St James Court, a Taj hotel has taken a culinary interpretation of explorer Phileas Fogg’s journey from London through India and circumventing the later Victorian world in 80 days. This unique gastronomic journey is a feast for the eyes and the senses and allows you to explore four different dining experiences within the beautiful Victorian townhouses that make up this prestigious and elegant hotel.
The Taj group is one of my favourite hotel groups. It comes with an assurance of outstanding service, warm Indian hospitality, attention to detail and modern luxury. St James Court is no different. You can at once recognize that you are at a Taj property; the choice of marbles, the wood furnishings with Indian influence, the staff at your every disposal and the soothing sounds of the pianist all confirm you are in the hands of the very best.
This special culinary journey commences with a champagne flight of Laurent Perrier’s finest champagnes – a classic, rose and a 7-year vintage paired with delicious canapés that wet your appetite in the relaxing St James Court Bar. Sunk into the deep purple chairs, we commenced our dinning experience with a tomato and olive skewer, bruschetta and perfectly diced avocado. On first appearance the canapés seemed simple, but once you go through the dining experience you realise they were carefully chosen to slowly work towards the crescendo of the dining experience.
We were guided to our next destination to celebrate multicultural London in the cool grey modern interiors of the Bistro. Every course is accompanied with a perfectly selected wine, allowing you to remove yourself from the difficult decision making process. Chef David Tilly made every effort to accommodate vegetarians and in his trio of starters he presented us with: a crispy samosa chaat on a bed of subtly chilli green chutney sprinkled with sweet pomegranate, onion, coriander and vermicelli; chilli paneer with a medley of peppers and a dense mushroom soup served in a cute tea cup.
The culinary experience continues to the South West coast of India at the Michelin star restaurant Quilon. This was by far my favourite dining experience. A combination of the moody lighting, the Goan background music and the rather full restaurant, perked us up and got us ready for the highlight of the evening. Chef Sriram Aylur has a deep respect for his ingredients, and whilst staying true to South Indian cuisine has injected a contemporary flair to his dishes.
We were presented with a wonderful vegetarian basket including a mouth watering broccoli petis, incredibly soft paneer finished with a crispy lentil coating, fried okra delicately coated in sesame seeds and a sweet potato ball stuffed with baby fig. The flavours and vegetables worked beautifully together and quite distinct to the usual flavours one associates with South Indian cuisine. To follow we were spoilt with fresh mango cooked along with yoghurt, green chillies and tempered with mustard seeds and curry leaves, which was perfectly accompanied by a Malabar paratha – a layered bread cooked on a skillet with pure ghee, and to top it off – a refreshing light white Bacchus wine from Kent. Absolutely divine. I will certainly be going back to Quilon!
By this point I was quite full and was hoping that the next stop on our journey was desert. Luckily we had a short walk through the beautiful Shakespearean courtyard to reach our next destination Kona, which firmly brought us back to contemporary Europe.
Beautiful, warm and elegant interiors, herringbone parquet floors, walls filled with portraits and a cute library adjoining the main dining area, make for a classic dining room and one that feels quite homely.
I was a little taken back that another main dish was on its way as I barely had room for desert, however it was hard to resist the signature Kona betony panisse of chickpea, served with confit eggplant, Nicoise ratatouille, pimientos del piquillo, Greek yoghurt and olive crumb. This masterpiece was like a Mediterranean orchestra bursting with flavour, each subtle and in harmony with each other.
To complete the evening we indulged in a deconstructed apple crumble, presented on the most stunning desert platter that had a natural tilt to follow the contour of the desert. Carefully placed calvados poached apples, pecan crumble, cinnamon ice cream and crème Anglaise was the perfect British ending to welcome Phileas Fogg home.
Around the world in 80 Tastes is the perfect special occasion treat and is a wonderful way to explore the many delights St James Court has to offer. For just £100 per person for this unconventional take on a classic literary piece, you will work your way through more fine wines than you may be able to handle and you will be delighted with each of the decadent dishes that you will have the pleasure of trying.
St James Court, A Taj Hotel, 54 Buckingham Gate, Westminster, London, SW1E 6AF