The Hotel Cafe Royal is a right old swishy place to stay at the Piccadilly end of Regent Street. This five-star beauty opened in the late 1800's and has had Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill, Virginia Woolf and Princess Diana signing its guest book. Not to mention it's been the place where Elizabeth Taylor came to meet Richard Burton for dinner dates, and where David Bowie held his Ziggy Stardust 'retirement' party, attended by the who's who of the 1970's rock world. The 'Cafe' as it is affectionately known, is renowned for its giant cupcakes and afternoon tea, but they have just started holding weekend brunches, and I was honoured to be invited to sample what will undoubtedly become a London must-try.
As it was Mother's Day I took along my mum, and she was as blown away as I was by the five-star treatment on arrival and throughout. We swished in through the hotel's main entrance, then later found out that there's a separate entrance to the brunch bar. I kind of recommend making this mistake, because then not only do you get to be impressed by the grand marble foyer, you also get charming staff ushering you through the length of the hotel's main dining room. Brunch is in the Green Bar where the atmosphere is very laid back, and the tables and chairs are low. The bar itself is used for the buffet-style brunch, and it all works really well for a swishy yet informal weekend brunch vibe.
The brunch deal is £25 for unlimited visits to the buffet, plus a choice between bottomless Bloody Mary's or two glasses of prosecco. This is an insanely good offer when you think about the location, and when you know how GOOD the food is! I'm practically drooling as I recall it… there's smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels, beautiful freshly baked bread, many cheeses, pickles, little bowls of mozzarella and roasted vegetables, and really fresh salad. It's all arranged so prettily; you can just take a leaf of chicory from one glass, a lettuce leaf from another… some radishes from a sculpted pepper. There's also a more 'breakfasty' section with pastries, and savoury and sweet muffins, plus a choice of three hot dishes – chicken & mushroom pie, BBQ pulled pork buns, and mushroom soup.
Highlights for me were the cheese straws – VERY cheddary! And the apricot & pistachio tart for dessert. As a vegetarian you worry there won't be much for you at a buffet (see this rant here, ahem), but I had not one but two types of hommous to select, plus several vegetable dishes that weren't mere after-thoughts, but genuinely unique delights – such as these flowerpot crudités in basil 'soil' (below). My one teensy-tiny criticism in an otherwise magnificent brunch would be that the vegetarian hot dish could be something more interesting than soup, as delicious as it was. My mum raved about the chicken pie, and said it was as good as her mum used to make (ahh, an appropes memory for Mother's Day). I also think it was the chef's favourite as he came out at one point to check on things (and said hello to us), and I caught him giving the pie a fond smile, as a proud parent might to a child, for example.
I have been recommending this brunch to anyone and everyone ever since I tried it, and as it's only been going for three weeks it's still easy to book a table (it won't be for long!). Brunch is served at weekends from 11.30am to 2.30pm and is a wholly reasonable luxury treat when you're in the West End.
Our brunch was complimentary, but I'm definitely going back as a paying customer!