Land and sea: A review of Laurent at Hotel Café Royal

Words by
Charlotte McManus

1st October 2018

A new addition to the West End institution, Laurent at Café Royal is an elegant restaurant offering stylistic flair, excellent service and an intriguing menu of two halves

Located on the Piccadilly side of Regent Street, Hotel Café Royal is an opulent grand dame of a place that has drawn the rich, the famous and the well-heeled for over 150 years. Though that’s not to say that its owners are letting it languish in its heritage; the hotel has undergone an extensive revamp to keep it current with modern notions of luxury. Part of this makeover includes Laurent at Café Royal, a new 110-cover restaurant that opened its doors this summer.

The launch saw a welcome homecoming for head chef Laurent Tourondel – for it was at Hotel Café Royal where he first cut his teeth in the initial stages of his career – and also marks his first European venture, joining his international roster of locations in Hong Kong and the Caribbean.

Once inside the restaurant, situated on the first floor, it’s apparent that Piero Lissoni’s design is slick without being stuffy, complete with marble-topped tables, glass balloon lighting and comfortable wicker chairs, as gauzey curtains flutter over floor-to-ceiling windows. Similarly, the menu is designed to reflect ‘relaxed yet refined’ all-day dining with an informal approach to lunch and dinner. A traditional parina grill is the conduit for many of Laurent’s star dishes, which chiefly comprise of chargrilled meat or fish – that’s right, surf and turf is king here, revisited with the kind of fresh sophistication emerging at other new eateries, such as Shoreditch’s St Leonards.

My companion and I started proceedings with a champagne cocktail and a complimentary American-style “popover” in place of bread – like a ginormous Yorkshire pudding made with cheddar and gouda, served with warm butter. Alongside appetisers – think white mushroom veloute, a chunky spiral of grilled octopus or an indulgent platter of smoked salmon with warm crumpets – diners have the option of snacking on handmade sashimi and sushi, though our waiter encourages us to share a selection of both. We are then faced with choosing fish or meat from the grill, or alternatively from a list of mains. Every section comes with at least six dishes. With so much on offer, deciding on a direction is tricky – my companion voices the opinion that the sushi confuses proceedings – and it’s not surprising that the menu is printed landscape.

In the end, we both decide to stick with fish. I opt for the Cornish sea bass, succulent in a rich sauce of soy caper-lemon brown butter, while my companion’s sea bream goes down a treat with a side of sweet and sour roasted aubergine. At this point, the wicked portion of gratin potatoes, oozing with cream and cheese, almost has to be force-fed, and the thought of dessert almost beats us – though we were most glad to have listened again to our waiter with his suggestion of a feather-light cube of coconut meringue, served with wild strawberries.

For more details about Laurent or Hotel Café Royal, please visit