Harden's survey result
“Very experimental”, “highly creative and fun tasting menus” win high praise for this “high-end Basque eatery”, and although one or two reporters “expected more given its association with the fabulous Arzak in San Sebastian”, most are dazzled by its “skilful and dramatic” cuisine. The very ‘boutique-hotel-y’ dining room is “clinical”, but “what the space lacks in ambience is more than made up for by the terrific attitude of the staff!”
“It was like having a magician as a waiter”, say fans of the Arzac family’s Belgravia outpost, extolling “course after course of treats, from mouthfuls to more substantial dishes, all exploring new tastes”. The room itself can seem “as dull as ditchwater” however, and critics are disappointed by food they find “more startling to the eye than agreeable to the palette”.
“The strange taste combinations always work better than you expect” – “incredible” – and come with “very good wine pairings” (“interesting Spanish wines never seen or heard of before”) at this Belgravia outpost of star Basque chef, Juan Mari Arzak. A disgruntled minority of reporters deliver the opposite verdict however, and the setting is “rather dull”.
“We’d heard bad things, but it was stunningly good!” – star Spanish chef, Juan Mari Arzak’s “stark” Belgravian can still seem “underwhelming” to some, but (after some rocky early years) it won much more consistent adulation this year for its “passionate” service, and “fascinating, semi-molecular Basque cuisine”.
Ametsa’s approach is rooted in the traditions of ‘New Basque Cuisine’, pairing the earthy flavours and techniques of Spain’s Basque region with modern, surprising twists featuring locally-sourced and organic produce from land and sea.
The restaurant’s interior was designed by London-based Ab Rogers Design, who took inspiration from the raw aesthetic of the original Arzak restaurant in San Sebastian, Spain, which holds three Michelin-stars.
The focal point of Ametsa is a wave-like ceiling, created from 7,000 glass receptacles filled with spices. Other highlights include an oak floor laid at a 30-degree angle and lacquered walls that create a calm, light-filled interior.
Ametsa also has a Private Dining Room that can be reserved separately for an intimate gathering of up to 30 guests or in conjunction with the restaurant for a larger function accommodating up to 70.
The private dining room at Ametsa with Arzak Instruction is the ideal space for a London private meeting. Light-filled, with large windows overlooking The Halkin garden, the room accommodates 24 people seated or 40 standing. It is ideal for an all-day meeting, private celebration or small event.
Interiors echo the main Ametsa restaurant, with red leather benches and glass receptacles filled with spices forming wave-like contours on the ceiling. Large retractable mirrored doors can be left open, to incorporate the main restaurant or closed for greater intimacy.
Ametsa with Arzak Instruction, Halkin Hotel Restaurant Diner Reviews
"Fine hotel restaurant in a very upscale off Hyde Park location. Excellent staff - on bar service and restaurant. Food that was less than the sum of its parts - clever in concept, superbly executed, but ultimately lacking in the big flavours associated with gutsy Spanish (or Basque) cooking. Cocina nueva with a noughties vibe. Looked amazing, subtle in texture, but no lingering taste or memory to speak of."
"The £49 promotional dinner menu, 4 courses and two glasses of wine must be one of the best values in London. The food is inventive and absolutely top notch. Good, friendly, enthusiastic service and a tasteful modern style room with nicely spaced tables. Hope the young shriekers don't discover it."
"The last time we dined at Ametsa we raved about it, and, although we have had disappointing second visits to some other restaurants, at the end of this treat we were wondering why on earth hadn’t we been back before. It started off with a properly professional welcome, and the front of house, impeccably schooled by the outstanding restaurant manager, Ednor Pronjaj, made us feel right at home throughout the meal. We chose the tasting menu, and as we discussed it with Ednor we let slip that lobster was a great favourite with us; quick as a flash he informed us that they were preparing a dish for inclusion on the menu at a later date, he checked with the chef and sure enough one of our “entrantes” became lobster instead of langoustine. A lesson to be learnt here by other top venues. Even before the super “aperitivos” which set the tone for the evening, we happily indulged in some very good olive oil with with our home baked bread and then began the parade of delicious dishes: thick cep soup with manchego crackers, followed by an excellent combination of kataifi with light fish (in this case scorpion fish), a brilliant prawn gyoza style dumpling, and a crafty crunchy black pudding set against a sweet marmalade syrup. As with the whole menu the level of seasoning in these better-than-amuse-bouches was just perfect. The first starter caused us to raise our eyebrows as it had hemp seeds as one of the ingredients; however, the brilliant Scottish scallops mounted on a parsley base were perfectly matched with the nutty hemp crackers and given a memorable contrast against a wonderful mango salsa for a dish that could justifiably be called historic. Balanced textures enhanced our special serving of lobster which was perfectly lightly poached and matched with orange blossom, a seaweed cracker that was almost like crackling and finely sliced beans - another winner. The final starter kept up the amazing standard of cuisine and presentation, a signature dish called eggs in the moon, a crazy yet somehow logical take on eggs and bacon with a combination of fried egg wrapped in its own white, chorizo, a tomato coating and apricot salsa and turmeric. Another nice idea was the diner being able to choose a fish dish and a meat dish from the à la carte menu. The fish had to be turbot for both of us, but we differed on the meat, my wife taking the ox cheek, while I favoured the suckling pig. Blackberries would not be the first ingredient one would think of to accompany turbot, but it really worked, somehow pointing up the supreme delicacy of the the king of fish when properly cooked, and here it was emphasised by a concentration of dried loganberry and reduced cauliflower which was soft and reshaped to look like florets. This was a triumph! Not to be outdone, the melt-in-the-mouth ox-cheek with its melon pickle, Jerusalem artichoke and black sauce reduction, and the tender, gently porky suckling pig with its delightfully sweet fat under light crackling and “pseudo-cereals”, vegetables transformed to look like grains, were both splendid. A yuzu-tasting palate cleanser prepared us for the first dessert - the “coloured crystals”, a signature dish amounting to a lesson in mathematical/molecular gastronomy, in which a red-coloured grape vinaigrette is poured onto a mead base and it spreads to produce a sort of snowflake pattern, showy but nonetheless amazing. This was followed by a geometrical structure of triangular wafers of different colours and tastes and hardness arranged round a fruity crumble, and finally an explosion of passion fruit with churros reduced to crunchy crisps and served with the required rich chocolate, a truly Spanish classic in the making, and like all the other courses presented in an imaginatively artistic manner. Bravo chef Briones! A brilliant dining experience that we will definitely be hoping to repeat."
5 Halkin St, London, SW1X 7DJ
|Number of Diners:|
|Tuesday||12 pm-2 pm, 6:30 pm-10 pm|
|Wednesday||12 pm-2 pm, 6:30 pm-10 pm|
|Thursday||12 pm-2 pm, 6:30 pm-10 pm|
|Friday||12 pm-2 pm, 6:30 pm-10 pm|
|Saturday||12:30 pm-2 pm, 6:30 pm-10 pm|