The Emperor’s New Cod Piece
You know me by now, dear readers. I get hrmphy and sneery about ‘It’ restaurants. When everyone I know goes goggle eyed over a place and tells me that such and such a place is where the celebrities hang out, and that it’s the current hottest place in town, my natural scepticism instantly kicks in. I just hate that sense of running with the herd, as much as I hate the sense of entitlement these type of venues so often have. I will not slavishly worship at the latest altar of Lucullus just because everyone tells me to. And where I might make all sorts of allowances for the average eatery down the road, I enter the purportedly fashionable hot spots with my pencil and my tongue already sharpened. God help the place that basks in glory but doesn’t perform absolutely to my liking! But, of course, my inquisitiveness always gets the better of me. Every time, regular as clockwork. I’m driven to go by my FOMO, I need to check it out, I have to know what all the fuss is about.
There’s certainly plenty of fuss about the weirdly named ‘Sexy Fish’ on Berkeley Square at the moment. It’s on everybody’s lips, especially, so suitably, on the trout pouty ones. Opened in October, it’s Richard Caring’s newest baby, which, so it is rumoured, cost £15 million to be transformed from a Nat West bank to a high temple of Asian inspired fishiness. Just over the square from the eponymous Annabel’s members’ only nightclub, conveniently also owned by the Caring group, so diners don’t have far to stagger to go for a bop after dinner.
Getting a table here is like getting an audience with the Pope but the Lovely Husband manages to book us in on a Tuesday at 7.30 pm. He’s nothing if not persistent! Somehow, time has run away with me and I have 20 minutes to pour myself into one of my tummy sucking in dresses, don the stilettos, crimp and curl, cover my eye bags with concealer and slick on some lippy. It’s drizzling non stop, so, gentlemanly as he is, he drops me off, before miraculously finding a parking space nearby. I’m greeted politely and asked to wait at the bar for our table. The restaurant is vast but cleverly subdivided into sections and absolutely heaving, busy, buzzy and noisy with a clearly well to do and glamorous crowd. I can’t make out any celebs but then I am the woman who sat beside Mark Knopfler during an entire wedding breakfast and asked him what he did for a living and when he told me he was a musician, I enquired further as to what type of music he made and how it was all going. Oh well, I guess I’m not not that switched on when it comes to recognising people.
Even after the Lovely Husband joins me, we continue to wait. I’m already hrmphing and ostentatiously ask for tap water. Meanwhile we sit and admire the results of the £15 million expenditure, much of which has gone on an Onyx floor from Iran, an impressive crocodile wall sculpture by Frank Gehry and some rather kitschy mermaid art by Damien Hirst. The ceilings are gold with a seaweed motif, designed by Michael Roberts, editor-at-large of Vanity Fair, and the place is so dark that the waiting staff have small torches to help punters read the menu. The fantastic and huge shoal of paper fish lighting over the bar looks spectacular, I must admit, but the music is a little too loud for my taste. So we wait. I drum my fingers on the bar and go into my now familiar diva sulk. I want to sit at the table, I’m hungry, I don’t want to hang around. What sort of outfit is this? I’m beginning to fantasise about going home and eating a cheese sandwich when, finally, we get shown to our rather well placed table for two, just along from the star spot under the violently blue mermaid and shark relief by Hirst.
My mood softens immediately. There are proper top quality white linen table cloths and napkins and the glassware is lovely. Service, too, is super friendly and efficient and sort of reverent at the same time. Top marks. Then the menu arrives, along with our simply perfectly chilled Sauvignon Blanc and I’m beginning to gently float into seventh heaven. Oh, the choice of unutterably salivating deliciousness! Most dishes, not surprisingly, are fish, though there are some pretty good sounding meaty ones as well, all of them of an Asian persuasion. The idea, so our waitress tells us, is that we should perhaps choose two items from the raw bar, one cold dish, one hot dish and then one or two from the Robata or market fish selection, then share. After some careful evaluation, we settle on Tartare of Yellowfin Tuna with Lotus chips, Crab Salad with Yuzu Vinaigrette, Myoga, and Chrysanthemum (Eh, come again? What have ‘Mums got to do with the price of fish?), Brussel Sprouts Tempura with Curry Salt, Sesame Seed Sea Bream with Kohlrabi and Beetroot and Monkfish Tail with three sauces, Smoked Bearnaise, Shiso Salsa and Ponzu.
The tartare arrives in a pot with a cute octopus lid, the crab salad with shredded lettuce in a dish with a silver fish tail. (Clearly, dishwasher stacking is not a consideration.). Our plates look as though they are crafted from grey mother of pearl. The presentation is impeccable. The portions are quite small, hence the number of different dishes. As for the taste, wow, how to describe the sheer stupendousness of it?! The food tastes incredibly good, no, outstandingly scrumptiously amazing. Superlatives don’t even cover it. It’s all very light, subtle and really quite perfect, a taste experience bar none. I’ve had some very good meals in my time, I’ve been to Noma and El Bulli, for goodness sake, but never ever anything of quite this calibre. The Brussel sprouts are wrapped in the airiest of batters. The sea bream and the monkfish are succulent and tasty and melt in the mouth. The monkfish comes with three different dipping sauces, each better than the next. Frankly, this is the pinnacle of gourmet delights, an unforgettable moment of mindblowing pleasure. Sexy fish indeed! I completely get the reputation of this restaurant now. The chef, Ben Orpwood, is a genius.
Okay, so you sit in what looks like a dark, somewhat opulently blingy fish tank of dubious taste with music and background chatter so loud that decent conversation is nigh impossible but lordy lord, the food, man, the food! This is something else!
We can’t possibly leave without trying the puds too. Again, the various options are mouthwatering, and interesting too, not to mention irresistible, with unusual sorbet flavours and thrillingly unexpected dessert ingredient combinations. We go for a small and perfectly formed Bramley apple crumble pie and a pile of fresh out of the pan mini doughnuts with chocolate sauce and citrus curd. They are divine, and then some! Even the final black Americano tastes better than elsewhere, rich, full bodied and pleasantly bitter sweet.
Mini cinnamon doughnuts at Sexy Fish
We’re gobsmacked, happy and walking on air. What a thoroughly fabulous wonderful and altogether exquisite meal. The bill, when it comes, is not for the faint hearted at £175 for two, including a bottle of wine and service charge, but who cares when you’ve eaten like this?! Plastic bends, and anyhow, it’s nearly Christmas.
Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, Greater London W1J 6BR
Tel.:020 3764 2000 www.sexyfish.com
What I wore
A red, and therefore slightly christmassy, Jonathan Saunders stretch dress with grey, lavender and white floral design, with almost knee length high heeled black LK Bennett boots with patent leather toe caps, and a black quilted Chanel Classic bag.
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Kia aka Fizz of Life