Spice Market at W Hotel
Inebriated. That was the welcome side effect of a visit to Spice Market in London’s vibrant Leicester Square.
Situated on the corner of Wardour Street and Lisle Street, with a more discreet entrance available through the slick W Hotel, the restaurant is one of Michelin-starred “super chef” Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s many international outposts. The interior is a fabulous blend of style and comfort, with a lounge downstairs and a more formal eating space above. Dark wood and bamboo are offset with coloured cushions and illuminated by hundreds of spectacular “wok lights,” while an open plan kitchen and thriving bar help to create the busy ethos typically associated with South East Asia.
Recommended by our knowledgeable waiter, every aromatic sip of the Argentinian pinot gris, Santa Florentina, 2011, Famantina Valley was a cooling antidote to the fiery, pan-Asian fusion served at the restaurant. Its fruity notes were the perfect addition to our meal of rich sauces and burning spices. Notably, so relaxing was the environment, it was easy to throw caution to the wind and unwind without a care.
Excluding desserts, the food was surprisingly unremarkable. A starter of Black Pepper Shrimp Sun-Dried Pineapple was pleasantly sweet but triggered an inferno that almost incinerated every taste bud. The Spice Plate, a selection of five starters, had two standouts: a Salmon Sashimi, Warm Crunchy Rice Chipotle Emulsion and Spring Onion delivered on texture and flavour, as did Spiced Chicken Samosas Coriander Yoghurt.
A main of Cod with Malaysian Chilli Sauce Thai Basil and Celery needed more of its flavoursome sauce while crunchy Tempura Salt and Pepper Soft-Shell Crab Thai Basil and Lime Sauce tasted predominantly of burnt oil. Red Curried Duck Pineapple Sambal was disappointingly bland with a coral-coloured sauce that smelt and tasted of chicken stock.
Thankfully, charred Grilled Rib-Eye with bok choy, garlic and sesame was tender and juicy – although cooked to medium rather than the medium-rare ordered – and sides of Sugar Snap Peas Water Chestnut and Shiitakes and Coconut Sticky Rice Steamed in Banana Leaf were tasty and well executed.
The desserts however were exceptional: Cookie Bag proved to be a trio of moreish biscuits – Peanut Butter, Ginger Oatmeal and Coconut Chocolate Chip – and Thai Jewels and Fruits with Crushed Coconut Ice had a flavour reminiscent of Italian tutti-frutti ice cream. The texture of fruit in a milky liquid flavoured with syrups of jasmine and Thai herbs was superb. Ovaltine Kulfi, a fudgy slab served with Chantilly cream, a popcorn crust, caramelised banana and a spiced milk chocolate sauce, was equally divine.
Spice Market is definitely worth a visit for starters or desserts, tasty cocktails – try the Mt. Kai Tea – and exquisite wine but for mind-blowing Pan-Asian mains, the Capital has far tastier and affordable options to whet your appetite.
Spice Market: 44/60
Photos: Monika Jørgesen
To book a table at Spice Market, W London Leicester Square, 10 Wardour Street, London W1D 6QF, call 020 7758 1088 or visit here.