Father and daughter duo Juan Mari Arzak and Elena Arzak Espina own their eponymous restaurant in San Sebastian, Spain and have held their three Michelin star status for over twenty years.
Rather than open their own venture over here, they’ve instead decided to oversee a restaurant, thus creating Ametsa with Arzak Instruction – not the most exciting name ever created! The restaurant is based in the Halkin Hotel and it received a Michelin star shortly after opening.
The hotel had an understated interior and wasn’t particularly glamorous, but the dining room was a little more impressive. Orange plastic test tubes hung from the ceiling, transforming an otherwise plain space into something rather more attractive. We were seated by the window and felt very comfortable indeed. It was busy too, with the lively buzz of fellow diners filling the air.
We avoided the very reasonably priced set lunch menu (£25 for three courses) and instead opted for the lunch tasting menu (£52 for five courses). Our waiter very kindly insisted on giving us a taster of some of the a la carte dishes too, which meant we got to see a variety of the food on offer – all of which was stunning.
Some very impressive amuse bouches kicked things off – they were all utterly stunning and bloody delicious. The plantain with chorizo and the kataifi with scorpion fishcake were particular highlights. We were also treated to an oyster with a raspberry coulis and pork scratchings which was a really unique blend of flavours.
‘King prawns, spider crab and sweetcorn’ was a fishy delight. I hate sweetcorn normally but here it had been made into a light broth which went brilliantly with the delicate crab. Some deep fried vermicelli placed on top of it all provided some most welcome texture.
Scallop with cassava “soufflé” was a pretty little thing. The scallops were cooked perfectly with a crisp exterior and juicy centre and the light tomato sauce that covered them was delicious. A bright red potato-puff (no idea what exactly it was) looked fun but was hollow and provided no flavour so was therefore a tad pointless.
Grilled tuna with black “mojo” was fairly simple in terms of flavour combinations but it was very tasty indeed. Seared on the outside, it had a beautifully rare inside and its quality was sublime.
John Dory with red roots “mojo” was a divine plate of food. The fillets of Dory had the crunchiest of skins yet the flakiest of centres and they were drenched in a rich meaty jus. A little side dish of lightly battered vegetables remained crisp and grease free.
The highlight of our lunch was the two dishes that followed. Fillet of beef with passion fruit was the oddest combination imaginable and one I’ve never seen on a menu before, but it worked brilliantly. The sharpness of the passion fruit cut through the richness of the beef and its sauce in the most intriguing way.
The lamb with ale meringue was quite simply heavenly. It was most unusual eating a meringue that wasn’t insanely sweet and one that also tasted of beer, but it was an enjoyable experience none-the-less.
Desserts were delicious too, but described on the menu by only one word so we had no idea what they were. The first was a creamy and pleasant blend of coconut and mango. The other was a type of sweet toast, thickly sliced, which got devoured in seconds. Both were sweet, yet light and fresh tasting and the perfect end to our meal.
When it opened, Ametsa with Arzak Instruction didn’t get the warmest of responses. Since then, they’ve obviously upped their game, as the cooking we experienced was spot on and the flavour of the food superb. Service was great too; the waiters were efficient yet friendly and not at all stuffy, which made the whole experience a totally enjoyable one. The restaurant name might be a bit boring, but the food is anything but.