collection of antipasti-style nibbles, including bocconcini; dips; olives; addictively good cheese straws; cheese brioches; mini bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon; mushroom velouté and Piccadilly buns; salad and roasted vegetables; and mini terracotta flower pots containing vegetable crudités, hummus and fab little spheres of olive oil.
Next up were two warm dishes, namely chicken and mushroom pie; and a big tray of BBQ pulled pork with bell peppers that you could spoon into your own milk buns to make a pulled pork sandwich. It’s hearty, rib sticking stuff and there is no chance of your leaving hungry! Dessert consisted of a beautiful mango and pistachio tart as well as a basket of sweet pastries – and if you were still not full, there was always the cheeseboard with grapes and membrillo paste to choose from.
Denise and I spent a very relaxed and unhurried few hours over our brunch, going back to nibble at the food and maintaining a fairly constant flow of bloody Marys. Staff were impeccably trained and very friendly throughout the afternoon. But the best part? The fact that the brunch is so well-priced. Considering that it is easy to pay £8 for a bloody Mary in central London, £25 for the Green Bar brunch including bottomless Bloody Mary’s (or a half bottle of Prosecco) is a total bargain. My suggestion? Book a table before word gets out as to what good value this is! The brunch menu is available every Sunday from 11h30-14h30.
The Green Bar
Hotel Café Royal
68 Regent Street
Tel: +44 (0)20 7406 3333
DISCLOSURE: I enjoyed this meal as a guest of the Hotel Café Royal but received no further remuneration to write this post. I was not expected to write a positive review – all views are my own and I retain full editorial control.
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