There’s no shortage of fine restaurants in London, even around the more tourist-friendly areas of the city, so to find ourselves in the Arado restaurant inside the Melia White House hotel felt a little like we were cheating on the city’s thriving food scene.
Fresh from an extensive refurbishment programme, because we were spending the night at the hotel, and as the menu looked intriguing, we ventured in for a meal. But mostly because we were staying there.
The new decor is bright and welcoming, although from some angles looks a little stark. A marble table tucked away in a quiet corner was surrounded by mirrors, thin beams and lots of light, but never did it seem too bright. A discrete, intimate dinner under dim lights might be off the menu, but the modern vibe given off by the Arado restaurant feels vibrant without trying too hard.
Interestingly, there’s no lunch or dinner menu. Arado is simply open all day, providing Mediterranean-inspired dishes whatever the time of day. However, at lunch, there’s the Arado To Go service that provides fast, freshly prepared lunch options including paella, pasta, salad and sandwiches.
We were there for a full dinner service instead. Glancing through the menu, there really is something for everyone. Obviously, tapas takes pride of place, with gazpacho, padron peppers, patatas bravas and serrano ham croquettes, but some variations introduced other flavours to proceedings; pigs in blankets with a Jerez sherry sauce looked tempting, but I was in the mood for a traditional three-course meal rather than small plates.
That said, starters were kept simple, with my wife and I sharing Gordal olives and bread with alioli. The olives were plump and tasty, while the bread was toasted to perfection. It’s unusual to be impressed with bread, but the three varieties provided were prepared beautifully and tasted wonderful.
I was weak. I couldn’t resist trying the pigs in blankets, and a dish of sausages soon turned up. Bigger than I expected, six chipolatas wrapped in bacon is much what you might expect, but the sherry sauce added a distinct flavour, albeit one that could have done with more strength.
Eschewing further tapas plates for individual mains, our host recommended the Lemon and Thyme Spatchcock or the Secreto Iberico – a dish made from a secret cut of pork. By happy accident, we fancied both anyway, so followed the advice and ordered each.
My wife took the spatchcock, described as ‘jasper roasted whole baby chicken served with Thai mango salad’. Covered in pomegranate seeds and chunks of mango, the chicken was beautifully presented with surprisingly delicate flavours. The chicken itself was slightly dry, but undoubtedly of high quality. It could have coped with a stronger flavour – perhaps turning down the chance of more sauce was a mistake, but if it needed the sauce then it should have had it in the first place.
I went for the pork dish, described on the menu as ‘native Iberico pork with red mojo sauce, rosemary potatoes and piquillo peppers’. The plate was busy, but looked appealing, with bold colours surrounding a generous serving of pork sat on a bed of potatoes. With beautifully cooked pork, delicately charred on the edges but moist and flavoursome throughout, accompanied by such a variety of flavours, there could have been some competition for dominance. Fortunately, everything came together to perfection. That’s not hyperbole, it really was stunningly good, and one of the finest dishes I’ve ever eaten.
I skipped dessert, thanks in part to stuffing myself with pigs in blankets earlier, but my wife went for pineapple with a lemongrass syrup. I stole a piece which married the tangy and succulent pineapple with the delicate but sweet sauce delightfully. I should have been bolder and taken a crema Catalana. Maybe next time.
The head chef, Alberto Jonte Sanchez, was a sous chef at JW Marriott Miami, before moving to Spain to work in various restaurants there, including the Michelin-starred Pepe Vieira. A stint at the Melia ME Ibiza set him up to come to the Melia White House Hotel in London, and there’s no doubting that he’s brought all the flavours with him. It’s all still identifiably Spanish, but the heavy influence of flavours from around the world make their presence felt.
As did the service, which struck a fine balance between friendly and professional, and recommendations were readily forthcoming for both food and wine, which is always a good sign. The staff are predominantly Spanish, which caused me one issue – I work in Spain frequently (the Melia ME Sitges Terramar hotel is one of my favourites) and, on more than one occasion, I actually managed to forget I was actually in London.
The meal wasn’t perfect (although mine was remarkably close) but if the venue, staff and food can take me away from reality to that degree, then the Arado restaurant is doing something right.
Melia White House Hotel
Albany St, London NW1 3UP