The gal is always fascinated by luxury hotels’ enhancements, improvements, refurbishments and upgrading, and what is happening at One Aldwych, London, is really clever. GM Kostas Sfaltos, who must have learned long-term planning years ago in the Greek army, realised a couple of years ago that something needed to be done to bring his two restaurants up to date. He turned Indigo, in the mezzanine overlooking the hotel’s ever-popular lobby, into normal breakfast, but dairy- and gluten-free at both lunch and dinner. Now it was time to retire his somewhat dark basement restaurant. He looked around for a cuisine that would be new to London, with a spectacular chef.
The result is Eneko at One, a partnership with Basque wizard Eneko Atxa, who has three Michelin stars for his restaurant Azurmendi in Bilbao – he is obviously an absolute charmer, see his video below. He, the Basque, wanted to come to London, says the Greek, and here, in the UK capital, there is a dearth of Basque food. Next thing was to do something about the space. A dark basement would not do. The results of months of heavy refurbishment, to designs by the London firm Casson Mann, were finally unveiled a few weeks ago.
Now there is a street entrance straight from Aldwych – go down marvellously smooth wood steps, a total of 34 steps stopping off halfway down at the mezzanine bar. The stairs are wrapped in copper. Somehow big windows have been added, to provide light wells, from street level, right down to the bar and on down to the restaurant, where walls are all Basque fabrics, stone and hand-chiselled wood, and tables are smoothest Basque wood; chairs are soft cream or burgundy leather. It is absolutely gorgeous. I especially like the fact that original iron columns have been left, a reminder that the building – designed by Charles Mewès and Arthur Davis, who also designed the Ritz hotels in London, Madrid and Paris – opened in 1907 as the headquarters of The Morning Post newspaper.
From August 1st, 2016, Eneko Atxa’s food, cooked here by one of his female crew, Edurne Martin, has been so popular that the 110-seat restaurant has been sell-out at lunch and dinner (admittedly it was half-price all that month). From yesterday it is up to full price, but reservations are not suffering. A simple recycled card menu lists 3 starters, say squid stew with courgette ribbons; ten-total main courses, including roast Iberico pork with wheat in chickpea sauce and garlic cream, and from the dessert trolley, which matches the wood tables, you might choose a Basque vanilla sponge. I find it interesting that Casson Mann – Dinah Casson and Roger Mann – seem to be exhibition designers rather than creators of luxury hotel looks. Here they have created a stage for a divine exhibition of fascinating food – cannot wait to try it! NOW SEE THE ATXA VIDEO, BELOW