- Location: London Hilton at Park Lane, 22 Park Lane, London, W1K 1BE (nearest tube stations are Green Park and Hyde Park Corner)
- Date of Visit: Friday 15th February
- Time of Table: 6.30pm
- Deal Bought From: Living Social
- Deal Price: £39 for Two
- Dinner Companion: Fiancé, Dan
Getting More for your Money?
This dinner deal includes:
- Two Starters
- Two Main Courses
- Two Desserts
- A bottle of wine to share or a cocktail each
- For Two People
What we ate…
- Starter: Maple Glazed Pork Ribs
- Main: Roasted Pork Belly in Oyster Sauce, with Bali Rice
- Dessert: Dessert Sample Plate
- Starter: Maple Glazed Pork Ribs
- Main: Roasted Pork Belly in Oyster Sauce, with Bali Rice
- Dessert: Dessert Sample Plate
What we drank…
- Scorpion Cocktail (rum, orange, almonds)
- Singapore Symphony – not included (rum, gin, lime, passion fruit, orange and pineapple)
- Rhusa Cosmo (lime, pineapple and light rum)
What did we think?
After a long and dull working week, arriving at the Trader’s Vic restaurant, situated within the London Hilton Hotel at Park Lane, was like greeting an exotic Amazonian adventure that promised a slice of escapism in its heady scents of French Polynesian cuisine, with a fat dollop of holiday spirit amidst the heavy tropical theme. With bundles of accolades and awards to its name, I was expecting the Hilton to really deliver on quality, and first impressions definitely contained the wow factor.
After coming in through the hotel’s main revolving doors, the entrance to the Trader’s Vic basement restaurant was completely separated from the marble opulence of the main reception area, just to the left. Golden, Inca-style lettered sat heavily above a square cut opening, framed in elaborate bronzed and wooden carvings, providing a window to another world that descended down a wide spiralling staircase, carpeted in a rich navy blue. The further we walked down the staircase, the more it felt as if we were leaving reality behind, and entering a realm of rainforests, complete with over reaching plants, and decadent deep reds, hinting at the depth of decorated undergrowth. The styling of the restaurant was definitely a demonstration of pure luxury, carefully reined in and yet splashed energetically with tiki-themed touches brushing every single corner of the eatery. The attention to detail in the exotic styling was so complete it had an amazing transportative effect – so much so that it even enabled you to overlook the restrictive voucher menu with barely a grumble of complaint. Bursting with totem pole icons, honey coloured lanterns and even a boathouse bar, we were both in complete awe at this amazing oasis, hidden as a foreign utopia under the regal dressings of London’s Park Lane.
After leaving our coats in the cloakroom, very polite staff led us to our table, despite the fact that we were about 25 minutes early for our reservation. Even they almost seemed liked actors, dressed in loud tropical floral print dresses to further the extension of the theme. The tables were incredibly well spaced, and overcrowded was not a concern at all. The mood lighting was ideal and added to the air of enclosed intimacy that the theme already openly encouraged. The deep red bucket chairs were really comfortable, and the table was also roomy, despite being just for two people.
When I first set eyes on this deal on Living Social, I was bowled over by the fabulous pricing and what was included – three whole courses plus a cocktail or wine to share. However, on reflection, I should have known that this was too good to be true as this was evident from our very restricted menu selection. We had three choices for both starter and main (one meat dish, one fish and one vegetable) and we didn’t even get to choose dessert – this was already stated as a sample selection which sounded a bit like pot luck to me, as it didn’t even tell us what we would be sampling. For drinks, we opted for the cocktail each instead of the wine, as Dan doesn’t really drink wine, although he has been known to knock back the pina coladas. With a venue famed for its Mai Tai’s, it would have criminal not to test out the cocktail menu, and with our voucher, we could select any one up to the price of £12.50 – a fact that the staff pointed out on numerous occasions. My first choice was the deadly Scorpion – a concoction of rum, orange and almonds that was deliciously sweet and strong at the same time, dressed with an abundance of crushed ice in a decorative bowl like glass.
Whilst perusing the menu, the tropical version of the traditional bread basket arrived containing thin and crispy poppadum style crackers, surrounding a round dish of chunky tomato salsa that was surprisingly zingy and fresh, with a hint of ginger for extra energy. A nice accompaniment to kick off the snacking and the food adventure that was no doubt to come.
Distracted by the oriental ambience, we chose from our limited menu happily, which looking back I am quite surprised about now! We both ended up choosing the same dishes – kicking things off with the maple glazed ribs. I don’t usual eat ribs at home and they aren’t my favourite joint, but out of the options, this choice seemed the most favourable by far – and boy was it impressive. Three thick and chunky rib joints, gleaming with the gorgeous glaze smothered on top, sat in the centre of a plain white plate. This then sat atop an elaborate golden heat stand, the flickering candle underneath keeping your meat warm. This contraption sat next to your cutlery on the table, actually in your place centre, staff gave us a lovely butterfly shaped dish, with one wing holding Chinese mustard and the other wing offering a sticky barbeque sauce. Granted, for such a classy establishment, we had no idea of the etiquette of rib-eating, but the fantastic flavours soon had us munching with gusto, gripping the bones with our fingers. The Chinese mustard was softer in flavour that classic English mustard, with a vaguely scented aftertaste. The barbeque sauce was wonderful, with great punchy flavours yet it didn’t overpower the meat at all. Sometimes ribs come up a bit on the thin side, but these bad boys were bursting with meat for us to get our teeth stuck into. On a whole, a really amazing starter, although interestingly enough, these ribs don’t actually feature on the full price menu.
