By Jo Cooksey
It was the name that first caught my eye on social media. The Ned. There was a new, swanky hotel and member’s club opening in The City of London, called The Ned. That sounded more like an East End boozer to me. Further investigation proved that as well as being swanky, it was also very swish and it incredibly impressive. A collaboration between the global member’s club group, Soho House and the quirky American boutique hotel company, The Sydell Group.
The name, The Ned comes from the fact that the hotel is housed in the old Midland Bank headquarters, a listed building, which was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, or Ned to his friends. The classical exterior is clad in white Portland stone with two monumental columns flanking the front doors. Pass through the doors and you are in the vast, old banking hall, which is now home to seven public restaurants. There are also three others but these are reserved for members and guests of the hotel.
We visited on a Sunday afternoon in June, walking over from Shoreditch, where we were staying and trying to decide which of the restaurants we would try. I have never been in The City on a Sunday and was surprised that this normally manic part of London was all but deserted. It felt quite post-apocalyptic.
From the quiet of Poultry, the street the hotel sits on, we entered The Ned and found ourselves in the immense, high ceilinged and extremely busy banking hall. We must have looked a little shell-shocked because one of the lovely greeters came over and struck up a conversation with us. He explained where all the different venues were located within the hall and suggested we wander round and see which we fancied.
To be honest, most of the restaurants meld into one due to no clear designation of seating and no branding, just strategically placed menu stands. Not that it was a problem, it made the experience more exciting. Whilst mooching round, we stopped to admire and tap our toes along to the jazz band, who were playing on the raised, circular dais in the middle of the hall. A perfect addition to the beautiful 1920’s surroundings. I almost wished I had come clad in a flapper’s dress, sporting a short bob and a very long cigarette holder. The hall has been beautifully restored and the furnishing are all plump velvet and plush carpets. Very sumptuous.
I had read about the Sunday Feast served in Millie’s Lounge, their British styled restaurant. All you can eat from a lavish hot and cold buffet for just £35. In fact, all the restaurants in The Ned are very reasonably priced. Having had a look at the cornucopia of food on offer we decided to try there and a lady seated near the hot section. The whole buffet is of biblical proportions and runs around all four sides of a large bar. Where to begin? We decided to split what was on offer into three courses and started with the cold section.
As lovers of seafood we were overwhelmed by the platters of half lobsters, shell-on prawns and smoked salmon with all the trimmings. There were great bowls of fresh oysters on ice and all manner of salads and breads. We tried not to over fill our plates, to ensure we had room for the next two courses but it was hard with so much delicious food on offer. The seafood was perfection and I admit I did go back for a little more smoked salmon.
Next it was the hot section, which was well stocked with all the traditional Sunday lunch vittles. There was spatchcocked poussin and rib of beef on offer. I believe there had been other roasts but it was late in the afternoon when we got there. We accompanied our meat with roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese, an assortment of veg, gravy and very large Yorkshires. While everything was perfectly cooked, only the cauliflower cheese was warm, which was disappointing. We didn’t go back for seconds. At this point I took myself of to the loo and found it in the basement along with the ‘straight out of the movies’ 20 tonne, circular vault door, behind which is the members bar.
Now it was time for dessert…and cheese and biscuits…and cake…tarts…and fruit…and… You get the idea. Now I have a very sweet tooth and frankly I had to gird my loins not to fill my plate to the 10m high ceiling. In the end, I had a mini fresh fruit tart, a dollop of Eton Mess and a luscious custard slice. All of which went down a treat.
While tucking into our sweet treats I noticed the hotel’s MD, Gareth Banner and Millie’s Executive Chef, Luke Rayment inspecting the hot buffet, moving things around and sending food back to the kitchens. I approached Mr. Rayment and told him about our lukewarm Sunday lunch, more to make him aware than complain. To his credit, he apologized profusely and offered us another lunch, which I declined because we had actually eaten everything on our plates. We never knowingly waste food, whatever the temperature. However, I did take him up on his kind offer of two Espresso Martinis, which went down very nicely post-lunch.
After that, we almost rolled out of the front doors and into Bank underground station, we were far too full to walk back to the East End. In summary, did we enjoy our visit? Yes, the surroundings are jaw droppingly gorgeous and despite the size of the place once seated it felt very intimate. It is quite noisy but then they can seat 850 people at one time and the acoustics amplify every little sound. We didn’t mind, it just added to the atmosphere but some people may find it a little too much. Did we enjoy the food? Despite the hiccup over the ‘cool’ hot section yes, we certainly did. We thought the choice and quality were extremely good value. The Sunday Feast is an excellent choice for whiling away a Sunday afternoon. Would we come back? Absolutely and given half the chance we’d love to check out the hotel’s rooms, spa and roof terrace too.