I’m not always convinced by chefs who have successful restaurants abroad opening up in London, as more often than not they get lost in translation. And even more often than not, said chef is rarely in the kitchen.
So here we have Eneko at the hotel One Aldwych which has extensively refurbed its basement dining room to house Eneko Atxa’s creation (he owns a three Michelin star restaurant in Bilbao). The room is large and due to the 50% off soft opening period for the whole of August, it was packed.
Lighting was both a little too light and a little too dark. Spotlights shine on the middle of each table but with one directly above my head (making me feel like I was being beamed up to another planet) and with my gentleman companion’s view directly to the toilets, it was probably not the best table.
To start, ‘Pork Festival’ (£15) was definitely one of the odder named dishes I’ve devoured. It arrived at the table in a box complete with giant wooden pig’s head lid which then stared at me while I tucked into three canapés of very tasty food; crispy pig jowl, suckling pig brioche and pig and mushroom duxelle in fried bread.
“Memories of the Bay of Biscay” (£17) came with the whole dry ice spectacle that’s a bit old hat nowadays. Again, three canapé portions which were very tasty; prawn tartare, oyster and a tiny little crab.
Then the main courses came and everything went to pot. Duck (£25) was a measly portion and it wasn’t even cooked well – the meat hadn’t rested for long enough meaning there was blood galore on the plate. I think my Mother could cook duck better.
Roasted Iberico presa (£25) didn’t fare much better. Again the meat was overcooked – so chewy. As neither mains had much substance we went for a side of mashed potato (£5) which was lumpy and had split – I don’t think I’ve had a worse mash in all my days. And mashed potato? A very odd side.
Desserts, apart from the Basque vanilla pudding (£9), were all pre made and placed on a large shelving unit in the dining room. It should have been a spectacle but it all felt a bit weird – the lighting was so bad I could barely see the puds. Raspberry macaroon with basil ganache (£9) was very pleasant but nothing more than that.
Of course, Eneko at One Aldwych is offering 50% off while it finds its feet so these niggles may iron out. But either way, not being able to cook a couple of pieces of meat correctly is a tad worrying. Maybe this one needs the owner to spend a few more months in the kitchen to get things up to scratch….
Would we go back? No.