A slice of San Sebastián in London?
If you been following the British food media then you will know Ametsa isn't getting much love, in fact pretty much everyone trashed it down like if it is the worst restaurant in the world. Is it really that bad? Created by the legendary father and daughter team Juan and Elena Arzak from Spain, their restaurant, Arzak in San Sebastián is ranked 8th in the world by Restaurant magazine and holder of 3 Michelin stars. Surely with such experience and reputation it can't be that bad like how the press been rating it? Well there is only one way to find out! Off I went to Ametsa on a warm summer evening.
|Ametsa @ Halkin Hotel (photo from comohotels.com)|
I must admit I am not a fan of the décor with the random tubes on the ceiling which doesn't add anything extra to the venue, however it has one of the coolest flipping door at the front! We went for the tasting menu and await what "New Basque cuisine" has to offer. Started off with a selection of "Aperitivos" of rice with fish mousse, chorizo with mango and kataifi with scorpion fishcake. The chorizo mango was the best out of the three, with the fruity and sourness worked nicely with the robust flavours from the chorizo. It was pretty solid amuse bouche, if I have to make a comparison it is on similar level to most of the 1 star restaurant in London.
Up next was scallops with betacarotene. It was beautifully presented, some high technical skill with the carrot wrap, it was very settle with great layers of flavours, however the salad within lack seasoning. The Scottish scallops was well fired and very fresh, it went nicely with the betacarotene, it was a refreshing starter and it would had been even better if a touch more seasoning on the salad.
|scallops with betacarotene|
The next dish, king prawns with sweet corn, was probably the weakest plate of food on the evening. Don't get me wrong, taste wise it wasn't bad, the prawns were sweet and fresh, the sweet corn broth was settled and creamy. But... is it really a fine dinning dish? It was very ordinary and lack creativity and refined taste that I expect in a high end restaurant.
|king prawns with sweet corn|
Up next was "From egg to chicken" A lot better this time around, the egg was finely poached and worked wonder with the lovely chicken broth, good balance of flavours, earthy and complex. The dashes of crispy chicken skin really lifted the whole dish, one of the stronger dish on the evening.
|from egg to chicken|
Moving on the fish dish: Monkfish with red onion, this was monkfish of a very high level. The onion skin was exceptional, work of art with the rich and refine flavours. It was onion at its best! The monkfish itself was cooked bang on at the perfect level, moist and meaty, worked wonder together with the red onion, full of rich and sweet tastes.
|monkfish with red onion|
On to the meat course: Pigeon with shot. Again the kitchen showed very good technical ability with the sour shot within the silver bubble, pigeon was tender and moist, can easily hold up on its own with out the pigeon jus.
|pigeon with shot|
This was followed by a trio of desserts, first was the "Moon rock" An orange liqueur based candy with sesame powered, it was a great pre dessert, the orange flavours worked surprisingly well with the unique flavours from the sesame. Followed by "Strawberry bubbles" A very fun dessert with bubble cream bursting onto the refreshing summer berries and sweet cream. Finished off with French toast with mango and coconut. The best dessert on the night, it was lovely on the eyes and full of summer flavours, not overly sweet, mellow and light.
|French toast with mango and coconut|
So.... It wasn't all that negative like how the press viewed it, while it was far from perfect, there were some great elements and imagination on the cooking. The kitchen clearly got some very good technical skills and I think after it settles down, adapting and understanding British ingredients, it can slowly work its way up and reach its true potential. The other issue is the cost, I think the tasting menu should only command £80-£90 at most given the overall quality I had which it was borderline 1 star from a Michelin perspective. What London missing right now is a top end Spanish haute cuisine establishment and time will tell if Ametsa can fulfill that gap.
What I paid:
£135 per head with 2 glasses of wine
Average cost without drinks and services:
£27.50 lunch menu
£105 tasting menu
The Halkin by COMO Halkin St, City of Westminster,