Just off Leicester Square, in the swanky W London hotel, a monthly master class takes place for ‘the ultimate south east Asian-inspired cooking experience’. Keen to expand my skills, I went along to a mini lesson with the executive chef of the hotel’s restaurant, Peter Lloyd.
With all the ingredients perfectly prepared à la Blue Peter, it was more of an assembly class. Yet still, my lack of sealing-the-pastry skills meant my spicy chicken samosa didn’t make the grade. Undeterred, I concentrated hard on the lobster roll with dill and elderflower jelly. After some careful rolling and an artistic smudge of the sriracha emulsion, it looked pretty good. It fell apart when I ate it but that didn’t deter from its delicate summery flavours.
Next up was a taste of Spice Market, the restaurant itself. The décor is alluring with over 600 custom-designed wok lamps bathing you in warm shades of gold and copper. An arresting 24-metre wall of spices showcases every ingredient needed by the chefs and a brass spiral staircase connects the two levels.
Spice Market is the sister site to the original in New York’s Meatpacking District. The menu is inspired by the vibrant street food enjoyed by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s travels in Asia. Don’t expect that inspiration to transpose to the prices though, which are firmly based on the restaurant’s location and wow factor. You can go à la carte (mains from £16) or choose a five course tasting menu for £48 per person. Or, at £15-20, the ‘bento express’ boxes provide a cheaper lunch or pre-theatre option.
The dishes are all about being able to taste the spices without being overwhelmed by heat. A good example was the interesting combination of black pepper shrimp with sundried pineapple, married together to balance the spiciness.
Ginger featured as an unusual flavour for margaritas and in a moreish ginger fried rice. Meltingly tender fish came in the form of shaved tuna with a pear coconut-lime dressing and cod with Malaysian chilli sauce. Only once, in the green papaya salad, could I not determine the ingredients due to the intensity of the spice.
I can usually resist Asian puddings but made a significant exception to taste the range of refreshing sorbets and ice creams (green tea, ginger or banana-lime) presented in take away boxes. The soft peanut butter and sea salt cookie was equally delectable with its winning combination of salt, sugar and fat. And it left just enough space to savour the velvety texture of the ovaltine kulfi banana brûlée.
Spice Market provides an explosion of tastes in a beautiful venue well worth splashing out on.
W London Leicester Square
10 Wardour Street
Tel: 020 7758 1088