Review

I went to eat dinner at the Magistrates’ Court where John Lennon was tried

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Legal Cheek‘s Katie King reviews Silk

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Last week, I went to eat dinner at Asian-fusion restaurant ‘Silk’.

As for the food, it’s what you’d expect from a fancy restaurant based in central London — really posh, pretty expensive and very tasty. But the restaurant’s unique selling point is the building that it’s located in.

The restaurant is part of the Courthouse Hotel, a five-star rated, Grade II listed building opposite Liberty London, just off of Oxford Street — and any keen law student should go there.

The building (pictured above and below) is a refurb of the Great Marlborough Street Magistrates Court. This is one of seven former Public Offices established in the capital in 1792, and until its closure in 1990, it was the second oldest Magistrates’ Court in the UK.

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The building’s animated history is demonstrated by the number of high-profile media-trials heard between its walls — including cases featuring Oscar Wilde, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Johnny Rotten. John Lennon was also hauled in front of magistrates here in 1970 for exhibiting sexually explicit material in a London art gallery. Going further back, Charles Dickens reportedly worked in the court as a journalist in 1835.

And though its function has undergone a total transformation, the building’s original features remain. Silk is a modern rework of the main courtroom, where diners can eat from the Asian restaurant on the courtroom floor, with the authentic judges’ bench, witness stand and dock still on show. Elsewhere, the iron bars from the former court’s prison act as a separation between the lobby lounge and the bar, providing some impressive photo opportunities for criminal law enthusiasts.

Diners are shown to the restaurant from the main hotel entrance, where the waiting staff were there to greet you and keen to talk about the hotel’s colourful history.

The restaurant itself was a modest size and very dimly lit, but it had an authenticity and romanticism about it that I really liked (though I did seem to be the only one there that wasn’t on a date). With original features in place, the dining area, despite its modernisation, felt like a traditional old English courtroom, which sparked my interest about the important events that had happened right where I was sitting.

The menu looks like it has been created using Word Art, but despite featuring some unusual ingredients (‘onion kulcha’ and ‘tamarind’ anyone?), there was a lot of choice. My friend had lamb kebab to start, and tiger prawns with quinoa and baby spinach for her main. I had tiger prawns to start, and duck for my main. Both were delicious — though the duck was a bit fatty. I’ve also now found out what a kumquat is (and that I don’t like them).

The experience was a pricey one — even with a two for one voucher I still forked out over £30. This was because drinks were not included in the deal, and the service charge was calculated pre-voucher-deductions. The staff were, at times, overly attentive, hanging around the table and refilling our glasses after every sip of wine — but this was certainly not the sort of place I felt able to dock the service charge.

I don’t think I’d visit Silk again — it was (quite a bit) too fancy for me, and too pricey for your average drowning-in-debt graduate. However, for a one-off experience I really rated it, and I’d recommend the restaurant to anybody who wants a one-of-a-kind dining opportunity.

Silk Restaurant is based in the Courthouse Hotel London in central London.