If there’s a new kid on the resto block, you can bet your bottom dollar (or pound) that we’ll be round to check it out for you. Amazónico launched in December and I’ve been itching to get my hands on the rainforest-themed menu ever since. And it’s not too shabby. Not too shabby at all…
Amazónico has put down roots in a vast Berkeley Square site, marking its first UK venture after sister venues in Dubai and Madrid proved irresistible. At reception, hostesses wait in forest green jumpsuits and they’re seriously hot! I’m also pretty certain I spotted a few of them on the covers of last month’s glossies?
We’re led on a conga past the open kitchens, where meat is seductively skewered over a charcoal grill, round the sushi bar and through a myriad of dining ‘zones’ to our table. Getting back to the entrance without a map would be folly, I’d advise leaving a discrete paper trail in case of emergency. But it’s a great way to drink in the full spectacle of Amazónico’s interiors, and its glittering clientele.
The five jungle-like rooms, complete with scattered (stuffed) peacocks and water features, are the type of decor you’d picture if you accidentally drank from the wrong glass at a house party. There isn’t an inch of space that hasn’t been adorned with some glittery trinket. Even our dinner plates were decorated with lurid frogs that looked on in horror as they were submerged beneath ancas de rana, or fried frogs legs. It’s a surreal abundance of avant-garde sexiness but, as someone who explicitly defies Coco Chanel’s rule of removing one accessory before leaving the house (and adds another on, instead), it was heaven.
You have to admire Amazónico’s confidence. Husband and wife founders Sandro Silva and Marta Seco have plonked themselves down firmly next to celebrity hotspot Sexy Fish. Not only do they not seem afraid of the competition, their culinary offering isn’t worlds apart, either. And it’s not misplaced confidence. I’m always a little suspicious of ‘experiential’ dining and amid all the Insta likes and glossy write-ups there was always the nagging doubt that Amazónico would under-deliver on the actual food. I needn’t have worried.
In a space as big and as loud as this, you need flavour to match. Vito Reyes was pinched from Ceviche and heads up Amazónico’s kitchen, basing his menu around shared dining. Yellowtail ceviche and the intoxicating, mango-laden Ensalada Amazónico arrived first, followed by more mango, a dressing in which to dangle our frogs’ legs. The food is almost violently colourful, far too pretty to eat. Oh, and for the uninitiated, frogs’ legs are like daintier chicken wings. The small bones mean you drag the lean meat off with your teeth, avoiding the feet (oh, stop squirming). They came in a heap, crisp and gently battered, and left the table ten minutes later as a pile of delicate bones.
The Patagonian black hake (or Chilean seabass, depending on your proclivity) was stunning, moist and snowy white. The fish rested in an aubergine puree, served alongside chargrilled baby carrots, broccoli and panela.
But the stars of Amazónico are the meats we spotted in the open kitchen. These are hand carved at the table, all pink and greasy, served with jalapeno dipping sauce and chimichurri. The hot and salty spice combo really was the stuff of dreams, with sauces shouting at you until you’d scooped up every last dollop of jalapeño from your dish.
Round things off with a few signature cocktails (we recommend the Chilate) and your palette will be singing.
Often, dining experiences grow on you slowly, the merits revealing themselves dish by dish, until you leave feeling confident you’d return. At other times, it’s an instant love affair – a romantic two hour sitting where you indulge in all your comforting favourites. Amazónico chooses to strap you in whilst you career around a ten-loop rollercoaster. It’s an action movie straight from the get-go, one that throws you back in your seat and deposits you a few hours later, pockets empty but mind (and mouth) blown.
Am I going back soon? You bet – though I’ll perhaps wait for payday first.