Wild Honey is a Michelin-starred hotel restaurant that delivers all the sparkle and magic of its independent roots with the poise of a grande dame. Olivia Palamountain reports
Anyone who’s lived in London more than a decade will have heard of the original Wild Honey in Mayfair. One of a handful of wildly successful restaurants (Arbutus, Putney Bridge, Les Deux Salons) by chef Anthony Demetre, it nailed a unique spin on elegant yet affordable French dining that made it toast of the town for some 12 years.
Its new incarnation, Wild Honey St James, launched in spring 2019 at the five-star Sofitel hotel on Waterloo Place, including a 16-seat private dining room and counter bar that adjoins Sofitel’s St James Bar.
The intriguing move to become a hotel restaurant has been cleverly finessed thanks to the restaurant’s striking position on an impressive corner site that enjoys its own entrance, free of Sofitel branding and full of independent spirit.That’s not to say an affiliation with the Parisian luxury hospitality brand is anything other than a great thing, rather that, in London, it’s taken us longer to embrace the je ne sais quoi of hotel destination dining.
However, thanks to a flurry of exciting openings, the likes of the restaurant at NoMad, Sally Abé’s the Pem at Conrad London St James, and Davies and Brook at Claridges, the tables have definitely turned.Wild Honey is making waves in this forgotten corner of St James, with a distinctive modern European menu that combines classic French techniques with fine British seasonal produce, supported by excellent service – little wonder it was the proud recipient of a Michelin star in this year’s guide.
“It is the greatest honour to have been awarded a Michelin star again today,” said Anthony Demetre. “This star is testament to the entire team’s dedication to delivering excellence to every guest dining at Wild Honey… and the feeling on getting the star is unparalleled in the culinary world. What makes me so happy is the fact that this is a first for many of the young team at Wild Honey and I couldn’t be prouder. The dedication, passion, loyalty and sheer hard work put in over what has been a truly testing year has been immeasurable.”
On Globetrender’s visit, Wild Honey couldn’t have been more deserving of that coveted star. First impressions are undoubtedly glamorous, thanks to the soaring ceilings of this former 1920s army banking agency, although fostering a sense of intimacy in this cavernous space has clearly been more of a challenge.We kicked off with a martini accompanied by glorious wafers of lacy, fennel-studded finocchiona – the relaxed foil to a more cheffy snack of cheese croquettes – and pondered a menu that was designed to delight, with each section offering just three or four stellar options.A wild mushroom tart, fricassée of wild mushrooms and hazelnut sabayon ensued, along with an unusual offering of slow cooked crisp chicken, with hand cut macaroni, black winter truffles and a truffle sauce.
The latter is likely crowd-pleaser but didn’t do me any favours: a fancy kids’ tea, it was shown up by an unsuspecting mushroom tart, a dreamy little sexpot of a starter that belies its humble name.As one would hope from its name, this restaurant does indeed have its own honey, showcased with originality in a main of Denbighshire Welsh lamb, roast sand carrot, January king cabbage and fresh sheep’s ricotta. Not only did this touch of honey enhance the natural sweetness of the meat, it brought this course out of Sunday roast territory and into a fine-dining room.
The Isle of Gigha halibut with peculiar-sounding “Shetland mussel jam” was another triumph, a generous fillet of perfectly cooked pearly flesh, offset with by a herb vinaigrette. In a world where pescatarian mains are too often considered a “light” option, I’m pleased to report that healthy appetites won’t feel shortchanged from this choice.There was no mistaking dessert for something léger. A whopper of a tarte tatin serving up to four people, it was impossible not to order. Why? According to the team, it’s this classic that helped seal the deal on that star – a total no brainer, then, and one of my best decisions all year.A thing of beauty, the tarte tatin was presented in its pan with a flourish, all plump and glistening apples and mahogany lacquered caramel, before being served à table with an additional lick of sauce and a cloud of crème fraîche: heaven. If ever there was a reminder not to reinvent the wheel, this was it.
It’s worth nothing that whatever you don’t finish is boxed up to take home, no questions asked. With this in mind, don’t feel like you don’t have to pig out and finish the whole thing in one sitting – although there will be no judgement from the fabulous staff if you do.