An Enchanting Outdoor Dining Experience at La Terrasse Exploring Flavours of the French Riviera in the Heart of the Capital

Neither affected by the touristic chaos of Piccadilly Circus nor the distracted ennui of Mayfair, Sofitel London St James nestles in an enviable, je ne sais quoi West End location on the corner of Pall Mall and Waterloo Place. Its flagship restaurant, Wild Honey St James, celebrates classic French cuisine with seasonal British produce and, helmed by Anthony Demetre, is Michelin starred. This summer it recently opened a new, laid-back summer space, La Terrasse, which offers similar French (Riviera) inspirations. The Luxury Editor recently dined here so read on to discover more.

La Terrasse is the outdoor dining space that runs adjacent to the length of the hotel’s magnificent frontage, and with the pavement side set-up, the hustle and bustle of passersby and London’s iconic red double-decker buses doing their rounds, means diners are right in the mix of the city vibe. The outdoor temperature isn’t as warm as we’d hoped and the sky threatens rain, however, we are in England of course, so we order Gin with Rhubarb Tonics whilst we investigate the menu.

Diners can kick off the show with ‘snacks’ such as olives and almonds, with ‘salads and pasta’ next on the menu. We also notice that ‘Fish & Shellfish’ mains offer Oysters so we mix it up and choose ‘starters’ from different aspects of the menu. 

The Burrata (with shaved fennel and pickled cherries) is firm on the outside but creamy and runny once cut open. The fennel, not over-played, is subtle and the pickled cherries beautifully sweet. Apart from a slice of lemon, the oysters are served alone; no tabasco, no mignonette sauce. The chef has confidence in his product and quite rightly so. From Cornwall, their freshness encourages visions of rock pools and beaches, of coves and caves. The oysters are meaty and hearty and if their liquor is too salty, it’s easy to pour some aside and squeeze the lemon over them to enhance the flavour. Both starters are perfect.

For mains, the menu is short but decisive, an upmarket surf an’ turf. We opt out of the turf and stick with the surf. The day has dwindled, become crepuscular. Lights start to illuminate what seems less and less like the side of a London street but more and more like a hypnotic visual landscape. The temperature cools further. Our waitress offers us blankets. We enjoy a dry Pinot Grigio. The threat of rain has retreated.

If our starters intimated we were in safe chef hands, the mains prove it. The Dressed Dorset Crab tastes as if it was picked up en route from Cornwall along with the oysters. It’s also served practically naked, with a sprinkle of finely cut spring onion and some lemon mayonnaise. The white meat is flaky, moist and with a delicate reminder of its oceanic origins. The brown meat is naturally richer and plentiful. As a side, we ordered Handcut Chips, so crisp they’re probably triple-fried. They’re also fluffy inside and act like as a palate cleanser but then again, it’s impossible to resist their truffle mayonnaise. The Scottish Lobster Brioche Roll is similar in size to an American hot dog roll. It looks heavy as a brick but is light, almost, as a feather. The chunks of lobster are generous and flavoursome. They mingle with nibbles of crispy onion, tears of lettuce and decorative flowers of purple and yellow. The brioche roll is buttery and small dollops of mayonnaise infuse the dish with hints of saffron.

One of the unexpected pleasures, even marvels, of La Terrasse is how, after a few hours, it encourages one to consider the difference between the world as it rushes by and the diner who sits and watches the world as it rushes by. As night finally grips, everything becomes very Koyaanisqatsi. Very Zen. Very Buddhist. Rather than its positioning being a potential negative, the location transmutes into something more liberating, more unfettered, the sky, literally, the limit. Or no limit whatsoever. The passing world becomes hypnotic, the traffic melts into visual blurs, the city soundscape transforms into a comforting audio bed. You, the diner, become an integral part of a tableau vivant.

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A tableau vivant that still has a desert to experience. My partner orders a Menton Lemon Meringue Tart which is made the Italian way – using the melted sugar to cook the egg whites. This results in a soft creamy meringue striated with caramel burns rather than the more traditional English hard-baked one. The shortbread base offers a crumbly texture to play with the denseness of the rest of the desert.

It’s a sumptuous way to finish the night but my Hazelnut Caramel & Vanilla Ice Cream Sundae is even more of a revelation. Tall but unassuming, it lacks the more gaudy flashes of syrup that Sundaes are often afflicted with. It’s not made by the hotel but its ingredients feel almost healthy in their freshness – the whipped cream’s wholesomeness, the ice cream’s pure vanilla, the chunks of hazelnut that not only decorate the top but also surprise throughout. Towards its base, miniature Malteser-like balls add extra charisma and a last-minute crunchiness. It’s a fantastic way to finish a fantastic night and one can hope this summer is eternal.

La Terrasse captures the essence of the beautiful French Riviera. With its lush surroundings of lemon blossoms, orange trees, and mimosa, it offers a unique and vibrant experience in the heart of the capital. Opening from 12pm to 9:30pm La Terrasse invites you to indulge in its joyful atmosphere until the end of September.

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