Located near Covent Garden in the heart of London’s West End, Eneko at One Aldwych is one of this writer’s favourite eateries. It is a delightfully stylish restaurant and wine bar from the acclaimed Basque Chef Eneko Atxa.
This basement space takes advantage of a 2-storey ceiling at one end which offers diners in that area a view of the tops of trees and sky through the original ornate glass door at street level. Stairs are clad with copper, walls with grey stone and tables are of light wood with hardwood embellishments. Eneko designers have used natural materials and simple lines.
It’s a relaxed and informal setting for a Sunday Brunch from Chef Edurne who has been instrumental in creating the menu and is in charge of the London kitchen. Most of the dishes here won’t be familiar to the untutored so, for the first Brunch at least, order the tasting menu.
We started with an aperitif. Golden Mary is a unique and fresh-tasting twist on a classic Bloody Mary but this one has a striking summer-gold colour rather than the expected red. It’s still made with vodka as in the original but Eneko uses spiced vodka. The regular tomato juice is replaced by golden tomato juice; a stick of celery is swapped for celery foam, which has a much more pronounced flavour than the fresh vegetable. The cocktail looks more delicate than a Bloody Mary and is served in a Martini glass. A refined touch.
My guest chose the Basque Cobbler which is a striking fruity wine punch. This is port-wine red and garnished with slices of kumquat and a bunch of mint. This must surely be the Basque equivalent of Spanish Sangria. It’s light, delicious and refreshing.
The aforementioned Tasting Menu for the Weekend Brunch is £50 per person and gives a thorough overview of the Basque-inspired fare here. Traditional Talo – crispy corn talo or tortilla with heritage tomatoes and accents of basil emulsion – is a signature dish and it’s on the a la carte menu, too. It’s strikingly beautiful and vibrant with colour from both tomatoes and edible flowers, and all served on individual wooden platters.
The second Tasting Menu dish was Cerdito Caliente, “Hot Hog”, which was a simple dish but actually my favourite from this bill of fare. A Basque muffin is the vehicle for this outstanding savoury treat. Thin slices of Iberico ham top mushroom duxelle and both fill the bread bun, which is very much like what Americans might call an English Muffin and what we in England call …a muffin! It’s a white bread, as opposed to the sweet muffins we find in coffee shops.
Eggs Yolks Tempura is intriguing and perhaps the classiest comfort food for which one could ever hope. A whole egg yolk seems to be deep-fried with a crunchy coating. One breaks through this to allow the still-liquid yellow yolk to bathe creamy potatoes and tangy confit vegetables. This is a masterful presentation but one which will raise a smile from any lover of imaginative food. Yes, imaginative but still nestled within the realms of familiar comfort.
Spices were subtle
Then the main courses arrived. Txuleta is Basque-style prime rib of beef and served with a crisp spring onion salad. Those onions were mild and well-textured – a perfectly balanced platter when served with chips. But Monkfish garnished with specks of garlic, chilli and parsley was the main-course winner. The flesh of the fish was perfectly cooked and opaque. The spices were subtle, presenting a fish which was still naturally flavourful.
Torrija was created by Alice Serafini, the Pastry Chef at Eneko, and ended this substantial Brunch. This is a Basque vanilla bread-like cake with a caramel top crust and soaked in a sweet custard. This was partnered with a caramel crumble ice cream and it was a perfect finish to this meal, which displayed both tradition and innovation. If you are looking for a meal which is considerably different but not at all challenging then don’t miss Eneko at One Aldwych.
Tuesday to Friday: Lunch 12 noon – 2.30pm
Dinner 5pm – 11pm
Saturday: Brunch 11.30am – 3pm
Dinner 5pm – 11pm
Sunday: Brunch 12 noon – 5pm
Eneko at One Aldwych
Enquiries: Phone 020 7300 0300
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018