Kimpton Fitzroy’s retro-themed restaurant boasts both style and substance, writes Rasika Sittamparam
Look closely around the terracotta building facing the east side of Russell Square and you’ll find the entrance to the Kimpton Fitzroy, the five-star hotel which has replaced the historic Hotel Russell. Move a few yards eastwards and you’ll find the letters in the word ‘Neptune’ shaped into an upturned clamshell. Head indoors and be escorted into a clubland-style space with emerald banquettes, rattan chairs, peach-coloured pillars framed with palm fronds and an inviting oyster bar.
This is Neptune, the modern-day avatar of the chamber which inspired architect Charles Fitzroy Doll to design the dining hall of the Titanic. The now-revamped room is the culinary playground created by Texan stylist Margaret Crow and Aussie chef Brett Redman of Jidori and Elliot’s fame. It’s rumoured that the duo closed down their successful Hackney gastropub The Richmond and channelled funds into this Bloomsbury project instead. There has been enthusiastic support from the Principal Hotel Company who splashed £85 million into the former hotel’s makeover.
I order an aperitif with a crispness curiously reminiscent of the sea, before pointing to ‘seafood platter’ on the menu animated with psychedelic characters. The waiter nods approvingly and leaves, returning with a towering platter of sea creatures. My dining partner laughs at my slightly startled expression as I contemplate the most appropriate way to dismember the creatures using the variety of tools at my disposal. ‘This is how you do it,’ he says, cracking open the crab claws. I demur, gesturing him to prepare the rest of the platter for me. I savour each oyster, cockle and claw, enjoying the salty freshness of the scallop crudo and the sweetness of the langoustines.
I seem to want more of the scallop so I order the starter with it too. It was an easy dish to dive into - the scallop almost involuntarily bounced off the fork into my mouth. The accompanying white currants follow suit, providing a burst of citric tang.
Saltiness and sweetness ruled the first half hour of our Neptunian meal, so it was naturally the time for some savoury elements to appear. The creamy pink terrine with bits of pistachio is made with mangalitza pork, the meat of a breed of Hungarian pig with sheep-like wool, I discover on Google. The sheep-pig tastes as sweet and as soft as it looks, nicely complemented by shards of sweet-sour kohlrabi.
With the starter done, it’s now time for the star of the night, which arrives dripping in a devilishly shiny glaze. I thoroughly enjoy my whole lobster with sea herbs and a glorious ginger and white pepper butter, with a swig of another glass of wine which reminds me of the sea. I feel both energised by the food and languid from the alcohol, the universal sign of a successful dinner.
I am full, but refuse to leave without a final scoop of dessert. The waiter dutifully magics up the strawberry and crème fraiche dessert I desired, which was arranged to look like scales on a frightfully red fish. I get the taste of a mouthful of cheesecake, while my partner (who is French) is somewhat satisfied by the flakiness of his gooseberry mille-feuille.
Our evening ends, and I drunkenly wonder if the mythical sea-god would approve of this neighbourhood restaurant’s appropriation of his name. Perhaps he should swim up to Bloomsbury to check if it truly fits – I think he might be even be pleased.
Rasika Sittamparam is senior researcher and writer at Spear's