A fish called Puffer
The people behind Mahiki, The Dover St nightclub loved by the jeunesse dorée, have teamed up with the creators of South Kensington private members’ club Albert’s, to create a new ‘Tiki paradise’ in Kensington, Pufferfish. And, I am completely seduced by the Tiki concept. In the cold grey of a London winter, there is nothing more cheering than sipping on a Mai Tai surrounded by tropical ephemera with the soundtrack of South Pacific on shuffle inside your head. So I was excited to be invited to review Pufferfish, the club’s new restaurant. Head Chef Sakorn Somboon has a strong CV coming from pan-Asian restaurant Aqua Kyoto and the promise of sushi hand seared tableside with a blowtorch, a Raw Bar and a 3 am license is enough to warm any Hedonist’s heart.We went to review on a buzzing Thursday night. The entrance is perched on the right-hand side of The Royal Garden Hotel where I was once stuck in a lift with three sumo wrestlers dressed and ready for their basho at the Royal Albert Hall…the less said about that the better…with classic soul, funk and disco on the sound system and a Classic Tiki style bamboo interior I was ready to party!Whilst we nibbled on some Padron peppers and lava salt, Our charming waiter Francis suggested cocktails to start. The Deadbeat Daiquiri, a tropical blend of Flor de Cana 7 Rum, lychees, fresh lime, Maraschino liqueur, Mahiki Coconut Rum and MS chocolate liqueur was light, refreshing and not too sweet. The Mahiki Ultimate Mai Tai made with Appleton 12-year-old, Orange Creole Shrub and orgeat shaken with lime, roasted fresh pineapple and bitters with a Skipper dark rum float was a darker more substantial drink, but both set us up beautifully for the feast to come.We started with a dish of seared salmon sashimi with truffle ponzu. The fresh zingy richness of the ponzu lifted the dish and having the fish seared takes away a little bit of the raw fish taste if unlike me you’re not keen on it. I loved the classic plate of super fresh yellowfin tuna tartare with avocado and sesame seeds. The richness of the tuna and avocado gave a great ‘mouth feel’ and flavour.Deliciously crisp rock shrimp tempura was given a gentle kick by the nori salt and mild jalapeño dip and for anyone on a health kick Maki Rolls filled with super greens, avocado, asparagus and cucumber, was a perfect vegan choice.For our mains, we moved on to a bottle of A20 Albariño. It was light and crisp with peach notes coming through and a great match with our wonderful cod tempura, crisp balls of firm-fleshed fish doused in squid ink which delivered a belt of umami richness to the dish.It’s really hard to cook octopus well but the dish of grilled spicy octopus was really tender with a bit of chilli heat for an added bonus. Less robust but no less delicious were exquisite little mouthfuls of Chilean sea bass and prawn dumpling flavoured with soy and garlic.Perfectly grilled salmon came with an incredibly rich lemon, soy and mustard glaze with mango miso and ikura……but a highlight for me was a beautifully cooked piece of pan-fried Chilean sea bass.By this point, we were struggling to keep up but couldn’t resist the Korean staple Bimbimbap, a warming mix of stir-fried vegetables, rice and a fried egg – perfect for a winter’s evening. As a grand finale to our meal, sharing showstopper dessert Mahiki Beach turned up – an amazing artistic collation of coconut sorbet, white chocolate and caramel. Sadly we had been enjoying ourselves too much and forgot to take a shot of it – you’ll have to go to try it!
Pufferfish is a great place to go for a good time. The food and drinks are fab and with friendly service and great music from the DJ, it’s worth making a special trip to visit. You’ll have to wait and see if it makes our best London restaurant list for 2018 though!
Pufferfish Restaurant is open for reservations from 5:30 pm until 9:30 pm, Tuesday to Saturday.
2A Kensington High Street,
London W8 4PT