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Silk, Great Marlborough Street, London W1

It never crossed my mind, when I did jury service many years ago, that I would one day eat out in a former courtroom, and a legendary one at that. The famous Number One Courtroom of The Great Marlborough Street Magistrates’ Court is where luminaries such as Oscar Wilde, Mick Jagger and John Lennon have all stood trial, defended by the most notable silks of their day!  Now transformed into a visually stunning restaurant, Silk is the fine dining room at the Courthouse Hotel Kempinksi. Retaining many of its original features, including the judge’s bench, dock and witness stand, the grade II listed room boasts an air of grandeur, with oak panelling throughout and a beautiful glass-vaulted ceiling. The intimate and low-lit setting is completed with three gold Buddha statues, adding an air of mystique to the atmosphere. The menu and restaurant’s theme are based on the historic Silk Road, the ancient trade route that connected China to the Mediterranean dating back some 3000 years. For the winter season the menu focuses on spices, which were used as a main bartering tool along the route.

Dishes are available in a small or large size with the emphasis on sharing. We began with a selection of starters beautifully presented on a black square platter. These included some wonderfully tender scallops served in a delicately spiced ginger and coconut froth, some very moist boneless chicken with coriander and tomato wrapped in banana leaves, hot and crunchy prawns with a spicy coriander kick, elegantly served in a cone shaped popadom, and some crunchy deep fried wing beans served with sweet chilli sauce. To follow, we had some sweetly spiced and tender steamed baby bass, enormous crunchy and tender jumbo tiger prawns cooked in lemon grass and paprika, some very good Thai chicken green curry and some crunchy vegetables cooked in yellow bean paste. 

To drink we tried a Sauvignon Blanc, Gravitas, from Marlborough, New Zealand, (£34 a bottle). This was a good choice. Fruity and fresh, it held its own well against the robust flavours on the palate. The wine list is long and comprehensive and can be expensive, but there is certainly a reasonable selection at the lower end of the spectrum. To finish, I had a wonderful array of jewel coloured sorbets, including a raspberry and Szechwan pepper, and a kiwi and Thai basil that proved a very refreshing end to my meal. My guest simply raved over his coconut and lemon grass crème brulee, saying it was light, creamy and simple, one of the best he’s ever eaten, and boy has he eaten a few in his time!

Overall, Silk offers a unique experience that is worth trying for the fascinating location alone. Some things could be improved on, beginning with the music, which is a little on the loud side and ranged bizarrely from 1960’s R&B right through to Buddha Bar. My only other concern was the room’s temperature, which was a tad on the chilly side and not what you need when done up in all your finery!

Louise Elgin. February 2006. A meal for two including wine, water and service is about £135.00

Silk Restaurant, Courthouse Hotel Kempinksi 
Great Marlborough Street London W1 Tel: 020 7297 5555

Web http://courthouse-hotel.com

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