Smooth live jazz and a seriously good set dinner menu?  Nick puts on his dark glasses and eats to the beat

Hotel restaurants rarely light my fire. There’s always that sense of a chef who passed all his or her exams at culinary school, and now can crank out any cuisine required, from pasta to sushi, from curry to boeuf en croute, but there’s usually a problem.

It will sound good on the menu, it will look good on the plate but it will taste of almost nothing. I don’t know what causes it, I suspect it’s because the chef’s heart is not in it, it’s just a job, you’ve got to satisfy guests of every nationality and age so you simply get on with it like a robot.

So maybe I was a little under excited to be going to Jazz Night at The Chelsea Harbour Hotel , the hotel is just ten minutes walk from the Kings Road, although the hotel will valet park your car for £20 for two hours if you want.

The area is all high-end apartments, a pretty marina, the hotel, the Design Centre and some offices. The hotel is as old as Chelsea Harbour, but inside that’s not too noticeable. The Harbour Bar & Terrace does have hints of the 80s about it, but they’ve kept it fresh with no really discernible signs of age, and the envy-making view out over the marina can’t be improved.

Jazz is playing when we arrive. A three piece on this night with a bit of the ‘babadadoobapbap’ vocals that I find slightly annoying. I blame Cleo Laine. Still though, it makes for a pleasant enough background sound, although it does also make conversation a little hard at times, the volume being quite high.

The set menu is simple enough, starters of either rabbit terrine with confit onion marmalade or smoked salmon, so we have one of each. Good smoked salmon, not sliced too thinly which I prefer, and brown bread and lemon is all that’s needed.

The rabbit terrine is chunky, rural and well salted but has an authentic sliver of bone in it  which is unfortunate, but the only real downbeat is the bread which has been toasted, I suspect, some time earlier and is now cold with a slightly damp and soft centre. I really want some crunch.

We eat these and watch the singer work a mini keyboard up to the mic. Iit looks like a toy, but actually produces a rather good classic harmonium sound with shades of Ivor Cutler.

Mains land on the table with Baked Seabass Fillet and Langoustine with minted orange couscous and aubergine relish for me. This turns out to be seriously good, the sort of unpretentious but flavour packed dish you used to be able to get in most decent French restaurants. Maybe the couscous could have been the larger grained type, but there’s really nothing I’d change on this.

Nor with the Grilled Lamb Cutlets with spring vegetables, potato fondant and mint jus. Perfectly cooked lamb that cries out to be picked up and gnawed down the bone, and broad beans and peas that enjoy the jus just as much as we do. A potato fondant is a classy classic addition, and a turned carrot, not seen one of those for a while, is a sweet addition. Again a very good plate.

This is so surprisingly good that it’s a shame to see so many people around us ordering steak and chips. It’s a safe bet of course, I’ve done it in hotels myself on many occasions, but as there’s far more interesting food available here the steakers are missing out.

As the jazz combo slides into The Girl From Ipanema, which had to happen at some point, we do dessert. Again this is much better than expected. A Yuzu Panna Cotta is a riot of colour with that orange/lemon semi -sweet flavour of the Yuzu coming through. Nice to see a fig in there, as well as a cape gooseberry.

A Milk Chocolate Toblerone Mousse is not really a Toblerone as it lacks the triangles and doesn’t break my teeth. It does have the range of textures though, from crunchy to gelatinous and it is extremely enjoyable and again it’s far better than I had hoped.

Service is a little over fussy, but means well, and everyone seems to be enjoying the jazz. Even I am tapping my foot slightly, although off the beat. I’d never make a good drummer.  We leave pretty happy.

Whether you go for the jazz or just want a proper dinner, or indeed al fresco lunch if the sun is out, The Chelsea Harbour Hotel is playing a good tune.

Chelsea Harbour Dr, London SW10 0XG

Jazz Nights
Friday June 16th 

Friday June 23rd

Friday June 30th 

Friday July 7th 

and beyond