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Tuesday 28 March 2017

Eneko at One Aldwych - Modern Basque Cooking at Excellent VFM!

Name: Eneko at One Aldwych

Where: One Aldwych, London, WC2B 4BZ, http://www.eneko.london/

Cost: Average cost for a three-course meal is £35 per person (not including drinks or service). From the a la carte menu, starters cost from £9 to £14, main courses from £14 to £18. The desserts are all priced at £7.

About: The Basque Country is one of my favourite foodie destinations having visited it on a number of occasions for their incredible Pintxos and 3-Michelin star fine dining which I featured here and here. I had one of the best meals of my life in San Sebastian at Martin Berasategui’s which I reviewed here

Thus I was excited to hear that the Basque, 3-Michelin starred Chef Eneko Atxa from Arzumendi Restaurant, just outside Bilbao, was opening a sister restaurant in London, namely Eneko at One Aldwych, just like other Basque chefs before him, Julio and Elena Arzak of Ametsa with Arzak Instruction at the Halkin, featured here

Located in Covent Garden at the lovely One Aldwych Hotel, the restaurant comprises of a mezzanine bar with a grand copper staircase descending into a vast underground dining area adorned in pale stone, wood and steel girders. 

Elegant, high red leather banquettes enclose triangular, cherrywood tables. A lot of thought and money has gone into the design by architects Casson Mann, a firm specialist in museums and gallery installations. The final product is a beautiful and grand restaurant with plenty of open space.

What We Ate: We started with ‘Memories of the Bay of Biscay’ (£15) – served with a dramatic hot water and seaweed infusion mixed with dry ice to give dramatic presentation and a real scent of the sea, this contained three different items. 

The highlight, the oyster with green plankton emulsion and apple blossom leaves was salty and tart tasting right out of the sea, the crab tartare with armoricaine sauce (made from onions, tomato, white wine, brandy, and cayenne pepper), and a gorgeous wild prawn tartare with spring onion and black olives herring eggs.

The second starter was the ‘Txerri Boda Pork Festival’ (£13) – this was again an assemble of three different items - chorizo on steamed and soft milk bun, glazed sweetbread and suckling pig brioche, basil and mushroom emulsions. Served in a wooden box with a pig's snout for a handle, this was as delicious to look at as it was to eat.

The ‘Traditional Talo’ (£10) was next. This was a stunningly presented crispy corn talo (a traditional Basque equivalent to the Mexican tortilla) topped with heritage tomatoes, fresh herbs, tomato emulsion, olive oil pearls, and black olive powder. We enjoyed the many different elements in this dish and the layers of texture provided by the tortilla and raw ingredients, this was a highlight of our dinner.

Cod Bizkaina (£14) was an interesting stew of cod tripe in traditional spicy bizkaina (Basque sauce aka vizcaina) sauce, with deep-fried cod bites (also cod tripe). With a seductively gelatinous texture, this was well-flavoured and seasoned dish. The bizkaina sauce had tomatoes, onions and peppers which were reduced for 4 days before any chilli being added. 

The main course of oxtail (£15), served on a large unglazed, bone-shaped ceramic serving dish, featured slow-cooked oxtail meat (off the bone), in a highly reduced, rich brown chickpea sauce, with a heady mushroom emulsion.

To accompany, the Piperrak (£7), was a lovely dish of green Gernika peppers, which look very much like Padron peppers. Mash potato (£4), served with a scattering of chopped chives, was good and creamy but a touch too salty.

The dessert menu is small but includes the lovely torrija (which we could not resist), made from Basque vanilla sponge, with a delectably crunchy caramelised topping, served with orange zest, cinnamon and caramel crumble ice cream.

We also shared the strawberry sorbet and rose marshmallow, with fresh strawberry, strawberry foam, rose petal julienne, and crystalised rose petal. This had fresh, floral flavours and was rich without being cloying. 

What We Drank: The wine list is all Spanish, including four wines made from Basque grape varietals in the chef's family winery - Gorka Izagirre which has been making wine since 2005. The entry level white is a Herencia Altes Garnatxa (Garnacha) Bianca 2015 from Terra Alta, Spain (£28).  The entry level red is a Borsao Seleccion Tinto, from Campo de Borja from Aragon, Spain (£28).

From the chef's vineyard, we had the white 42 by Eneko Atxa 2014 (£55), made from Bizkaiko Txakolina grapes. Fresh, apple, pear and citrus, good acidity and mineral. 

The red wine was a Parada de Atauta 2014 (£55) from Ribera del Duero, Castile and Leon. A youthful wine with a tinge of purple, it had a powerful aroma and flavour of black cherry, cedar and had plenty of tannin.

Likes: Excellent value for money. Fresh and original cooking. The staff were friendly, highly knowledgeable and willing to find out more.

Dislikes: None. 

Verdict: The modern Basque food at Eneko at One Aldwych is innovative and varied, and the cooking well accomplished as well as being excellent value for money. Highly Recommended.

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