Having met and interviewed the illustrious chef Elena Arzak earlier this year, I knew the cooking here would be experimental and innovative to say the least. The head honcho chef at San Sebastian’s 3-Michelin starred Ametsa (in the Top 50 Best Restaurants in the World list) has indeed brought the much-admired conceptual cuisine from the Basque region to London’s Ametsa with Arzak Instruction. London Restaurant Festival seemed like the perfect reason to sample the menu featuring innovations inspired by the eponymous chef. We were in for a unique treat, surrounded by the aroma of heady spice from tubular vials suspended from the striking ceiling display.
To begin; snacks. The intriguing Sobrassada chimneys were, in fact, cute filo parcels with gossamer-light outer layers and a candied pistachio crunch that contrasted beautifully well. A strong start indeed.
Perching amongst a bed of strewn leaves and bittersweet petals, the prawn gyoza were presented as crisp morsel-like pillows. Light and elegant, the prawn and garlic miniature dumplings were delicately spiced and flavoursome.
Egg in the leaf was the standout dish from the menu by far. We could certainly see how the hueveo enjohado is the signature dish, with a simple yet stunning flavour combination. The leaves blossom open like a lotus leaf to reveal the gem-like poached egg, baked with umami-rich iberico pork juices and paprika spice.
From the Pescado section, there is the exquisite bacalao cod with ‘garlic petals,’ carefully coloured and meticulously placed, which is a very popular staple dish of the a la carte menu. To sample on the evening we attended, there was turbot among blackberries, roasted to perfection and served with the sharp and punchy bramble fruit.
A classic from the motherland, the Iberian pork presa and clumsy peach was innovative in flavour and presentation from the carne section. The glazed and poached peach came with a punchy goat’s cheese infused ‘peach stone.’ Clever and delightful trickery from the Ametsa team.
Pre-dessert was a treat midway between sweet and savoury. The beetroot juice had a surprising mouth-popping treat of crunchy, crackly candy. Definitely a worthy palate cleanser before the dessert course.
Amongst the dessert selection, there was the authentic mango and orange flan but we were presented the chocolate emeralds spiced with anise flysch; a uniquely spiced creative take on a chocolate truffle ganache.
Exquisitely presented, the galaxy of petits fours came with a stratospheric smattering of what looked like vanilla moons, oaty star dust and chocolate planets. I wouldn’t expect anything less from the creative kitchen crew. I would thoroughly recommend the London Restaurant Festival menu for an out-of-the-ordinary Basque-inspired adventure delivered expertly by the creative Ametsa chefs.