Hotel restaurants are often charged with feeling directionless or uninspired, but the moment you step foot into The Pem, it’s messaging is clear - this is first and foremost, a celebration of women.
The restaurant is found inside the Conrad London St James and takes its moniker from the pet name of prominent suffragette Emily Wilding Davison. Chef Sally Abe has recruited an almost entirely female team and the dining room feels innately feminine without falling victim to cliche: shiny black and white flooring, rosy hues and cosy tub chairs all set the stage for a night of fine dining. This is not to say that men are not welcome here, as proven by our visit which saw the dining room populated with couples on dates, solo hotel guests and small groups of friends catching up.
The Pem’s menu is ever-evolving, making the most of in-season produce, but you can always expect a commitment to quality and presentation that is seriously impressive. We began with a plate of poached native lobster, lightly bathed in shellfish cream and paired with a traffic light trio of heritage tomatoes, which tasted purely, absolutely of tomato. This supreme freshness of ingredients continued into our main course, which saw tender, blushing pink fallow deer complemented by the quaint sweetness of roasted red cabbage and faintly sour pickled blackberries, a harmony of autumnal flavours.
For pudding, 1970s dinner party staple black forest gateau (a personal favourite of Abe’s) is given a contemporary makeover - it’s a satisfyingly rich combination of cherry and chocolate, topped with a pile of delicate chocolate curls and served alongside a scoop of truly sublime house-made cherry ripple ice cream.
This level of quality certainly does not come cheap and mains priced north of £40 feel punchy, even for the area. That being said, The Pem’s attentive service, beautiful dining room and commitment to seasonality all make a visit worthwhile - it is the kind of restaurant which reminds you why London is the best city in the world for dining out.