Success. Sometimes it comes quick, and sometimes it comes slow. For Mountain, the latest restaurant from god-chef Tomos Parry, it was instantaneous. After all, Mountain has impeccable, born-to-rule credentials. But unlike, say, Prince George who has to wait his turn, Mountain entered our world ready to claim its throne. All hail London’s coolest restaurant.
Also unlike royalty, Parry earned his station. The Anglesey native’s journey from pot washer to Michy-starred phenom at Shoreditch's Brat was powered by talent. His kitchens are synonymous with flame-cooked, Basque-ish cooking that’s both cutting edge and assuredly simplistic. He thrills celebrities, critics and regular punters alike. So when he announced this massive Soho stronghold, everyone sat up and took notice.
Blissed-out, raw prawns dozed on cloud-like beds of freshly made cheese.
Built on the burger-y bones of an old Byron on Beak Street, Mountain boasts an expansive, industrial-chic dining room, a downstairs bar and two open kitchens. The food is big on narrative. The sobrasada is made for Parry on an organic farm in Mallorca. Meat, sourced somewhere equally lovely, is butchered on-site downstairs. The butter has a backstory more compelling than the protagonists of most Netflix dramas.
When it’s good it’s excellent. Of course it is. The crab omelette, sprinkled with sugar kelp, was one of the best things I’ve had for ages; creamy and light, but with a perfectly judged texture. That honey-enlivened sobrasada, served on toast, came in tangy, generous wedges. Blissed-out, raw prawns dozed on cloud-like beds of freshly made cheese. And if you’re a fan of organ meat, the silky, flame-charred sweetbreads will have you in raptures. Unimprovable is not a word to use lightly, but these were that.
Beyond the excellence of those dishes though, there remains something massively, professionally adequate about Mountain. The mains, on our visit, were merely fine. Lamb chops, a dependable choice at any grill, lacked succulence and seasoning. Yes, the carcass was hacked up downstairs. Cool. But at the same time: who cares? The 50 quid plate of langoustines (£8 each) was better, but for 50 quid it better be. The famous smoked potatoes just kind of sat there, like your uncle at a house party.
Look: Mountain will be a hit. It’s run by people with a track record for success, staffed by steely-eyed experts and already benefiting from an amount of buzz usually associated with a genre-defying A24 horror film. Like those movies however, the experience left me saddened by our society’s aversion to joy. Restaurants have to resemble (and sound like) warehouse parties. Menus, we’re told by staff, must be ‘approached’ and broken down like Rubix Cubes or military operations. Gym-pumped, tattooed chefs go about their business with the grim-faced solemnity of prison guards. Everything is understated and casual, apart from the prices.
Yes, diners wanting a calmer experience might prefer the vibes-by-committee dining area downstairs. Designed to channel a Japanese listening bar, it felt to me more like a Bang & Olufsen showroom. But it’s there, all the same, and Vermouth on tap is a fun idea.
Parry’s an exceptional talent. His cooking is all about rusticity, simplicity and heritage. It seems weird then, that the fruits of his labour would be so lacking in warmth.
The vibe Bustling, spacious, stylish and Soho, with the open-est kitchens you ever did see.
The food Basque flavours and know-how, applied with a laser-focus, to the freshest and most seasonal local produce imaginable.
The drink Mountain has a really engaging wine list, put together by the guys behind Noble Rot. There’s also a modest selection of zippy cocktails.
Time Out tip The team is particularly proud of the three-to-four person lobster caldereta, a stew with produce from Parry’s homeland of Anglesey in Wales.