21 August 2014

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Venue Focus - Andaz London


Food, interaction and clever design take centre stage at the new incarnation of what was Liverpool Street’s Great Eastern Hotel. Mark Sansom reports as Square Meal’s Venues & Events team try out the new hotel’s most innovative space, the Andaz Studio

studio at andaz 1 - studio_at_andaz_1.jpgPrivate dining has been well and truly shaken up. Andaz London, the first property to open under Hyatt’s new luxury brand, has taken the tried-and-tested PDR format, put it in a blender with elements of the chef’s table, wine room and hospitality suite, added a touch of theatrics, and produced what can only be described as a revolutionary fine dining experience.

It was certainly one that Square Meal’s V&E team (and restaurant editor) couldn’t wait to sample and we were quick to take up an invitation for dinner with the hotel’s events team.

Opened as part of the hotel’s big relaunch in November last year, the Andaz Studio is as much about the concept as the space. ‘Casual luxury’ is the buzzword and, with friendly staff and a no-barriers kitchen and bar, guests are invited to define their own experience, dipping in and out of informal cookery demos and drinks tastings throughout their event. The maximum dining capacity is 48 but the cleverly designed room works equally well, if not better, for smaller groups: ours was 15 strong and felt like the ideal size for getting really stuck in with the interactive elements.

Entering the space, you immediately feel at home. The design was inspired by a New York loft apartment, but this is very much a London venue, with Liverpool Street Station right on the doorstep and a wall dedicated to portraits of Shoreditch locals taking pride of place inside. The kitchen, elevated at the end of the room, holds prominence like a stage – with chef as star for the day – and the remaining furniture is unfixed so groups can configure their own layout.

We arrived to find a bar stretching the entire length of one side of the room. On top of it was a display of all the drinks we were to enjoy that evening – from pre-dinner Champagne right through to coffee and artisan tea, with carefully selected wines in between. Grazing on stunning antipasti as we chatted over bubbly, we were soon drawn over to chef Julien Perrier’s domain, where the stunning red stove – described as ‘the Bentley of cookers’, by one Gordon Ramsay – was fronted by a table laden with the beautiful produce about to go into our meal.

Clearly a passionate foodie, Julien gave an enthusiastic run-through of the main ingredients to everyone who stopped by for a peek, encouraging guests to prod the meat, smell the herbs and taste the vegetables to get a feel for their quality. As we all gathered round to watch him finish off our risotto starter, the natural showman stepped into his element – talking, smiling and gesticulating wildly as he generously shared the secrets of the well-crafted dish (now we know to stir vibrant green pea coulis into our summer vegetable risottos before finishing them off with butter).

As our main, we were treated to a fabulous piece of roast lamb, served perfectly pink atop a layered roast vegetable tart, while dessert involved marinated berries and a freshly made sorbet. But don’t go thinking that Mediterranean is the only flavour on offer. One of the major selling points of Andaz Studio is that your meal is bespoke – set menus are, indeed, actively discouraged – and you can pick a chef from any of the hotel’s five restaurants to cook it. If a guest wants a sushi party, the head chef from Miyako will be called up to the Studio. On the other hand, if steak and kidney pudding is the order of the day, the man in charge of cooking at The George pub will be plying his trade at the hotplate.

The concept ties in really well with the overall ethos of the Andaz brand, which is all about attention to detail and individual preferences. To put it simply: you set the rules. We wanted a relaxed evening with lots of interactivity and that’s exactly what was delivered. At one point, we even queued up Oliver-style – ‘Please Sir, can I have some more?’ – to fetch our food straight from the kitchen.

For a more formal business event, you could of course sharpen the service and use the space in a more conventional way but that would be missing the point. As you can see (opposite), there are a vast variety of spaces on offer at the Andaz, so this is one to keep for events you can really have fun with. We certainly did.

This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, Autumn 2008.

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