The Christmas spirit arrived a little early for me this year as we were invited to sample the excellent festive lunch at the City Cafe. The meal was followed by one of the venue’s inspirational Christmas Cocktail Masterclasses.

It takes a very fine Christmas meal to impress me, but that’s exactly what was achieved in style by this fine dining restaurant and the good news is that because the menu is to be on offer throughout the whole of the festive season, from the 25th November to the 23rd December, we can all manage to get that office Christmas meal booked, or just take advantage of the position of the Hilton, right opposite Piccadilly Station, while out Christmas shopping.

The service was attentive throughout and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We had starters of the beetroot-cured salmon, goat’s cheese fritters and candied hazelnuts. The sweetness of the cured salmon was complemented very well by the mellowness of the fritter while the candied hazelnuts added a delightful crunchy surprise of their own.

My main course was roast turkey breast, which was succulent and beautifully presented with all the usual trimmings including potatoes roasted in goose fat. My colleague preferred the slow-cooked fillet steak which she declared to be the most tender she had ever eaten. It was served with tasty, braised ox cheek and baby onions.

My choice of dessert was the traditional all the way – a Christmas pudding with brandy sauce, but this version was a treat – a perfectly light and fruity take on the stodgy puddings I had come to expect over the years. The pear tarte tatin was a tour de force too, consisting of a poached pear in a thin shell of sweet pastry, accompanied by apple puree and banana ice cream.

We then moved into the Blue Bar for the Cocktail class. The world of cocktail mixing had been virtually unknown to us until today but head barman Liam put us at our ease immediately with a cocktail each to start then he explained and demonstrated to us how to prepare a number of heady concoctions such as the refreshing Frost Bite, (gin, fresh lemon juice and Limoncello,) the Chocolate Orange Martini, (chocolate liqueur, Irish cream and Grand Marnier,) and the festively-named Nutracker, built and stirred in the ‘old-fashioned’ style, (with sugar syrup, cherries, bitters and equal measures of amaretto and bourbon.)

We were then invited to have a go for ourselves and my colleague was soon having great fun making a Turkish Delight, (using vodka, rose-flavoured sugar and chocolate liqueur,) with more than a little help from the expert Liam! Of course you don’t have to be eating here to take part in one of the Blue Bar’s Cocktail Masterclasses.

Various packages are available to suit your pocket and all you really need to do is make sure that you have a nominated driver to take you home safely after this intoxicating experience!

The hearty three-course Christmas meal is very good value: just £21.95 at lunch time, or £24.95 in the evening. Cocktail Masterclasses range from £20 to £35 per person, and are well worth giving a try.

 Chris Kirwan