Eneko at One Aldwych
One Aldwych, London WC2B 4BZ
Reviewed by Michael M Sandwick
Spoiler alert!!! If you want the element of surprise, then read no further and just book a table at Eneko as quickly as you can. If, as I suspect, you are unable to tear yourself away from my brilliant prose, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
If you’re a full-blooded foodie, you wouldn’t be surprised anyway. With 3 Michelin starred Chef Eneko Atxa at the helm, there was never any doubt the food would be good. What astonished me was the cohesion between décor, ambience, service, food and drink. The meal was greater than the sum of its parts.
Eneko is a modern take on Basque tradition. Rustic elegance. The interior by Casson & Mann is their first restaurant. A stunning debut! The 3 storey “atrium” gives light and space to the basement dining room. The grand copper staircase, exposed iron beams, burnt pine wall covering and blood red leather banquettes all scream to be touched. Best of all are the bespoke chestnut tables; each one unique. 3 stunning floral arrangements provide colour, art and drama. The room and the superlative staff had me entranced within minutes …without a sip of anything!
At brunch, there are 2 choices. 3 courses for £25 or 5 for £50, the latter having a more extensive selection. One of each made us feel slightly less gluttonous and we passed on the £20 booze ad libitum to give our halos a bit more shine. Freshly pressed juices, sparkling elderflower and a Virgin Mary were so good, we didn’t miss the alcohol!
Eneko’s food is sublime. The traditional talo (like a corn tortilla) is a sight to behold. Topped with heritage tomatoes, basil emulsion, olive oil caviar, basil leaves and violas it could have doubled for a bridal bouquet and tasted even better. Not that I ever ate one!
Suckling pig in brioche is sinful enough. With deep fried brioche, I felt the need to go to confession! Father forgive me, I coveted my guest’s portion!
Oxtail on milk bread with Idiazabal (sheep’s milk) cheese and Iberico ham with mushroom duxelle on a Basque muffin were 2 more butties to die for.
To lighten up the Basque tradition, Eneko uses tempura for his fried dishes. 10 thumbs up! Tempura egg yolks with creamy potatoes and confit vegetables is a stunner. Perfect yolks, oozing from light crispy batter onto velvety spuds and veg heaven.
Black pudding came with intense, savoury piquillo peppers, and monkfish with garlic, chilli and parsley reminded me why this fish is referred to as “poor man’s lobster”. Cooked to perfection.
Pineapple sorbet with celery foam and sweet celery ribbons was the most playful dish. The celery worked well, adding both crunch and a touch of umami, but the sorbet lacked intensity.
Salted caramel mousse with cookie (shortbread) crumble and sheep’s milk ice was a wonder. Rich, smooth and a perfect ratio of sugar and salt.
So now you know everything. I’m sure Eneko will surprise you anyway!