William Drabble, who spent the past decade at Aubergine, has moved to St James's hotel and club in London's Mayfair where the new fine-dining restaurant is at the centre of the operation. Kerstin Kühn reports.
After taking over from Gordon Ramsay in 1998 and spending more than a decade maintaining the high standards at Chelsea institution Aubergine, chef William Drabble decided it was time for a change. He left the Michelin-starred restaurant in May, and in September joined the luxury St James's hotel and club in Mayfair as executive chef.
Drabble's remit at the 60-bedroom property, which is owned by German hotel group Althoff, includes an informal brasserie, catering for the hotel's party rooms and 24-hour room service. But at the centre of the operation is a new fine-dining restaurant, Seven Park Place.
Drabble concedes that after running Aubergine for such a long time, it has been an adjustment for him to start all over again. "It has been hard but it was a challenge I really needed," he says. "After 10 years of doing the same thing, I needed something to relight my fire."
Housed in the space formerly occupied by Germany's three-Michelin-starred chef Dieter Müller, the intimate 25-seat restaurant has undergone a gentle refurbishment to underline its relaunch under the new chef. While Müller's short-lived presence at St James's grabbed few headlines, Drabble says he wants to shout about the hotel and the new restaurant a lot more.
"It's a beautiful hotel that has all the makings of something great, and now there is a new team in place, we really want to push it forward," he says.
HIGH PROFILE TEAM
Indeed, Drabble is not the only high-profile appointment at the St James's hotel, which earlier this summer named former Capital general manager Henrik Muehle as managing director and fellow Capital restaurant manager Christophe Thuilot as food and beverage manager. Drabble currently leads a kitchen brigade of 10 including head chef Philip Vogel - who joined under Müller - but says he hopes to bring this up to about 16.
For those familiar with Drabble's cooking, the menu at Seven Park Place will not come as a surprise. His notorious preference for luxury is very much at the heart of the offer at the new restaurant and his seven-course menu gourmand - priced at £59, or £99 paired with wine - is a masterclass in bringing together the best well-sourced, top-end ingredients.
"I have worked very hard over the past 10 to 12 years to create my signature dishes and they will come with me wherever I go," Drabble says. "They signify what my cooking is all about - using the best possible produce, keeping things simple and letting the ingredients speak for themselves."
Starters of lobster tortellini with cauliflower purée and truffle butter sauce; and seared foie gras with marinated figs are perfect examples. No white fish is added to the lobster mousse, just cream and butter, while the foie gras is served simply pan-fried with port marinated figs and gingerbread crisps.
Seasonality is key to Drabble's menu, which changes frequently as he constantly tweaks his dishes. Carpaccio of scallops, for instance, which was served with samphire and a lemon vinaigrette, has recently been changed to be paired with white truffle as the delicate ingredient has come into season.
Main courses continue the theme of seasonal luxury and include fillet of turbot with a fricassée of langoustines and girolles, and roasted grouse with blackberries and thyme.
A lot of the produce used at Seven Park Place comes from the same suppliers Drabble used at Aubergine. Channel Fisheries provides the seafood and Cornvale Foods the meat, including some of the finest lamb Drabble says he has had in his kitchen. He serves it on the tasting menu with confit turnips and rosemary jus.
The dessert menu features highlights such as warm spiced sponge with figs poached in red wine and cinnamon ice-cream; and Bramley apple mousse with blackberry jelly; next to a selection of regional British cheeses.
The à la carte menu is priced at£39 for two courses; £45 for three.
Drabble is one of London's stalwarts of fine dining and continues to offer a menu of the highest quality ingredients and standards. Now that he is on board, the St James's hotel and club will surely establish its place as one of the capital's top dining destinations.
Seven Park Placeby William Drabble
7-8 Park Place, London SW1A 1LS
Tel: 020 7316 1600
WHAT'S ON THE MENU
- Baked fillet of red mullet with seared squid, mullet liver sauce and sage beignet
- Carpaccio of hand-dived Scottish scallops, artichokes, samphire and lemon vinaigrette
- Snail braised in red wine with bacon and root vegetables and garlic purée
- Pan-fried, line-caught sea bass, braised Jerusalem artichokes, wild mushrooms and parsley purée, with red wine jus
- Fillet of turbot, fricassée of langoustines and girolles, with baby leeks
- Assiette of veal with Madeira jus
- Warm spiced sponge, figs poached in red wine and cinnamon ice-cream
- Mint parfait with chocolate jelly
- Bramley apple mousse with blackberry jelly
- British cheeses