A small slice of San Sebastian in the heart of London
Ametsa with Arzak Instruction is a tribute to Arzak, the mother Restaurant in San SebastiŠn. The name is complicated and the food is fussy, but memorable. Chef-patron Elena Arzak, who was awarded "Veuve Clicquot World's Best Female Chef" in 2012 has carefully designed a menu to bring a little piece of the Basque region to London's Belgravia.
The Ametsa with Arzak Instruction entrance can be found inside the Halkin by Como hotel. The closest tube is Hyde Park Corner.
The restaurant is intimate, with room for about 16 tables. One wall is constructed entirely of glass and overlooks a lush green garden. The gunmetal grey chairs made out of mesh material look like posh outdoor furniture. Modern sand art installations hang on the walls while test tubes filled with spices drip down from the roof like stalactites.
Upon being seated, the sommelier offers us a glass of cava or non-alcoholic cocktail. As it is a school night, I opt for the mocktail and a refreshing mint, passionfruit and lime concoction arrives.
Mocktail of the day - passionfruit, lime and lemon topped with fresh mint in a highball glass
Our waiter brings freshly-baked brown and white bread. It's crusty, tasty and accompanied by some excellent Spanish olive oil.
The first course is a Watermelon and Tomato Gazpacho sprinkled with squares of chopped onion. The creamy richness of the soup fills me up before I've even begun my culinary journey to the Basque region.
Watermelon and Tomato Soup starter. It is tasty but didn't blow me away.
The Andy Warhol-inspired Fish and Chips with Lotus Root is a vibrant piece of art on a plate. Initially apprehensive about the eclectic colours, I am assured by our waiter they are dyed naturally with cochineal and seaweed extract. The 'chips' are actually round, flat crisps and are both delicate and moreish. The fish batter is light and crispy.
Arzak's modern interpretation of fish and chips. The intense red colour is carmine dye which comes from the cochineal bug. Often used in lipsticks, it is also used as a food colourant. I was told the deep blue colour comes from seaweed extract.
The third tapas stater is Lamb with Lotus Root. The meat is soft and succulent. A vivid slice of shocking green lotus root decorates the slate. The colour reminds me of the 80s TV show You Can't Do That On Television.
Lamb with Lotus. The lamb loin was perfectly cooked and seasoned.
Pudding is charred sweets with spun sugar. It reminds me of a bird's nest with its prickly shards. It has a coconut flavour and tastes like a posh Bounty. It comes with a cloche over it and a puff of smoke billows out when the cover is removed - pure theatre.
Charred Sweets with spun sugar cover a chocolate coconut rough .
My friend came across a promotion on Bookatable for 3 courses plus a glass of cava at £38 per person. By the time optional extras, service and VAT are added the price becomes £43 per head. One Michelin star equals pricey, but good value set menus pop up from time to time. Keep your eyes peeled.
Sample menu (September 2017) at Ametsa with Arkaz Instruction. 3 courses plus a glass of cava or mocktail for £38 per person was pretty good value for a girls night out.