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|Address:||Sanctum Soho Hotel, 20 Warwick Street, London W1B 5NF|
|Tel:||020 3478 3400|
|Price: £49.00||Wine: £18.50||Champagne: £50.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sun 6.30-11am 12N-2.30pm 6-11pm|
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I’ve always been slightly disturbed by the idea of the ‘hotel restaurant’. There’s something decidedly odd about dining at a place where people pay more money to sleep than eat particularly if there’s no big name chef to pull in the crowds. It’s hardly a tempting proposition, is it? So we arrived with trepidation at No 20, the new restaurant attached to Sanctum Soho, a £20 million hotel created by the people behind Embassy, the London club loved by many a footballer.
While we skipped exploring the hotel billed by the breathy press release as a place where ‘bohemia meets rock and roll, disco meets cutting edge’, the look of the restaurant was more Liverpudlian WAG – expensive looking from afar but on closer inspection dreadfully overdone and (dare we say it) cheap. Half-height pink Doric columns are muzzled by glass rods in a low-ceilinged room and half moon shaped booths clad in gold are placed next to Scandinavian-style timber veneer tables – a series of unfortunate mismatches.
Unsure of the décor, we swiftly asked for menus and were handed a battered piece of parchment which looked like it had recovered from two rounds with a dysfunctional Xerox machine –an inauspicious start to an already flaccid evening. Despite the flailing beginning, we bravely ordered from the modern British fare on show. You can choose from either an a la carte menu or a wallet-friendly set menu (two courses at £15.00, three courses for £20.00) although beware of the latter menu as on our second visit it tasted more like suburban canteen slop. To start, our waiter brought over a starter of pea and mint soup (£4.95) from the a la carte, a phantasmagoric potion of a dish with a gloopy texture and an overpowering mint flavour which would have found more favour at Hogwarts.
Meanwhile, the other entrée of smoked salmon and Irish soda bread with dill butter (£9.50) felt insipid and required a sharp kick – an actual one would have worked equally as well. As we glanced around the near-empty room, it was hard to ascertain who would come here. The atmosphere seemed somewhat vacant, although one animated couple did try to fire up the place with a feisty tête-à-tête about Big Brother evictees while a drunken gaggle of suits cracked jokes and their BlackBerries.
Fortunately the mains were a more appealing prospect. The lamb cutlets arrived well cooked and elegantly presented with a drizzled tarragon sauce (£23.50) although our confused waiter was unable to confirm the provenance of the meat ('no sir, not from Provence,' says waiter; no I don’t ask again). A beautifully executed pan-fried sea bream materialised with Dublin Bay prawns draped in an opaque cauliflower cream sauce although it was a little too dear at £24.95.
The wine list is by no means comprehensive and only the five cheapest New World wines were available by the glass which seemed a little stingy. Desserts were of the usual sub-school dinner fare, the kind of puddings that you’d find in the bygone world of Abigail’s Party. Such offerings as lemon sponge pudding with ginger ice cream (£5.00) and blueberry pie with runny pouring cream (£5.00) were pleasant enough, but inessential. No 20 at Sanctum Soho isn’t rock’n’roll that’s for sure. If anything, it’s more like easy listening.