Park Plaza Hotel, Westminster – Views to die for
PUBLISHED: 14:11 27 September 2012 | UPDATED: 22:04 21 February 2013
Karen Bowerman visited the Park Plaza hotel in London's Westminster, where she was inspired by poetry and enamoured with its food...
Earth has not anything to show more fair thats how the 19th century poet, William Wordsworth, described the view from Londons Westminster Bridge one September morning in 1802. Finally there was a reason for the poem being drummed into my head at secondary school; I could quote it, for theatrical effect, as my husband and I entered our room at the Park Plaza Hotel, Westminster.
Well, my husband said, picking up on my theatrical outburst, What would Wordsworth have made of this! He drew back the net curtain to reveal an incredible view.
Our arrival-in-room routine (in which husband inspects the gadgetry and I dive straight into the bathroom to examine its offering of toiletries) had been halted in its tracks.
Instead, both of us stood, enamoured. This was London at its finest! We not only looked down on the London Eye, its sweeping curves and tiny pods spanning our floor-to-ceiling window, but also the bridge, a wide stretch of the Thames and the entire length of the Houses of Parliament.
And for the first time ever, instead of staring up at Big Ben, I could look him in the eye! Every now and then his gold face glittered, caught in the rays of the setting sun.
We drew up a couple of leather pouffes and watched the sun go down over the towers, domes and theatres of Wordsworths 19th century London. Gradually the sky turned pink and lilac, floodlights lit up the House of Commons and a silhouette of the city skyline lay at our feet.
The Park Plaza Hotel, while large, is chic, classy and easily able to cope with what appears to be a continual flow of guests arriving and departing through its swish, cavernous lobby.
Its glass frontage has a wonderful feeling of space, another great view and several fantastically quirky chairs (their backs so beautifully sculpted into faces that initially, not realising they were seats, I looked on in horror as a parent allowed her child to clamber over them).
Just off the hotel lobby is Ichi, a small sushi and sashimi restaurant,and a traditional bar with cream and brown leather chairs and sixties style coffee tables topped with mirrored planters of grass (which surprisingly look OK).
The only disappointment, with which Mehdi the French restaurant manager agreed, was that the main restaurant, Brasserie Joel, didnt share the lobbys view.
Nevertheless, by dinner it was buzzing. El Boukili toured the tables; his manner pleasant, knowledgeable and unassuming. He asked us what wine wed like.
Could we order by the glass? my husband asked.
Why of course.
I looked at Mehdi. You choose, I suggested. No pressure!
We ordered tuna tartare and lobster bisque which were beautifully matched to a Chilean sauvignon blanc colombard and a fino sherry.
For our main courses we had exceptionally fresh chargrilled seabass and a melt in your mouth beef tournedos rossini. Unlike some rossinis, where soggy fried bread tastes overly of alcohol from the masala wine, this was refined and light, almost delicate, if beef and foie gras can be described as such.
Both dishes were served with additional dauphinoise potatoes.
I took the liberty of ordering them for you. El Boukili said. Theyre the best in town. Try them and tell me what you think! No pressure!
I liked his style.
Afterwards we met the chef, Walter Ishizuka, whos worked in two and three star Michelin restaurants in Paris and Lyon.
My cooking isnt showy, he said, I do it because I enjoy it. Although I dont have a Michelin star, what I do have is a happy kitchen, free from pressure, and staff that love food and enjoy cooking for cookings sake.
Ishizuka was charmingly self-effacing. In my opinion, his presentation, technique and the lightness of touch he gave to traditionally heavy cuisine easily matched dishes Ive eaten at Michelin rated establishments.
After a leisurely dinner we returned to our room along corridors covered with rust-coloured carpets with an Ode to Sleep woven into their weave. The hotel was gloriously quiet. Outside, the lights of cars streamed over Westminster Bridge. The Eye shimmered blue.
The next morning, I dipped into breakfast at 6am for a coffee with my husband who needed to get to work, and returned again at 10 when the restaurant was heaving. Trey, one of the members of staff on duty, was just as friendly then as he had been four hours earlier.
Oh man, this is a top breakfast, an American teenager said to his friend, going up for more. The restaurant was heaving but nothing ran out.
Half an hour later, having enjoyed fresh fruit, yoghurt and a fabulous fry-up, I joined the throng, swarming over Westminster Bridge.
It was a shame to have said goodbye.
Park Plaza Westminster Bridge www.parkplaza.com has a sushi bar www.ichisushi.co.uk; a traditional bar www.primobar.co.uk and a gym, pool, sauna and steam room for guests. Treatments are also available at the Mandara Spa.