Bringing the style of New York’s hip Meatpacking District to Leicester Square, a glamorous establishment which brings a lot of style (with prices to match) to a menu inspired by the spicy street food of the Orient.
Jean-Georges Vongerichten is, arguably, the most influential chef/restaurateur in the world. He runs a world-class French restauraurants (Jean-Georges, overlooking Central Park), which is no mean feat in itself. But what sets him apart is that he’s also the the man who’s done as much as anyone to make Eastern spicing hip in the West, first at Vong (in New York and, inter alia, London), and then at Spice Market – a hugely successful establishment that must be credited in part with making New York’s Meatpacking District the über-trendy destination it is today.
It says something about J-G that some of the most important players behind the London Vong (which closed a few years ago) are also key to the launch of the Spice Market at the new W Hotel on Leicester Square. (The location is not coincidental – J-G has a worldwide tie-up with the hotel group.) It also says something that, our charming waiter confided, J-G was at work behind the scenes on the day we visited. Imagine: a world-famous chef hard at work in one of his new restaurants without a film crew in attendance!
This review is based on a quick early-days lunch inspection, which found consummate professionalism in almost all aspects of the operation. There is no doubt that the set lunch is extraordinary value – as good as you’ll find in the West End. Three courses cost £18. As this is less than the price of most of the main courses à la carte, you effectively get both the starter and pudding free! Our meal kicked off with shrimp patties with a notably spicey cucumber peanut relish, followed by a generous plate of red snapper with wok-fried napa cabbage, water chestnut and cucumber, and finished with Ovaltine kulfi (how’s that for a nod to the natives?) with banana brûlée and spiced milk chocolate sauce.
Quality was invariably high – with novel tastes and textures too – but it’s difficult to express an overall view on the rapport prix/qualité when then the same meal would effectively have cost well over twice as much at dinner as it does at did at lunch. To confuse the question further, by night you’d almost certainly be coming to this seductively-lit environment as much for the ‘vibe’ as for the food. We suspect that that vibe will be pretty good too.
And, to confuse the value question further, what are you going to drink? May as well be champagne! Moët & Chandon is ‘only’ £54 a bottle, which is quite a steal’ when you compare it with wines by the glass (1/4 bottle), generally for around a tenner. (By the way, wines, like everything else, cost even more if you succumb to the invitation – tsk! tsk! – to add a tip to the 12.5% service charge.)
But, hey, these considerations are all details. J-G threatens to bring a fraction of the glamour of the Meatpacking District to the still-pretty-grim purlieus of Leicester Square. Surely he must deserve our support?