There is definitely something about hotel bars, and restaurants that I really do love. Some of my favourite bars, and restaurants are in, or are part of hotels. Partly it is the people watching that draws me, you have the likes of the high flying corporate Patrick Bateman’s of the word to Emirates cabin ‘totty’ – there is usually a wealth of character, and eye candy. I could base novels alone off conversations I have over heard in hotel bars. Another part of it is I find hotels raise the bar; a reputation seems to mean more to a hotel than it does to a bar – you get that added level of service that is generally unparalleled elsewhere.
So when Hotel La Tour recently opened in Birmingham you can imagine the smirk that crept across my face – a new weekend haunt! Hotel La Tour Birmingham is the first of what will be a group of hotels built by independent operator Hotel La Tour Ltd. The £24,000,000 venue boasts 174 bedrooms, and is situated a stones throw away from most places you could ever want to go to in Birmingham city centre (and just so happens to be the next building along from one of my closest friend’s city centre apartment!).
I first went there a couple of weeks ago with an acquaintance of mine to see what the fuss is all about, and we opted for some champagne in the bar (ordering a bottle off an iPad pleased me greatly). The venue is striking, and very contemporary, however the interior decor is essentially ‘modern classic’. To get to the bar, and Aalto Restaurant you cross the lobby, and walk up a startling spiral staircase.
The bar area itself itself is airy, and chic – there is an array of sofas, and chairs just waiting to be sunk into. Off that is the impressive Aalto Restaurant itself. The restaurant is very sophisticated looking, and you can see the open kitchen from where you are sat – nothing like watching your food being cooked! The Head Chef is Alex Penhaligon, and Aalto specialises in classic dishes with a modern twist inspired by Michelin-starred Chef Marcus Wareing (the Berkeley).
I always say you can judge a lot about a venue by what their bathrooms are like; Hotel La Tour passed my test, and with The White Company hand wash, and lotion I was pleased – it is the little touches that make a big difference.
Naturally when Hotel La Tour Birmingham invited me to sample their afternoon tea menu before it goes public tomorrow I could not resist, so yesterday afternoon I went along to La Tour with my friend Tom. We were pleasantly greeted, and lead to our table. After discussing with the bar staff we opted to try the Earl Grey Bellini – it only seemed right to go for ‘Earl Grey’ being there for afternoon tea, and all. Promptly our drinks arrived, the Earl Grey Bellinis were really refreshing. We then had the task of choosing which tea we wanted! I opted for Darjeeling for a change (I normally drink green, or Earl Grey), and Tom Assam.
The afternoon tea itself did not disappoint. The ‘Best of British’ afternoon tea consisted of the usual tea savouries with deliciously moist finger sandwiches, perfectly fluffy scones with jam, and cream (Devonshire clotted in this case!), and a range of sweets. However what I liked most was the personal touches that La Tour added to their afternoon tea. I have had afternoon tea at a variety of restaurants, and hotels up, and down the country, and I find it disappointing when the venue does not try, and make it it’s own so to speak. La Tour made it their own with inside out cucumber sandwiches, and I kid you not Welsh rarebit! In a twist on the classic Welsh rarebit we had toasted fingers with a pot of melted creamy cheese – the result was surprising but absolutely delectable.
For ‘sweets’ we had mini Jaffa cakes, Treacle tarlets, Eton mess, and ‘Walnut whips’. Yet again La Tour asserted their own touch with playful touches on classically British favourites. The eton mess was a particular favourite, it was a meringue shell with a creamy centre, and freeze dried strawberries.
I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon, the ambience at La Tour is just right, and the pianist playing classic versions of well known songs only further represented the hotel’s ‘modern classic’ image. Thank you to Sue, and everyone for a delightful time (you can invite me back any time you want ;)). This is the point where I would say I will definitely go back soon, however I may have already popped back in later the same day for cocktails, and a nibble (the beef bites with the Cumberland sauce are divine!) with my friend Becky. I would definitely recommend La Tour to anyone – it is affordable luxury worth checking out.
Hotel La Tour
0121 718 800