A Basque Brunch at Eneko, One Aldwych:
The new brunch menu at Eneko launched last weekend and I was lucky enough to be invited along to try it. Having already experienced a fabulous evening meal at Eneko a few months earlier, I was really keen to try Michelin Starred Chef Eneko Atxa’s take on brunch.
The portmanteau term ‘brunch’, a blend of breakfast and lunch, is a meal which was first popularised by Guy Beringer in an 1895 edition of Hunter’s Weekly. He suggested that it made a good alternative to a heavy Sunday lunch.
Instead of England’s early Sunday dinner, a post-
church ordeal of heavy meats and savoury pies, why not a new meal, served around noon, that starts with tea or coffee, marmalade and other breakfast fixtures before moving along to the heavier fare? By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday- night carousers. It would promote human happiness in other ways as well. Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting. It is talk- compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.
Guy Beringer, “Brunch: A Plea,” Hunter’s Weekly, 1895
That said, the concept really took off in the United States more than in the UK and it’s not until relatively recently that the idea of brunch has really gained popularity here. Now, it seems, everyone is brunching.
A luxury hotel is, I think, one of the nicest and most logical places for a brunch. What could be better than getting up late and wandering down for a fabulous fusion of breakfast and lunch dishes and, of course, the odd cocktail or two in the glamourous setting of One Aldwych’s Basque restaurant, Eneko.
We did indeed start with a cocktail – a delicious Etxano 75, which is a mixture of Gin Mare, lemon juice and Cava. Very fresh, light and citrussy, it was the perfect pick-me-up and a great way to begin our brunch.
The menu comprises a mixture of ‘Brunch Food’ – dishes to share which are priced between £8 and £12 and which include a glass of Cava per person, ‘Classics’ and ‘Grill’ dishes. We decided to order a few brunch dishes as starters.
Suckling pig brioche came as tiny doughnut-like mouthfuls, each with a cube of tender, sweet pork.
Traditional talo was a kind of corn crisp topped with fragrant cubes of heritage tomatoes and herbs. I was particularly impressed that, in February, the restaurant was able to serve a dish with tomatoes that tasted ripe and had the perfect texture.
The Basque pizza-style talo was considerably richer, with a thick tomato compote topped with anchovies and finely grated idiazabal cheese.
For main courses we both chose dishes from the grill.
Duck Breast served with green Gernika peppers was beautifully tender and perfectly cooked. Elegantly served on a hot stone, with haystack fried potatoes it made a good brunch dish.
Txuleta, basque-style prime rib of beef was served with a spring onion salad and more haystack fried potatoes. For my taste, the medium rare was a little underdone, perhaps my expectation from eating a similar dish in one of the cider houses of San Sebastian. I’d recommend asking for the dish to be cooked medium or even well-done if you normally ask for a medium rare. Particularly as this kind of prime rib tends to be well marbled.
Torrija, a soft, Basque vanilla sponge was served with a deliciously crunchy caramel crumble ice-cream.
Salted caramel mousse was light and delicate. Sheep’s milk ice-cream is one of the specialities of Eneko and contrasted beautifully with cookie crumble.
Both desserts made a good, light end to the brunch.
Eneko is a beautifully designed space, with an open kitchen and comfortable contemporary design. The same stunning floral displays that are found throughout One Aldwych line the walls.
Brunch there is elegant and yet casual. I’m sure it will be a success and I look forward to returning and trying some more of the dishes.
Eneko at One Aldwych