With Arzak Instruction
Tel: 020 7333 1234
Ametsa is riding high. It has just been awarded its first Michelin Star in less than a year of opening, I can see why. This is almost a new kind of dining for London. The sleek and startlingly stylish interior is as impressive as the food. From the ceiling are suspended over 7000 large test tubes of varying lengths filled with spices. I told you it was startling. The effect is that of a sea or waves running across the ceiling of the dining space. There is also another room, which can interconnect but there the tubes are all the same length, calmer waters I suppose.
I have visited the Halkin before and enjoyed their afternoon tea, produced with clinical precision and a firm eye on taste and presentation. Lunch at Ametsa on the other hand is a very different thing altogether. The influences here are Spanish, tapas to be precise. But I’ve never tasted tapas like this before or for that matter seen any tapas this beautiful.
Three small amuse bouche tasted wonderful the chorizo with mango in a little parcel was the best, sweet and smoky but all too small. Still, this was the tasting menu so much more to follow. Sensible gaps between courses are the routine here. The wines that can marry with this set lunch menu were faultless. The waiter explains what they are serving in some detail. With Spanish accents predominant among the staff the food had an authenticity, I found myself paying more attention than normal to their descriptions of what I was eating.
This new Basque restaurant in some ways has its roots in San Sebastiàn, Spain. Juan Mari Arzak established his food consultation company; Arzak Instruction some years ago and has a hand in the setup here. The remit is to only prepare what nature offers them and constantly move forward with food and design.
King prawns, spider crab and a sweet corn sauce was a triumph. Not only did it look out of this world with its white crispy tentacular appearance, but also, it tasted superb. Nothing so far at this restaurant could be accused of being overpowering or underwhelming. The sweet corn sauce was divine the super sweet taste going so well with the spider crab. A rare tuna steak with black ‘mojo’ sauce was perfectly cooked and again looked incredible with tiny circles of black ‘mojo’ and a gherkin sauce added at the table. It reminded me of art by Gary Hume, a sort of playful geometry at work. The final savoury dish was a butter soft beef fillet with passion fruit sauce and thinly layered potatoes. A refreshing melon ball salad completed this course. It kept me silent until it was all gone. M was the same we both really liked this dish. It is a pleasure to try something one is so familiar with and yet with just a little variation it’s taken somewhere else completely.
There is serenity in the restaurant, nobody talking too loudly and the staff floating around as if in hover mode. I did feel that this is one aspect that might benefit from an addition of humour or at least jollity. Eating out should be fun. The population on our visit was mainly business class, so that might be the problem it might be a little more relaxed in the evenings. It is also early days for this high-end restaurant. I wouldn’t wish to be too critical it has hit a high spot so early in its life it might still be catching up with itself.
The dessert was a curious three dimensional structure of ‘wooden boards’; a thin layered cake covered in chocolate with a mild coffee ice cream, M didn’t take to this much, neither of us enjoy coffee but I liked the ice cream a lot so it really wasn’t very strong. The boards were fine but were really there for their shape, to give form to an otherwise fairly normal dessert. This was by far the weakest link in the proceedings, but we were on the tasting menu so there are other choices if you’re going a la carte.
Some rather cute button sized petit fours of Turkish delight, carrot cake and marshmallow redressed the balance for us as we mulled over the lunch. M thought it was “One of the best I’ve enjoyed in recent years, in my top ten even”. As we wandered through Belgravia afterwards past all the Embassies she said, “After all those courses you’d expect to be full but I feel just right, that really is the perfect lunch for me”. I thought the standard of cooking was exceptional and it rightly deserves a Michelin star. It looks and tastes so gorgeous you can’t help but be seduced by it. I’m sure it will get into its stride and as the clientele learn to relax the room I’m sure will feel warmer, maybe even as warm as San Sebastiàn?