Words: Snita Pandoria
I don’t normally venture into the City of London for social occasions, but when I do, I’m always impressed with the variety and quality on offer. This was one such occasion as I headed into Moorgate to dine at South Place Hotel.
Located within a few meters of Moorgate Station, South Place Hotel is a five-star, luxury hotel boasting 80 luxurious bedrooms, and best of all, three beautiful terraces for al fresco dining. Open from Wednesday through to Saturday, the terraces all offer a choice of cuisine, perfectly mixed cocktails and drinks, and picturesque surroundings to suit all tastes and needs.
This terrace line-up includes the Rooftop Terrace, which is tucked away from the busy streets of London and offers a menu of light, fresh British dishes. The South Place Chop House Terrace, which is located at street level in front of the hotel, serves up a menu of classic seasonal British dishes, typical of the restaurant’s renowned style.
The third and final terrace is the aptly named Secret Garden, where I visited for a weekend lunch. On arrival we were greeted by the friendly staff members and whisked away to the lift and to the first floor where the Secret Garden lies. Despite its stark black walls, the lush foliage dotted around creates a calming and relaxing space which is cordoned off from the main street and the rest of the hotel. I was pleased to see that it wasn’t packed full of tables either, with plenty of space between them along with see-through barriers for additional protection too.
This added to the feeling of being tucked away in a secret corner of the city, away from the rest of the busy world. My favourite feature was the retractable roof, which is ideal for unreliable English Summer’s and can be instantly moved into place to protect from a passing shower or to keep out the cold.
The focal point of the Secret Garden is the large bar area which greets patrons as they enter.There were also thick comfy blankets on every chair and heaters scattered around to keep the temperature at a comfortable level. The focal point of the Secret Garden is the large bar area which greets patrons as they enter. This is where their stunning collection of cocktails are created by expert bartenders.
The menu at the Secret Garden is the same as that of the South Place Chop House Terrace and includes bites, starters, mains and desserts its one of a great places to eat in London. We started our meal with a glass of bubbly each, to celebrate our first time dining out this year. We then proceeded to order our starters of chorizo mac ’n’ cheese croquettes with firecracker sauce, and crispy squid with dill and gherkin sauce. The croquettes arrived as three large rectangles of crispy coated mac’n’cheese and were oozing with flavour, especially when eaten with the flavourful firecracker sauce. The squid was crispy as promised and moreish with a squeeze of lemon juice and a dip in the fragrant dill sauce.
Our starters certainly whetted our appetite and our main course didn’t disappoint. We both opted for burgers and I continued with the seafood theme with crispy tiger prawns on a charcoal bun, served with a side of triple cooked chips, tartare sauce, and salad. Although the description might remind you of fish and chips, the flavours in the burger were much more refined. The giant tiger prawns were crunchy on the outside thanks to the light tempura batter but soft and gently sweet on the inside. The charcoal bun complimented the prawns well as it didn’t mask the flavour of the prawns and was light and airy.
We also tried the crispy chicken burger, served with triple chips, jalapeno sauce and a side salad. The burger was exactly as expected, crunchy and enjoyable, though the chicken didn’t pack as much of a punch as the crispy tiger prawns, which I thought was far superior. The menu also offers a variety of steaks, though we felt they would be too heavy for a lunch time meal. Other options include aubergine schnitzel, pan fried hampshire trout fillet, and pie of the day.
The dessert menu looked tempting, even though there were only four options. However, we were content to choose the British Strawberry Eton Mess and the Valrhona milk chocolate ganache. Both desserts were larger than expected and we did struggle to finish them. The Eton Mess was served as a large bowl of giant juicy strawberries, lashings of rich fresh cream, sharp strawberry syrup, and a sprinkling of meringue shards throughout for an added bite. The ganache was as rich, and decadent as expected and as a result wasn’t easy to finish though we gave it a good shot!
I thoroughly enjoyed my meal in the Secret Garden especially as the space was particularly good for easing back into dining out. It is secluded and calm whilst still maintaining a buzz, which is a nice alternative to the crowded and packed tables lined up in Soho and other popular restaurants in London alfresco destinations. I would recommend dining here for those who want a hideaway offering decent food and a tempting array of cocktails.
We dined from the à la carte menu, which offered starters costing approximately £15, main courses from between £17-£35 and all desserts for £7 each. These prices are reflective of the quality of food on offer and well worth the experience.