Alex Dilling at the Hotel Café Royal is a minute restaurant above Regent Street, which has the type of British imperial architecture that looks most like a cake: that is, the most preening, deceptive and pale. For someone who did almost no exercise, the Prince Regent built quite a lot of roads and there my interest in him ends, like the road itself.
In this hotel, which is very fine, stone cake vies with the tepid luxury of this age, which indicates invisibility, and with it guilt. There’s not much to do in central London nowadays beyond watching wealth aesthetics fight it out. The Hotel Café Royal used to be more interesting. This is the hotel where Oscar Wilde decided to sue the Marquess of Queensberry for libel. I think he was drunk. I hope he was.
Nothing as gaudy and self-destructive remains. This is a cold bright room with views of luxury consumer goods on Regent Street, as clean as a private hospital, and as dull as rage. There are 34 seats and probably as many staff. I marvel at the whiteness of the napery and the fineness of the waiter’s linen. Jazz is playing its idle tunes.
This is a tasting-menu restaurant, at least for now: something for Borrowers if Borrowers are weird (I mean weirder than they really are, but I am hard to surprise); or for rich people seeking only that which is denied to others, which is a shimmering emptiness of the soul, though they do not know it; or an apogee of control (justice then, at least for the rest of us); or, if you are generous, and sometimes the restaurant merits it, art for digestion.