‘Bottomless bubbles’, eh? It’s a dangerous game, kind on the purse but perilous on the liver. We’ve definitely seen a rise in the trend, which reliably leaves a trail of sloshed Londoners staggering around town around about 3pm every Sunday, but…bottomless dinner? For £39.50? It sounded too good to be true. (Further reading: my comprehensive list of every bottomless brunch in London.)
So, obviously, we had to try it out. (It’s an exclusive Bookatable deal, so had to be booked in advance. They do lots of other bottomless deals too – them ‘em out here. * hic*) We arrived at the emptyish Cookbook Café at the Intercontinental Park Lane at 7pm on a Friday evening, on the basis that anyone who took up such an offer on a school night was both a masochist and a fool. One thing I usually find with multi-purpose hotel restaurants – which are usually used for both breakfast buffets and overpriced evening a la carte meals – is a lack of ambiance. Unfortunately, the Cookbook Café was no exception, rocking a similar vibe to the posher kind of hospital waiting room.
Our waiter, Alex, appeared within seconds brandishing a pair of menus and a bottle of the promised bubbles. Quick off the mark, that one. We were told we had unlimited prosecco, sparkling white wine or bellinis for two hours, and were allowed to mix and match. The prosecco was nicer than sparkling wine so we stuck mostly with that, mixing it up occasionally with strawberry bellinis, which I know are desperately uncool but I actually rather like. (“It’s Patrick Bateman’s least favourite cocktail,” I remarked, as we stirred strawberry goo into our fizz, sparking a conversation in which Mike revealed that he always thought American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis was the sequel to Hitchcock’s Psycho movie. I gave him the sort of look he gives me when I suggest that all of London’s football teams start sharing one stadium to free up some space for housing.)
The menu: it looked good, if not especially imaginative. Mike chose the smoked duck with horseradish cream, a pint-sized portion of wafer-thin cold duck strewn with hard-boiled quail eggs. More impressive size-wise were my scallops (£4 supplement), thought they were encumbered with too much spinach and cauliflower puree, which was on the watery side. No bother though, what I love about scallops is their sweet, meaty texture, and these were perfectly seared.
(They lose points for not warming the plates up though. My grandmother has a real thing about hot plates and it is contagious.)
I loved the lamb I had for my main course. Lamb is always a treat for me; it is one of those foods, like Hollandaise sauce, that I can’t bear to cook myself at home because it’s so fattening. Preparing the stuff gives me time to allow the guilt to bubble up in me like a geyser, sucking all enjoyment from the meal. Also, I am not especially good at cooking and if I’m going to eat that kind of fat I want it done properly, by a pro who’ll make all those calories sing.
The nubbin of saffron fondant potato was delicious but didn’t last long, so I was pleased we’d ordered an extra side of chips to share. At the last minute I’d caved to my grumbling conscience and a side of wilted spinach too, which arrived in some sort of trough. (Presumably the kitchen garden was enjoying an unexpected spinach boom?)
Mike plumped for the beef fillet with ox cheek, which is the option for the very hungry. It cost £6 more, but came with a sizeable portion Dijon mustard mash (hiding out of shot below!) When you consider the size of my fondant potato, i.e. similar to a Trebor Extra Strong, it isn’t bad value.
All this time our boy Alex was keeping us topped up; the cynic in me assumed they’d be super stingy with the booze but they were practically falling over themselves to pour us more. It occurred to me that the Cookbook Café would be an awesome pre-drinks dinner venue – I reckon the super-dedicated could put away a couple of bottles in a two hour slot.
Mike won at dessert; the flourless chocolate cake with salted caramel ice cream was as big as a paving slab and a gooey, chocolately triumph. In a fit of lunacy I paid an extra £4 for the cheese – why?! I blame the eight glasses of fizz – which was predictably underwhelming. I didn’t care though; by this point the restaurant had filled up a bit with people who, presumably, were also taking advantage of the Bookatable deal, and we were having a gay old time. It still didn’t have the buzz of one of city’s cooler restaurants, but if you let that stop you, frankly, you need to find somebody more fun to have dinner with.
Cookbook Café @ Intercontinental Park Lane, Hamilton Pl, London W1J 7QY
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 Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.