London – Eneko at One Aldwych

London is increasingly a gastronomic mecca, being not only a desirable destination for all the foodies but also for chefs who establish there or open spaces in the city – like Heston Blumenthal, Daniel Boulud, the Arzak family, David Muñoz, Anne-Sophie Pic, Virgilio Martínez, Alain Ducasse or Pierre Gagnaire, just to name a few.

The truth is that it’s becoming difficult to put up with all this gastronomic bustle in London, but one of the most recent openings was our excuse to a quick visit and the return to a hotel that had already made us very happy, the One Aldwych, right in the heart of Covent Garden (see).

After around two years of negotiations and renovations, the contemporary Boutique Hotel welcomes the Eneko at One Aldwych, which as the name indicates, brings to London the cuisine of the Basque chef Eneko Atxa (*** Michelin in his Azurmendi and a constant presence in the guide The World’s 50 Best). A luxury “hiring” that completely put the spotlight in the opening of this space.

The dining room of Eneko at One Aldwych*

Nothing was left to chance in this opening, from the bold decoration, left in the hands of the famous Casson Mann, an homage to the industrial origin of the building of One Aldwych (former headquarters of the Morning Post), with a touch of the Basque country with the sofas in the tone of Espelette pepper, furniture designed especially for this space and a bold combination of textures making this wide modern space also cozy.

All this work has its highlight as soon as we enter and start going down the stairs (worthy of Kings and celebrities who like to mark their entrance) and we pass firstly in the bar, where you can taste some Pintxos with Txakoli or signature cocktails, created by Pedro Paulo for the restaurant.

Already installed in a wide and comfortable table, we started our experience.

And we started really well, with a great selection of bread – with highlight to the sourdough – and a delicious butter with basil and chives, mixed at the table in a beautiful ceramic mortar – a simple and very effective start, combining perfectly with the cocktail French 75, a combo of  Gin Mare, fresh herbs, lemon, and Cava.

Bay of Biscaia Memories 
The cuisine at Eneko is not a Londoner adaptation of Azurmendi, it’s a space with its own identity, more simple and informal, where the Basque chef wanted to pay an homage to his roots. A good example of that is this starter “Bay of Biscaia Memories”, with the intensity and flavors of the sea, so popular around there. For that, he uses seaweed and dry ice (yes, it’s still a thing in 2017) as the base to a great crab, with armoricaine sauce, with all the meat inside the shell, full of sea flavor and an elegant sweetness. The superb oyster with a good plankton emulsion and an excellent shrimp tartar with herring roe served inside a porcelain urchin. A beautiful start!

Foie Parfait, apple jam with Txakoli 
Another interesting presentation with the parfait served inside a beautiful porcelain apple. High score to the freshness and combination of green apple flavors with Txakoli wine and the texture and greasiness of the parfait. High score also to the crunchy dough, bringing more texture to the mix. I would easily trade the salty sablée toasts for the sourdough!

Hake, red peppers and parsley emulsion
The loving hake of the Basque here met an English adaptation, fish & chips style. But the dish is much more than that, a flawless tempura – dry and crunchy, and a perfect hake – moist and full of flavor. Nice detail with the peppers confit bringing some power and earth notes, but the highlight goes completely to the hake, probably the best piece of fried fish I ever had!

 Oxtail, mushroom emulsion 
Despite being one of my favorite cuts, it was the least surprising. Although visually flawless and the amazing mushroom emulsion, the meat was a bit overcooked and the combo turned a bit too sweet. Lacking an acid element or a side to balance the dish.

Mushroom rice
A bomb and brothy rice, perfectly cooked and rich in mushroom flavor, elevated by the mushroom emulsion served as the topping. A great, great rice!

Rose Marshmallow, Strawberry sorbet 
A perfect dessert for me, light, fresh, not too many elements and a few textures. Amazing strawberry ice cream, velvety, quite the style of the pacojet, nicely paired with fresh strawberries (strangely good given the time of the year) and the strawberry foam as well as the lightness of the marshmallow and the rose blades. Very good combination of floral and fruity flavors!

Salty Caramel Mousse, cookie crumble and goat milk ice cream 
A much more sinful dessert, yet with very well balanced sweetness. Excellent mousse, amazing ice cream, good combination of elements and textures. Good ending!

The wine list, while not being huge, presents a great selection of Spanish wines with lots of options by the glass. In our case, we opted for a Rioja wine, 100% Tempranillo (meaning it’s like our Tinta RorizR & G from 2011, with wood, vanilla, red fruits and spices notes. In the mouth, this Rolland Galarreta wine revealed some toast notes, medium body, more fruit and well-marked tannins, a modern wine following the current tendencies, but personally for me it was not satisfying. The harmonization was particularly happy with the oxtail, the mushroom rice, and the peppers confit.

The Service was matching with the meal, demonstrating celerity, sympathy, good suggestions and an excellent knowledge of the menu presented.

Final Remarks
Before thinking of booking a table at Eneko at One Aldwych it’s important to avoid a common mistake that happens when a name like Eneko Atxa opens a new restaurant, the excessive expectation. I say this because the idea here wasn’t to create a “new” Azurmendi but to open a new concept, much more informal, without the complexity and of course, without the structure and prices of a three-starred restaurant. The seal of the chef is very marked, not only in terms of presentation and technique but also in the combination of flavors and the Basque inspiration that serves as the main base here.

This said, Eneko is one of the newest great options in Covent Garden, the menu is deceptively simple, with risk and innovative details, and some things that live in perfection, like the Hake that I won’t easily forget, for sure!

Mandatory visit!

Eneko at One Aldwych
Average price: £40 per person, without wine or fees 
1 Aldwych  – London
+44 20 7300 0300

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses / * promotion photo 

We were at Eneko by invitation of the One Aldwych Hotel, whereas this does not alter our work, being the opinion and the text of the exclusive responsibility of the author.

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