One Aldwych has one of the best locations in London. It stands on a corner plot in the middle of the capital in Covent Garden, that neighbourhood being famed as the backdrop for My Fair Lady. It’s a stone’s throw from the River Thames and all the iconic sights of old London.
The hotel is nestled between the City and the West End where The Aldwych meets the Strand, and opposite Waterloo Bridge. It’s just a short distance from more than a dozen celebrated theatres as well as the world-famous Royal Opera House. It is considered a noteworthy Edwardian building and is now protected by English Heritage. 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.
This stylish hotel is the lodging of choice for many a visitor from beyond these shores. It’s prized for being just around the corner from so many places of interest but it also caters for those who are not staying but just passing through. Guests who drop in for a meal and even for some entertainment in the small but well-appointed cinema next to Axis, One Aldwych’s other restaurant.
It was a bright Sunday afternoon and we were in the mood for brunch. Indigo at One Aldwych offers a striking restaurant, a calming ambiance and a thoughtful menu. It’s a small enough restaurant to feel intimate, and casual enough for you to feel comfortable meandering through the Sunday colour supplements.
Our fellow brunchers comprised a few who were evidently hotel guests lingering over the papers and breakfast, but also some regulars from across the Pond. The staff were bombarded with requests for dishes which were almost but not quite on the menu. A ham omelette sans ham – the guest would like that on the side. Some goat cheese – that wasn’t even on the menu but there was a promise that the restaurant would find some. These requests were fielded with courtesy, charm and a willingness to please. I was warming to Indigo and we hadn’t even ordered yet.
Indigo offers soup, salads, on-toast items, mains, desserts, and any two courses of the above with unlimited Prosecco for only £24. That sounded like outstanding value but the food has to be good. The Soup of the Day was watercress and it was the most vibrant and light of its kind that my guest and I had ever seen. It was delicately garnished with oil and crème fraiche and served with a selection of breads.
Some folks expect a roast on Sundays and Indigo offers that in an interesting fashion. A roast beef salad with watercress, Yorkshire pudding and horseradish sauce. It’s a light alternative to the traditional Sunday lunch, but my fancy on this occasion was Wild Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions on Toast. This simple dish was a small culinary triumph of both texture and taste. The fungi were cooked to perfection and still held their original contours. The large field mushrooms added substance and the onions were sweetly moreish. A very good start.
Other items on the Toast menu included Welsh Rarebit and Scotch Woodcock. A word or two by way of explanation: Welsh Rarebit is not a bunny from Wales but is a dish of seasoned melted cheese on toast, sometimes containing a dash of ale and/or Worcester Sauce. Scotch Woodcock isn’t a highland game-bird but a savoury dish consisting of scrambled eggs served on toast that has been spread with something tangy like anchovy paste or Gentleman’s Relish. Yes, a British menu can confound the visitor.
Kedgeree has been a breakfast favourite since Queen Victoria and the days of the old Raj. An Anglo-Indian preparation of seasoned rice, hard-boiled eggs and smoked haddock. It’s often dry and uninteresting but the version at Indigo has been tweaked into a moist and flavourful dish which, although still holding to its roots, was somewhat elevated. The rice had a rich yellow hue from spices and had the consistency of an Italian risotto. The eggs were quails’ and the grilled haddock was perched on top rather than finding itself broken into petals and mixed with the rice. A more refined presentation, and a delicious take on a classic British favourite.
Other dishes at Indigo also warrant mentions. The Crab and Chilli Risotto is a flavourful preparation and well worth trying. A creamy texture with a subtle suspicion of chilli. Plenty of seafood and an attractive coral colour. If you are a lover of more substantial fare then consider the Fish Pie which was well received by guests on the adjoining table and was a substantial serving.
Desserts tend to be a treat. Very few of us have the time to prepare a sweet during the week. Sunday brunch at Indigo offers the ideal opportunity to have a leisurely meal with a decadent finale. The brownies here were popular; the Banana Split came highly recommended and it was indeed the sort of pud that would make any diner feel like a kid again. Soft bananas with a crunchy sugar crust, chocolate and vanilla ice cream and fruit. Two spoons and a couple of cups of espresso and we were replete, complete and ready for the week.
Indigo at One Aldwych is an overlooked treasure. Grab a table on the balcony above the Lobby Bar. Enjoy the views from the magnificent dark wood-framed windows. Take a couple of hours to unwind and remember why Sundays were invented. Indigo does it well. Amazing value for money.
1 Aldwych, London WC2B 4RH
Tel: 020 7300 0400
Fax: 020 7300 0401
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018