Spice Market, located in the slick W hotel, is the London outpost of the original restaurant in New York’s Meatpacking District. Executive chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, a past master of the pan-Asian fusion genre, has a deep-rooted respect for the cuisines of Asia, yet something seems to have got lost in translation here. The sleek surrounds, all dark wood and low lighting, properly evoke a sense of eastern calm, but the atmosphere is assailed by a rather cheesy soundtrack. The menu, a curated list of ‘street food’ dishes from the culinary hotspots of Asia, comprises everything from sashimi to samosas and curries of various sorts. Our waitress warned with raised eyebrow that the Thai-style slaw with Asian pear was ‘very spicy’, but the pile of sliced cabbage and carrot was meekly flavoured – and not worth the £8 price tag. Better were an imaginative vegetarian dish of mushroom egg rolls with galangal emulsion, and hot, crisp (if not excitingly spiced) tempura salt and pepper sole with Thai basil and lime sauce. Spice Market passes muster as a central London meeting place for a decent (but pricey) glass of wine and a nibble, but don’t come expecting culinary nirvana.
Imagine a wall of spices containing all the colours, flavours and fragrances of Southeast Asian cuisine. The restaurant's spice cabinet spans two floors, is 24 meters long and reveals every ingredient that chef Peter Lloyd and his team will need to create unique dishes. Regional fish sauces, curries and spices are tweaked to tantalising effect in signature dishes such as chicken samosas with coriander yogurt, black pepper shrimp with sun dried pineapple or cod with Malasian chilli sauce.
The eclectic and intimate design is a result of gold mesh sliding screens, brass screen lanterns, jatoba flooring and cosy booths, a unique brass 'birdcage' spiral staircase and 600 custom-designed wok-lights.