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Michael Hepworth & Wally Robertson checked out the Red Carnation group of hotels in London

Milestone Bar The Florida based Red Carnation hotel group, owns four London hotels in prime spots. A concerted effort is now underway to achieve top recognition for them and to give the respective chefs a bit of the limelight.

All of the staff are highly attentive with an attitude of, "What do you, the customer, actually want?", rather than "What do I have to offer that you might want".

Mike Hepworth and I first visited the group at the invitation of the owners in December 1998. At the time we never managed to arrange a review, but were impressed by the decor of the rooms and the group's focus on quality. Here, at least is a summary of their London properties:

The Milestone Hotel, Kensington

The recently acquired Milestone Hotel in Kensington is now their flagship property, but the Rubens in Victoria, Chesterfield in Mayfair and the Montague in Bloomsbury are all classy operations.

The Milestone is a five star hotel which is going all out to become one of the most fashionable venues in London. Situated directly across from Kensington Palace and Kensington Gardens which runs into Hyde Park, every room is decorated in a different style and has recently undergone total restoration in order to restore and preserve its original architectural features and period details.

Milestone BarChenistons restaurant at the Milestone has had a chequered past, but Dine Online's Editor Clifford Mould assures me that he once had a spectacular wine dinner there three years ago. With the commitment of its new owners, Chenistons stands an excellent chance of achieving something very special.

When we recently stayed at the hotel, my wife and I did not get the chance to do a full restaurant review. However, we were truly impressed with the "midnight feast"! This specially caters for guests coming in from a night at the theatre (or Albert Hall, which is only five minutes walk down the road).

We arrived back at the hotel at about 10:45 p.m. and were informed that the Midnight Feast would be delivered to our room at our leisure. After freshening up, the feast duly arrived at 11:00 p.m. It comprised the following:

* Foie Gras on Brioche toast
* Smoked salmon on wholemeal bread
* Barbecued, smoked chicken
* Beef and vegetable pastie
* Broccoli coleslaw
* Roast beef
* Prawn toast
* A fruit dish of grapes, strawberries, passion fruit and olives
with walnuts
* A selection of cheeses including cheddar and brie
* One bottle of champagne (Alain Thienst Reims Brut)

All this was more than enough for two people and very reasonably priced at £42.00. There are plenty of other options, such as Apricots stuffed with white Stilton, Tartlettes of Devonshire crab or Smoked quails eggs, to select from.

Of particular note were the Foie Gras, Smoked salmon and Barbecued chicken, which were really tasty. The Beef and vegetable pastie was clearly home made and the best I've ever had. The roast beef slices were of good quality meat and served wonderfully rare and thinly sliced. All these goodies came nicely arranged with carnations and orchids on the tray to complete the presentation.

Chef Adam Standen is the man in charge and we look forward to doing a full restaurant review in future.

The Montague Hotel in Bloomsbury

Nick van Riemsdijk at the Montague is probably the most adventurous chef in the group and is not afraid to challenge the palate as Mike Hepworth experienced on a recent Friday night visit to the hotel. Mike had heard a few good things about Nick so I decided to let him select the food for the evening, an approach that rarely backfires. A pancetta and white onion tartlet with turmeric cream is not the kind of dish that Mike would ever select through choice, but the circular dish had a thick crust and was extremely tasty.

Milestone BarA talented young music student was tinkling the ivories during the evening and the room was light and airy, enhancing Mike's appreciation of the main course of pan-seared zander. The side dishes of Thai infused lemon grass and tomato water with Pak Choi (Chinese spinach), asparagus, sea scallops and Japanese wheat noodles was very delicate and made a fine broth. This created a varied selection of dishes with wonderful flavours.

Nick followed up the main course with a Panacotta desert, with a Passion Fruit Coulis and wild berries. Again the attention to detail and presentation was superb and it rounded up with a very experimental meal that clearly demonstrated the chef's abilities.

The prices at the Montague's Blue Door Bistro are very reasonable, with any two courses (starter and main, or main and desert) costing just £15.95

Pictured above right: The terrace could be in a country house hotel!

The Rubens Hotel, Victoria

The Rubens hotel is situated within walking distance of Victoria station and overlooks Buckingham Palace. There are two restaurants, the Library and the Carvery.

Milestone BarQuite by chance I found myself staying at Rubens while in London entertaining a very important client. Though the hotel staff saw us as regular guests, we found the service to be exceptional.

On that occasion we didn't eat at either of the restaurants, but we've heard that Chef Daniel Collins is known for his meat dishes, in particular his Marinated Beef Fillets, larded with Ginger and Garlic and also for desserts such as his Panna Cotta with Stewed Rhubarb and Gooseberry Compote.

The Chesterfield Hotel, Mayfair

The Chesterfield hotel (conservatory pictured left) is situated in the heart of Mayfair. We look forward to sampling Chef Stephen Henderson's signature dishes, of Colchester Crab Cakes and Sticky Pudding some time in the near future.

Dine Online briefing - the facts:

Milestone, 1 Kensington Court, London W8
Tel - 020 7917 1000, Fax - 020 7917 1010
Nearest tube - Kensington High Street

Montague, 15 Montague Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1
Tel - 020 7637 1001, Fax - 020 7637 2516
Nearest tube - Russell Square

Rubens, 39 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1
Tel - 020 7834 6600, Fax- 020 7233 6037
Nearest tube - Victoria Station

Chesterfield, 35 Charles Street, Mayfair, W1X
Tel - 020 7491 2622, Fax - 020 7491 4793
Nearest tube - Green Park.

The Milestone is a member of Grand Heritage Hotels
International reservations: +44(0) 171 244 6699 Fax 244 7799

Dine Online has reviewed some other Grand Heritage Hotels:

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010

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