By Jonathan Hatchman, Food Editor, @TLE_Food
Located on the corner of a swanky Leicester Square hotel, Spice Market is the London outpost of World-renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, inspired by the Pan Asian street food that he fell in love with upon his travels of the Continent. Offering a menu that includes a number of tasty Asian inspired treats, although delivered in an atmosphere that’s far more refined than street huts. Instead, Spice Market obtains a stylish ambience of dark wood furnishings, low lighting (and seating for that matter) and brass screen lanterns, while a playlist of mostly-instrumental lounge house recordings fill the capacious dining space and well equipped bar. However, what’s perhaps most impressive about the restaurant’s interior is the wall-to-wall spice rack, withholding all of the necessary ingredients for the chefs to rub and sprinkle the unique flavours into the dishes on offer. Well, what else would you expect from a restaurant with the word “spice” taking up one half of its name?
Upon arriving we found ourselves seated within a cosy booth just beneath street level as the city’s China Town tourists trudged by, taking intrusive photography of just about everything visible to the naked eye. Opting for the tasting menu that’s on offer, filled with Pan Asian delights especially designed to share amongst the table, including four glasses of expertly matched wine to accompany. Beginning with a satisfying Tuna inside out roll, cut into four bite size discs, before moving on to a slice of salmon sashimi perched atop a deep fried rice ball with a generous smearing of chipotle emulsion to add a warming kick to fight off the Sunday evening chill. A sure fire highlight. Another highlight came in the form of a Samosa filled with lightly spiced minced chicken, served with optional Coriander Yoghurt. Other courses such as the lime doused beef skewers, Cod with Malaysian Chilli Sauce and an interesting basil oil that visually resembled a shot of discerning Absinthe, were impressive, as was the chargrilled Chicken, although with such a focus on spice it seemed that the necessary seasoning managed to take a back seat in the chef’s cooking process. The accompanying ginger fried rice, however, did come as an unexpectedly delicious side dish. Served with a runny fried egg that was mixed into the rice at the table by our proficient waiter.
On to the duo of desserts, the milky crushed coconut ice with Thai Jewels and fruits was a little hit and miss, but what was lacked by the penultimate course was more than made up for by the sharing plate of scrumptious caramelised banana served alongside rich chocolate semi-fredo. So tasty in fact that I found myself, like a greedy child, feeling reluctant to share with my dining companion. In the past, London’s Spice Market has been often accused of delivering style over substance. However, albeit a little pricey, our culinary journey through South-East Asia was most enjoyable.
Spice Market can be found at W London Leicester Square, 10 Wardour St, London, W1D 6QF