This was our first visit to this most charming of central London hotels. Its location is hard to beat, being on Piccadilly and between Green Park and Hyde Park Corner Underground stations. It graces a plot opposite the aforementioned Green Park and extends that theme of verdant lushness to its very walls. Yes, The Athenaeum sports a living façade of vegetation which is quite remarkable.
The building has had a long and fascinating history which I shall explore further in my following feature in a few weeks. It successfully juggles the comforts and daring panache of a high-end contemporary hotel whilst artfully retaining classic features. The Athenaeum has ‘cosy’ writ large. It has contrived intimate spaces at every turn, not the least of which is the celebrated whisky bar. It’s rumoured to accommodate the largest collection of the eponymous beverage outside bonny Scotland.
Executive Chef David Marshall is passionate about fresh produce and one can add cheese to that list. He has created cheese with the finest of artisan cheese-makers. It’s not just the finished article that holds fascination for this chef but also the alchemy of transforming milk into a variety of memorable savoury temptations – each one with its own distinct characteristics of taste and texture and visual appeal.
We sampled a selection of remarkable cheeses and a couple of noteworthy whiskies. My advice would be to choose your whisky first and then ask the sommelier to construct a cheeseboard to complement your spirit. Take a small chunk of cheese and nibble before you sip. Add a dash of water to your glass to release the full complexity of the celebrated Water of Life. Turn your tasting into a masterclass.
Whisky and cheese together add up to an unsurpassable combination. The range of flavours spanned by first class cheese and whisky is so vast that matching them can be quite a tricky business. Whisky Sommelier Angelo, Executive Chef David and Cheese Expert Alex James feel confident that they have found the ultimate combinations of outstanding whisky and fine cheese. Sometimes it’s the most unlikely combinations that produce the most spectacular results.
Blue Monday & Balvenie Doublewood 12yr old
Blue Monday from Tain, near Inverness, is creamy and makes the perfect foil for the gently spicy Speyside Malt Balvenie Doublewood. Connecting the two together gives them an electrifying lift, pulling out hidden harmonics from within their depths. Notes and flavours include: Spicy orange, toffee, honey and liquorice.
Westcombe Cheddar & Chivas Regal 12yr old
On 15 January 2009, our Executive Chef David Marshall and a few of his kitchen team visited the Lower Westcombe Farm in Shepton Mallet in Somerset. Cheese has been made on this Farm since the 1890’s and they have won the Gold World Cheese Award in 2010. This cheese has been maturing on our premises for nearly 18 months and is now ready to eat. The Blended Scotch Chivas 12yr old is amber in colour and with its harmonious aroma of herbs is the perfect match for our Westcombe Cheddar.
Suffolk Gold & Gentleman Jack
A semi-hard farmhouse cheese with a delicious flavour and a rich, golden colour. The cheese making is a family business, the milk comes from a herd of pedigree Guernsey cows and the cheese is produced using traditional methods. Gentleman Jack is the first new Whiskey from the Jack Daniel Distillery for 100 years and is blended based on a private recipe from Mr. Jack. Its smooth and satisfying taste brings out hidden flavours in the cheese and the two matched together make for a stunning finish.
Parmigiano Reggiano & Aberfeldy 12yr old
Gourmets consider Parmigiano Reggiano a splendid “table cheese” for eating, not merely for grating. Parmigiano Reggiano is made from raw cow’s milk. Traditionally, cows have to be fed only on grass or hay, producing grass-fed milk. The outcome is a rich, fruity flavour with a flaky, grainy texture. Aberfeldy 12yr old has a distinct fruity nose with notes of pineapple and cereal and boasts a syrupy palate. With a slightly spicy finish, this Whisky complements the rich flavour of the cheese and balances the best of both worlds.
Golden Cross Goats Cheese & Dewar’s 12yr old
Golden Cross Cheese Company is a family owned business that has been producing award winning goat’s cheeses on the farm since 1989. The herd of 300 goats grazes outside during the summer and is fed hay all year round. The cheese is made daily on the farm. Each log is lightly charcoaled and becomes denser, creamier and fuller flavoured as it matures. This cheese is matched with Dewar’s 12yr old, a blended Whisky with a hint of Scottish heather and a fruity nose. The hint of oak complements the flavour of the cheese and the sweetness of the Whisky blends perfectly with the creamy taste of the cheese.
Tornegus & Glenfiddich 12yr old
This Cheese is made in Somerset and matured in Surrey by washing the rind with Kentish wine and sprinkling the cheese with lemon verbena and peppermint. It has a pungent aroma and a smooth texture. The 12yr old Speyside Single Malt Glenfiddich features elegantly rounded flavours and its notes of fresh pears and subtle oak harmonize perfectly with the silky and sweetish finish of the cheese.
1 pairing £15
4 pairings £50
116 Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 7BJ
Visit The Athenaeum here
Bar review by Chrissie Walker © 2018