Ametsa with Arzak Instruction, Belgravia

Working in a company that deals largely in gifts, work got pretty stressful in the run-up to Christmas. To be honest, it hasn’t been that much quieter since Christmas, but last weekend Matthew and I found some time to relax, lap up some luxury, and tick off a bucket list item for both of us, all at the same time: both of our first ever Michelin starred meal at Ametsa with Arzak Instruction.

Ametsa is located in the Halkin by Como, Belgravia, and delivers adventurous Basque cuisine, overseen by Elena Arzak and her father Juan Mari. Its menu echoes San Sebastian, but the dining room itself is all clean and fresh, with test tubes of herbs adorning the ceiling and lots of light.

M and I took our seats and eyed the menu with eager anticipation. I send clients to Ametsa on a regular basis so I was familiar already – enough so that our waiter, who was much funnier and friendlier than the sharp lines of the dining room suggested, commented how quickly we made our decisions! To start, we were offered bread and olive oil (2 bits each as standard with more offered as we finished – I approve), and then we were served an amuse-bouche of pumpkin soup.

I’m not often a fan of smooth soups, but this was absolutely delicious and arguably my favourite part of the meal. The wonky shot glass was more than a little disconcerting though!

Next up came the selection of tapas that serves as a starter: deliciously sweet peppers; black ink squid; and Iberico ham on a “bread pillow.” I was extremely pleasantly surprised by the portion sizes, and even though I can sometimes be squeamish about squid, this was great.

The ham I didn’t enjoy as much actually, but luckily Matthew was on hand for leftover duty and it was on to the mains. There are two options on the set lunch menu for your “principal course.” I had opted for the beef shin.

The menu noted came “with the bone,” and when the plate arrived we were told that the bone was actually edible. I have to confess that although I did try a tiny bit, I just couldn’t bring myself to eat the whole thing! As for the beef, it was sinfully tender and the crisped rice on top gave a nice little crunch. It was also served with a little dish of diced nectarine as a garnish, which went really well with the meat.

Matthew had ordered the fish (I think it was cod or seabass…fail!), which also looked delicious. We were too wrapped up in our own meals to try each other’s but the verdict was good.

The set lunch menu does not include dessert, but it is tactically printed on the menu itself and as soon as I saw the words “coconut french toast” I was sold. We quickly discounted sharing as an option and I was so glad we did, because this dessert was amongst the best I have ever eaten. Less french toast and more coconut-milk soaked brioche, I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. The soft sweet bread was wrapped in thin slices of mango, with burnt sugar on top, and it was perfection.

Of course, after dessert came the tea and petit fours, which were equally delicious. My favourites were the tiny little madeleines, but the chocolate truffle-y cube was also fab.

Having settled up and collected our coats, we headed out into crisp Belgravia. The sun was just beginning to set and it was one of those perfectly wintery afternoons that make January seem not too terrible after all.

We finished off the afternoon with a brief trip into Harrods for a nose around the food hall before heading home feeling very much like we were living in the lap of luxury. I’d definitely recommend Ametsa for a relaxed foray into fine dining and food that’s experimental without being too experimental, and I’m so glad we found the chance to go. I’d also definitely recommend following their Instagram – some of their dishes look too pretty to eat!

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