Jo finds MNKY HSE a place where there’s a tasting menu that is packed with creativity and plenty of Latin American authenticity, yet with a light touch.
Those of a certain age will remember the Dover Street Wine Bar, renowned for its rowdy nights of big-haired punters downing Chardonnay as if it was going out of fashion.
It’s now home to MNKY HSE a restaurant-cum-nightclub with a seriously trendy, swanky marble, mirror and monkey-decorated interior (think monkey faces lasered onto walls, cutesy monkey-decorated cushions, plastic toy monkey decorating your napkin at the dinner table).
With a philosophy of’eat, drink and play’ the bar and lounge is a great place to kick off your night in a buzzy atmosphere, helped along by the house music from the DJ’s booth, which continues until 1.30am (even on a school night) in the spirit of Annabel’s and Novikov, both nearby.
The cocktail menu is varied and exciting, with signature cocktails such as the summery Dover Fizz: Tanqueray Gin stirred with Freshly Pressed Cucumber Juice, Lime, elderflower, fresh rose flower syrup, topped with prosecco and Gorilla Love: Fresh Watermelon Shaken with Ketel one citron, organic cucumber vodka, grenadine syrup and topped with prosecco.
There are MNKY botanicals, too, alongside a vast list of pure and heady mezcals and tequilas. Eventually we managed to drag ourselves downstairs to the glitzy and dimly-lit basement restaurant.
Latin American menus can be something of a disappointment Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a mishmash of flavours with a bit of taco and sweetcorn thrown in for good measure. But chef Mark Morrans is made of sterner stuff: formerly at Nobu, he combines Latino and Nikkei ingredients with a deft touch Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the kind of thing that makes you think’this shouldn’t work but it does’ as you eagerly and happily wolf it down.
Plenty of Latin American ingredients were to be had Ã¢â‚¬â€œ mole, tostada, ceviche, taco, leche de tigre, chimichurri Ã¢â‚¬â€œ as well as Japanese influence of tempura and hamachi. And aioli made plenty of appearances.
Despite sounding more like a staple of Provence, it’s actually popular in Catalonia and one of those dishes that arrived in South America with the Spanish influence of the Conquistadors.
The appetiser was like a Latino pork scratching: the crunchiness of the pork Chicharrones a great foil for the creamy-sweet pumpkin mole. A highlight was the tostada with hamachi (Japanese amberjack, often used in sushi), lemon miso, anchovy aioli: light and crisp base with flavourful fish, followed by superb sea bass ceviche with purple sweet potato, aji amarillo (subtle yellow chilli, ubiquitous in Peru), leche de tigre (a Peruvian citrus marinade), with flavours that contrasted and complemented very well.
The meat in the lamb shoulder taco with salsa verde aioli, pickled onion, jalapeno was a little fatty, but another sensation was the gorgeous soft shell crab tempura with sweetcorn aioli and chipotle.
More fish with the next course: delicious roasted stone bass, herb pearl barley risotto, smoked rocoto oil, purple potato crunch offered a lovely juxtaposition of flavours and textures, while the Japanese wagyu strip loin, salsa verde, wild mushroom nikkei chimichurri was a hearty, meaty treat: perfectly cooked, tender beef with the punch of salsa verde, mushrooms and chimichurri.
While it was a clever idea to use sweetcorn as its base, colores del maiz didn’t quite come off. So-so sweetcorn cake with purple corn sorbet and blue corn crisp (blue food is never good, but when it tastes like chewy bubblegum it doesn’t endear itself).
Had the dessert been simply the sorbet on a brioche base it would have been more of a triumph. However, this is merely being picky about Jo finds MNKY HSE a place where there’s a tasting menu that is packed with creativity and plenty of Latin American authenticity, yet with a light touch.