Ametsa with Arzak Instruction | London (UK)

The food was perfectly fine and at times outstanding.
But this kitchen needs a refresh and an inspiration injection to get back to star level.

Ametsa with Arzak Instruction is the first overseas venture for the father (Juan Mari Arzak) and daughter (Elena Arzak) team of 3 Michelin star Arzak in San Sebastian (Spain), though they are firmly on a consulting basis rather than cooking at the stoves here. Hence the addition to the name Ametsa (meaning dream in Basque).

The stylish ‘New Basque’ restaurant is located at COMO The Halkin Hotel in London’s Belgravia (UK). The focal point of Ametsa is a wave-like ceiling, created from 7,000 glass receptacles filled with spices. Overall I must say, the interior looks better on the pictures than in reality. It feels in need of a touch up. Especially the shabby garden chairs. When the lights go down, the atmosphere is a lot better though.

When Ametsa opened it’s doors in March 2013, some long-time Arzak chefs had been brought in to head the team in London. Xabier Gutierrez was the head of the development kitchen on the top floor of the San Sebastian restaurant before moving to London. Mikael Sorazu, also from the development kitchen, is the chef de cuisine at Ametsa and Igor Zalakain was sous chef at Arzak. Within the first year the restaurant was awarded with a Michelin Star. They held on to that star until last year October when the 2019 Michelin Guide was published. Current Head Chef at Ametsa is Ruben Briones.

Ametsa is open for lunch on Tuesday to Saturday and for dinner on Monday to Saturday. Beside an à la carte they also offer a Set Lunch Menu (at £29 for 3 tapas and a main and £36.50 for 3 tapas, main and dessert), a 6-course Lunch Tasting Menu (at £56 or £78 with wine pairing) and an 8-course Dinner Tasting Menu (at £115 or £170 with wine pairing).

We went there last Saturday for dinner and had the 8-course tasting menu.

Bread & Olive Oil
Sweet Corn Soup with Squid Ink Cracker

Nice creamy and flavoursome sweet corn soup. Intense and smooth. Tempura cracker coloured with squid ink provided texture. Looks pretty as well.


A selection of aperitivos followed. From top to bottom: Kataifi with Scorpion Fish Cake (crunchy fish bite) Sphere of Mussels (a bit watery and sweet), Crunchy Black Pudding (best one with crispy shell of pastry sugar and orange marmalade) and Prosciutto Iberico with Potato Cream (salty but nice).

Foie Cromlech

Nice bit of foie gras, encased in filo pastry with tomato chutney underneath. Nice combination of course and good portion. Like the presentation (although not as nice as featured on their website). Very enjoyable starter.

Scallops with Pollen

Picture perfect dish that tells a story on the plate. Perfectly cooked scallops with pollen, orange sauce, pickled parsnip and honey. Complex flavours, especially the pollen. But it really works!

Egg on the Moon

Poached egg with txistorra (kind of chorizo) covered with a sheet of paprika and a consommé poured over it. Presentation again pretty. Not sure about the title of the dish though. But taste was good. Spanish flavours in a light consommé.

Cod Pil Pil

The cod was nice and flaky. The sauce was really cream and a paprika tuile to provide the crunch. Nice flavours but no pil pil. Expect more spice. The pickled green pepper didn’t deliver that throughout the dish.

Suckling Pig with Pseudo Cereals

The pig was succulent but a bit salty and fatty in taste. Date puree brought sweetness, but no acidity on the plate to cut through the fattiness of the pork. The pseudo cereals look nice on the plate, but didn’t add anything to the dish. Not in texture nor in flavour.

Intxausaltsa Cube with Mutant Sauce

Intxaursaltsa is a typical dessert of the Basque Country, where it is traditionally eaten as part of the Christmas Eve feast. Intxaursaltsa is similar in appearance to natilla, and is made from walnuts, milk, sugar and cinnamon. Walnut cream was very rich and that was all I could taste. Some cabbage juice around the cube with drops of lemon juice. So the purple turns into pink (mutant sauce). All looks pretty on the plate but just one texture and one flavour and it needs more from both. Doesn’t work as a pre-dessert and no palate cleanser either.

The Passion of Chocolate

Another picture perfect plate. This time the textures and flavours are there! Smooth sweet chocolate mousse with fresh passion fruit mousse and crunch pastry. As a last bite the jelly ball filled with concentrated passion fruit. Real sharp palate cleanser there. Nice and refreshing!

Sweets on chocolate & Coconut Powder

Orange with okra butter, White chocolate with passion fruit and milk chocolate and raspberry to finish of the dinner experience.

Service was friendly, but also came across as rather indifferent. The pace was high, so we had to ask for a little break after a couple of courses. A number of the staff were very hard to understand, because of the Spanish accent and speed of speech. I didn’t get that special guest feeling I’m afraid and it made the dinner a rather anonymous affair.

The Foie Cromlech, the Scallops with Pollen and the Passion of Chocolate were fantastic, but some of the other dishes missed the mark. An enormous amount of effort goes into altering the food here, turning it from an ordinary plate of food into something which looks rather spectacular and not always as it seems. Does it needs such theatrics and altering? I’m not entirely sure. The illusion part of some dishes was more style over substance, and unfortunately didn’t always deliver on taste and flavour, which to me is essential.

Frankly, I wasn’t excited by the overall experience at Ametsa. The food was perfectly fine and at times outstanding, but hardly breaking boundaries and certainly not extraordinary. This kitchen needs a refresh (like the interior) and an inspiration injection before they can get back to Michelin star level.