Eneko at One Aldwych : a dinner of Basque tapas

Eneko at One AldwychI’ve been meaning to go to Eneko at One Aldwych for a while now and having missed meeting chef Eneko Atxa (of Azurmendi, #38 in this year’s World’s Best Restaurants) last Summer, I vowed to visit before Autumn started. Having not read the menu before going, I was in a big mood to be surprised. Tapas, after all, is a thing I like and know a lot about.

A side story

The concept of tapas came funny to me when I first moved to Europe because when it comes to portion size, I liked them big as you go. Growing up, dining was all about sharing things family-style. You know – big portions of five (or more) viands that you share around the table, a huge tray of carbs and salad fit to serve a village. “Tapas” to me felt more like bar chow, than a proper meal. Until one time, my friend A and I went to a Spanish restaurant and gorged on 10 plates of food (3 of them were deep fried creamy mushrooms). Since then, I have fallen in love with tapas.

Back to Eneko

We came on a Tuesday and understandably, the place was rather quiet. I like reviewing places when it’s not that packed, particularly because I get less self-conscious about bringing out my mammoth camera and clicking away like fire. Nonetheless, ‘smuch as I liked the restaurant’s aesthetics, I couldn’t wait to dig in.

Eneko at One AldwychHomemade bread came with Eneko’s butter churned with some basil and herbs.

Eneko at One AldwychWine for the night: Ontañón Clarete, La Rioja, Spain from 2015

Eneko at One AldwychWe started with the “Memories of the Bay of Biscay” (£13 per piece), a sole diver scallop served with daikon and chive emulsion.

Eneko at One AldwychFood theatrics was on point. The shells lay atop a large trivet with a bowl of seaweed underneath. They poured some dry ice to smoke out the seaweed, evoking the salty air from the Bay of Biscay.

Eneko at One AldwychI’m not gonna lie, it was pretty. The scallops themselves were huge and were perfectly cooked.

Eneko at One AldwychThe other starter we had was the suckling pig “tempura” (£12), slow cooked pork shoulder with bacon sauce.

Eneko at One AldwychI thought this was more of a dumpling because the batter was more of a soft, doughy type. The pork inside was a good mix of fat, lean meat and crackling. It was perfectly cooked but could have done with a bit more seasoning.

Eneko at One AldwychThe grilled wild salmon fillet (£19) looked vibrant in a sea of mussels, asparagus and peas. Fish was cooked nicely with its crisp skin and pink flesh inside. I thought the quality of the ingredients shone in the dish and it was reflective of the season. However, I’ve had variants of this dish before and wasn’t quite mindblown about Eneko’s offering.

Eneko at One AldwychThe dish I was most excited about was the txipirones en su tinta (£13) or Basque style squid in ink sauce. This was something I ate growing up (although as mentioned, in bigger portions served family-style).

Eneko at One AldwychAlthough not much of a looker, the plump baby squid were tender to the bite and stuffed with a flavoursome filling. The sauce, thick with gorgeous squid ink, was flavoursome and so more-ish, I couldn’t help but mop some bread with it.

Eneko at One AldwychA surprising hit was the arroz de cetas (£14) a risotto made with Basque oyster mushroom and ceps emulsion. The dish was rich, creamy, and straightforward. There’s a clear depth of flavour here, but to simplify, this was technically a celebration of mushroom. And I liked it.

Eneko at One AldwychOut of curiosity (and a sucker for texture), I ordered a dish called cauliflower in textures (£9). It looked exactly what it said on the tin. Cauliflower was puréed, fried, balled and milked up. This was rather an exciting dish to look at, showing off technique. And perhaps, a little battle cry that Basque cuisine can take humble ingredients levelling up to fine dining, too.

Eneko at One AldwychFirst dessert was the torrija (£8). In traditional Basque cooking, torrijas are made with bread and soaked in milk. Eneko’s offering was more of a cake. It was served with caramel crumble ice cream which I actually enjoed more than the sponge.

Eneko at One Aldwych I was extremely pleased with the pineapple sorbet (£8). It was a generous portion of refreshment. Served with celery foam and sweet celery ribbons, it was also a palate cleanser as much of a dessert. But very light to the taste and in my opinion, a good ending.

Verdict of Eneko at One Aldwych

I can’t fault the service at Eneko, it was such a pleasure talking to our servers who knew so much about the menu and made us feel absolutely great.

Now, I’ve tasted a lot of tapas but to this date, my faves seem to remain the same – the crab bun and arroz de marisco from Barrafina,  the pulpo at Boqueria, the “Russian” salad at Santagustina, and even the now defunct magic, creamy fried mushrooms from La Tasca. They’re not particularly fancy nor pricey but just straightforward and delicious.

My dilemma with Eneko is that whilst they have displayed great technique and respect for produce, I think they can do better. Especially when London is peppered with tapas joints. I feel that Basque cuisine is big, bold, hearty and exciting and Eneko kept me grasping for that. Nothing wrong with the flair, but I just missed the straight talk from the plate. Because the thing with tapas, I think, is that they only have a few spoonsful  to make a lasting memory.

I’d go back for the txipirones and the arroz de setas.

Eneko at One Aldwych
One Aldwych, London WC2B
Ave price pp: £60
I was a guest of Eneko but all opinions are my own.
Eneko At One Aldwych Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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14 Comments

  1. 26th September 2017 / 1:12 pm

    I keep meaning to visit Eneko, as I love their menu of really creative, delicious and meticulously presented Basque tapas, so it’s on my list. Your photos and descriptions make me hungry!

    • 30th September 2017 / 11:27 am

      Haha thanks Kavey! I liked some of the dishes although some were just okay!

  2. 26th September 2017 / 8:42 pm

    I really like Eneko. I visited the Basque fairly recently and found this kind of thing alternated with more traditional pintxos. The brunch is fun too!

    • 30th September 2017 / 11:28 am

      Oh I haven’t tried the brunch menu yet but I wanna go visit the Basque region!

  3. 26th September 2017 / 9:10 pm

    That cauliflower dish terrifies me. I’m not entirely sure why. But I’m sitting under the table hiding from it… 😉

    • 30th September 2017 / 11:29 am

      Hahahahaha that seems to be the collective reaction about the cauliflower dish!

  4. 27th September 2017 / 1:22 pm

    Some absolutely gorgeous and also some rather strange looking dishes. The scallops look amazing. Not so sure on the cauliflower. Impressed you had room for dessert.

    • 30th September 2017 / 11:26 am

      Hahaha, thanks Claire – the scallops were very impressive in size!

  5. 29th September 2017 / 9:39 pm

    Eneko at One Aldwych looks like a great place to visit, their food presentation is impressive and the food looks so moorish, especially the dessert and mushroom dish too.

    This is the sort of food I personally love to eat with unique flavoursome combinations.

    Laura xo
    http://www.shehearts.net

    • 30th September 2017 / 11:23 am

      The mushroom dish was definitely a good one! =)

  6. Mari
    30th September 2017 / 2:41 pm

    All those pictures got me hungry! The presentation looks so cool though that I don’t know if I should eat them or preserve them instead!

    Almari Writes. ❤

    • Honey de Gracia
      1st October 2017 / 10:00 am

      Haha – preserve in photos but always eat!

    • Honey de Gracia
      12th October 2017 / 9:03 pm

      Ahaha thanks Alix! =)

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