Gamma Gamma Pan-Asian Tapas with a Twist in Soho:
Gamma Gamma is a newly opened restaurant in the heart of Soho on Greek Street. Surrounded as it is by a plethora of restaurants and bars, plus an audience always hungry for new experiences, this venture needs to be an adventure if it is to make its mark in central London. One look at the menu suggests that it might do just that.
Pan-Asian fusion sharing platters might not be a new concept – Gamma Gamma’s menu ranges from Japan to Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines – but the exotic meats on offer certainly take the menu up a notch. Kangaroo and zebra were new eating experiences for me and ostrich will be too for many diners. I do wonder about the need to be eating these antipodean animals but then this is not the sort of place to book a table if you are not an enthusiastic meat eater. That said, there are many fish and seafood dishes, as well as enough to keep a vegetarian well fed and a couple of vegan options too. Four of the dishes are halal.
The interior is all exposed brick and pipework with wooden floors – a somewhat formulaic look but pleasant to sit in. The front section of Gamma Gamma contains a long bar and a few tables while the bulk of the seating is in the back. Rough murals cover the walls. The music thumps a little too loud for me but perhaps some of the young professionals who will fill the tables are less concerned about decibel levels.
We began with a look at the cocktail menu. 10 creative items competed for our attention while there was also a list of classic cocktails and a short selection of wines available by the glass or bottle. A collection of seven sakes was also on offer. We sampled a Gammatini – a martini with hibiscus liqueur and egg white as well as an E.C.G. which stands for English Country Garden (perhaps stretching the pan Asian concept just a bit). It was attractively pink and was served with a miniature clothes peg holding a strip of lemon peel to the flute. A mix of rosemary gin, champagne, acai, elderflower cordial and peach bitters, it was a bit sweet for my taste, but a pleasant rosemary flavour shone through a floral tasting cocktail as its name suggested.
The menu at Gamma Gamma was fantastically diverse. It was divided into sections with three or four items in each: raw and cured, salads, crispy, grill, steamed and curry. With some much-needed guidance from the staff, we selected a dish from each section so as to give the menu a good trial. Some dishes are very spicy, others less so and advice from the staff was most helpful in directing us to the dishes that would best suit our capacity for taking the heat.
We began with an amuse bouche – a soya bean and banana blossom bhaji served with Greek yoghurt and pomegranate sauce. This was served with a sweet and refreshing cranberry and lemon juice with mint in a tiny, Japanese ceramic cup.
The first dish to arrive was from the crispy section – Thai prawns taco: spicy minced prawns and fish cake, tamarind ketchup. What a wake up for slumbering taste buds. It was utterly delicious. Spicy prawns were served in layers with red onions, bean sprouts and julienned carrots. The taco was held together with a red chilli atop a kebab stick. The satisfying crunch of taco gave way to a spicy, sweet, salty, fabulous tamarind ketchup which added the final sour note.
Next up was an equally successful dish from the raw and cured collection. Zebra loin tataki: smoked bone marrow and garlic aioli, sriracha jelly, roasted grapes, kizami wasabi, furikake popcorn, sake-cured egg, sesame crisps. Quite a mouthful to read but wonderful to eat. Thin slices of zebra loin served with a slice of cured egg, the zebra had a smoky flavour and the smoked bone marrow and garlic aioli was divine. An exciting combination of textures – a crispy bite of popcorn and sesame crisp, a creamy aioli and the tender meat. With so much going on in the mouth, I had to close my eyes to take note of all the flavours.
Moving on to the steamed section we tried two dishes. Cornish crab dumplings: laksa broth, bean sprouts, crushed peanuts, coconut, chilli, tofu and coriander. This spicy dish was served as a trio of dumplings in dark wrappers with a peanut sauce.
Eight hour braised Wagyu beef ribs: beetroot pastry, chilli garlic dipping sauce were also dumpling shaped, the pulled beef ribs served in a beetroot wrapper (not a pastry in the traditional sense). It was accompanied by a rather moreish, jammy, garlicky dipping sauce. Being a great admirer of Wagyu beef, I found the texture of this dish rather soft and wondered whether the beef ribs might have had a different texture if served straight up rather than pulled.
From the Gamma Gamma salad section, we ordered charred heirloom carrots: nashi pear, mooli, Padron peppers and chowchow, moromi miso, feta, pomegranate and honey dressing. This was served on a wooden board with a hole cut into it which held an attractive ceramic sphere. The carrot dish was sweet and sour, the pear retained some bite; pomegranate seeds and feta rather took my palate to the Mediterranean. While this was a less exciting dish than the others we had savoured, it was one of a few vegetarian plates on offer.
I was looking forward to tasting kangaroo all the while wondering whether we should be eating animals like this. Perhaps kangaroos and zebras have better PR than cows and sheep. Kangaroo steak ‘tagalog’: Filipino style steak marinated in soy, kalamansi, garlic and black pepper, caramelised onion and garlic chips. Having never eaten kangaroo, I had incorrectly assumed it would have a gamey flavour. As it didn’t I wondered whether a cut of beef might have given the same taste experience. It did have an excellent flavour due in part to the spicing which was more distinctive than the taste of the meat. It was a great dish overall, the steak served with really good onions and very crunchy shoestring chips.
Jungle curry was one of three tantalising choices from the curry section. It contained minced ostrich loin, aromatic lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime and Thai chillis. We ordered a side of jasmine rice to accompany the dish which was hot. Colourful with sliced chillis, green beans and squash, this dish didn’t quite work for me as the wonderful flavour of ostrich (I am a big fan) was overpowered by the pungent flavours. Mincing the ostrich loin further reduces its distinctiveness. I would prefer to see ostrich in steak form where it really shines.
Although sharing plates might sound like a sure way to be hungry on the way home, ordering as many as we did at Gamma Gamma ensured that we were fit to bursting. However, I was intrigued to see what might be on a dessert menu that could follow such an exciting set of mains. Three items comprise the short dessert selection – a dark chocolate, coconut and pineapple parfait; a vegan Eton mess and the last dish which we ordered because who could resist such a description? Black sesame fondant: white chocolate and matcha green tea ganache, miso toffee sauce, roasted black figs and Greek yoghurt, miso ice cream. What a fabulous end to the meal this was. The fondant looked a picture robed in its matcha green tea coat, and it oozed beautifully when cut open with a spoon. The huge umami hits of the miso ice cream and the miso toffee sauce was gorgeous. I would go back to spoonfuls of these alone.
Jing peppermint tea and a cafetière of Barako bean co Liberica coffee, sourced in Batangas, Philippines and hand roasted in London brought this hearty meal to a close.
My one gripe – and a bugbear of many food critics – is that the dishes are served in the order that they are prepared in the kitchen. I prefer to choose the order in which to eat my meal and for each dish to be cleared before the next one appears. Otherwise, some dishes end up growing cold before they are eaten or the palate is dulled by having savoured a strong curry before moving on to a more subtle tasting dish.
A new restaurant offering an exciting menu, friendly, attentive and well-informed staff, a warm atmosphere and some really innovative dishes – Gamma Gamma should be pulling in the Soho crowd in no time at all.
6 Greek Street
Soho W1D 4DE
For an alternative take on fusion Asian cuisine in Soho, we recommend Inko Nito