It has been three years since we last visited Caxton Grill at the St Ermin’s Hotel and a lot has changed since then. Firstly, the 72-cover restaurant has a fresh new interior and there is also a new head chef who has introduced a sustainable seasonal menu based on fresh fish and the organic herbs, vegetables, salads and fruit that grows on the hotel’s roof garden.
I met with head chef Alexander Boyd at the launch of the hotel’s new Summer Terrace a couple of months ago, where the hotel announced their partnership with Château La Gordonne, offering a selection of refreshing rosés and delicious Provençal dishes. It was here that he told me about the roof garden and what is grown up there, along with the beehives that supply some of the hotel’s honey. Alexander and his team work closely with local suppliers, where they source their 35-day dry aged British beef and sustainably caught fresh, both of which are cooked fast in the extremely high temperature of the Josper oven, which helps retain the meat’s moisture and goodness and adds that great smoky taste you tend to get from a barbeque.
For those of you interested in a little bit of history, the St Ermin’s Hotel and the building next to it was used by officers of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS or MI6 as it perhaps better known today) during the 1930s. Throughout the Second World War, the building was used as an annex by SIS and the Caxton Bar was popular amongst SIS, MI5 and Naval Intelligence Division case officers, where they would sometimes meet their agents.
The hotel’s working roof garden opened back in 2011 as part of a £30 million renovation and today houses 350,000 Buckfest honeybees in two hives on the roof and three on the third-floor terrace. The roof garden and greenhouse provide the hotel and restaurant with fresh tomatoes, pumpkins, spring onions, French beans, potatoes and olives as well as apples, blackberries, raspberries, plums and clementines.
We arrived half an hour early so that we could enjoy a glass of rosé up on the Summer Terrace, which was busy and buzzing with guests. Had the weather not been so good, we would have met for a drink in the Caxton Bar, which is adjacent to the restaurant and looked extremely inviting.
From the moment we stepped inside the Caxton Grill we immediately felt at ease. The restaurant has a warm, cosy and rustic feel to it, with wooden flooring and bare wooden topped tables, very much in keeping with the fact that it is a modern British grill restaurant.
Seated at our table by the window overlooking the hotel’s courtyard garden, our friendly waiter presented us with the menu, which is designed around the freshest of ingredients, offering diners a fuss-free balance of dishes from the land, sea and hotel’s roof garden.
We choose the Fillet Beef Carpaccio to start, with artichoke, garlic and anchovy dressing, pickled onion and garden leaves, and the most delicious Buffalo Mozzarella with tomatoes from the rooftop garden and a rather tasty black olive crumble sprinkled over the mozzarella. We also order a plate of Pan-Fried Hand Dived Scallops, as I just love scallops, and these did not disappoint.
If you’re into healthy salads, then the Caxton Grill will make you a classic Caesar Salad or their St Ermin’s Garden Salad with lettuces grown in their very own greenhouse on the roof.
Whilst there are some great sounding fresh seafood dishes on the menu and we were tempted by the Mixed Fish Grill, which is designed for two to share, we just had this hankering for a good juicy steak and wanted put the restaurant’s Josper grill to the test. So it was a beautifully tender 8oz British Aberdeen Angus 35-day-dry-aged Fillet for me and the 10oz British Aberdeen Angus 35-day-dry-aged Rib-Eye for my dinner guest. We also order a side of freshly steamed spinach and a small portion of Macaroni Cheese made with four cheeses.
The wine list, or ‘Vineyard’ as they call it, is comprehensive and good, without being overbearing, offering wine by the glass and bottle at a fairly reasonable price bearing in mind we’re in a good quality London restaurant, with prices starting from £28 per bottle.
I spotted white wines from France, Austria, Spain, Italy, South Africa and New Zealand and reds from France, Italy, Chile, Portugal, Spain, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. But as we were both having steak, the choice was easy – a 2016 Paper Road Pinot Noir from Wairarapa in New Zealand, which is available by the glass (£9.50), carafe or bottle (£40) and paired perfectly with both our starters and steaks.
If however, you are in the mood to impress, then the Caxton Grill Cellar Collection offers a rather more pricier selection of fine wines and Champagnes. But as someone who likes to pair their wines with each course when given the chance, I was delighted to see that they offer a ‘D-Vine Collection’ whereby the sommelier will aerate and bring you your wine by the glass and serve it at the perfect temperature. A really nice touch!
Having not had lunch that day, I was reluctant to turn away the dessert menu, which has a nice mix to suit most tastes as well as a cheeseboard designed to be shared. We however, choose the naughty but nice Chocolate Cremeux, which comes with an espresso sponge and vanilla ice cream and the Lemon Parfait with saffron ice cream, orange and rose, which was the perfect refreshing palate cleanser to round off what was a superb meal, coupled with excellent and attentive service.
Caxton Grill, St Ermin’s Hotel, 2 Caxton Street, Westminster, London, SW1H 0QW, England.
Tel: +44 (0)207 227 7777
You will find Caxton Grill next St. James’s Park Tube Station on the District and Circle lines. It is located inside the St. Ermin’s Hotel with separate entrances on Broadway and the entrance to the hotel. The restaurant is open for lunch Monday to Friday from midday to 2:30pm and for dinner Monday to Sunday from 6:00pm to 10:30pm.
Type of Restaurant: Modern British Fine Dining Restaurant
Price Band: Medium to High
Insider Tip: If the weather is nice, arrive early and have a glass of wine up on the terrace, and try to get a table by the window overlooking the garden and courtyard at the front.
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
Simon Burrell is Editor-in-Chief of Our Man On The Ground, a member of The British Guild of Travel Writers and professional photographer.
Photographs courtesy of the St Ermin’s Hotel and by Simon Burrell