Spice Market. W London, Leicester Square. 10 Wardour St. London W1D 6QF
When we were invited to Spice Market to check out their menu and have a mini masterclass, I had a similar feeling as when we went to Aqua, that it may be a case of style over substance. This feeling was marred with excitement and intrigue as a friend is a huge fan. The menu was created by Michelin starred Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten‘s and inspired by his travels around Asia and its vibrant street food. But this is a menu of fusion food which, for me, always brings a feeling of slight trepidation. I like my food to either be Vietnamese, Indian, Thai etc, no messing. Maybe Spice Market would prove me wrong…
The first thing that you see as you enter the restaurant is a wall of spices containing all the colors, flavors and fragrances of south-east Asia. And this spice ‘rack’ is huge, spanning two floors, nearly 25 meters long and contains all the ingredients used by the chefs at Spice Market. The restaurant is completely see-through on three sides so that this mega spice cabinet can be seen from the street. Other eclectic design touches include golden meshed sliding screens, brass lanterns, cosy booths and a beautiful ‘birdcage’ spiral stairs (that made me a tad dizzy!). The lighting has been really well thought out too, the columns of light really come into their own when the sun sets. And DONT forget to look up… Here you’ll find 600 custom designed wok-lights and amazing cage light shades complete with retro style filament bulbs. You can see why it won Best Restaurant Design at the European Hotel Design Awards 2011. We haven’t even mentioned that it’s attached to one of the capital’s coolest hotels, W London… If you get the chance, pop up to the W Bar & Lounge for a bit of people watching! We went for a drink there once which resulted in the barman (accidentally) chucking a cocktail all over me, I didn’t mind though, it meant my round was free.
Spice Market strikes a good balance between the ethnic, old feel of the original Spice Market in New York’s Meatpacking District (wish we’d been aware of it when we visited NYC) and the new modern look of the building on Leicester Square. Inside really reminded us of Thailand, the smells, dark wood and flickering of lanterns Even the chairs in all their burnt orange, deep red and black/brown glory give a warm, cosy atmosphere. It’s more chilled than we had anticipated, almost spa-like. After a delicious Ginger Margarita £11 at the bar we headed upstairs to the private dining area. One of the best things about this place is that all the staff smile! Really smile, like they mean it. This also reminded us of Thailand.
We were met by a table of various ingredients for our mini masterclass. New Executive Chef Peter Lloyd (who began his training at the five-star Dorchester hotel) talked us through making a Spiced Chicken Samosa £8 and of course made it look like child’s play. Trying to roll a samosa in front of a chef is a pretty intimidating experience, luckily Peter was both encouraging and honest. I beamed with pride when he announced we may have a winner with mine and felt Ade’s pain when he said his was a bit of a disaster.
The finished samosas were whisked away into the kitchen to be cooked whilst we were handed warm flannels by our smiley waitress to clean our minced chicken and egg wash-covered hands. Next up were the Lobster summer rolls with a Sriracha emulsion and dill £15, these I thought were far easier until it came to slicing them into portions and I realised mine were all different heights. Fail. Ade’s however were perfect so his ego was lifted slightly.
Due to popular demand the full masterclass is now going monthly. You have the chance to cook some of the restaurant’s signature dishes with Peter Lloyd’s expert guidance. Groups of up to 10 budding cooks get the chance to pick up unrivalled information and tricks of the trade and are also given simplified versions of Spice Market’s recipes so they can be made at home, without losing the flavour or wow-factor. The class also includes a cocktail demonstration of a Kumquat Mojito (Ade had one and it was ‘lush’) and the Spice Market classic, Ginger Margarita £11. Guests also get their finished dishes judged by Chef Peter – just to bring out that competitive streak.
We sat down to eat our summer roll creations and unfortunately I wasn’t very impressed, I know they are delicate items but the flavour was far too subtle for me. Another diner agreed. Ade was just happy that his didn’t fall apart when he picked them up with his chopsticks… But he thought that £15 was a little steep. Thankfully nothing else that was served was bland, Black Pepper Shrimp with sun-dried pineapple £12.50 had a punchy grilled taste the shrimp tasted great with the pineapple but even better by itself – hence the left over chunks of dried pineapple. A pretty iced bowl of Shaved tuna, chilli tapioca with an Asian pear coconut lime dressing £12.50 was full of flavour. Once I got over the idea of eating raw tuna (I don’t like raw fish OR tuna) I really enjoyed this dish. What was also a great touch was how the waitress told us how the chef recommends we eat each dish. We never saw our samosas again and somehow we’d all forgotten about them, gutted as we’d love to have known how they tasted. Maybe they were all so bad that they went in the bin?
A classic Thai papaya salad hadn’t been messed with too much and tasted authentic and fiery, Green papaya salad, spicy tamarind charred long beans, cashews £7.50. Charred chilli rubbed beef skewer with a Thai basil dipping sauce £11 came complete with its own mini grill, very cute. It tasted good too, robust and meaty. One of our favourite dishes was the lovely Roasted cod with Malaysian chilli sauce, Thai basil and celery £16.50, that jammy chilli sauce gave it a gentle kick. The Chargrilled chicken, with a kumquat lemongrass dressing £19 alongside Ginger fried rice £6 was a winner too.
We were given a short break before desserts as there’s no way any of us could manage another morsel of food. Lucky we did as we were presented with Ovaltine kulfi banana brûlée, spiced milk chocolate sauce £7, this was one of those deconstructed desserts, a brûlée is one dessert never to be messed with. It was lovely however, the chocolate reminded me of the chocolate malt tart at the Hawksmoor Spitalfields bar. An assortment of home-made sorbets (Coconut, Passion Fruit or Mango £8) and ice cream (Green Tea, Ginger or Banana-Lime £8) were also distributed, loved how these were served in little takeaway boxes. Last but not least were a trio of homemade cookies £6 (the soft kind), the peanut butter & sea salt was the standout variety, with the ginger oatmeal coming a very close second. I expected everyone to be too full for these so I could bring them into work, but oh no – all we were left with were crumbs.
To sum up, we were pretty impressed with the dishes, service and surroundings of Spice Market. The prices are pretty high so it’s one for special occasions or those with larger wallets than us, saying, that the express lunch and pre-theatre options are an absolute bargain.
NEWS FLASH!… NEWS FLASH!… NEWS FLASH!… NEWS FLASH!…
Peter Lloyd has also launched brand new ‘Bento Express’ lunch and pre-theatre options. Based on Japanese lunchboxes they offers diners a varied selection of small plate dishes, in 4 different styles… Classic, Garden, Healthy and Gourmet. Each served on a hand-carved acacia wood tray and contains a medley of dishes from the menu, such as steamed red snapper with shiitake mushrooms, ginger and tarragon, or green papaya salad with cherry tomatoes and candied tamarind. You even get a pack of three delicious home-made cookies to take away with you – they’re almost worth the £15 price tag alone (The ‘Gourmet’ box costs £20). The ‘Bento Express’ menu is available Monday-Friday 12-3pm and 5-6.30pm. (Click here for more details)
W London, Leicester Square
10 Wardour St. London W1D 6QF
Tel: 0207 758 1088
Breakfast: 7:00 am – 11:00 am Monday-Friday
8:00 am – 11:30 am Saturday-Sunday
Lunch: 12pm – 3pm daily
Dinner: 5pm – 11pm Sunday – Thursday
Dinner: 5pm – 12 am Friday & Saturday
Bar: 12pm – 11pm Sunday – Thursday
12pm – 12 am Friday and Saturday
Nearest tube: Leicester Square