Last Friday, September 15th, 2017, saw the launch of London’s latest must-visit restaurant, Ella Canta, and Alvaro Rey – seen above with two of the stunning servers – was pleased as punch. As GM of the luxury InterContinental London Park Lane hotel, he had been creating this restaurant for over two years, and the actual work, over the past 12 months, had caused continual headaches, notably because construction noise meant he had to cancel functions booked in meeting rooms above. It was he who found Martha Ortiz, chef-patron of Dulce Patria in Mexico City, and persuaded her to come to London to oversee Ella Canta. (It should be noted, however, that this is not a ‘hotel restaurant’, it is a standalone entity with its own street entrance that just happens to be tucked, marsupial-style, into the hotel building.) The gal, a guacamole addict, had to rush to taste it, here.
Guacamole, Ella Canta-version, comes with ricotta and pomegranate and ‘a gold grasshopper’, according to the menu – I do not remember seeing, or eating, this harmless critter, perhaps mine was left off. I went on to seabass ceviche with a mango and sangrita sorbet. Honestly, this is a really imaginative place, food, and ambience. Alvaro Rey and the hotel’s owners asked David Collins Studio to transform what had always been a soulless space, overlooked by passers-by who seemed to love peering in as they did the Hyde Park Corner turn from Park Lane to Piccadilly or vice versa. Now those full-height windows are covered in intriguing frosting that just allow you a hint of what goes on inside or, if you are inside, outside. The main space, which seats a total of 140, is now divided by a wooden screen, honeycomb but rounded in Bauhaus style, that allows a walkway to the raised far end.
This end part was once management offices (all management has now moved into stunning lowest-level offices, thus clearing not only this space but an area that is cleverly creating an additional 12 bedrooms). Now it is a bar, with such creative drinks as a variety of flavoured waters, using home-produced tinctures of, say, hibiscus or tamarind. The margharitas include a Daisy-Do, with kaffir lime leaves-infused Patron Silver Tequila, pear purée, homemade ginger syrup, egg white and sage. You can eat in the bar, here, which is ideal for a pre-theatre tapas selection. Or go down to the main level to eat at tables that are commendably well-spaced, one from the other, so that the servers can glide around more easily. The front-of-house ladies among the 50 working here, by the way, look just gorgeous. I met Ella Canta’s fashion designer, Laura Tovell of 1947 bespoke: Frieda Kahlo with mind, they wear slinking mid-calf jump suits, one colour, soft turquoise, red, black, all with floral hair pieces, and nude shoes.
That night I dined with Angela Brav, who in her role as CEO Europe for IHG, oversees this restaurant, and its symbiotic luxury hotel, and she was as pleased as I was that the latest Restaurant That Rey Created was off to such a good start (InterContinental Jordan, Amman, still has its Indian restaurant that he designed and opened some years ago). More plus things here, by the way, include the stunning ceramic plates, and a wine list that includes an excellent Mexican red, 2015 Barbera Tempranillo-Shiraz Discreto Encanto Lomita, Valle de Guadilupe. In fact, as I went back up to my temporary home, a couple of floors above the restaurant, I felt really and comfortably content. SEE A VIDEO OF MY SUITE, BELOW