Thursday, 17 May 2018

Hide, Piccadilly

At one end of the Restaurant Ambition Scale you have a simple street food stall, where a small team - often just one person - tests the market with a highly specialised menu of variations on a theme; burgers, perhaps, or Korean-French fusion Yorkshire pudding burritos. Success at this level may lead to investment and expansion and - for the lucky ones - a nationwide chain of restaurants, but none of this happens overnight. Word of mouth travels slowly, and success has to be earned the hard way.

At the other end of the scale, there is Hide. Occupying three floors of an imposing tower block in the heart of Mayfair overlooking Green Park, consisting of a basement bar, ground floor bistro and mezzanine fine dining restaurant, there is nothing about the place that isn't lavishly, indecently confident bordering on downright reckless. As most of the London restaurant industry prepares to batten down the hatches and prepare for the long, dark Brexit winter of the soul, Ollie Dabbous and his Russian investors have decided to throw caution (and a few million quid) to the wind and open by what is by some distance the most impressively kitted-out bit of foodie real estate in W1.

Outside, it's fairly discreet - austere, even, with tinted windows only hinting at activity within, and a large unmarked entrance of dark panelled wood. Inside, though, you can see where every last penny of the £millions went; a glorious stylised wooden staircase looking like something from a Guillermo del Toro movie is the obvious centerpiece, but lovely design details lurk in every corner and it's worth factoring in a good ten minutes into your evening schedule just to make time for gawping in slack-jawed wonder at it all before turning your attention to the food.

Mind you, the food served at Hide deserves just as much slack-jawed wonder as the surroundings. The artist's eye and attention to detail that made Dabbous such a roaring success is even more amplified here, and even this cynical, restaurant-weary blogger saw several moments of genuine, game-changing innovation. Even the bread course was pretty much perfect, all of it oven-fresh and beautifully done, particularly a "foccacia" so insanely delicate it practically dissolved in the mouth - pure buttery, flaky joy.

Simmental (there's that name again) beef tartare came wrapped in cute little nasturtium leaves secured with mini clothes pegs, and despite the leaves being slightly wilted and past their best, still made for very satisfying little morsels. I couldn't detect much of the advertised 'tobacco' flavour but perhaps that's for the best.

Cornish mackerel tartare was served with one of those clever Pacojet-made snows, flavoured with eucalyptus. I don't know if you've ever had mackerel and eucalyptus before - I very much doubt it - and I still haven't, as I didn't get to try this one, but I am reliably informed it worked very well. And who can resist a moat of seaweed and dry ice, to lend a creepy B-movie atmosphere to proceedings?

At this point, my camera battery died, so I'm afraid from here on photos will look like they have all the life drained out of them, as the iPhone in low light tends to do. So just imagine how vibrant the colours were in real life on this dish of raw red prawns, and how a cool, clear shellfish consommé brought a refreshing spritz of the ocean.

Chicken liver parfait was actually nowhere near as weird and grey as it looks here; it was in fact a very attractive pink-bronze, smooth and light and perched proudly on the top of a clever bit of custom tableware, as if nestled in the caldera of a sunken volcano.

Under normal circumstances a single "sweetbread" may sound a bit of a stingy portion for a main course, but this thing was huge - not overwhelmingly so, and with a fantastic light texture, but plenty enough to satisfy. It was presented with angular spears of various pickled herbs and vegetables, and over the top was poured one of those dense, meaty sauces that you just want to order a dozen gallons of and bathe in. Actually, maybe that's just me. Sorry for the mental image.

Octopus was right up there with the version served at Holborn Dining Room, which means it was pretty much perfect. Beautifully tender and darkened with charcoal smoke, it was like sitting on a Mediterranean beach next to a wood fire at sunset. Alright, maybe not quite like that, but it was a very good bit of octopus.

Even the more straightforward dishes were never anything less than impressive. Herdwick lamb, presented in three neat sections, was perfectly cooked and boasted a texture firm yet so yielding it could almost be cut with a spoon. It was clearly excellent lamb - the attention to detail, from everything from the very obviously flashy presentations to the more subtle efforts in areas like sourcing - was quite something to behold.

We could hardly leave without seeing what magic Hide could bring to desserts, and "warm acorn cake" turned out to be a kind of rum baba, where smoked caramel was poured over the cake, itself soaked in a generous measure of your choice of rum. Whether by accident or design, our waiter left the rum bottles on the table during dessert, and it's probably only fair to point out we may have snuck a couple of extra measures before the meal was done.

I didn't see the bill - I was lucky enough to be treated to dinner on this occasion, and though this wasn't a PR invite I thought I'd mention it anyway. But it's worth saying that, really, for food of this precision and skill, in such blindingly attractive surroundings, in this part of town and presented by a team so relentlessly lovely and enthusiastic about the food and drinks they serve you feel a bit mean for not inviting them to sit down and enjoy it with you, well, I think the £100/head or thereabouts feels like something even approaching a bargain. Certainly there are far worse, and far more expensive places to eat within easy walking distance (*cough* Novikov *cough*).

So I can wholeheartedly and unreservedly recommend Hide. It hits every single restaurant pleasure point with a bullseye, and if you have the means, and enjoy eating lovely food served by lovely people, then it's hard to see why you'd leave the place any less impressed than I did. And I was very impressed indeed. So thank you Ollie Dabbous and team - it's reassuring that in these difficult times, there are some people willing to aim big, and have their lofty ambitions realised so perfectly.



Doc Railgun said...

WHat are the pensioners who don't want the Eastern Europeans or Spanish in ENgland going to do when there are Russians everywhere? After all, noone but oligarchs will be able to afford meals like this soon.

Alex C said...

Oh gods yes. I'm salivating at this - will book soon - thanks for the heads up.

Funklord said...

Please pay for some meals yourself :)

It just removes the nagging doubts that now make Samphire & Salsify unreadable and irrelevant.

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Alex C said...

We went to Hide for lunch on Sat, and it was wonderful. We went for the tasting menu and classic paired wines. This is a seriously good restaurant, and wonderfully thought through and decorated.

I'd say if I had any negatives they would be that their sommelier poured me two tiny glasses of wine - while my wife got a reasonable pour - but once I'd brought her up on it was good from that point on. Also if they want to get two Michelin stars (which they very clearly do) they'll need to improve on their puddings a bit.

That said it really was a sensational meal.

Alex C said...

We went for the full tasting experience a couple of months ago - was sensational and very well presented. It's a gorgeous place.

We went again during the People Vote march (happened to be along the route and we fancied a drink), and they didn't mind us at all in jeans and tshirts in the bar downstairs, and had some lovely snacks on offer.

My sister tried the middle brasserie section and said while good - she's rather have been in fine dining upstairs - you end up paying much the same regardless.

Thanks as ever for the tip.