As evenings go, this one was quite diverse. It started in a disused tube station called South Kentish Town, closed in 1924 and now home to Mission: Breakout, a war codebreaker escape game. After 60 minutes in a locked room racking our brains and feverishly freeing ourselves from the war room, we were well and truly ready for dinner. And what better way than sampling some modern Basque cuisine at Eneko at One Aldwych?
The restaurant is the brainchild of Michelin starred chef, Eneko Atxa whose three-Michelin Azurmendi restaurant, in Bilbao, Spain is no. 16 in the World’s Top 50 Restaurants. Executing Atxa’s vision in the London restaurant is Head Chef, Edurne Martín Delgado. Our tastebuds had been tingling with anticipation since we received our booking confirmation.
The cavernous lower ground of the One Aldwych hotel is a mix of modern elegance with the use of wood, stone and copper. The deep red banquettes add a colour pop to the otherwise muted decor along with the gloriously huge floral arrangements dotted around the restaurant.
Whilst perusing the menu a lovely choice of breads were presented – mixed seeds, sourdough and pumpkin seed-coated wholegrain.
The creamy butter was whipped right in front of your eyes, with an added dollop of basil oil turning it from yellow to vivid green. Simple. Impressive and very, very tasty.
I was overjoyed at the sight of the menu. Being spoilt for choice as a vegetarian is a rare find in many high-end restaurants. My Basque journey began with a Traditional Talo (£10). The crispy corn talo is the Basque version of a tortilla. Loaded with heritage tomatoes, fresh herbs and edible flowers, it looked like the Chelsea Flower Show on a plate. Living up to its looks it was equally delicious and refreshing.
Mo went for the Pork Festival (£13), arriving on the table in a box complete with a huge wooden pig’s head lid. Perhaps as a reminder of what you’re eating in case you forget! Namely Peppa Pig three ways – chorizo on milk bread, glazed sweetbread and suckling pig tempura.
Mr S had the vibrant looking Beetroot Tartare (£9), dressed with pickled red onion, souffle potato, sourdough toasts and vegetable barbecue sauce on the side for an added tang factor. He rather enjoyed the colourful looking dish and it’s mix of complex flavours.
Niren’s ‘In the Garden’ number, literally was just that. Presented as a vegetable patch, an olive tapenade covered a base of heritage tomatoes and topped with miniature vegetables. After a few mouthfuls, the high salt levels in the dish meant the dish was left unfinished. A shame as it looked so promising.
My Arraultzak (£12) came in the form of two flour crisps topped with wild asparagus strips, a fried egg, onion and piquillo peppers. It was a well balanced dish and the different textures in each mouthful made it a joy to eat. What really topped it off for me was the bowl of creamy dreamy mash that came as a side. I licked my plate and bowl of mash clean. So uncouth, but so necessary.
Mr S ordered the Arroz de Setas (£14), made from bomba rice, oyster mushroom and ceps emulsion. ‘Somewhat like risotto’ doesn’t do it justice. It was much creamier in texture and the flavour of the mushrooms jumped off the fork.
The Basque style hake in tempura (£16) was the dish of choice for Niren and Mo, accompanied with confit vegetables, red pepper sauce and parsley emulsion. The Spanish fish was a hit with its crispy batter and soft, flaky texture. A warning though, the main dishes are quite small in size, so I’d recommend ordering sides. The reason for the petite nature of the dishes given by the waiter was to ensure there is room left for dessert. A few eyebrows were raised at the table.
We washed it down with a carafe of 42 by Eneko Atxa. Keeping it in the family, the white wine comes from Atxa’s brother’s vineyard. It went well with the food balancing the flavours perfectly.
Of course desserts were ordered. Mine was a dark chocolate ice cream with a light peanut sponge cake (£7). Rather odd-looking, it lacked in flavour too. I could hardly taste the peanut flavour in the sponge. Let’s just say I lost the competition on ‘best dessert’.
Mo on the other hand did better with her Torrija (£7), a traditional Basque vanilla sponge and caramel crumble ice cream. The juicy milk soaked sponge was pure comfort food and the ice cream the perfect touch.
Niren took the winners crown with his salted caramel mousse and cookie crumble (£7). The flavours were spot on and the truffle like balls were filled with ice cream. Nice touch! I could have easily devoured a whole bowl of the smooth salted caramel mousse.
Eneko with its creative flair transforms carefully sourced ingredients into beautifully crafted plates delighting both the eyes and belly. Apart from a couple of dishes that didn’t quite hit the right taste levels for us, the rest of meal did impress. If you want to expand your restaurant repertoire add traditional Basque-style cuisine with a modern twist to the list.
Eneko at One Aldwych |1 Aldwych | London | WC2B 4BZ
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