One Aldwych is one of the best addresses. It stands on a corner plot in the middle of London in Covent Garden. This is an area which once boasted London’s biggest vegetable market but which is now celebrated as an iconic space filled with restaurants, boutiques and a market which these days sells crafts and objets d’art…
The hotel is in a convenient location between the City and the West End where The Aldwych meets the Strand, and opposite Waterloo Bridge. It’s just a short distance from 15 celebrated theatres as well as the Royal Opera House.
One Aldwych is an important Edwardian building. It is now protected by English Heritage who considers its facade worth preserving. It’s an architectural extravaganza of Continental-inspired splendour, designed by Charles Mewes and Arthur Davis, the Anglo-French duo behind the Ritz hotels in London and Paris.
Yes indeed a fabulous place to stay when in town for business or touristing, but One Aldwych is a port of call for Londoners as well as out-of-towners who want to enjoy a bit of evening pampering and a film. The film isn’t compulsory but the Axis restaurant offers an amazing package of Moët champagne and a movie. A full evening of entertainment.
The entrance to Axis is calm and Zen, a vision of marble and a welcome haven from the frantic Saturday evening crowd flowing down from Covent Garden. The anonymous foyer at ground level gives not a hint of the contemporary style of the restaurant. It’s stunning. The space is flexible allowing for groups, couples and large parties. The urban mural of skyscrapers now peeks through metal bamboo which reaches from floor to ceiling. A rather radical addition to the original decor but it works and adds texture to the imposing wall. The thoughtful architecture offers a gallery dining room which, although a balcony, offers privacy to the diners on that level.
The movie menu has a selection of four starters, mains and desserts. The film starts at 9pm so the time constraints make this short menu a practical option. It weighs in at an attractive £38.50 per person and that includes a glass of fizz and a film with popcorn.
Movie-going in London can be expensive, with tickets reaching £12.50. Add another £2.50 for the popcorn and then hope you get a good seat. The one without the kid kicking your back all evening. Axis offers a menu of delicious dishes as well as the champagne for a very reasonable price. The cinema seats 30 or so guests who are able to sip mini bottles of champagne, or perhaps a cocktail might be in order. 93% of regular movie-goers are said to be dissatisfied with the food on offer at their chosen high-street venue. No such problem at Axis.
Rillette of Salmon, blood orange, fennel and chicory salad and a sour dough crouton was my chosen starter. Served with a basket of fresh bread and butter, it made for a comforting start to the proceedings. I munched the light and fresh salad and enjoyed the ambiance of this amazing restaurant. A space which contrives to remain intimate even when full.
The menu offered roasted haddock, salmon fishcakes and braised pork belly, but my main course was Tarte Fines of Wild Mushroom. This was a simple plateful but one of the best European dishes I have eaten in a restaurant for ages. The pastry galette was spread with a duxelle (ok, so it was a paste but I am trying to educate my dear reader) of mushrooms and was topped with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. That’s a match made in heaven as long as the egg is poached to golden, molten perfection. This one was and it was creamy with the added richness of its buttery coating.
Desserts are too often disappointing. I am not keen on swags and swathes of cream, and a surfeit of chocolate is to be avoided when one is confronted by the prospect of a ride the length of the District Line soon after. Axis offers a selection which hit all the buttons for me and my only disappointment was that I couldn’t try all of them. My guest ordered Baked Jam Roly Poly with plum compote and crème anglaise (custard). This is an old-fashioned favourite and it’s good to see it return to even classy restaurant menus. This version was proclaimed to be particularly good.
I chose Poached Rhubarb, as eating fruit always makes me feel noble…ummmm, is it a fruit, though? The pink and glossy bars of rhubarb were garnished with a little condensed milk flan and a crunchy coconut tuille. A refreshing end to a wonderfully well-executed and presented meal which had been amply lubricated by the efforts of Messrs Moët.
The screening room is just through the aforementioned stand of bamboo. The screen is large, the seats comfy in blue leather, and each one equipped with a tray for balancing your beverage and a pot of popcorn. A good lot of legroom allowed me the best movie viewing experience ever. I enjoyed ‘Coco Before Chanel’ immensely but I’ll be keeping an eye on future programmes for other viewing evenings.
I’ll visit Axis often. The ‘meal and a movie’ package is great value and the associated menu is well chosen and memorable. I am sure to return for other films but I have had a glimpse of the regular bill of fare which is also calling to me. Axis doesn’t put a foot wrong.
1 Aldwych, London WC2B 4RH
Tel:020 7300 1000
Fax:020 7300 1001
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018