[Paxton & Whitfield]
To celebrate the rich culinary history and showcase the continued dynamism of the food scene in the area, St James’s London is offering the public a chance to join a restaurant safari tour which takes place in some of the finest local establishments and last night we were delighted to be invited on this brilliant culinary adventure.
The exclusive tour consisted of eight different stops with a tasting size signature dish and drink served at each location. For over 300 years, St James’s & Piccadilly has had a long-established reputation as the home of fine food, culinary expertise and innovation. Nowhere else in London does such a high concentration of excellent restaurants, shops, chefs and experts in speciality foods exist.
[Berry Bros. & Rudd]
With iconic names like Fortnum & Mason, Berry Bros, The Wolseley and Wiltons alongside newcomers such as Bilbao Berria, Borough Barista and Café Murano, it is the heart of London’s food culture, catering for every taste, palette, whimsy and desire.
The tour was led by wine and spirits expert Johnny Ray and we were interested to hear that Piccadilly and St James’s is the London birthplace of many dining traditions and even the restaurant, as well as the first place those British food icons, the Scotch Egg and the sandwich, were served and enjoyed.
Yet in the 17th Century, the area sat on the outskirts of London. After the Great Fire of London, three open air markets sprang up supplying food and wines to the local inhabitants as well as the great homes and palaces of the area.
During the 18th and 19th Centuries St James’s & Piccadilly saw the rise and reinvention of its coffee and chocolate houses as well as its renowned Gentleman’s clubs, and the arrival of Fortnum & Mason, Berry Bros & Rudd and Paxton & Whitfield supplying specialist foods and wines to the local clientele.
In the fashion of Phileas Fogg, our tour started from the steps of The Reform Club where our journey around the world in food began. The first stop was Basque restaurant Bilbao Berria where we sampled delicious slices of Jamon Iberico from Jabugo and drank Fino Sherry. After Bilbao Berria we hopped our merry way to pioneering Asian fusion restaurant Inamo where we ate fresh seared salmon maki rolls with sake.
We then made our way to artisan cheesemongers Paxton and Whitfield where we nibbled on three kinds of cheeses; Finn, 26 mth matured Comte and Barkham Blue all paired with a lovely glass of Sauv Blanc/Semillon blend.
We then proceeded to Fortnum & Mason (inventor of the Scotch Egg) to devour a sausage roll garnished with marmalade; butternut squash on toast paired with strawberry jam and venison parfait accompanied with rose petal jelly, all washed down with a very resfreshing Bee’s Knees cocktail.
Whilst bursting at the seams we then carried on to Wiltons, the epitome of British Fine Dining. We were greeted by a grand display of wild and farmed smoked salmon; smoked eel with horseradish; two kinds of oysters – Jersey and Scottish along with a glass of champagne.
After leaving Wiltons we arrived at our fifth stop, Café Murano, a Northern Italian restaurant from Angela Hartnett. Here we were fed a mini truffle arancini and large glass of prosecco.
We then swiftly shuffled to Chutney Mary, inventors of the contemporary Indian restaurant. We drank a selection of cocktails including; gimlet, saffron martini and a watermelon cosmo and we ate chicken wings, chilli fried lobster, kid goat biryani and Indian scrambled egg.
[Fortnum & Mason]
Our final port of call was Boulestin where we finished the tour. They served a crostini with olive jam & tomato; soupe de poisson with a cheese toastie; daube of beef on marrow and squash puree and for dessert a sauterne custard with Agen prunes in armagnac. Berry Brothers are situated next door to Boulestin so it was very fitting to quench our thirst with a glass of Berry Brothers’ Good Ordinary Claret and Good Ordinary White.
We had an absolutely fantastic time and would recommend entering the competition for a chance to win tickets for the tour. We’ve included details of how to enter at the bottom of the article.
The area today is home to over 50 restaurants, coffee bars and specialist food and drink retailers, taking in over 20 different national and regional cuisines. It employs over 2500 staff and each day over 8,000 meals are served to discerning customers eager for an exceptional dining experience.
To maintain the heritage, tradition and elegance of the area, The Crown Estate has invested £500 million over ten years to nurture and continue to establish St James’s and Piccadilly as a world class dining destination.
As part of these plans, The Crown Estate is currently undertaking a substantial redevelopment of two blocks between Regent Street St James’s and Haymarket, known as St James’s Market, in partnership with Canadian investor, Oxford Properties.
The project will create 260,000 sqft of high quality retail, restaurant and office space, as well as revitalising over half an acre of public realm which will include providing a 10,000 sqft public square complete with great dining venues.
[Boulestin’s garden at Pickering Place]
In the last eighteen months, ten new restaurants and food retailers have opened in the area, with Fortnum & Mason relaunching their new concept restaurant this October and six more flagship restaurants set to open in the new St James’s Market next year.
Map of St James’s & Piccadilly food and drink locations
Heart of London Business Alliance have been promoting the district’s offering to a global audience, ensuring that visitors to the Capital sample the same fine food and dining experience as Londoners enjoy every day.
To enter the draw for tickets visit: www.stjameslondon.com/correspondent/dinner-draw-the-heart-of-the-london-food-scene