I mentioned in a previous post about Barcelona, that Spain seems to be cropping up in my psyche a lot at the moment. All that sunshine and sangria just seems to be beckoning. So, when an invite to Eneko landed in my inbox, I knew it would be a great chance to slake that wanderlust, and also manage it without any airport security queues.
I’ve seen a lot of reviews around and about, so I was most intrigued to try out their modern take on traditional Basque cuisine.
Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Eneko at the One Aldwych Hotel, but all thoughts, flavour opines and misuse of Spanish are entirely our own.
Eponymous chef Eneko Atxa is the man behind Azurmendi in Bilbao, the three Michelin-starred restaurant voted no. 16 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Luckily for us, he has opened this Aldwych branch and trained all of the handpicked chefs who run the kitchen in his absence. Luckily he was in the evening we visited, so we had fare prepared by the very man himself (after popping out of the kitchen to say hello.)
My friend and I met on a balmy evening, one of those ones where I felt like I was in first gear, and the rest of the world was cartwheeling in fifth gear. Sitting down for a proper, languid natter was just what the doctor ordered.
And speaking of the medical profession, Eneko’s butter should be served on the NHS as a solution for, well, every problem really. At the table basil and sea salt are crushed into a mortar of butter with a pestle, releasing the rich herbed aroma. It was so good that mains be damned, we ordered a second basket.
WARNING: Deciding what to have is a difficult process. Our waitress was ever helfful, but even her understanding nod and suggestions only left us with more choice. Eventually I settled on the delicate ‘Memories of the Bay of Biscay’ dish; a Diver scallop, daikon and chive emulsion, presenting with flamboyant tendrils of dry ice.
My dinner date however chose the dish of the night – recommended by the charming waitress – a
crispy corn talo, crowned with incredibly flavoured heritage tomatoes, basil emulsion and a forest of greenery, giving the dish a wonderfully fresh and vibrant taste of summer.
I want to go back for those tomatoes alone – we’e only ever found tomatoes as good at these in a Southern French market town, one where the no-body spoke English.
Our mains were a mixed bag of results, I tried the braised Pork cheeks which were served with a moreish ham duxelle and tender confit shallots. It wasn’t very photographic, but utterly tender and full of rich flavour. It was counterpointed nicely with a side of piperade a typical Basque dish; slowly cooked pepper, onion, green peppers, and tomatoes.
My date nibbled away at his selection of Wheat Stew, lured in with the promise of truffle and egg yolk, but unfortunately had fallen head over heels in love with his starter.
We chittered in the beautiful room, a modern, fresh vibe playing off against the beaten rose gold shimmer of the staircase. This is a little hidden gem – beautiful enough to take clients, but also perfect for a relatively inexpensive date night meal.
Over dessert something strange happened. We. Swapped.
I loved the fresh, zesty pineapple sorbet served with celery foam, sweet celery ribbons; whilst my date (OK, and I if we are being hotels) tucked into the Torrija, the Iberian answer to French toast of a basque vanilla sponge and delectable caramel crumble ice cream.
Overall thoughts? Delectable.
Would you order local specialities at a restaurant like this, or play safe?