Covent Garden Hotel, Soho Hotel, Haymarket Hotel, Charlotte Street Hotel: all West End beauties, and all owned by the Firmdale group. Their lobby bars are perfect for business meetings, impressing dates, illicit trysts and running up large bar bills. Ham Yard has all that, but adds a huge private cinema, plus bowling alley and roof garden for hotel guests or for hire.
The pattern with Firmdale hotels is that the bar attracts the ‘scene’, while the restaurants play second fiddle. But here the dining area is particularly attractive, spacious and airy, with an appealing and almost secluded alfresco area. The bright and varied interior isn’t as safely tasteful and as some other Firmdale joints, with a diverse spread of ethnic art on the walls.
In contrast to the art, the dishes don’t stray beyond Europe. Our favourite dish was the ricotta-filled gnocchi, lightly crisped on the surface, with fresh peas and broad beans; a fillet of sea trout was equally delicate and just-cooked, served with earthy puy lentils and a zingy salsa verde. But the ‘heritage’ tomatoes of our starter just seemed mealy and under-ripe when compared to the accompanying burrata, which was pleasingly creamy and fresher than a Puglian pick-up line. Dishes can be a little uneven then, but overall satisfy.
An Arctic roll dessert (too sweet, but otherwise fine) summed up the style of this restaurant: safe, playfully retro, and slightly cheeky. If it was a hotel porter, it would give you a wink.
By Guy Dimond