Setting a high bar for my 2017 dining expectations, dinner for two at Basque chef Eneko Atxa’s One Aldwych outpost was a delicious experience of sophisticated flavour and elegant display.
The Txerri Boda Pork Festival starter (chorizo on milk bread, glazed sweetbread, and suckling pig tempura, £13) served in a lidded wooden box was a thoughtfully complete mini feast in itself. Flavours were subtle but deep. Textures, yieldingly tender. An equally tasty starter course but one far more dramatic in presentation was the Memories of the Bay of Biscay (oyster, crab, and wild prawn tartare, £15), brought to table amid wafts of dry ice haze.
My main course of Cod Bizkaina (cod tripe stew in traditional bizkaina sauce with deep fried cod bites, £14) was robust and warming – an ideal dish for a winter night. A milder but maybe more complex flavour profile, hake (served Basque-style in tempura with confit vegetables, red pepper sauce and parsley emulsion, £16) impressed as well.
A bottle of Baigorri Garancha 2010 from the “Light and Elegant” section of the red wine selection did the trick with all the dishes.
For dessert, the Torrija (Basque vanilla sponge, £7) with a scoop of traditional Basque ice cream (especially creamy and more milky than vanilla in flavour) and a soft meringue with chestnut cream, port, chocolate raspberry macaron, and basil ganache – each complemented by a glass of Pedro Ximenez – were moreish endnotes to a delightfully intriguing meal.
Before heading to Eneko, I browsed the internet for previous reviews, finding the restaurant had failed to please a few finicky critics during its first month when it opened at the end of summer. I’m not sure if staff found their footing in the weeks following those write-ups or what, but I really enjoyed eating at Eneko.
I could taste with each bite how Chef Eneko Atxa earned his three Michelin stars at his Bilbao restaurant, Azurmendi, with intriguingly flavourful and beautifully plated food and how his London restaurant’s Head Chef, Edurne Martín Delgado, executed Atxa’s vision with craft and precision. I liked how texture seemed to play a prominent role in each dish. Snazzy plating and the look of a dish were discernably high-minded concerns, which is something that can put me off. But in this case, style did not supersede substance.
Service was prompt and friendly during my visit. The attractively designed dining space in the surprisingly airy lower ground floor of the One Aldwych hotel was a smart mix of casual comfort and upscale elegance – and worthy of a rave review in and of itself.
Eneko is located at One Aldwych, 1 Aldwych, WC2B 4BZ. Find out more at eneko.london.