It’s true, Leicester Square doesn’t always conjure up the classiest of mental images, but if anywhere can challenge that preconception, it is The Londoner. Edwardian Hotels London worked with architecture studio Woods Bagot, engineers Arup Associates, interior designers Yabu Pushelberg and artist Ian Monroe to bring their striking concept to life. Dubbed the world’s first super boutique hotel, it was set to open in spring 2020… Things got in the way, inevitably, and it eventually opened to great fanfare this September, promising – thanks to a smorgasbord of concept F&B offerings – something for both locals and visitors alike.
Its signature restaurant is Whitcomb’s, where Executive Head Chef Shailesh Deshmukh’s focus is on simple, elegant French Mediterranean cuisine, prepared using carefully selected quality ingredients. All-day dining is on offer here, but we visit as daylight fades and the West End lights begin to twinkle. The space is suitably glamorous, with a grand marble table at its centre, soft as butter leather seating and modern art adorning the walls. Above us, a whimsical metal sculpture by artist Shida Salehi floats from the ceiling.
We sip on an Arrivée cocktail as we peruse the menu. A blend of Noilly Prat and Lillet Blanc with prosecco, orange bitters and elderflower and melon cordial, it is light and refreshing. Like long forgotten sunshine in a glass.
Our friendly waiter talks us through the menu concept, advising on quantities and giving his personal recommendations (dedicated to the job, he has tasted everything, and confirms that it is all excellent). This is, he says, food for sharing – my favourite kind.
We begin with ‘Fromage au Four’: a red-hot skillet of baked Gruyère and Emmental with Cognac, crispy pancetta and Dijon mustard, into which we hungrily dig chunks of artisan French bread. Strings of cheese hang from our chins – it is delicious, but categorically not first date food. A divinely palate cleansing tuna tartare with caviar and confit egg yolk follows. It is a standout.
Encouraged to try one of the Pâtes Maison, we share a dish of agnolotti with creamy cheese béchamel and crispy sage butter, before moving on to our main dish. We have opted for the filet mignon, and we are not disappointed. Exquisitely tender, the steak is topped with chanterelle and an aged Parmesan crème. Impossibly tasty, garlicky French beans and frites with rosemary and sea salt are the perfect accompaniment. The latter are like no frites we have ever tasted; rectangular sheets of the crispiest potato – I have been dreaming about them ever since.
Amazingly, and fortuitously, we have room for dessert. We choose warm sugar-coated beignets. The bite-sized treats are served with a trio of dipping sauces (rich dark chocolate, a Christmassy spiced orange and a glorious dulce de leche) and are seriously naughty.
Forget every preconception you have about hotel dining: The Londoner set out to shape the legacy of the West End, and if Whitcomb’s is anything to go by, it is likely to succeed.
38 Leicester Square, WC2H (020 7451 0167; thelondoner.com/restaurants-bars/whitcombs)