If the recent reprisal of Murder on the Orient Express has you longing for remnants of a more elegant era, with attentive service and wheeled dinner services, then Jack’s Carvery on Sundays at Kingston’s Holiday Inn, which launched in December, will tick lots of your dining boxes. You won’t even have to set foot on a train – and you can probably skip the murder, too.
Actually, a train isn’t such a bad idea, because part of the offering at the restaurant is bottomless cocktails for one hour – and with a choice of Bloody Marys or Whiskey Sours with which to wet your whistle (try saying that at the end of the hour) you don’t want to have be to designated driver. Indeed, staff are more than keen to ensure you maximise the deal: on the occasion of our visit, our waiter made frequent swoops past our table theatrically hissing the likes of “only 37 minutes to go!” from the corner of his ever-smiling mouth.
Despite being located within a fairly unprepossessing setting – I’m not convinced that any Holiday Inn has ever won any prizes for cutting edge style – the restaurant aims to conjure up the glamour of a bygone era, with a pianist tinkling away soothingly throughout our visit, and the meat carved at the side of the table from an original, mid-twentieth century trolley. In silver plate and wood, the domed trolley is a one-off piece crafted by Drakes, which was a London firm of hotel and restaurant silver-plate furnishers. Founded just before the mid-20th century, it supplied an almost identical domed trolley to Conrad Hilton for the opening of the Park Lane Hilton in 1963.
Back to the present day and the Head Chef, Akshay Sabharwal, is a delight, emerging from the kitchen to tell us about today’s meats and providing reassurances on our various dietary requirements. There are never fewer than three from which to choose: sadly on our visit, one of these was not lamb, my personal carnivorous Achilles’ heel. Choices made (it’s 21-day dry aged beef for both us) we sit back with the first of our cocktails: the 60 minutes of bottomless service is an acknowledgement of some 60 years of the carvery tradition, since it first started to appear in upmarket hotels across London.
As you’d expect, the emphasis is on British ingredients and the meats are accompanied by seasonal vegetables, plus Yorkshire puddings and potatoes roasted in goose fat with rosemary and garlic. Tip: if you’re a Yorkshire lover, go with a gluten free diner and you’ll probably score their portion too.
Side table service doesn’t disappoint – the meat is carved with an elegant flourish in front of us and has been cooked to perfection. The kids are suitably envious: we opted for the £14.95 kids’ menu for them, which offered up the likes of pasta, burgers and chicken, with drinks and dessert included – all good, but not a patch on our meals. It all swings back around to them with dessert though – the candy cart in the centre of the room is groaning under the weight of its confections, on which their goggle eyes are firmly throughout the entirety of the meal.
Although the ‘star’ of the show is ostensibly the Drake’s trolley, it’s the service that really wins all of our hearts. Not only is our waiter, Maz, attentive in all of the ways you’d expect staff to be, he’s also fantastically personable, warm and engaging. The children are still talking about him and wanting to go back ‘to visit Maz’. When we do, I’ll make sure I’m not driving – a Mother’s Day treat, perhaps. After all, those Bloody Marys were far too good to limit to one.
Sunday Carvery Lunch at The Holiday Inn Kingston, every Sunday from 12 midday – 5pm
60 minutes of complimentary cocktails followed by a 3-course lunch, £27
020 8786 6520, hikingston.co.uk