Hotel Rafayel sits between the Thames and an industrial estate, next door to the London Heliport. It makes extravagant claims of being an ‘eco-hotel’, and much more besides: it incorpates a brasserie, cake shop and restaurant.
We phoned to check first, and were told: ‘Yes, the brasserie will be open for lunch.’ On arrival, the clueless staff told us there was no food served that day in the unmanned brasserie (actually a lobby coffee shop), and the restaurant wouldn’t open until the evening.
So we went back in the evening, to try the restaurant (Banyan). On arrival the staff greeted us by telling us they were ‘full tonight’ (the restaurant was empty, and was still only half-empty at 9pm). Then they relented, but insisted we sit at the bar for a pre-meal drink first.
Yet it was worth all these hurdles for two reasons. One was to see the shamelessly bling international hotel guests: we’ve not seen tans, makeup and jewellery like this since Dubai, and that was just the men.
The other reason was – against our expectations on reading the pan-global menu, which spans duck confit to sashimi – some decent dishes.
A starter of seekh kebab was the best dish, worthy of a passable Punjabi restaurant: herby, juicy, fresh. It was served on a bed of rocket, which was also the backdrop to a starter of diced mango and sautéed king prawns, a flavour combination that worked surprisingly well.
Lamb biryani was correctly served with a raita, and tasted rich and spice-imbued, just like the real thing.
Perhaps the least visually appealing dish we tried was the fish and chips, chunks of monkfish deep-fried in an indelicate batter that made them resemble chicken nuggets. Desserts included a chocolate Bailey’s cream cup.
Service throughout was a smiling shambles. Few of the staff appeared experienced at working in a restaurant, although the restaurant had been open for a few weeks at this stage. One waitress confided it was only her second day in the UK.
Wait until the summer when the outdoor terrace is open, and the cheerfully clueless staff know what they’re doing.