I first went to Spice Market in New York’s Meatpacking district about 4 years ago and absolutely loved it. I was blown away by the food and thought it was one of the best meals of my life. So naturally I was extremely excited to find out 2 years ago that they would be opening a branch in London (their 2nd only after NY).
Spice Market serves Southeast Asian cuisine and the main chef is Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s and the London branch is located in the trendy W hotel on one side of Leicester Square, on the edge of China Town. The décor inside is beautiful in golden and dark shades and apparently Spice Market won the European hotel design award for the best restaurant design. Spice Market serves pan Asian food, that is supposed to remind you of "street food".
I went to Spice Market’s London branch for the first time 2 years ago, when it first opened, and I did like it very much (although it did not give me that wow factor that the New York Spice market had), however on subsequent visits I feel like the place did deteriorate a bit and even though I did enjoy the food and the atmosphere when I went there last week, I did not think it was as great as I remember it to be.
Four of us were having dinner and I decided to make life easier for everyone and do the ordering and order a mix of starters and main courses that we could share. Unfortunately I did not make life easier for everyone, as I did not hear John telling me he had an allergy to seafood and I ordered loads of starters with seafood which poor John could not eat.
Before our starters arrived Spice Market brought us these wonderful popodum like crisps which you can eat with a spicy sauce, and I love these so much I always (like this time) ask for another portion. As starters I had ordered the “Lobster Summer Roll with Sriracha Emulsion and Dill”, “Spiced Chicken Samosas with Coriander Yoghurt”, “Crab Dumplings with Sugar Snap Peas, Aromatic Spices”, “Salmon Sashimi, Warm Crunchy Rice Chipotle Emulsion and Spring Onion” and the “Vietnamese Spring Roll Nuoc Cham”, and the standout dish was the chicken samosas, which have been on the menu ever since I first came to Spice Market and also can be found on the menu in the NY Spice Market. They were absolutely wonderful and delicious and the coriander yogurt sauce that went with them was incredible. The other standout dish was the Lobster rolls, and here once again the sauce was extremely delicious, and there were nice big chunks of lobster in the healthy rice rolls, and it just went together extremely well. This is another one of those signature dishes that has stayed on the menu and also you can find in New York.
As for the other starters I did like the spring rolls, although I did not think they were better than anywhere else, and the crab dumplings were also nice. However the thing that I thought was slightly strange (and the waiter recommended I have it) were the salmon sashimi. The sashimi were served on these huge chunks of starchy stuff, called rice chipotle emulsion, and the salmon sashimi just got lost with the huge starchy bit.
As for the main courses (and finally food John could eat) I was disappointed to see that they had removed one of my favourite dishes from the menu, the pork vindaloo, which on my previous visits I have always ordered. Instead of this dish, I went for the “Chicken Pad Thai with Tofu, Peanuts and Bean Sprouts”, “Grilled Rib Eye with Bok Choy, Garlic and Sesame”, “Monkfish with Wok Fried Chinese Leaf Cabbage and Water Chestnut and Cucumber”, “Vietnamese Chicken Curry with Sugar Snap Peas and Coriander”, and we had it all with “Baby Corn and Broccoli with Lemongrass and Chilli” and “Ginger Fried Rice”. I liked the chicken curry, it was delicious and flavoursome and I loved how they brought the ginger friend rice with egg and all the garnishes on top of the rice and then mixed it all up in front of us at our table. I love monkfish, it is an amazing fish as it is so meaty and delicious, and here they had not put much of it on the plate, most of the plate was covered with cabbage that was too spicy and difficult to eat (I can take spicy food and when I can’t eat it as it is too spicy, I am sure 90% of the population can’t and it is bit pointless in my mind to serve inedible food). Also the monkfish was horribly deep-fried and had lost most of its flavour. The chicken pad thai was a decent pad thai, and I loved the decoration with the chilli and fried egg on top, the vegetables were crunchy and the steak was nice too and had a lovely sauce (I did not eat too much steak but as I was with 3 men I had to order it, as men love steak).
The slightly disappointing thing was when we ordered the desert and Andras had ordered banana-lime ice cream and it was served in this paper bag, which had been taken out of the freezer (minutes before it was served as the ice cream was so hard to bite into) and presented as I said in this packet that said “spice market”, so very casual presentation in an upmarket restaurant (although you could say maybe quite trendy?!) but as the ice cream only cost £3, I kind of forgive it, if they had charged any more I think that would be a bit disgraceful. We also shared the “Ovaltine Kulfi with Caramelised Banana, Spiced Milk Chocolate Sauce” desert, which was beautifully presented and delicious.
I used to love Spice Market, and as I said I thought the meal in New York was one of the best meals I have had in my life, so I am slightly sad to see some of the favourite and amazing dishes leave the menu and be replaced by new ones that I do not think are as good, but there are still some great things on the menu, that I will be going back for and are craving as I write this.
Location: Leicester square
Price for 4 people including alcohol: £282.38