Saturday, 6 July 2013

Ametsa with Arzak Instruction.


On Thursday my friend Henry and I went for dinner at Ametsa with Arzak Instruction, which is a Basque restaurant in The Halkin Hotel in Belgravia. Ametsa has had some truly awful reviews from the critics since it opened back in March, so we were quite intrigued to try it for ourselves.

Ametsa is the sibling of the famous Arzak restaurant in San Sebastian, which holds three-michelin stars and was listed as 8th in the world. Elena Arzak and her father run the restaurant in San Sebastian, with Elena as head chef. So despite the harsh reviews from the critics, we were still expecting great things from Ametsa.

The friendly and well-presented staff led us into a stark white room with test tubes filled with spices hanging from the ceiling and the windows covered/whited out with material. Hm. Clinical. You couldn't really tell that the test tubes were test tubes filled with spices, they looked like something else...so much so I remarked 'I feel like we're in a restaurant in Amsterdam...and I haven't even been to Amsterdam'.

Decor and atmosphere aside, we ordered and Henry made the biggest faux pas; 
H: 'Could I please have a glass of Prosecco?' 
Waiter: 'We don't have Prosecco...we have Cava' 
H: 'Oh of course, we're in a Spanish restaurant!'.
*shakes head*

The aperitivos arrived, and looked really impressive on stands that resembled something from a science lab. Despite the presentation of the room, the presentation of the food was faultless. All of the aperitivos were fabulous, but my favourites were the Chorizo wrapped in Mango, and the Kataifi with Scorpion Fishcake.

Kataifi with Scorpion Fishcake

You all know I'm a lover of combining sweet with savory, and these two flavours with the mango and chorizo just worked so well, the mango was full of flavour while the chorizo was surprisingly creamy. Heaven in a mango parcel. The scorpion fish cake was the most surprising, yep, scorpion fish. After asking if it was dangerous (after all, scorpion fish are some of the most poisonous in the world!), I bit in and the crispy outer-shell of the kataifi fell away, crumbling onto my lap. The texture and taste of the fish and kataifi was perfect. I could have eaten both of those aperitivos again and again, it's a shame they haven't been incorporated into an actual dish.

To start with I had the Scallops with Cassava "Souffle", although the dish looked impressive, it was quite bland and tasteless. The main course didn't get much better, the Ox Cheeks, although beautifully tender, weren't anything special and it was far too large a portion for such a heavy meat. Henry had the King Prawns to start with which he absolutely loved, he described it as; "One of the chefs seems to have netted a cloud and sat parts of a dead but still tender lobster upon it" (you can tell he's a writer, eh). He then had the Beef Fillet with Aged Red Wine for main, with his response on the beef being "it's just your average steak really".

Scallops with Cassava "Souffle"
The Ox Cheek with Vanilla

Beef Fillet with Aged Red Wine

The dessert really was the highlight of the meal for me, and was exceptionally tasty; I had the French Toast wrapped in Mango, with Coconut cream and Mango ice-cream. The french toast had been soaked in vanilla overnight, so much so that the bread tasted incredibly creamy and it just melted in my mouth. The ice-cream was also scrumptious - rich yet refreshing. 

Henry had the Chocolate Board, which was biscuit coated in coffee flavoured chocolate, with pumpkin ice-cream. The pumpkin ice-cream was a dream! I've been umm-ing and ahh-ing whether to ask them for the recipe!

French Toast with Mango and Coconut

Chocolate Board

If I'm honest I'm not sure I would go back to Ametsa, the atmosphere was cold, you couldn't just sit back and relax - Henry and I get a little loud when we get together, and always end up laughing so much our sides ache, the room was so empty and cold that the sound of our laughter seemed to bounce around the entire restaurant. I much prefer restaurants where you don't feel so open to other diners and where you can enjoy yourself without worrying about irritating others in what feels like a hospital ward.

The only reason I would go back is if they re-decorated, it would just make such a huge difference! I can't really fault the service though, the staff were lovely and attentive, without being pushy. If you're a foodie who likes to try interesting food concepts, head here, as I did enjoy the food, I just thought they could improve the scallops and ox cheek. 

Update: Ametsa with Arzak Instruction now hold a Michelin star! Congratulations guys, it's very much deserved. I still stand by what I said about how fantastic the aperitivos and desserts were!


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*We were invited to review Ametsa with Arzak Instruction and received our meal complimentary.


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