Throw it back to ten years and most will agree that hotel restaurants generally catered only to their guests or business meetings, and dishes on the whole were very average indeed. However, as Dylan remarked, “the times, they are a-changin,'” and Indigo, the restaurant at One Aldwych hotel with a contemporary and entirely gluten- and dairy-free menu, is certainly a testament to this…
Set on a mezzanine level, Indigo’s styling is chic and upmarket – yet, thanks to their warm, welcoming staff, you immediately feel right at home. Being presented with a menu in which you can eat absolutely everything may be a celiac’s dream, but it also provides somewhat of a quandary when it comes to decision-making – it took us at least 20 minutes before we were ready to order!
As a big seafood fan, I went for the Cornish crab with brown shrimps and pickled mackerel, and it definitely did not disappoint. Separated by two crispy little toasts, all the fish components were deliciously fresh and offered their own distinct flavors and textures; I had never tried mackerel before and, thanks to this, am now a convert. My friend, meanwhile, opted for the partridge (another new convert experience) – a tender breast with a salty skin that was favourably complemented by the tang of poached blackberries. Prior to both these dishes, we were brought two small loaves of bread made from buckwheat flour, and it’s no exaggeration when I say this was the most incredible bread I have ever tasted, gluten-free or otherwise.
The thick, succulent, organic rump of lamb for my main course was served with samphire, which initially seemed a bit of a strange choice as this is typically served with fish – but kudos to the chef, because it provided the ideal touch of salty contrast to the hearty taste of the meat and the smooth, smoked aubergine base. Our other main course choice was a beautifully presented, perfectly pink cut of venison; its rich juiciness paired alongside the earthy tones of moreish, crisp slithers of potato and soft celery cubes.
All of the dessert options were unbelievably tempting, but self control (unfortunately) kicked in. For chocolate lovers out there, the Valrhona mousse is a superb choice, and can be served with either cherry or mandarin sorbet (I went for mandarin). Its smooth, thick consistency is spot-on for hitting your sweet tooth without being too rich or sickly, and a sprinkling of biscuit crumbs adds a touch of crunch. The pressed apple and elderflower crumble was not the traditional type but no less delectable – the small tower of beautifully soft and subtly sweet poached fruit was topped with a generous sprinkling of toasted hazelnut crumbs and accompanied by a zingy blackberry sorbet.
Eagle-eyed diners may notice that the restaurant simultaneously serves ‘regular’ (aka made with wheat) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-themed afternoon tea (though this can also be offered gluten-free upon request when booked in advance). However, there is no issue of cross-contamination in the kitchen – in fact, Indigo has recently been accredited by Coeliac UK as a gluten-free restaurant. Components for the teas are created first thing in the morning and then stored separately, after which all surfaces, dishes and utensils et al are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized to make them ‘safe’ for gluten-free preparation and cooking for the remainder of the day.
From start to finish, the entire Indigo experience is a sheer delight. Whether you’re coeliac or not, there’s no denying that the ingredients and consideration put into each dish here is exceptional – thank goodness you don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to enjoy it.