Review: Island Grill – The Lancaster, London

Island Grill The Lancaster London Spring Cocktail Menu
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Tim Firmager

Tim divides his time being a Digital Consultant in The City and as a food and travel writer across the globe. When he's not working as one of the Lifestyle Editors here at Vada, he's planning his next trip, or on the lookout for the latest food crazes or unusual foods in London's markets.
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Island Grill, located on the corner of the iconic mid-century Lancaster London, is one of those venues you have probably walked past several times before but never truly noticed. On the other side of the road from the Italian gardens in Hyde Park, a separate entrance leads you into this split-level restaurant.

Given its location – both proximity to Hyde Park and being located within the Lancaster London hotel – we had expected the restaurant to be packed out. Instead, there was an air of tranquility as we entered. The floor-to-ceiling windows flood the restaurant with light during the day, with backlit ceiling panels and mood lighting to create a warm ambience during the evening.

Island Grill The Lancaster London Spring Cocktail Menu

Island Grill service

The hostess was expecting us as we walked in and was able to guide us immediately to our window table without any of that awkward hovering that often occurs when restaurant hosts double-check bookings and table seating plans. The excellent service continued throughout our meal, the waitress taking and using our names throughout the service for a more personal touch, and able to offer recommendations and pairings based on our preferences.

Island Grill menu

Island Grill has been awarded the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s top Three Star rating, thanks to Head Chef Adam Woolven’s tireless efforts to create an eco-friendly yet luxurious dining experience. His passion for the finest ingredients and cosmopolitan dishes is evident from the fantastic menu on offer. The modern, European menu which changes each season as part of its dedication to sustainability. As well as using fresh, seasonal ingredients, the restaurant also uses honey harvested from the hives on the roof for exquisite dishes, such as the Honey Panna Cotta.

Island Grill The Lancaster London Spring Cocktail Menu
Gressingham Duck served with roasted carrots, the Vitamin-C rich kohlrabi cabbage, green beans and Cavolo Nero

To start we ate the Pork Belly (£6.95) and Calamari (£5.95) options. The pork belly (served with egg noodles, melon, cucumber asian salad and toasted cashews) was succulent, and refreshing with the asian flavours without being too heavy. The light bite of the calamari was equally well executed, with unusual fruity pairings with mango and burst of pomegranate seeds and more familiar rouille sauce.

For our main courses, we alternated seafood and meat options, choosing the Gressingham Duck (£16.50) and the day’s catch from the grill menu – sea bass, served with tartare sauce and thyme roasted carrots (£14.95). The duck, still blushing and succulent, was served slightly cold – perhaps prepared slightly too early for the fish main and not kept properly warm; however served with roasted carrots, the vitamin C-rich kohlrabi cabbage, green beans and cavolo nero (kale) with a port and soy jus, this was a highly nutritious, clean and flavourful meal. The bass, at an imposing size, cooked and served simply was impressive and inviting.

The dessert menu featured the usual suspects of British and European origin – crème brûlée, crumble, panna cotta, cheesecake and treacle sponge. We opted for the treacle sponge served with honey poached pears, lime coulis and lemon sorbet (£5). The coulis was not too sharp and the sponge at just the right amount of moistness, so an all round fruitier twist than we had imagined on this British classic. The other dessert, a Chocolate Trio, consisting of a dark chocolate fondant, Valrhona chocolate sorbet, white chocolate and coffee foam (£5.50) was chosen mainly due to a penchant for Valrhona chocolate – one of the best French chocolate producers in our opinion, and only available in the UK via a handful of upmarket stores.

Cocktails

The fully stocked bar features an impressive list of cocktails and wines from both the New and Old World. To toast the arrival of spring, the mixologists at Island Grill have devised a delicious Spring Cocktail menu, with a selection of five seasonal cocktails, all priced at £9. We sampled the:

  • Sweet and Herby, made from Gordon’s Gin, lemonade, honey and thyme – for those who need their gin fix, this is deliciously sweet alternative to your G&T;
  • Strawberry Basil Margarita made with fresh strawberries, basil, tequila and triple sec is a recipe we’ll be borrowing to serve midday margaritas when the British summer arrives;
  • Blueberry Rum made from fresh blueberries, white rum, brown sugar, lime juice and ginger ale is a deceptively potent fruity option.

Overall impressions

At several paces from Lancaster Gate underground station, on the northern perimeter of Hyde Park, Island Grill cannot be beaten for location for those planning to shop or spend the day in the park. Overall levels of creativity and originality were not as high as we have come to expect from other London venues (the mixologists could benefit from some time spent with the boys at Bourne & Hollingsworth to refine their cocktail menu). However, where Island Grill does (and should continue to) win awards is for its dedication to sustainable eating, and its highly personalised and professional level of service – the best we have ever experienced in a hotel restaurant. Balance this with the price (our three-course meal and three cocktails each would cost approximately £40 per person) offers outstanding value for central London.

Open from 7.00am to 10.30pm, if you have a day of shopping planned on Bond Street or Oxford Street or a stroll in Hyde Park, Island Grill is most definitely a venue to consider for lunch, dinner or just a civilised cocktail.

For more information or to book a table, visit islandrestaurant.co.uk.

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