After being closed for nearly two years, the Hippodrome has reopened its doors as a swanky new casino and restaurant, Heliot Restaurant. The building, which sits at the entrance of Leicester Square, has been the home to many projects since its construction in 1900 including a circus theatre complete with 400 tonne water tank used for diving and animal shows.
The later reincarnation of ‘The Dome’ as a cabaret and concert venue saw the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Judy Garland and Harry Houdini grace the stage. It’s hard to believe that all of this is now covered by roulette wheels and poker tables but I’m pleasantly surprised to see that the restoration brought back designs from its original opening and many of the walls are adorned with past playbills.
Their restaurant, ‘The Heliot Restaurant’, named after Claire Heliot, a famous lion tamer, is situated right above the main casino floor and under the original spectator bleachers. I’m mesmerized by the unique light bulb chandeliers hanging from the rafter strings as it adds character to an otherwise standard dining room décor.
The dining area offers seating directly overlooking the players below or tables towards the back that are private enough to forget that you’re even in a casino at all. We begin the meal by asking our very charming and very French waiter for his recommendations from the menu.
His knowledge is impressive and even though it is a rather small menu, the range of offerings for each course makes it harder to choose than you would think.
Taking his recommendations for each course, I start with a Duck Consommé and my guest orders the Tomato Gazpacho. The charm of them being delivered in a piping hot tea pot for the Consommé and a martini shaker for the Gazpacho is a nice touch.
My guest loves the gazpacho, later saying it was her favourite part of the meal. It is a perfectly chilled temperature, bursting with flavour and quite refreshing for a rare humid London evening.
My Consommé is nice but I find myself ‘tasting’ the gazpacho multiple times. For our mains, the waiter recommends ‘The Millionaires Mac N Cheese’.
By far the most lavish item on the menu, the almost £30 dish is made from Gruyère and parmesan cheese, double cream and black truffle. It sounds too good to pass up and I figure ‘When in ‘Drome’, so I order it.
My guest opts for a lighter sounding Sea Bass. Both dishes were wonderful. The Mac N Cheese was as lavish as promised with the Japanese panko crumbs making it crunchy on top and the poached pheasant egg adding even more body.
Certainly not for the lactose intolerant or faint at heart (it’s also definitely large enough to share). My guest enjoyed the Mandarin Sea Bass saying it was perfectly roasted and fresh.
For dessert, we order the Strawberry Eton Mess. Being Canadian, I have heard a lot about this dessert but have not tried it and figured it would be a light following to the quite heavy main.
If The Heliot Restaurant’s version is a true representation, then I am won over. The basil ice cream was a perfect complement to the strawberries and cream and the meringue strips were delicate and fluffy.
My guest had eyed a foursome of mini sorbet cones being delivered on the way in, so we order them as well. They came on a platter with the flavours of blackberry, lime and passion fruit as bold as the colours.
Overall the meal at Heliot Restaurant was quite satisfying and the atmosphere was enough to certainly make you forget for a moment that you were above a casino floor and steps away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds outside.
As we are about to leave, we are offered some chips ‘on the house’ to have our go at one of the Roulette tables below, which we happily oblige.
The Hippodrome has done a great job in distinguishing themselves apart from the other casinos sharing the space in Leicester Square. The venue has a charming history and The Heliot’s menu was up there in quality with other well known West End spots.
I can’t say I’m much of a gambler (the house chips did not last long) but The Heliot’s menu may be enough to make me one.
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