A baby blue, two-piece suit without a tie, fourteen of the twelve available buttons undone to the waist, two pairs of sunglasses and a pocket chuff, no socks and chocolate weave loafers. That’s what greeted me when my dinner companion arrived at The Arch Hotel in Marylebone. We were to dine at the hotel restaurant, Hunter 486, and I figured that considering he looked like a Greek UFC fighter on a world press tour with a polar bear fur coat-clad Conor Mcgregor, we should try to make some serious waves, like ordering starters.
Named after the 1950s dialling code for Marylebone, the menu at Hunter 486 has recently been revamped, with a number of new dishes from head chef, Gary Durrant, arriving for the English summer. A classically trained chef, with ten years at The Savoy London under his belt; Durrant has developed dishes in keeping with British seasonality and include Cornish mackerel with jersey royals and quails eggs, lemon sole fillets with samphire and potted shrimp butter, and roasted Norfolk black chicken with a fresh tarragon sauce.
But before all that, it was first time for a drink or two in the Arch London’s resident cocktail lounge, the Martini Library.
Quietly glamourous, with a roaring fire available for the ten and half months of English winter; the Martini Library was all armchairs and modern art as we took a table in the corner. A series of prints from English artist Peter Defty called ‘Alphabecture’ – a collection of the 26 letters of the alphabet seen through various structures of the London skyline – flowed down the adjacent foyer and spilled out over our heads, giving us a nice little talking point as we sipped whiskey sours. Channel 4’s moving ‘4’ rendition on the telly, and specifically how they managed it, admittedly came up.
Consistently named one of the top 20 luxury hotels in the UK; The Arch London is spread over seven grade II listed townhouses and two mews homes, and I was in one of the deluxe rooms. We’re talking a hand decorated, Georgian-style segment of the understatedly luxurious pied-à-terre, with a flat screen TV fitted just above the bath.
With Hyde Park visible from just outside reception, and the West End in walking distance; there can be no doubt that this is a prime London location. No wonder Madonna owns one of the houses just opposite the hotel.
Dinner started with a bang in the dining room, which features blown glass light fixtures and dark leather banquettes. Well, with a barely discernible pop as the cork from our bottle of the Flor de Campo pinot noir was introduced to the wide world by our waiter.
Being a chef, the sight of a courgette flower gets my heart racing. And the opportunity for one with goat’s curd and honey encased in well-seasoned batter as a starter, well. My companion, on the other hand, went for something a little lighter, namely the dressed Dorset crab with avocado and pink grapefruit.
Rather than being a sight to behold, my flower served to flood the mouth with a smooth richness, a decadence reserved for some mad bee, spoilt and pampered. If he liked, as I loved, the combination of curd and honey.
Luckily for me, my companion (not so much touring UFC man now, I thought, but perhaps an extra in Ocean’s 12) had chosen a starter ripe for the picking, quite literally. There was nothing he could do to prevent me picking away at his delightfully vibrant crab and soft/acidic accompaniments.
With the pinot noir now creaking under the strain, we turned our attention to our mains. Arriving lovingly balanced on a medley of crushed new potatoes and assorted baby vegetables, and in a light herb broth; my rack of lamb oozed so invitingly. I believe it to still be as inviting even now, long gone. My companion, meanwhile, indulged in a wonderfully summery asparagus, broad bean, pea and mint risotto, with an equally well balanced parmesan crisp perched atop. Not much in the way of picking opportunities, but that didn’t stop me. I’m sure he didn’t really want 93% of his parmesan crisp anyway.
A shared passion fruit cheesecake and sorbet polished us off and we soon embarked on an after dinner stroll around Hyde Park, some of my companion’s buttons miraculously finding their way back up as a mid-evening chill descended. I’d left my jacket behind, but my lavish bath and Egyptian cotton sheets soon remedied me as I tucked myself up for the night a few hours later, thinking how Madonna over the road couldn’t even have it this good.