Playful interiors? Check. Lush tropical greenery? Check. Picturesque food? Triple check. Nuzzled in the bustling fairytale-esque Covent Garden, ZELA is filled with every Instagrammers’ dreams. We’re talking exotic greenery draped across the walls and ceilings, velvet blue booths nuzzled in original arch windows, and beach worthy bamboo finishes everywhere.
Surrounded by the very best of London’s West End, ZELA is in prime location for attracting groups of tourists, and London foodies eager to try something a little different. And, I for one had been eyeing up the spot since its opening back in October 2018 so off I went on a balmy Sunday in August to see what this Japanese Mediterranean fusion restaurant had to offer.
As striking as the restaurant was in appearance, and its interiors, I was hugely surprised to see the restaurant so bare. In fact, my accompany and I were the only two to grace the floor on what I would typically expect to be one of the city’s busiest months of the year. But this certainly didn’t put a dampener on my mood, knowing full well I was about to dive straight into a bottomless brunch!
ZELA is part of the ME London family, which is just a waltz away from the restaurant and more famously known for the world-famous steakhouse, STK. This rainforest inspired resto is probably best known for being owned and managed by MABEL HOSPITALITY, who work closely in partnership with a celeb or two. Say Cristiano Ronaldo and Enrique Iglesias to name but a few…
Anyway, name dropping aside, let’s talk more about the interiors. Designed by Diego Grondo studio, the restaurant takes inspiration directly from Spain with its tiled flooring, bamboo furnishings, and palm printed walls. While the exotic greenery gave off serious tropical rainforest vibes which I couldn’t wait to snap a photo in front of for Insta. The food, however, channels a mix of traditional Japanese techniques and flavour, and applies them to Mediterranean ingredients. Sounds a little, er, confused?
Like all London eateries it seems, ZELA has joined the trend and offers a two hour bottomless brunch, which stays true to ZELA’s imaginative style. To begin with, my partner and I both opted for a Bellini, which was super refreshing and definitely gave me a zing of energy I needed, before we ventured over to the self service Bloody Mary bar. Guests are encouraged to help themselves and get a little creative with the notorious hangover cure. A row of ingredients adorned the bar with a choice of vodka, tequila, or sweet wine for the alcohol content, before adding in spices, seasoning, and a big ol’ selection of fruit and veggies for garnish. I have a bit of a love hate relationship when it comes to the Bloody Mary, and yet this time the tipple went down a real treat with the perfect amount of spice and zing from the fresh lemon juice.
As we made our way back to our table, it was soon brimming with sharing style starters. And, when I say brimming, we had to use an additional table just to fit it all the plates on! We opted for the veggie brunch so our dishes included; edamame with Spanish salmorejo; avocado, mango and tofu tartare; homemade veggie gyozas; sweet miso marinated eggplant; and a mega sushi omakase selection. The sweet miso eggplant was a personal favourite of mine; I’ve honestly never tasted aubergine quite like it. It was silky, sweet yet salty from the miso, while the sushi omakase selection proved that sushi without the fish can still be just as tasty! I have to say, the presentation for all of these dishes was superb and offered the prime photo op! All of the dishes were full of fresh ingredients, delicate flavours, and readied up for our mains.
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There’s four mains to choose from to suit any palette: charcoaled salmon with crispy skin and pumpkin puree; wagyu teriyaki; chicken satay skewers with onigiris; and soba noodles with tempura baby vegetables. We opted for the latter and were greeted with a fairly small bowl of broth-y noodles topped with crisped veggies. Although it was pleasant, it did feel as though it was lacking a little bit of a punch of flavour, or a spice kick but the portion just meant I could proceed to chow down the leftover sushi so it was a bit of a win win situation! For dessert, we were presented with a tray of fresh fruits along with a scoop of rich cherry sorbet and tangy apricot sorbet, both of which were delicious.
Whilst the balmy interiors and fresh food had won us both over, we were left wondering why, despite all of the typically captivating factors, ZELA was left empty on what would otherwise be a bustling Sunday. Regardless, it’s a prime spot brimming with inventive culinary skills that’ll no doubt attract an Influencer or two with their interiors, and is definitely worth a visit for the Bloody Mary bar alone.
ZELA at ME London Hotel can be found at 336-337 Strand, WC2R 1HA, www.zelarestaurants.com