Whilst it has taken me almost two years to have dinner at Eneko Basque Kitchen and Bar since it opened, it was well worth the wait and what an evening we had. I even got the opportunity to meet with Eneko Atxa himself, who was on a flying visit to London to check in on his restaurant and try out some new dishes.
For those of you who remember Axis at One Aldwych, which I loved incidentally, the space has been completely reimagined and I have to say the designers, Casson Mann, have done a terrific job. From the Edwardian entrance to the shining copper staircase that winds its way down to the bright mezzanine bar that overlooks the restaurant below, you immediately feel that you are in a warm and inviting environment and I haven’t even mentioned the polite and inviting staff yet.
Before we go downstairs to the restaurant itself, we stop off at the bright and buzzy bar and sit at a newly installed wooden ‘high table’ and order a glass of Cava and some delicious pintxos, where Chef Eneko brings the tradition of sharing, a great Basque tradition, to One Aldwych and Covent Garden. The pintxos menu is superb I have to say, offering a little something for everyone. And if you’d rather sit in the bar rather than eat in the restaurant itself, then their menu is ideal for a light lunch or evening meal, perhaps before heading out to the theatre. You can enjoy a pintxos platter and glass of wine for just under £20 per person.
I would recommend trying the Oxtail on Milk Bread with Idiazabal cheese, Anchovy and Tomato Compote and the Idiazabal Cheese Croquetas. Both are absolutely delicious!
As we walked downstairs, we were immediately struck by the modern, inviting and relaxed atmosphere, with the bespoke furniture made by craftsmen in the Basque region and includes some really comfortable chilli-red banquettes and chestnut wooden tables. And you can’t miss the soaring feature wall of chiselled black Mediterranean pine which is truly impressive!
A visit to the open kitchen at the back and chat with three Michelin-starred chef Eneko Atxa and Head Chef Javi Blanco, I learned that all the ingredients are carefully sourced and designed for sharing to appeal to all our senses. Eneko’s own family winery in Balbao are the source for many of the wines on the menu which complement the dishes perfectly but more about that later on. And having tried some freshly cooked sardines with Eneko after he took a blowtorch to them, I returned to my table to peruse the menu.
The idea is that you choose a selection of small plates from the menu to share to start your meal and so we chose the Traditional Talo, which is a crispy corn talo stuffed with heritage tomatoes and a basil emulsion. It tastes as good as it looks! The Arroz con Almejas came highly recommended and is a mix of clams and rice with garlic, chives and parsley, as was the Beef Tartare with and anchovy emulsion and picked mushrooms.
We then made our selection from the large plates, again to share, and chose the delicious Hake Tempura, which comes with a red pepper sauce and parsley emulsion and a large Rack of Lamb which comes on a wooden board and was one of the highlights of the meal. We complimented these two dishes with a side of Green Salad and some grilled Tenderstem Broccoli.
When it comes to choosing the right wine to pair with our meal, we decided to opt for a different glass with each course, which worked out perfectly and selected all red wines. Our first wine, a Roda Reserva, is a 2013 Rioja Alta, La Rioja and was wonderfully smooth but not too heavy, which Riojas can often be. That said, when I see a bottle of decent Rioja on a menu, I tend to make beeline towards it, as it is one of my favourite wines. Our second wine is a light and elegant Parada de Atouta, a 2014 Ribera del Duero, Castile and León which paired particularly well with our Hake Tempura. And the last of our three wines of the evening is also a light Belgorri Crianza, a 2014 Rioja Alavesa from the Basque Country. I would say that at least half the wine list is available by the glass, which I am pleased to see, as you don’t always want a full bottle or much like us, it’s fun to try different wines with individual dishes. The wines are reasonably priced given that we are in Central London with bottles starting from £26 and a glass from £8.
The dessert menu offers some naughty but nice treats, not that we had much room left after our feast, and so we decided to order the refreshing Raspberry Tartlet with chocolate sauce. The Rose Marshmallow with strawberry sorbet also sounded tempting as did the Alaska Cake with vanilla ice cream and a rhubarb and Italian meringue.
Having bid adieu to the friendly staff, we stepped into the warm London evening to head to the station. We could have been forgiven for thinking we were in Spain, as it was one of those hot and humid evenings we have enjoyed so much this summer. I can’t wait to return to try Eneko’s autumn menu as our expectations were far exceeded.
Eneko Basque Kitchen and Bar, One Aldwych, London, WC2B 4BZ, England
Tel: +44 (0)20 7300 0300
Located in the heart of London in Covent Garden, between the City and the West End – at the point where the Aldwych meets the Strand, directly opposite Waterloo Bridge. The nearest Tube stations are Charing Cross (Bakerloo and Northern lines) and Covent Garden on the Piccadilly line. The restaurant is open Tuesday to Friday for lunch from midday to 2:30pm and for dinner from 5:00pm to 11:00pm. Saturday Brunch is served from 11:30am to 2:15pm and dinner from 5:00pm to 11:00pm.
Type of Restaurant: Basque Kitchen and Bar
Price Band: Medium
Insider Tip: Arrive a little early and enjoy a glass of Cava or wine and some tasty pintxos in the upstairs bar before you head down to lunch or dinner.
Reviewer’s Rating: 9.5/10
Simon Burrell is Editor-in-Chief of Our Man On The Ground Travel and Lifestyle Magazine, a member of The British Guild of Travel Writers and professional photographer.
Photographs by Simon Burrell