Having darted through rush-hour London in the midst of storm Dennis, my boyfriend and I arrived at The Grosvenor Hotel’s latest restaurant wind-swept, soaked through and very on-brand. Named The Soak in reference to the menu’s focus on fermenting, brining, pickling and soaking, this place promised thoughtful dishes that packed a punch in the flavour department.
Accessible via a secret entrance in Victoria train station, the calming teal colour palette of this imposing space offers a welcome sanctuary from the chaos of the concord. Bucking the trend of most luxury central London hotel restaurants, the vibe here is cool and contemporary. Neon lights, space-aged booths and a raised DJ deck contrast with the high coffered ceilings and renaissance-style artwork. Oozing wow factor, it’s a far cry from the usual crisp white table cloths and suited and booted servers of its competitors.
While this place is known for its jam-packed calendar of live music and late-night DJ sets, on the evening we paid a visit the stage area was sadly vacant. The dining room was sufficiently busy when we arrived at 6pm (clearly attracting the corporate-card yielding post-work crowd), but by the time 8pm had rolled around diner numbers had dwindled, and the lack of music meant the atmosphere just couldn’t quite match up to the impressive nature of the venue.
Grabbing a corner table away from the bar, we were first presented with warmed sourdough and some black garlic butter. Elevating the usual bread basket offering to a whole new level, the silky butter boasted a subtle sweetness and suitably whetted our appetite for more fermented flavours. Wrapping our heads around the menu I decided to dive into the seared Scottish scallops, peas & squid ink (£15). Arriving as a hearty portion size not usually associated with scallops, the dish was a riot of colour and texture. Sat atop a bed of minty pea purée, the three scallops had a noticeably vinegary tang, which pierced through the greenery to great effect. My dining partner, however, opted for the moreish to the max macaroni and smoked mozzarella (£11), the perfect antidote to the hammering rain outside.
And to drink? A glass of Greyrock Sauvignon Blanc (£8.50) for me and a modern twist on the classic Old Fashion for my accomplice. The ‘Old Passion’ (£11), a cocoa butter fat-washed Bulleit Bourbon served with passion fruit syrup, was a silky-smooth concoction of perfectly balanced sweet and smoky.
Unable to finish my gigantic starter and yet undeterred, I ploughed on with the dry-cured beef burger, fermented garlic mayo, pickled tomato & onion chutney (£14), alongside the chicories and almond salad (£5). While the salad missed the mark - with the sharp vinaigrette battling with the bitter chicories rather than complimenting - the burger was on to better things. Cooked to juicy perfection and crammed full of crispy lettuce, pickled onions and tangy tomatoes. My only complaint? I wanted more of the uber-smoky fermented garlic mayo - which put my previous experiences of the sauce (namely drenched over soggy chips at 4am) to serious shame.
As puddings arrived, I found myself going green-eyed with food envy as my dining partner rapidly dug into his sumptuous dark chocolate and honeycomb baked Alaska (£8). Stealthily stealing a few forkfuls for myself, I nibbled on the Champagne-soaked strawberries and white chocolate mousse (£8), which was a feast for those with a sweet tooth, but a little too sickly for myself.
The DesignMyNight Digest
In a sea of sirloin steaks and beer-battered fish and chips, The Soak brings something a little different to London’s dining scene. While some of the dishes here may miss the mark, the ones that work, really work. Creating a whole new depth of flavour with their unique cooking techniques, this place had me dreaming of garlic mayo for days to follow, and that can surely only be a good thing?