Inn The Park, St James’ Park – Words Kayleigh Tanner
The last time I was in St James’s Park, it was an exceptionally grey, drizzly November afternoon. Grey squirrels, grey pigeons, grey water, grey concrete.
Thoroughly depressing. In contrast, my last visit involved beautiful sunshine, swans, a sunburn risk and hordes of Pokémon Go players with absolutely no spatial awareness. And Inn The Park.
Inn The Park is the venture of restaurateur Oliver Peyton and designer Tom Dixon, and is set alongside the lake in the heart of St James’s Park. Its proximity to Buckingham Palace makes it a perfect place to stop for lunch after a morning of sightseeing, or if you want to avoid the crowds, drop in for an afternoon tea.
The building itself is very striking – a curved wooden structure which fits nicely into the Royal Park. There’s a roof terrace for sun worshippers and a shaded lakeside area if you’re looking for a bit of respite. We were seated in the shaded area, which provided some cool relief from the insane heat of England’s one day of summer. We were quickly seated by a waitress and left to look over the menu.
The feature wines were a selection of French rosés, and we opted for the mid-priced Costiere de Nimes rosé. I usually go for white, but this made a really refreshing change – it was light and not too sweet. I spotted that you could also sample all three of their feature rosés with a very reasonably priced rosé flight – for three small glasses for £10, this is a great option if you know your wines better than me and don’t like missing out.
We started with the deep fried squid (me) and the prawn and avocado cocktail (my friend). My squid was so good it made it to Instagram (with the caption #squidgoals, no less), and the drizzle of punchy green garlic dressing kicked the whole thing up a notch. The prawns in the cocktail looked plump and juicy, and there were sizeable chunks of avocado for a creamy contrast against the seafood.
I opted for a main I wouldn’t usually choose – BBQ chicken with corn pakoras. It was hot and I got carried away, and while we waited for the food to arrive I wondered if I should’ve gone for a fish main. But fortunately I made a great choice – the chicken was amazingly succulent, and the corn pakoras, while the portion wasn’t massive, were delicious. This was served with a chilli and lime yogurt – I can’t say I could taste a lot of chilli or lime, but it complemented the slightly spicy pakoras nicely. My friend chose the steak with béarnaise sauce, and there was absolutely nothing left on the plate. I tried a bite (for research purposes of course) and I especially liked the béarnaise – it was a stronger flavour than I’m used to, but it worked well against the medium-rare meat.
Then came the big surprise of the meal – the pudding. As a hardcore savoury fan, I very very rarely order it, but in the name of journalism I thought I’d be a good sport and give it a go. And wow. We went for the Eton Mess and the boozy peach trifle (because what you need after a lunchtime bottle of wine is a bit more booze), and I can honestly say it’s the best pudding I’ve ever had anywhere. It probably helps that I love cream, and the Eton Mess in particular was incredible. If you’re having a touristy day in central London, I’d recommend going all-out British and making a special trip to Inn The Park for the Eton Mess, possibly even washed down by the Britz Spritz aperitif cocktail with Kamm & Sons bittersweet botanical spirit, elderflower, Nyetimber sparkling wine and soda.
So, what did I make of Inn The park overall? I must say, I was incredibly impressed with this place. It’s about a million times better than the standard park café fare, even if you go for the self-service food area inside. I also spotted that you could buy a little picnic box inside to take away with you, which is a brilliant idea when the weather’s nice and you want to soak in the park’s chilled out atmosphere. These are £19 for two people, and if the food is as good as what I ate then I would 100% do this on my next visit to the park.
This is ideal if you want to get away from the tourist traps on the roads surrounding Buckingham Palace, and this has the added benefit of overlooking the lake in the middle of the park. If you’re looking for a relaxed spot for a cocktail and a light lunch in the heart of London’s action, this is well worth a go, especially if you’re lucky enough to catch the sunshine.
Words Kayleigh Tanner
Inn the Park for inn the park reservations.
St James’s Park,