London is becoming the foodie place to be. That title currently belongs to San Sebastián. As the food capital of Europe, if not the world, San Sebastián and the Basque region ( with Bilbao) is home to the most three Michelin starred restaurants in the world.
This city first came to my eyes during a series of Masterchef UK. The finalists were whisked away to northern Spain and were shown what quality was. This type of quality was about using nature and fresh ingredients to produce some exquisite dishes.
It is quality and refinement which makes the Basque country what it is. When I heard that Chef Eneko Atxa was bringing his dishes to London, I became super excited. Eneko at One Aldwych is the restaurant from Eneko, the head chef of Azurmendi in Bilbao. As a holder of a three Michelin star restaurant and number 14 in the current World Top 50 restaurants in the world, I had cause to be excited.
To add to the fun and excitement of Eneko, the restaurant had a soft launch throughout August at 50% off. Another reason why I had to go. One was the reputation, two was that it's location to work and three, that 50% offer.
I had to go and luckily managed to grab a chance before the offer expired.
Now onto the tricky part, what to get and how to not have food envy. The menu looked a treat and a couple of colleagues had already been, so I asked for their suggestions and read a few reviews. This was definitely very helpful.
For the starters the decision was a three way battle. Pork buns, trio of seafood or Anchovy Tempura. Below is how they presented themselves to me on the menu. let me know which you would have chosen.
Memories of the Bay of Biscay
Oyster, crab, wild prawn tartare
Txerri Boda Pork Festival
Iberico ham, chorizo, black pudding on milk bread
Tempura of fresh anchovies, aioli , tomato
As you can tell by the pictures, I went for the Pork festival. This came in a box with the three buns filled with their special delights. I had not realized that there was a pigs head on it. Funny.
So, in each bun was a different take and use of the Pig. In one bun was the Iberico ham, the second was ground chorizo and the third black pudding like a paste.
These were all really tasty and being in a bun gave a different element to each. It definitely was not what I would have expected. But, I still enjoyed it nevertheless. The black pudding was really tasty and was delicately rich.
Main course was less tricky. The list was simple and with the recommendations I had earlier I narrowed my options to two. Although this was the case, I still waited until the last minute to decide. Below are the two dishes that stood out and were from a colleagues recommendations (Thanks Christie).
Basque style hake in tempura, confit vegetables, red pepper sauce and parsley emulsion
Roasted Iberico presa, wheat in chickpea sauce, garlic cream
I went for the Hake as I had pork to start with and it seemed very appealing. Look at the list of ingredients and cooking styles. Hake in tempura, Confit Veg, red pepper and parsley emulsion. DONE!
The fish was amazing. The batter, crispy tempura which was very light had a great bite to it. The fish was very soft and flaked off, yet was a meaty piece still. This was important as the portion size was not the biggest. The emulsion and sauce brought a zing to the hake and dish. This was needed to awaken different taste buds and give the aftertaste a happy finish.
High quality is what I would expect and I was not disappointed. Strangely enough, one happy thought came to my mind and this was that London is competing as a food destination. Eneko was delightful and very tasty. It would not be my favourite or as good as some London establishments and this is not to downplay the food at Eneko but just the fact that for three stars I was expecting a tad more.
I do want to go back and the price point does not put me off. The issue is just that at that cost, I would like to try somewhere new.
The inventiveness and delicacy of the food at Eneko is worth a visit. Good quality dishes are brought to life with exotic fusions and delight both the eyes and the belly. The service was on point, from the quality bread rolls and butter to the speed at which the food came out. I was very impressed.
To the rest of the Basque region, please do come and visit us. TO London restaurants, keep on working hard and feeding me.