Thinking about seafood restaurants in London, one would immediately call to mind the old-school charm of J. Sheeky, Bentley’s, or Scott’s; or at the other extreme, the national dish of fish and chips whose sole purpose (pun not intended) seems to be catering for curious tourists. However, with a health-conscious new generation, the relentless sushi trend, and celebrity chefs like Rick Stein, there are more modern fish eateries than ever before. The elegant Outlaw’s at the Capital and the aptly named Sexy Fish, among others, are welcome additions to the capital.
However, it is very easy to overlook One-O-One Restaurant in Knightsbridge. It was awarded the third best restaurant in London by Harden’s Guide last year, amongst other accolades. Head Chef Pascal Proyart hails from the Brittany coast and is dedicated to cooking sustainable seafood at the highest level. His ambition is evident in the complex sounding dishes offered by the menu. Our visit seemed to be of particularly good timing, as they were now doing a half-price special on the tasting menu at £37.50.
Despite being in prestigious Knightsbridge for almost two decades, chef Proyart’s restaurant often flies under the radar, in contrast to its glitzy neighbours, featuring names like Marcus Wareing, Heston Blumenthal and Pierre Koffmann. It is sadly understandable given its totalitarian sounding name and its unfortunate location in the Sheraton Park Hotel, possibly the ugliest five-star hotel in the country. However, the dining room itself is not as bad, and serves an elegant and tranquil eatery from the otherwise busy area. When we visited, the dining room was unfortunately empty (three tables to be precise) but we still very much looked forward to the food.
My partner, who has a nut allergy, and I both ordered the tasting menu and we were served by attentive waiting staff. A warm basket of bread was quickly served and the accompanying seaweed butter was sensational. We had no shame, or regret, ordering a second serving of the bread just for the seaweed butter. The first course was a sort of reinterpretation of a maguro (tuna) sushi, which was confusing in its fundamental error of trying to execute a classically no-frills Japanese item as an haute-cuisine item. The accompanying wasabi sorbet with the tuna tartare was as indeterminate in its taste as its texture.
However, the following courses of scallop and duck foie gras with a sort of red wine sauce, and the sea bass with abalone, were a showcase of the kitchen’s thoughtful and highly technical skills. These two dishes undoubtedly heightened our expectation for the showcase of the menu, a high-end surf and turf with lobster, king crab, and beef fillet. When the dish came, the presentation was as pretty, and indeed appetising, as the previous two dishes.
And there it is, the most anticipated plate of food of the evening, a plate that comprises some of the most expensive ingredients of both the sea and land! Soon the excitement dissipated when we cut into the lobster tail. Unfortunately, the texture was more on the mushy side suggesting it might have been frozen. In a restaurant of this calibre, especially a seafood one at that, this is completely unacceptable. However, I was willing to convince myself that the mushiness was due to the over soaking in water during its cleaning process (albeit a very thin excuse) because the rest of the plate was so perfectly executed and the flavours did come into one, especially with the sweet pinot noir jus.
At this stage, the meal had seen its ups and downs. Not having a sweet tooth myself, the arrival of a chocolate and pistachio pudding felt somewhat irrelevant, as I was full up to the neck. However, my taste buds (and belly) were put to the test once more. But only in the best way possible. It was a decadent plate of sweetness complimented by the perfect harmony of earthiness. It would have been a welcome dish at any Michelin-starred restaurant.
The tasting menu is by no means pitch perfect. However, given its location and the price, it was a very satisfying meal. Since Chef Proyart is a brand ambassador for the Norwegian Seafood Council, I would have no hesitation going back for the a la carte menu, which includes the signature Wild Norwegian red king crab risotto. The a la carte might not come across as good value as the tasting menu but given the location and this experience, I’d wager it’s well worth a go.