In Review

Bloomsbury Street Kitchen review: from the Med to Japan via WC1

Mediterranean and Japanese fare sit well together in a setting fashionably without frills

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Both the Mediterranean and Japanese diets are considered to be major contributing factors in the longevity of their citizens.

Scientists have suggested that there are inherent health benefits to both cuisines. But if The Week Portfolio’s visit to the new Bloomsbury Street Kitchen is anything to go by, there might be a much simpler explanation: the food is so good, it’s worth sticking around for.

The twin-cuisine restaurant's à la carte menu is divided down the middle, with Mediterranean fare on the left and the Japanese offering on the right.

But first, the cosmopolitan cocktail menu. We started our lunch with drinks in the lounge bar at the Bloomsbury Street Hotel end of the light and airy restaurant. I braved a punchy Cereza Negroni followed by a classic Espresso Martini, while a summery peach and rhubarb Bellini went down well across the table.

The service was faultless from the moment we arrived: calm and competent, friendly but not overfamiliar. The staff were attentive; when I managed to elegantly dribble a sip of Lemon and Mint Smash down my chin, the waiter appeared with a napkin in seconds and offered it as if his arrival was purely spontaneous, rather than down to having spotted my mishap.

After our drinks, we were taken through the restaurant and seated at our table next to the large terracotta flowerpots of the indoor herb garden. More than once, I gave in to the temptation to rub the lavender leaves between my fingers to enjoy the Provençal scent.

When I asked our waiter to suggest a few small plates, he picked out a few favourites without hesitation. 

The first recommendation to arrive was a plate of miso chips topped with smashed avocado, intended for my vegetarian dining partner but quickly assigned to the sharing list after an offer to try one turned into negotiations over the rest. I had to surrender a few precious halloumi fries with tzatziki and coriander mint dressing.

Sharing small plates with a vegetarian really gives you the opportunity to show your true character - a generous soul would surely have picked wholly from the range of veggie-friendly dishes.

That’s why I should have felt terribly guilty as I crunched through the crispy pastry casing of my lamb bites, scooped out forkfuls of creamy baked lobster from its seashell bowl, and gently pulled apart pieces of salty and exquisitely seasoned chicken. But I didn’t. I just felt very, unreservedly good.

The meeting of the two different cuisines worked well. We picked a selection from both Japan and the Med, with everything from the quintessentially Mediterranean lobster and king prawn in parmesan crème with chilli herb crust, to the unmistakably Japanese goma-glazed roasted aubergine.

The air conditioning in our corner of the restaurant was turned down slightly too low throughout our visit, but thankfully the food came piping hot. The chilli-and-lemon-roasted baby chicken arrived sizzling on a banana leaf perched above a Bincho grill decorated in Japanese script.

We finished by sharing a pear and apple tarte tatin with Tahitian vanilla ice cream, and a yoghurt and white chocolate cheesecake with activated charcoal sorbet.

The bright white of the cheesecake contrasted artfully on the plate with the deep black of the sorbet, and the subtle sourness of the yoghurt prevented the dessert from being too rich, or too sweet.

The tarte tatin was beautifully light and classically French - it was easy to imagine we were enjoying it on the Côte d’Azur rather than a stones throw from London’s famous theatres.

The setting was clean, stylish and modern throughout. I don’t know if it says more about the restaurant or my dining partner and me that we were both sufficiently impressed with the bathroom decor that we snapped photos to show one another.

As the waiter came to clear our last plates away, I asked if we’d missed any of his favourites. He thought for a moment, before suggesting the Italian meringue, complete with coconut mousse, white rum jelly and pineapple sorbet.

Next time, I said. And there will be a next time.

Bloomsbury Street Kitchen, London WC1

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