Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Executive Lounge, Park Plaza London Victoria

During my recent trip to London, I stayed at the Park Plaza London Vitoria, conveniently located close to my office.

But of course, this is Julie's dining club, not a hotel review site, so I'm not actually here to review the hotel itself.  I stayed only two nights, but my room included executive lounge access, so I checked out the evening canapé selection both nights, and enjoyed my breakfast there each morning.

The evening canapés were less than impressive.  There was basic snack mix and finger sandwiches one night, spring rolls the other.  Not a single sweet treat!

I had low expectations for breakfast after the first night of canapés, and was pleasantly surprised.  The spread was extensive, including hot items, baked goods, fresh fruit, really good muesli, assorted yogurts, meats, cheeses, and more.  I gladly returned the second morning.
Little Tables.
Furnishings weren't luxurious, but they were good enough.  Padded chairs, wooden tables, and place settings laid out.
Drinks.
The first station had a machine for making espresso drinks, instant decaf coffee packets, and an assortment of Twinings tea, with a selection of sweeteners.  A good enough mix.

On my first visit, I was offered fresh coffee, so I didn't use this area, but on my second visit, even though I was greeted, no offer of coffee was made, so I used the machine instead to make an americano.  It was unremarkable.
Cereals.
Next was an assortment of cereals, plus some mix ins like banana chips, dried apricots, and raisins.  Certainly not my thing, so I skipped these.
Fruit, muesli, cheese, meats.
I was really impressed with the next section.  It contained several varieties of cold sliced meat, and a decent enough smoked salmon.  Only one variety of cheese, and it came in little packages, but I didn't expect to see any of these items in a simple buffet.

For fruit there was a fruit salad, mandarin orange segments, and chunks of pineapple, as well as a fruit coulis.

And muesli.  I love muesli, so I was thrilled to see this.  It was good muesli.  Creamy, well spiced, my style for sure.  I enjoyed a bowl each morning I was there.  The first day, I added the fruit coulis to it, but on my second visit, I decided it was good enough just on its own.  Highlight of the breakfast spread!
Watermelon, smoothies, yogurts, condiments.
The next area had ... WATERMELON!  I have no idea why the watermelon was on the side, rather than with the rest of the fruit.  But, since I have a deathly watermelon allergy, this made me quite happy.  I was actually able to eat the muesli from the previous station, and I would have needed to skip it if the watermelon was located inside the same serving area.

The yogurts were Loseley brand, not one I'm familiar with in the US, and came in an interesting assortment of flavors, including caramelized pear and fudge.  I obviously had to try that.
Caramelised Pear and Creamy Fudge Yogurt
Fudge? In yogurt? Caramelized fruit?  How could I NOT try this?

The yogurt had an ok creaminess, but was not as thick as Greek style yogurt.  I don’t actually like pear that much, but I was too intrigued by this flavor to not try it.  The pear bits were plentiful, in good size chunks.  They were sorta caramelized I guess.  But I didn't love them.

The fudge was the more interesting part.  I tasted chocolate.  But I never saw any.  No chunks, no swirls, no coloring to indicate cocoa.  I tried to find it, but I never could.  I tried to figure out if I was making up the fact that I could taste chocolate, thinking perhaps my brain was tricked because it read "fudge".  But, it was there, I swear.

Anyway, this was interesting, but not something I'd get again, only because I prefer a thicker yogurt, and, I don't like pears.  I'm glad I tried it though.
Hot Foods: scrambled eggs, bacon, beans, mushrooms, etc.
The hot buffet area had all the classic makings for a full British breakfast.  I didn't take notes, but I know there was at least scrambled eggs, baked beans, mushrooms, bacon, and sausage.  I think there were a few other items as well.

None of these were appealing to me, so I skipped them.
Danishes, muffins, rolls, fruit.
At the end, even more fruit, including whole bananas, oranges, apples.  A basket of sad looking rolls.  Mediocre looking danishes.

And a handful of muffins, none labelled.
Juices.
 Finally, juices.  I didn't try any.
Pot of Coffee.
On my first visit, once I entered, I was greeted and offered fresh coffee.  Once I sat down, an entire individual pot was brought to me.  It was good enough, better than what I made in the machine.
Mini-Muffins, Day 2.
On the first day, the muffins were all full size, and were drizzled with something.  They didn't look like anything special, but they turned out to be absolutely delicious.  I wish I'd taken photos!

I started with one that seemed to be a carrot/raisin/pumpkin seed/cream cheese muffin.  It was moist.  It had a good carrot flavor, not overwhelming.  It was very well spiced.  It had a lot of plump raisins throughout.  I loved the crunch from the pumpkin seeds.  There were a lot of good things going on in the muffin, in terms of flavors and textures.  But the best part was the cream cheese.  A little was drizzled as icing on top, and then the center was stuffed with sweetened cream cheese.  I wasn't expecting to find it in the center, and it was a great surprise.  It added even more moisture and a bit of sweetness.  I really liked this muffin.

I liked it so much, that I went for another.  The next looked like a blueberry muffin, again with a little cream cheese drizzle on top.  Like the first one, it was nicely moist.  I liked the sweetness of the drizzle on top.  It was loaded with blueberries, all large size, juicy.  The muffin base wasn't particularly interesting, but only because I was comparing it to the carrot one, which was just loaded with so many goodies.  But again, the winning part was the cream cheese filling hidden within.  I just loved how much moisture it added.  My second favorite, but I still liked it quite a bit.

On the second day, I went rushing in for breakfast, very excited, only to find that my large muffins had been replaced with small muffins.  Not wanting to judge the muffins just based on size, since the first batch hadn't looked that great either, I tried two.  They weren't good at all.

They didn't have a cream cheese drizzle.  Or cream cheese lurking inside.  They were not moist.

The first one had a crunchy sugar topping that I liked, but it was a dry lemon flavored muffin, with lemon goo in place of my cream cheese filling.  I dislike sweet lemon desserts, and muffins are no different.

The next was blueberry, and the berries weren't large and juicy this time.  No cream cheese.

I have no idea how they could serve such radically different muffins.  It was like they came from two entirely different vendors.  One set was really quite impressive, the other, worthless.
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