I have always been deeply, deeply suspicious of the London Hippodrome. Nestled in London’s murky bumhole, Leicester Square, I’d always considered it a big, glitzy block of No-Fucking-Way until my flatmate James 2 returned from a third date with his now-boyfriend, raving about the wonderful time he had had.
After that it was on my list for awhile, but as all Londoner adventurers know, any bucket list that can feasibly fit into a single mortal lifetime is no bucket list at all. Fortunately, fate intervened, and the Hippodrome’s PR team got in touch to see if I fancied reviewing the Heliot steakhouse. (Which, obviously, I did.)
The Hippodrome, which was built in 1900, has tried very hard to recreate the glamour of Las Vegas, although some of the authenticity is lost without the cigarette smoke and hordes of wobblesome Americans. It is, nonetheless, quite impressive, and one of London’s only 24 hour venues. It used to be a theatre, the biggest in London, and they’ve managed to keep or recreate many of its original features.
The Heliot restaurant sits in what used to be the Dress and Upper Circles, overlooking the gaming tables. The layout is almost like that of – sorry – an airport or a cruise ship; not terribly romantic, but good fun. (Also not terribly romantic because good-looking women periodically come out and do a little dance in their pants.) There was a great buzz though; around us, lots of good times were clearly being had.
We sank into our squashy chairs, and a basket of warm bread appeared, accompanied by a dish of gleaming yellow butter, sprinkled with big crystals of rock salt.
We also ordered a bottle of the house red, which was pretty decent. I very much liked how it was a charity bottle, a percentage of which went to the conservation of mountain gorillas.
I chose the scallops (£9). I almost always do, when they’re on the menu. But I don’t know why, because I am usually disappointed. They’re invariably the most expensive item, and are often tiny, lacking in flavour, or both.
These, on the other hand, were big and meaty, encrusted with garlic and parmesan.
Jay chose the ham hock terrine (£6), which he reported as tender and delicious (although we weren’t entirely sure why it was decorated with pansies).
The steaks were so cheap I was almost a little bit stressed about having to write a really negative review, but they were actually…well, superb. I had a 10oz fillet steak, medium rare, listed at £21. The Heliot only carries USDA prime beef, which is aged at least four weeks and served charred. It was so delicious on its own that our pots of Bearnaise and peppercorn sauces went untouched.
Although not as beautiful as my ravishing dinner date!
We went a bit mental on the sides, opting for the good-but-unremarkable hand-cut chips and spinach (disappointingly they didn’t have creamed spinach a la Hawksmoor or Flat Iron, but probably for the best as the rest of the meal was fattening enough). We also chose the Millionaire’s Macaroni & Cheese (£7.50), because how could we not?
Well, it was monstrous. That’s a poached duck egg you see perched on top, and the little flakes everywhere are shavings of truffle. I’m all for decadence, but even for me this was verging a little on obscene.
I really, really didn’t want dessert, but in the interest of Trying Things we ordered the Milk Chocolate Mousse (£6.50) to share, which wasn’t a mousse at all but two huge dollops of salted caramel smooshed between three discs of thin chocolate. Hippodrome Casino has online version. You can find review of Hippodrome online here. The whole thing was scattered with hazelnut brittle and dusted with icing sugar, which put it in the same heart-stopping league as the Millionaire’s Mac & Cheese.
You really, really do not need three courses here.
After dinner, we
rolled walked down to Lola’s underground casino, where I proved to be quite prodigious at blackjack, totally not a game of luck at all, and left £40 up. Lola’s is more intimate and atmospheric than the big gaming area upstairs. There was a girl dancing in a big cage in the centre of the room, but she could easily have squatted down and taken a piss for all the people who were watching her. Eyes were on the tables, but I suppose she added to the speakeasy vibe.
(Sorry, no pictures. They’re pretty intense about photography in there.)
Afterwards we went up to the little roof terrace for a cocktail, which was hidden high above Leicester Square among the chimney stacks.
We were surprised at how much we’d enjoyed ourselves (although it helps if you’re in good company; HOLLA @JayYoung_!) I was expecting swarms of bumbagged tourists and hordes of LADS! ogling the entertainment, but it was actually a really fun, laid-back evening. And I made £40!
Also also also, Bookatable have an AMAZING deal if you make your reservation through them: a steak, lobster, fries, a cocktail and £10 worth of gaming chips for £25 per person. The steak is a relatively diddy one (6oz feather blade), but for that money you could have two. Imagine! I have no idea how they’re making anything on that, but they’re clearly fighting the good fight against Londoners’ natural prejudices. I secretly hope they don’t win; it’s a rather nice little secret to be in on.
We visited the Hippodrome Casino on a Friday night. I was invited to the Heliot steakhouse by the PR team, but, as ever, all views are my own. I’d really recommend the Bookatable deal, but it’s good value even without the offer. You can find the Hippodrome literally on top of Leicester Square station at Cranbourn Street, WC2H 7JH, and view the menu online here.
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.