As soon as our starters were whisked from our table, our mains were promptly plonked in their place, so a very quick turnaround. Neglecting the sea bass and the vegetable stir fry, we had opted for the pork belly for our main course, dressed in oyster sauce and served with a molehill of yellow Bali rice, threading with various vegetables. The presentation was clean and simplistic – one long slab of the meat, the neat mound of rice beside it, a sprig of some greenery balanced between the two. Even though the starters had been a good size, mains looked rather small and I was surprised that there wasn’t more of it. Cutting into the pork was a dream, with a crunchy top, squidgy underneath and the softly cooked pork beneath. The skin was a little tricky to cut at times but it was beautifully cooked and I have no complaints about the quality. The rice was also delicious and a really excellent side with the pork. The flavours weren’t as exuberant as I may have imagined (maybe the décor was doing all the talking?) considering the themed menu but it was well cooked and tasty, despite the small size.
Done with our choices for the evening, we were now in limbo as we awaited our mysterious dessert sample. When it arrived, it again came up incredibly small – I would have much preferred one, larger dessert given the choice. Served on a long and thin rectangular black dish, with three separate compartments, were three different sample-sized desserts. In the first section, was a small rectangular brownie about the size of my little finger. It was a beautiful rich brown in colour, studded with nuts, although I couldn’t say what nuts they were. Topped with a drizzle of berry compote, this succulently dreamy dessert was right up my street and I sincerely wished I could have had a much bigger slice. A larger portion would have gone down a treat with what was in compartment number two, a perfectly round singular scoop of vanilla bean flecked ice cream. Cool and creamily sweet, it was a match made in heaven with the deep chocolate flavours of the brownie. And last, but by no means least, was a quarter of a slice of pineapple. Not much to look at, but once placed on your taste buds, they were assaulted by the roasted spice combinations of cinnamon and nutmeg, adding an entire new depth of warmth Caribbean flavours. Again, it was rather small, so not a lot to judge on, but it added a refreshing slash of juice to the fuller bodied flavours accumulating on the platter.
With our three courses done and dusted, it was just a matter of if we wanted anything else…naturally I did! I was intrigued by the rum-heavy cocktail menu. It had none of your traditional classics, so not a Cosmo or Sex on the Beach in sight, but I liked that. I enjoyed the fact that the intense and dedicated theme once again left its heavy handprint stamped across the cocktail menu, so I simply couldn’t resist the extortionately priced Singapore Symphony at £18. While Dan gathered his jaw from the crisp white tablecloth, I rubbed my hands together in glee at my additional treat. With bags of panache it arrived at our table, an entire pineapple sitting pretty, with a simple coloured straw poking out of the skin. Slurping the divine concoction of rum, gin, orange, lime, passion fruit and pineapple, I could feel the exotic and tropical booze go straight to my head. Lifting the top off my pineapple, I spied the pink cocktail, once again packed with crushed ice. If you prefer a creamy cocktail, then you may be hard pushed to find one you fancy, as they are all rum focused and full of vigour and vitality, so nothing overly soft toned here.
Once I had finished my concluding cocktail we got the bill – literally the price of my final drink and the service charge. Such a magical hideaway that is in sore need of some serious discovery.
Making a second reservation? Realistically speaking, I don’t think I would ever feel 100% comfortable paying for a full price meal in here, so on that basis I would say no. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the food I was given, the selection was so poor when compared with all the delicacies they had to offer. Granted, the price was fantastic – for £39 it was a complete steal if you look at their regular prices. But in some respects, you did feel that because of the limited menu selection. The service however was faultless and staff were very attentive, maybe anticipating that they would like us to spend more. However, we didn’t need to spend more, as the original offer was so all encompassing which is what is so attractive with these vouchers. My final drink was a mere treat, but unnecessary really if you were trying to save your money. Even though the portion sizes were small, the food was tantalising, exotically presented and really delicious on the taste buds. The meat was divine to eat and perfectly springy. It was also really refreshing going to a restaurant that offered a different mix of foods that normal, with such an unusual atmosphere.
The attention to detail was unbelievable and a clear demonstration in ideal showmanship with a master class in ambience and atmosphere. We were completely blown away by the mere setting of the restaurant, so realistically; the food didn’t have to do much to leave us happy. The mixture of wooden carvings and plush red upholstery instantly transported you to an entire new world, well worth the exploring – if you have plundered some lost treasure on the way down the stairs.
The Dinner Dates Opinion:
“Straight away I was relieved I was wearing a tie after seeing other customers wearing suits and ball gowns. I was blown away by the amazing attention and service we received. Being a ‘voucher’ customer can mean you get treated second rate but not here. The restaurant had a very relaxed atmosphere and the staff were very attentive and friendly. The food was very tasty although the choice was a little small. The ribs were amazing and I could have easily eaten a whole rack. Overall I had a great evening and would go back but the expensive menu is a turn off.”