The area of London’s St James evokes a sense of decorum. It’s especially pukka around Buckingham Gate, where at number 51, you will find the Taj Hotel and its separate restaurant, [email protected] Together they contribute their style of finery to the landscape.
The entrance to the [email protected] leads to a long sultry bar where perched on a bar stool, we started our evening with a cocktail. Later we moved into the restaurant with an eye-catching, stunning glass dining room. Conran & Partners architects designed it, and curved glass walls give a sense of an outside-in effect.
Diners have a lovely view of the courtyard while natural light flows in and bounces off slate grey floors, elegant pale wood cladding, the soft pinks of the upholstery and the muted green of the walls.
Any other day we might have stayed inside. However, this evening was warm with a pleasant breeze, and when we saw the deservedly listed courtyard, looking so pretty with its blue and white tiled floor, surrounding foliage, hemmed by red brick buildings of the Taj, and its stunning centrepiece fountain, we knew we had to go al fresco.
No problem; staff were mobilised; we got our table and enjoyed a heady summer evening wining and dining to a soundscape of hypnotic running water and subdued cheerful chatter of other diners.
Food & Drink
The bar inventory is a sort of who’s who of drinks, well stocked with premium brands. [email protected] is proud of its signature cocktails designed to depict the seven ‘microbiomes’ in nature worldwide.
I chose Bombindi, a spiced salty mango, ginger and tangerine, whiskey cream served in a glass that looks crushed as an abandoned beer tin may look after being thrown away. It’s a nod to Versova community beach clear-up in India.
My fellow diner, a fan of Dirty Martini, went for the Bummock, named after the bottom of an iceberg. It is super chilled Tanqueray 10, stuffed olive, and a frozen layer of savoury umami. It was created to honour the Antarctic and its extreme biome.
The food menu is partly designed for sharing, and we opted for all three signature small plates to start. These were the Desi Scotch Eggs made with spiced lamb mince the central egg and served with spiced mayo and mango chutney and the Sabich Taco, warm pita bread aubergine, potato, pepper hummus, egg and pickled cabbage.
Both were great; however, the show’s star was the burrata and kale chaat – fried kale, Italian burrata, mint and tamarind chutney, onion and tomato salsa. It was a sensational combo of crunch, smooth, sweet, savoury, and plenty of tanginess. So I’ll have to go back for more soon.
We had no idea how filling these sharing plates would be, and the Scattered Stroganoff and Bao Bhaji were on their way. The stroganoff was a hearty, tasty mix of prime Angus, onions, tomato chive creme fraiche and mushroom pate. The Bao was a mildly spicey veggie dish of smashed vegetables and potatoes.
I’ll never know how we ate this much and still found room for dessert.
It must have been the pull of the flavours and the clever showmanship. The apple mousse came shaped as a green apple covered in green chocolate, and masala tea crème brûlée had a distinct masala taste beneath that crispy toffy coating.
Yet I still got dessert envy when I saw the trio of mini magnum-style parfait on the next table. It was rose and strawberry, orange and cardamom, white chocolate, and yuzu and they seemed to be in taste heaven.
There is a great wine list, and we shared a delicious Petit Viognier. We finally left the restaurant a little worse for wear, agreeing that this was a place to return to with friends.
VERDICT:[email protected] is a keeper – one of those restaurants that should have a place on your list of go-to restaurants where inventing dining, excellent service and a relaxing ambience are assured.
Address: 51 Buckingham Gate, London SW1E 6AF
The [email protected] is open all day:
- Breakfast: 07:00 – 10:30 (until 11:00 Saturday and Sunday)
- Lunch: 12:30 – 17:00
- Dinner: 17:00 – 23:00
- Bar: 12:30 – 00:00 (until 01:00 Thursday to Sunday)