Amazonico, Berkley Square

They Say

‘Experience Amazónico in a more formal setting within our breath-taking dining room. Enjoy our full A La Carte or sushi menu amongst luscious foliage, velvet banquettes  and jungle textures. Nightly performances from our house band who play Latin-inspired jazz, Bossa Nova and Cuban will entertain guests throughout the evening.’

NB we visit on two consecutive days during the same week, in order to sample both the Japazónico (Nikkei) menu and the A La Carte.

The Style

We enter the grand building on Berkeley Square one chilly grey spring day this year and are immediately transported to an alternate universe: a sexy tropical space, gently pulsating with Latin American music, lush tropical plants hanging from the ceiling and in every possible nook or cranny of the huge room. A large bar dominates the front dining room, a busy open kitchen to our left as we are led to the dining area. Immediately we forget the grim English weather and start to enjoy ourselves.

Jungle details abound: our plates are painted with rainforest creatures, a frog on mine, a leopard on my husband Andy’s; menus are equally colourful and attractive – a tad confusing as we’re not sure what we’re here to review but yummy sounding enough to turn the next couple of days into an excellent gastronomic adventure.

Over the two days I notice more details – green velvet banquettes reinforcing the rainforest theme, undulating waves of silky fabric in shades of orange, gold and green hanging from the ceiling above us echoed in plump velvet cushions in the same colours and the tiles surrounding the open kitchen. There is a lot of copper (fish kettles?) on the tiles above and below, giving the place an opulent, expensive feel.

Our friendly, cosmopolitan waiter and waitress tell us that we should come back in the evenings as that’s when there’s live music, which sounds fun. But it’s not what we’re here to review.

The Crowd

The place is pretty empty the first day we’re here – to be fair it is the second day of the Easter school holidays, when the target market has probably decamped to more enticing climes, ie any other country than this in what feels like the coldest April in living memory. We’re told that the restaurant more than makes up for the emptiness in the evening, especially Fridays and Saturdays, when they can turn the 180 tables three times a night. There are also two private dining rooms – which can be joined into one, if you have a sufficient social circle (and money) – and a club in the bowels of the building.

I digress. The second day, possibly because we’re running about half an hour late, the place is busier. Two handsome men to our right are dressed smart casually – either on a date or having a business lunch – and one says to the other ‘did you go to school in New York?’ ‘No, I went to school in Russia.’ I am fascinated by this but Andy ticks me off for my unsubtle attempt at eavesdropping.

Suffice to say there is also a mixed Japanese group a little further afield. This place certainly confirms London as a (still) international hub.

The Food

The Japazónico (Nikkei) menu

‘A light, tropical lunch menu featuring the highlights from our sushi counter along with our new ‘Pokezónico’ our take on the classic poke bowl. Designed to be delicious, efficient, and refreshing, keeping you energised for the rest of the day. For when time is of the essence, this 3-course menu can be served in 45 minutes and showcases Amazónico’s exotic take on traditional sushi.’

Available Monday – Friday, from 12pm to 4pm

This enticing menu is divided into Nigiri (2 pieces), Maki (8 pieces) and Pokezónico (served with koshikakari rice, cashew nuts and a citrus-spicy sauce).

From the Nigiri I go for the Hamachi (yellow tail tuna with ponzu, sesame and lime), Andy for the Amadai (Japanese red bream with wasabi and ‘manao crunch’. Both are sublime. My first class tuna is spankingly fresh and clean-tasting with its refreshing citrus accompaniments and nutty crunch from the sushi’s external sesame seeds. Andy’s Amadai is equally fresh, with intense wasabi heat, ‘manao crunch’ turning out to be a type of large lemon with a crunchy skin. We each have a taste of both.

From the Maki I order the Amazónico Roll (avocado, mango, coconut, cacao nibs), clearly a signature dish, and Andy the Atun Picante (spicy red tuna tartare, cucumber, green apple, chives). These are both so good that after the first taste of each, neither of us wants to share the remaining seven pieces, but if I were to order again I’d probably try the Lomi-lomi (Ora king salmon, avocado, coriander, salmon roe) rather than the vegetarian Amazónico, yummy though it was, as I do love a bit of salmon roe.

Finally, from the Pokezónico I choose the Ora king salmon and Andy the Hamachi yellowfin tuna. Each is delicious: again fresher-than-fresh, premium quality fish against the sticky sushi rice, enhanced by the bright zing of the citrus-spicy sauce and given a pleasing textural contrast by the nuts.

The Menu Ejecutivo (business lunch menu)

This menu is an homage to (almost) all things Latin American: ceviche, guacamole, empanadas and the like.

To start, I go for Ceviche de Corvina (marinated sea bass, red onion), Andy the Ensalada Amazónica (mango, avocado, confit tomato, kalamansi citrus). My ceviche, in much the same vein as the Japanese menu, features wonderfully fresh fish, enlivened with the heat of raw red onion; Andy’s salad is, in his words, ‘deliciously refreshing, the perfect start to a lovely meal.’

Next up is Empanadas of Wagyu beef (the ‘almost’ of the first sentence of this section) with huitlacoche cream. Although I don’t ask at the time, huitlacoche is a fungal mould that grows on corn, considered a delicacy in Latin America, though I don’t know if I’d enjoyed the empanadas as much had I known. As it was they were two meaty parcels in a bosky, truffle-like sauce coated in quite thick pastry – delicious but filling. Andy’s second course of Causa de Pulpo (grilled octopus, spicy mashed potato, black olives) is just as successful as the first: perfectly cooked octopus given a moreish savoury kick from the black olives and spicy mash.

Our final course (we think) comprises Lomo Saltado (marinated beef fillet, amarillo chilli, potato puree) and Lubina (grilled sea bass fillet, pineapple moqueca sauce, corn salad) for me. Again, both are very good, though I reckon this time I’ve drawn the long straw as the seabass, pineapple and corn are a fantastic combination, while the beef, though tender as a bruised heart, is a little redolent of his octopus, chilli and potato wise.

Our waiter, by dint of twisting our arms, convinces us that we simply must try the Crema de Choclo (corn brûlée, coconut sponge, vanilla ice cream). Fatly, and persuaded by the crème brûlée comparison, we both love it. Although very indulgent (half each is definitely enough) it has a distinct tropical flavour and again takes us away from England this horrible ‘spring.’

The Drink

Both days we have a cocktail each and a bottle of wine. The cocktails, Sangria Blanca (£17, Hendrick’s Gin, Aguardiente, Tropical Fruit Wine, White Port, Aloe Vera) for me, Jardiniero (£19, Volcan Tequila Blanco, Lemon Verbena, Thai Basil, White Peppercorn Paragon, Yuzu Sake, Papaya Pepper) for Andy are extremely pretty – garnished with edible flowers, – delicious and quite potent. The Albarino is lovely. On the second day, a different waiter offers us Taylors port to go with our corn brûlée, which we greedily accept. Yum!

In a Nutshell

A fun addition to London’s dining scene which has the potential to get pretty expensive at night – think bankers and oligarchs revelling in the tropical atmosphere. The food is great.

The Details

Amazonico, 10 Berkeley Square Mayfair, London W1J 6BR

+44 (0) 20 7404 5000