What: Italy meets South America in the form of contemporary small plates, cocktails and wine.
Where: 20 Mercer Street, Seven Dials, WC2H 9HD, www.monmouthkitchen.co.uk
New? Monmouth Kitchen opened towards the end of last year, joining sister site, May Fair Kitchen. A third venue has just been announced – Leicester Square Kitchen will open in early May.
On the Menu: The menu is split into Italian and South American sections so think arancini, padron peppers and pizzas on one side, and ceviche, tacos and robata grilled meats on the other. A strong cocktail list is suitably authentic so offers pisco, mezcal and tequila-laced concoctions on side and a varied wine list on the other, available to drink by the glass or by the carafe.
First Impressions: Monmouth Kitchen is tucked away down one of the prettiest streets in London. Cobbles make for a quaint arrival just off Seven Dials where families were piling in to an early showing of Matilda and tourists were enjoying the evening sun. Just as May Fair Kitchen is on the ground floor of May Fair Hotel, Monmouth Kitchen is connected to Radisson Blu Edwardian but in no way is it a ‘hotel restaurant’.
The Look: Monmouth Kitchen is contemporary and minimal; white walls are offset by natural materials; luxurious black leather, dark grey brick walls and soft wooden chairs, with pendant lights suspended above each table. The space is long and narrow which lends itself to a bar area as you walk in and dining tables at the back. We sat by the window with the sun streaming in – a great spot for people watching. The overall look is clean and slick – it’s one for the adults so don’t pile in the family pre-Matilda.
What We Ate: The menu isn’t quite ‘fusion’ so out of the two cuisines we lent more towards the South American side as everything seemed a little lighter and fresher. We recommend asking your waiter for recommendations, ours was great and practically talked us through every dish – always good when they suggest the ones you’ve been eyeing up. The dishes come as and when they are ready (which I like) so it wasn’t long before our table was full of calamari, mini tuna tacos and sea bass ceviche. From the robata we opted for baby aubergine and grilled king prawns with rocoto; a spicy pepper which kicked the prawns into life. The dishes were all good choices and whilst it wasn’t the best ceviche I’ve ever had, the sea bass was pleasant and did its job at giving us something a little more exotic than restaurants nearby could offer. Most of the South American dishes had a real spice to them so bear that in mind when ordering, similarly, the tacos were tiny (and I mean mouth-sized) but our waiter told us this when we ordered so it wasn’t a surprise. White ragu and mozzarella arancini was a highlight; four golf ball-sized spheres of creamy, cheesy rice covered with crispy breadcrumbs.
Pudding was another highlight. Easy to overlook but small enough that you can end your meal with a mouthful of something sweet, the plates were imaginative and tempting. In the end, café Almendra swayed us; a tiny espresso cup of coffee brûlée, chocolate cacao, almond ice cream and mascarpone amaretto crème. It was divine. Similarly, scoops of dulce de leche, honey and almond ice cream was the perfect sweet note to end our meal on.
What We Drank: We kept it simple with a refreshing carafe of Gavi di Gavi ‘Toledana’ (Cortese) and fresh mint tea to end, but had it been Friday night we would’ve also ended with a small glass of Amaretto Disaronno.
Go With: Got a friend or relative visiting from out of town? Go before the theatre or when you get late night munchies and the hundreds of chain restaurants in the area don’t tick the box.
Final Word: Monmouth Kitchen is a great alternative to the endless pizza and pasta places nearby. Yes they offer that too, but with the addition of fresh plates, authentic cocktails and a considered wine list it’s much more sophisticated. A great little spot to have up your sleeve for when you’re in the area.
Want to try the sister site? Read our review of May Fair Kitchen here