I absolutely adore Aldwych and Covent Garden. I’ve never really worked out exactly where the line is drawn and defined between the two areas, but I’ve always said if I decided to move on from Chelsea, it would be to Aldwych – that area immediately just passed St Clement Danes RAF Church. It’s the real central London, directly in the centre of north, south, east and west – yet no matter how busy it gets (apart from the cars) you never really feel it. And so when I heard about Eneko, perched on the corner in my favourite part of London and serving one of my favourite styles of cuisine – I got a little excited.
The menu at Eneko has been curated by non other than Michelin starred chef, Eneko Atxa whose three-Michelin Azurmendi restaurant, in Bilbao, Spain – is no. 16 in the World’s Top 50 Restaurants. Located inside One Aldwych Hotel, it’s looking absolutely fabulous. Slick, modern and airy. On top of the rather expensive looking refurbishment, our bread brought to the table was fantastic. Each slice full of flavour and the butter that was brought to the table was whipped right in front of your eyes, with an added dollop of basil oil for injection of flavour.
I had read a lot of review prior to visiting Eneko and I’m not going to lie, they were mixed. So coupled with my high expectations of its location and those reviews – I came with mixed feelings. But from the first bite of our starters, I had absolutely no reason to question Eneko Atxa’s cooking. Maybe those mixed reviews at the beginning were accurate, but either way the kitchen has learnt from them since and our meal here now, this December 2016 was practically faultless. A take on the traditional talo was a large crispy corn pancake, topped with heritage tomatoes and fresh herbs. Very hard to describe as a dish, but think deconstructed gazpacho, with an extra hit of freshness and you’re almost there. My grilled langoustine with bacon sauce and herb emulsion may have been perhaps a little on the small side, but its cooking and flavour couldn’t be faulted.
Slow-cooked oxtail with a mushroom emulsion was presented on a beautiful ceramic white bone plate and the food on it was utterly divine. The oxtail was as slow cooked as promised, smothered in a sweet sticky sauce and with an incredible amount of depth to it. At first portion size threw me off a little again, but once you take a few bites you realise it’s the perfect amount – especially when paired with the side of buttery mashed potato.
What I loved so much about Eneko was that the cooking and the pleasure from it was so consistent. Each dish was packed with flavour and the cooking of each dish was astonishing. The confit pork cheeks were cooked to utter perfection, flaking to the touch and served with confit shallots on a bed of duxelle which is a mixture of mushrooms, herbs and lots of butter – traditionally at least. A side of padron peppers were perfectly grilled too and salted with just the right pinch.
And there was the dessert trolley. A thing of beauty and epic proportions. Three tiers full of cakes and everything sweet. If you know me well you’ll know I have an obsession with desserts and chasing the countries best pastry chefs, so I’m intrigued as to who they have lurking in the kitchens here and creating these. This was patisserie perfection.
Freshly whipped sheep’s milk ice creams, Errezil apple mousse pots, white chocolate and passion fruit tartlets, cappuccino cheesecakes, raspberry macarons with basil ganache and golden apples with a peach sponge – these were just a few of the deserts on offer. That ice cream really was extraordinary. Quite nostalgic too, reminding me of those 20p old-fashioned mini milk ice cream lollies.
Our favourites from the trolley were the chocolate & pear cakes with hazelnut praline and the salted caramel mousse’s. All perfectly crafted and they not only looked good, but delivered big on flavour and satisfaction. Each dessert is also served with a pot of that heavenly ice cream on the side.
We were pleasantly surprised by Eneko’s cooking and also just how good value for money it was, with not only a well-priced a la carte menu, but even set-menus – perfect for pre-theatre goers. This restaurant doesn’t just offer a good meal, but it will compliment any experience – be that the theatre or after-dinner drinks. If you want excitement and flavour then Eneko has it covered. Would we return? In a heartbeat.
NB: I was invited to review and my meal was complimentary. All views are as always, my own. My views are not influenced by anyone other than my own palate and slightly poor eyesight.