As I exit Piccadilly Tube Station, my eyes blink and begin to water as the early morning sunshine contrasts against the subdued subterranean light. St James (formerly Lower Regent St), and its impossibly wide pavement, is lightly scattered with people. The sun, a welcome warmth in the February chill of a blue sky, casts a glow on the pale Georgian stone columns of the buildings.
My heels click crisply on the flagstone pavement as taxis and buses trundle past in the early morning traffic, the fumes from their exhausts rising into the air. I glance into the window of the newly opened Smeg store, the brightly decorated Dolce & Gabbana appliances standing out amongst the natural, shiny wood and a green and leafy plant wall, brightly lit, awaiting an audience.
I reach the lower part of St James, and press the button at the pedestrian crossing. As the lights change, I step in front of towering red London buses, and lightly run across the road as the warning beeps begin to sound.
Villandry is in front of me, housed in a beautiful Georgian building, the pale white stone glowing warmly in the sunshine. 8am on a February morning is not a good time to sit outside on the small round tables with wicker style chairs, so I continue in through the heavy, metal framed glass doors.
The ornately decorated high ceilings, the tall, film noir windows with their blinds pulled halfway down, and the black and white chequered marble floor, wonderfully complement the marble topped tables and cushioned red leather booths.
To my right, up two or three steps, linen covered tables house classic french style silverware and wine glasses. I’m headed to the left, for a business breakfast meeting in the slightly less formal area, where tables are uncovered, surrounded by dark wooden framed chairs with red leather seats. I’m early, and the maitre d’ takes my coat, while showing me to a small table for two.
It’s still slightly chilly, but the winter sun provides some warmth as it shines through the windows.
The staff are attentive and friendly, I place my order for English Breakfast tea, which is swiftly and silently delivered. A gentle hum begins as other diners start to arrive. There’s a table with four elegant young men, immaculate haircuts and sharply cut suits with crisp, white shirts. One of the booths is occupied by two older gentleman, equally smartly dressed, one with a paisley blue handkerchief tucked into his blue plaid jacket and a traditional black umbrella hanging to one side. The echos of cutlery and crockery puncture the air, the barista adding to the throng as he prepares cappuccinos and lattes.
I extract my Mac from my bag and painlessly sign on to the wifi, I’ve been travelling for the past two days, so it’s useful to have a little time to catch up. As I’m placing the laptop back into my bag, my companion arrives and orders coffee. We peruse the menu of culinary breakfast delights such as Eggs Benedict, Muesli, Youghurt, Smoked Salmon and of course, a full English, among other items. I plump for the Eggs Benedict, a firm favourite of mine, always a civilised start to a long, hectic day.
As I pick up the cutlery, presented beautifully in a linen napkin, a freshly squeezed grapefruit juice is placed in front of me. My breakfast follows shortly, and looks delicious. The hollandaise is perfect, creamy yet fluffy, and has an edge to it caused by just the right amount of paprika. The eggs are warm, and as I cut into them, the thick, yellow yolk pours out. The saltiness from the ham and the texture of the wholemeal muffin complement the egg and hollandaise, and I know I’ve made a good choice to fuel me for the day of meetings that lies ahead.
Replete, we begin our planning for the first meeting of the day, our plates are quietly removed and the table cleared. The bill is brought to us, and our coats returned as we prepare to leave. We are bid a good day as we wind our way between the tables and out again into the warm sunshine and crisp, winter sky.
All ratings are out of 5 stars:
Decor: ***** | Service: ***** | Food: *****