The welcome: Step off the Strand into three-Michelin starred chef Eneko Atxa's London incarnation of his Bilbao restaurant, Azurmendi, which is rated 16th in the world.
Originally the home of Fleet Street hacks at the long-defunct Morning Post, the building is now owned by the One Aldwych Hotel. But it doesn’t feel like a hotel restaurant: Eneko has been given a self-contained chunk of the building by the owners, who spent three years selecting a chef for their flagship restaurant.
The room: Guests enter from the street through the ground floor bar area, which is on a circle of flooring suspended in a chasmic space, from which guests can jump over the edge into the restaurant below. Alternatively, knowledgeable staff are on hand to show you down the stairs, stow your coats in the cloak room and guide you through the menu.
At first the decor, with its copper staircase and exposed steel building framework, feels a little imposing, but as the space fills up, its energy chimes and relaxes with that of the diners.
The food: Memories of the Bay of Biscay comprises of three ethereal delights: an oyster with emulsion of plankton and orange blossom petals, crab, and chopped raw prawn with sea urchin emulsion inside a ceramic cast of a sea urchin's shell. But this isn't even the spectacle of the dish: our waitress pours salty water over the seafood triptych, activating the seaweed and dry ice beneath. A thick fog tumbles out and over the table, smelling of sea air.
Talo, a traditional Basque tortilla, is served with heritage tomatoes, underscored by a tangy tomato mayonnaise and garnished with flowers and pearls of truffle oil. The dish has clearly been placed morsel by morsel upon the talo using tweezers, to sublime effect.
The mains continue sensationally: Iberico ham is known for being the best on the planet, and this one doesn't disappoint. But the cheesecake was the real triumph. It is so silken and light we thought we must be dreaming.
We tried to buy a bottle of the complex, woody dessert wine, Àrima Late Harvest, but didn’t have much luck as it comes straight from Eneko’s uncle’s vineyard. You're welcome to try and find it though – we were told that 2014 was a very special year.
Would we go again: Definitely. We might slip in late just for the cheesecake.
Read about other great Basque restaurants in London here, including a glossary of Basque foodie terms for the uninitiated.
|What||Eneko at One Aldwych restaurant review, Covent Garden|
|Where||Eneko, Eneko at One Aldwych, London, WC2B 4BZ | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
01 Aug 16 – 30 Apr 19, 12:00 AM