Some say that what London does New York does better, but sometimes we disagree. Sometimes London takes something that New York does and adds its own unique, Brit twist. Case in point is Spice Market at the recently-opened W London, an outpost of culinary superstar Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s famed New York restaurant. While it’s based around the same concept as its Stateside sibling, it has its own umistakable Brit identity with a prime location beside Leicester Square and a BlackBerry-tapping crowd of media mavens from nearby Soho.
The design is just as shiny as gorgeous as the outfit in the Meatpacking District, with seek dark woods and gilt-edged accents creating a warm, welcoming environment; our preferred seating are the booths, which provide more privacy and invite large groups of friends to sit close and share plates. The space itself is split across two levels; downstairs is predominantly for drinking, while upstairs is for dining.
The cuisine itself, meanwhile, is inspired by the street food of Southeast Asia – but there’s nothing messy about this menu. Designed to share, we were encouraged to order a number of dishes and sample a bit of everything. As you can imagine, we needed little encouragement. For starters, we opted for the luscious-sounding lobster summer roll – four of them, all plump and juicy – and charred chilli-rubbed beef skewer with Thai basil dipping sauce, which was so tender the meat pretty much fell off the stick with one prod of the fork. With such successful starters under our ever-expanding belts, expectations for our mains – all four of them – were sky-high. Thankfully, they lived up to their lipsmackingly good promise in the form of red curried duck – pink, perfect and full of spice – grilled rib-eye with garlic coriander and sesame – fatty in some places, but beautifully cooked – Vietnamese chicken curry – the weakest main, although perfectly nice – and lobster pad thai, with huge hunks of fleshy lobster meat interspersed with succulent strands of noodle. The key to Spice Market’s menu is that each dish has a twist of some description, so whatever you think you know about Southeast Asian cuisine you can forget; here, it’s all about bold reinvention.
Rather than wine, we opted to wash everything down with one too many cocktails – kumquat mojito, ginger margarita and Spice Market sangria – all of them bursting with exotic flavour. By the time we stumbled downstairs and began to make our way back onto the street, the restaurant had filled up significantly; after-work drinkers loosened their ties and chattered noisily by the bar; groups of friends clinked Champagne flutes and toasted something celebratory on a long table; and a sunglasses-on celeb had tucked herself away in a corner hoping not to be noticed. We did.