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Celebrating European café culture at Papillon, Hotel Café Royal

August 23, 2017

LifestyleRestaurants & Bars | by Baldwin Ho


If you want to find refuge amidst the maelstrom of shopping mayhem on Regent Street, then head to the refined elegance of Hotel Café Royal and in particular their all-day café, Papillon. It is the only dining establishment that faces bustling Regent Street – ideal for assuaging those weary legs whilst people watching and admiring the magnificent Grade II listed buildings in the area.

Whilst I am not a fan of the golden Siena marble that surrounds the café, you have to appreciate the history and culture this venerable establishment exudes. This desirable marble from Tuscany is a nod to the historic heritage of the hotel that dates back to 1865.

On arrival, your attention might be immediately drawn to their impressive display of London’s finest patisserie prepared by their executive pastry chef, Sarah Barber. Their petit gâteau might be simple but with sassy combinations like kumquat and pistachio and maple and bourbon whisky.

This isn’t a traditional three-courses dining venue, although they do offer a plat du jour menu for the traditionalist. This is a more off-the-cuff casual dining experience with finely prepared sandwiches, salads and sharing platters. We tried a London smokehouse fish platter with seafood of the highest order: salmon, mackerel and anchovies all had a healthy oily texture, which meant there was no need for butter to accompany the brown bread. The horseradish cream with sea herbs did give the seafood dish an appetising kick.

The broccoli and Roquefort cheese quiche had a delightfully thin crust; it was layered at the bottom with some leek to add sweetness and herbaceousness to the dish. It came with a green salad that contained spinach leaves, peppers and other doctor-friendly ingredients.

Desserts are often the poor forgotten cousins in a restaurant, but Papillon is one place where you should not neglect these sweet treats. Apart from all the petit gâteau you can take away, they also offer dessert jars such as apple and blackberry crumble and sticky toffee pudding for those who want hotel-quality desserts in the comfort of their homes.

We tried a very substantial portion of Crêpe Suzette, which was made freshly to order using buckwheat flour. The beurre Suzette sauce had perfect quantities of caramelized sugar and butter, tangerine and orange zest, although it could have done with a stronger dose of Grand Marnier.

If you are looking for a more delicate dessert, then opt for their vanilla chouquettes. These addictive mini-choux buns were filled with vanilla ice cream, accompanied with vibrant banana and passion fruit jelly and topped with chocolate sauce. Even if you’ve eaten dinner elsewhere, Papillon will prove to be a magnet for all dessert-loving Londoners.

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