The Café Royal Hotel has a special place in my heart as it’s where Mr LmP and I were married all the way back in 1991 when it was simply the Café Royal – a place to enjoy dinner and drinks or to have parties or meetings in the many function rooms, it’s steeped in history and is an iconic London landmark. It’s where we decided to stay for our 25th Wedding Anniversary in 2016, it was only fitting, we were both so impressed with the transformation and relieved to see many of the original historic features still remain as they’re listed. One such place is the old Grill Room restaurant, now the Oscar Wide Bar where you can enjoy Afternoon Tea, you can read my post on Afternoon Tea by clicking here and our very special Anniversary stay here.
Café Papillon started out as a place to have coffee after the Café Royal became a hotel and then in 2016 opened as London’s first dessert lounge with ingenious menus based around dessert, cake and small savoury plates, it’s here that I brought my daughter to celebrate her 14th birthday. Renowned Café Royal pastry chef Sarah Barber remains at the helm creating cakes and desserts for the newly created Café Papillon as she did for the Dessert Lounge and the whole of the hotel.
I was looking forward to having lunch at Café Papillon with its European café-culture ambience, it’s a bright, breezy space with pale yellow, corn silk ivory creams and brown colours and orange and yellow plush leather chairs with a gleaming golden marble coffee bar with several stools. It’s an elegant and serene place to enjoy lunch which has faux flowers, grass and greenery displayed along the perimeter of the café overlooking Regent Street giving the feel of being in an English country garden. I chose a table overlooking Regent Street with it’s usual buzz of people and traffic which you could only see but not hear.
My waitress offered me much needed water – shopping is thirsty work! Taking a look at the light lunch menu, it was hard to make a choice, I was contemplating coming here for breakfast which is served until 11:00am because of the tantalising sounding menu but I opted for lunch instead which was equally appealing. With staples such as classic quiches served with light salad, hot and cold sandwiches, an array of salads to choose from, they also serve savoury pancakes called galettes as well as soups such as Lobster Bisque, my favourite and mushroom velouté, it was going to be hard making a choice. Fearing the soup would not be enough to satisfy my hunger, my waitress informed me that it comes with several slices of artisan bread freshly baked at the hotel. I was intrigued by the sound of the savoury galette so that’s what I opted for.
The galettes are made from buckwheat flour which lends a nutty taste perfect for savoury crepes and are filled with aubergine, tomato and red onion, baked Keens Cheddar cheese and mushrooms, chicken a la Reine, baked honey roast ham, Cheddar cheese and egg and finally, smoked salmon with avocado and cream cheese priced from £12 to £16. I chose Chicken a la Reine which is a galette with a filling of chicken and mushrooms in creamy béchamel sauce topped with delicate asparagus and chargrilled slices of chicken topped with cheese and then baked, this is just the type of indulgent lunch that I love. I also chose a glass of nicely chilled Falhangina Villa Raino at £9.50 which was the perfect match for my lunch.
There is a good range of wines and sparkling wines to choose from as well as cocktails. My galette arrived, not at all as I imagined, I thought the filling would be encased in the pancake but was beautifully presented on an open golden-brown buckwheat crepe. The béchamel was rich, golden and creamy with a meaty savouryness coming from the mushrooms and crunch from the asparagus. If I had to fault anything, it would be that the galette and filling was just not warm enough and the chicken in the filling was slightly rubbery instead of juicy, obviously because it was overcooked but overall, I really enjoyed it.
When I arrived at Café Papillon at 12:30pm, it was quite empty but by the time I had finished my first course, it was nicely full mainly with diners coming specifically for lunch rather than guests of the hotel who I’m sure were all out sightseeing.
Obviously, Café Papillon pride themselves on dessert and cake, as I’ve mentioned before, this was the Dessert Restaurant before and talented pastry chef Sarah Barber creates the most delicious and impressive show stopping cakes and desserts. With a choice of Citrus Garden, Black Forest Profiteroles and Chestnut & Coffee Pavlova, it was a tough choice because I adore all manner of dessert and cake. I decided that as it was officially spring, Citrus Garden would be the best choice although the Pavlova was calling my name. Citrus Garden is a beautiful creation of mini mandarins, kalamansi jelly, orange Cointreau foam and almond ice cream, all desserts are £9 each.
There is a vast range of cakes to choose from under the title of Petit Gateaux such as salted caramel, dark chocolate or lemon choux, the gorgeous French creation, Paris Brest which I’ve yet to sample but I will on my forthcoming Paris trip, mango and passion fruit éclair, quintessential British cakes like cherry bakewell, lemon drizzle slice, Victoria sponge slice and rather unusual dessert “jars” such as black forest, chocolate orange, sticky toffee pudding and apple & blackberry crumble. Café Papillon also serve a basic Afternoon Tea if you don’t fancy having the full works at the Oscar Wilde bar, it’s basically a taste of Afternoon Tea with a few sandwiches, scone & jam/cream and a choice of two cakes priced at a very reasonable £32.
My dessert arrived with a rich creamy coffee Americano, it was visually stunning, I didn’t expect anything less from Sarah Barber! Spheres of white chocolate resembling and tasting like mandarins filled with a mandarin mousse, biscuit soil, white chocolate leaf, small pools of zingy kalamansi jelly and sublime almond ice cream came together to create a dream of a dessert, I wanted MORE, it was perfect and the star of the day.
I absolutely loved my lunch at Café Papillon, it’s somewhere I would come to again for a late breakfast/brunch, a glass of something fizzy to go with or simply drop by for hot chocolate or coffee with a slice of those delicious cakes or dessert creations. Café Papillon is welcoming to everyone, it isn’t stuffy, and you certainly do not feel intimidated to pop in for a treat as you sometimes do in some plush hotels. I believe the Café having its own entrance has something to do with this. I wanted to visit the ladies which you can only do by entering the hotel by the main entrance. I noticed a slight change in the lobby with reception now located here but I was informed that the hotel is refurbishing its lobby, reception and Ten Room restaurant which is now temporarily located in one of the small functions rooms upstairs. I was quite surprised because the Café Royal was only made into a hotel in 2010 and in terms of refurbishment, it’s quite early but I was really impressed by this so a visit after refurbishment is a definite must.
If you’re looking for a place to have a luxurious lunch or breakfast or just a simple indulgent hot chocolate coffee or cake, make Café Papillon your destination, conveniently located less than five minutes from Piccadilly Station.
My lunch cost £49.50 including service.
Hotel Café Royal
68 Regent Street
020 7406 3333