One of the best meals of 2013 was a dinner at new Michelin-starred Spanish restaurant Ametsa with Arzak Instruction, in the five star Halkin Hotel in London's Knightsbridge, by Hyde Park. Head chefs Elena Arzak – named Best Female Chef in the World in 2012 – and her father Juan Mari Arzak alongside Xabier Gutierrez, Mikel Sorazu and Igor Zalakain specialise in Basque cuisine from the San-Sebastian area (desperate to go) of Spain and have created a wonderful eight course tasting menu it's hard to fault.
The only minor downsides were the quiet, formal atmosphere - I'm sure it's great for lunch meetings - and I wasn't totally sold on the interiors; the thousands of test tubes filled with spices suspended from the ceiling, bright spotlights and stainless steel serving plates added to the slightly sterile feel. Other than those small details, the food and service were impeccable.
The friendly Spanish waiters brought out dish after dish which combined the rustic flavours of traditional food from the Basque region with a modern twist - like cold citrus juice bursting from rocks which looked like caramel, sat on sesame powder (my favourite dessert) - for an evening of unique, surprising pairings. The sommelier advised on three great wines - starting off proceedings with a glass of Raventos i Blanc Gran Reserva de la Finca, having the starter and main dishes with a bottle of Belondrade y Lurton and finishing off with a glass of apricot-y Gorka Izagirre Arima 2010 for the desserts. We left promising to return in 2014 to try out the new tasting menu, which changes with the seasons, and we've been heartily recommending it since for the quality of the food and warm staff - great for a special occasion or for a lunch when the boss is paying.
delicious red skin sardines
Halkin Hotel, Halkin Street, London SW1X 7DJ