Eneko at One Aldwych review: Basque cuisine comes to LondonCultureFood & DrinksRestaurant & bar reviews
It took just 20 years for London to grow from icon of terrible food to world’s capital of cutting-edge, fine dining. Thanks to the experience and skills of people who moved in the city over the years, and the Brits who worked in Europe’s best restaurants (i.e. the exact opposite of Brexit), it seems like the bar is raising every season. Spanish Michelin-starred chefs are seizing the moment with several high-profile pop-ups and new openings. Eneko Atxa of Azurmendi, a three-michelin-starred restaurant in the city of Bilbao (16th in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list 2016), is probably the one who took the most thought-through approach for his London debut.
Eneko at One Aldwych is a modern restaurant serving informal Basque cuisine of fine-dining inspiration. Set in the five-star hotel of the same name, it currently offers one of the best value-for-money menus in the West End. Forget the equation five stars/austere environment, this is a place where you can relax and enjoy good food. It also has a cool vibe but it doesn’t push guests to fit in.
There’s a proper selection of snacks for those who want to stay just for drinks – or perhaps for a long meal – and the Sliced Iberico Ham and Iberico Ham Croquetas easily stand out. The house wines, usually an uninspiring selection, are proudly presented as the product of chef Atxa’s uncle.
The dining area is beautiful and spacious – for once the tables are comfortable – matching the restaurant’s concept and food style. Tonight Atxa is in the kitchen, but when he is not around head chef Edurne Martín Delgado fills his shoes seamlessly having worked with him for 11 years. As a starter we have the most iconic dishes: Memories of the Bay of Biscay and Txerri Boda Pork Festival. The Fat Duck-style Memory dish is the best culinary spectacle you can get for £14. Water gets poured on dry ice and sea weed to recreate the smell of the sea in the smoke. Of the three seafood components – oyster, crab and prawn tartare – the oyster with apple blossom is spectacular.
The Pork Festival, just like the other starter, features three different components too – chorizo on milk bread, glazed sweetbread, suckling pig tempura – and it comes in a box with a wooden pig face on it. As a main we try the Hake, another tempura dish. The batter is light and crisp but it lacks a bit of punchiness; however, the delicious red pepper sauce it sits on makes up for that shortfall. The seared duck breast, another talked-about dish, is generous in quantity; it’s served with a fine julienne of king oyster mushrooms. It’s so fine that, without knowing, it would be practically impossible to guess they are mushrooms (similar to the mushroom spaghetti recipe Albert Adrià shared with us last January).
All the bottles in the wine list are Spanish (apart from three Champagne houses), which is commendable but a bit extreme: even the most close-minded French restaurants have a page dedicated to the rest of Europe and the New World. The large majority of them are available by the glass – something that in 2016, with oxidation-preventing techniques, every forward-thinking restaurant should consider.
Next to the kitchen there’s a dessert trolley that diners can’t keep their eyes off of. Consistently with the rest of the menu, the number of choices is impressive, which inevitably prompts happy guests to come back and try more of Atxa’s cuisine. While the Chocolate and Pear Cake and Hazelnut Praline is not better than a pudding taken from an M&S shelf, the Dark Chocolate with Biscuit Crumble, and the Basque Ice Cream all the courses are served with, are delightful.
Eneko at One Aldwych is a genuine Basque dining destination in the West End. It’s stylish and offers a mix of innovative dishes and comfort food. Since it has just opened, prices are very competitive (a three-course lunch or pre-theatre is available at just £28): catch it while you can.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
To book a table at Eneko at One Aldwych, One Aldwych WC2B 4BZ, call 020 7300 0300 or visit here.