Eneko is the namesake of chef Eneko Atxa of long-standing 3 Michelin starred Azurmendi in northern Spain. Opened in 2012, the London outpost is situated within the One Aldwych hotel in the middle of London’s West End. Eneko won’t be a new name to any dedicated followers of MasterChef, many of us watched this year’s talented troop of amateur chefs struggle to recreate their Basque-inspired fine-dining dishes in the latest series. It’s been on my list for a while so I was thrilled to be invited down to review them.
Being situated in a very popular hotel in the middle of theatre district, Eneko is well-situated for the pre-theatre and the first-time-in-London crowd but you’d be wrong to think this is some sub-standard tourist trap. The spacious, modern decor and all-Spanish wine list are a good sign of things to come. There’s a lovely smell when you walk in and the interior is striking. Once you descend the stairs, despite being in the basement, there’s lots of natural light from the skylight and olive and orange trees dotted around adding to the Mediterranean feel.
The menu is divided into Txikiak (small plates), Handiak (larger plates), Sutan (even larger plates meant to share), charcuterie and sides.
Whilst we were choosing our food we were treated to two types of fresh sourdough bread with a vibrant (both in taste and colour) green, basil butter (£3).
The wine we chose is from Eneko and his uncle Gorka’s own winery which is a nice touch. Our waitress recommended the white medium Txakolina 2014 G22 (£13 a glass or £26 a carafe). It went really well with all of the food and wasn’t as acidic as other similar wines I’ve tried.
Txikiak & Handiak
Under the guidance of our really knowledgeable and helpful waitress, we decided to go for the traditional Txipirones (squid in squid ink), the pork shoulder tempura and the grilled octopus with coriander and chilli.
The pork shoulder tempura (£11) was beautiful, the batter incredibly light and stuffed with tender, flavourful and not overdone pork shoulder. The pea puree was a nice accompaniment and the presentation of the dish was stunning. Each pork shoulder bite was topped with an edible flower.
The octopus (£19) was really well cooked (something which we’ve found very hit and miss across London) – not rubbery or slimy at all and, again, the presentation was immaculate.
Finally squid in squid ink (£13) was delicious. Less presentable? Definitely… but then how can you really make an all-black lump of seafood covered in a black sauce look pretty?! The taste was outstanding – a rich inky sauce good enough to mop up with the bread. The squid was tender and stuffed with a meaty filling (though I’m not 100% what that filling was!).
For our main sharing plate we chose the Txuleta beef rib (£48 for 700g). Traditionally Txuleta beef is slaughtered when it’s over 8 years old (as opposed to the usual 2-2.5 years farmer slaughter cows for beef in the UK). Fans of Txuleta claim that the meat is more distinctively marbled and “beefy” surrounded by yellow fat when matured as such.
I loved that it came on a grill with the smoking rosemary, twigs and thyme smouldering underneath the sliced beef. It smelled wonderful and the meat was a really rich maroon colour. There was a sizeable amount and, once again, it looked impressive.
As sides to accompany our huge amount of beef we chose the tenderstem broccoli with an almond sauce (£4) and the charcoal smoked potatoes with a paprika emulsion (£5). I’ve never tasted potatoes so addictive – they were tiny sweet golden pillows of joy and I ate far too many!
We loved the meat but ran out of room to eat it all and save room for dessert so wisely asked them to box up our remains.
I was excited to get to try the Rose Marshmallow dessert from MasterChef (£7) and I was not disappointed. Firstly the theatre of it is lovely, they bring over a vase with a rose which overflows with rose-scented dry ice – maybe a little gimmicky but I liked it! It’s definitely not all hype though, the rose marshallow disc is topped with fresh strawberries, a crystalised rose petal which shatters when you attack with your spoon and a striking strawberry sorbet. When you eat them all together it’s a very well balanced dessert which we thoroughly enjoyed.
The Torrija (£7) was as good as any other Torrija I’d tried and was certainly very traditional but it wouldn’t usually be my go-to dessert. It’s a light sponge soaked in a milky mixture – not dissimilar to French toast – which they’d served with a caramel crumble ice cream. I loved all of the flavours and we cleared the plate but for me I like a dessert with a bit more bite. I’ve had Torrija at a few places and I’m just not sure the texture is my thing.
We’ve tried quite a few Spanish restaurants in London but Eneko is different. For me it was more of a Spanish equivalent 0f French Les 110 de Taillevent (click for review) in terms of setting, service and being the outpost of a successful Michelin starred restaurant abroad. I love a good tapas joint as much as the next person but it was great to try some more traditional large plates too. It’s clear that they’re trying to emulate the success of Azurmendi in Spain and they’re probably not a million miles off their first Michelin star in London. We loved everything about our meal and the service was exceptional. We plan to return as paying guests for my boyfriend’s (Spanish) parents’ birthday later in the year. If that isn’t a clear indication of how much we enjoyed it, then I don’t know what is!
Price: £££ (around £160 for 3 courses including wine and service)
Nearest tube: Covent Garden or Temple (Holborn is also easily walkable).
We were guests of Eneko on this occasion but, as always, all opinions are 100% mine and honest.