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The Mandrake Hotel, 20-21 Newman Street
Bloomsbury & Fitzrovia
Housed within the snazzy Mandrake Hotel, this London outpost of Hong Kong big hitter Serge et le Phoque puts on an exclusive, refined show – in contrast to the garish, eye-popping interiors of the hotel itself. Low lighting, plush purple seats and melamine table tops create a mood of understated chic, while chatty good-natured staff guide diners through a succinct menu of overtly ambitious modern French cuisine with eclectic and seasonal overtones. Starters set the bar high, from ceviche and foie gras to a serving of meaty octopus dressed with pungent ginger and fiercely pickled aji amarillo chilli (best enjoyed a little at a time). After that, mains such as a tender slab of Ibérico pork topped with a mound of sweetcorn and lightly spiced XO sauce benefit from cut-above sides including creamy pomme purée sprinkled with crunchy apple seeds, while our pick of the desserts was a truly indulgent chocolate tart – thick, jelly-like filling on a crispy chocolate wafer with a hint of salted cherry blossom. A friendly sommelier is also on-hand to suggest matching wines from a varied international list. Prices are relatively affordable considering the serious ambitions of the cooking (and Serge et le Phoque’s overseas fame), although bargain hunters should home in on the set lunch menu.
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