Hands up those of you who remember Mˇnage a Trois in Beauchamp Place where, decades ago, ladies lunched on the novel idea of starters and puddings with no main courses. The first time I went I was invited by one of the husbandÕs regal cousins who lunched professionally, and was left feeling totally underwhelmed by a soft boiled egg topped with caviar. In those frugal days I was never going to get the point of paying for the pleasure of not eating.
At Mju, one of the spate of new restaurants fronted by antipodeans, which are spreading like a heat rash across London, itÕs not quite the same deal, but there are similarities. Food is a frequently changing 8 course degustation menu costing £50 for dinner, or 5 courses for £25 at lunch, each course being little more than a tiny but perfectly formed morsel. However, the difference is that at Mju, you have so many little courses itÕs impossible to leave hearing the distant rumble of empty stomachs. ItÕs like Marie AntoinetteÕs dollsÕ tea party Š if she was a blonde Bondi beach babe, and super sophisticated, despite being called Kylie (Let them eat chook). ItÕs perfect, simply perfect innovative food with integrity and just enough of a twist to excite the palate.
Still youÕll have to suffer the hotel dining room, watched over by the gimlet eye of manager John Thomson, previously of Mirabelle. The room feels like the waiting room for heaven on a holding pattern (assuming heaven is a place like Croydon that you donÕt really want to visit) set in The Millennium Hotel, or Chelsea Hotel as was, in Sloane Street. Overhead thereÕs a glass roof (under which, many years ago there used to be a swimming pool) while the restaurant, decorated in muted shade of grey, beige and blah, stretches out from one side of a gently curved staircase, with a dark, rather forbidding bar, lies at the other.
I knew that it was a set no-choice menu, although they do try to accommodate all likes, dislikes, allergies and assorted food fads. However, it was a while before they explained the drill, and when oysters were offered as an extra, at extra cost, no mention was made of price. Maybe itÕs a bit naff to shout show me the money when offered prime delicacies, but it would be good to know.
After bread Š brown or white - a nice change from the usual three hour recitation of 15 flavoured breads like Portuguese rye with big girls knickers, we kicked off with Campari and grapefruit cocktail, swiftly followed by a trio of cold soups served in tall shot glasses which we ate storklike, dipping our tea spoons into the depths. The soups - a velvety, smooth avocado, nicely caramelised cauliflower and the interesting texture of jellied eggplant with potato and leek - were a soothing introduction to the meal. Next up, all at once, was a fantastic salad of seared tuna with orange, a miniscule homeopathic portion of tataki of venison with truffled peaches, rosemary and honey dresing, some marinated salmon with marinated celery, and roast langoustine with tea and shell fish oil which was a delight of delicacy, tenderness and flavour. Everything worked harmoniously with none of the bewilderment usually associated suffered with multiple dishes.
Next up, I noted with a sinking heart, was the chicken of the sea - Scottish Salmon with a dried seaweed crust, but this was superior stuff Š beautifully flavoured wild salmon, enlivened with the cod-liver oil bite of cod row strewn across the plate and paired with the nicely dressed salad leaves.
A carpaccio of sea scallops laid on a sliver of silky foie gras preceded a rich, sweet lobster ravioli and, the final main course, double cooked deboned spatchcock with braised daikon Š a radish Š and bread sauce. A lot to get through, but the pace is measured, each dish coming only when youÕre ready for it with rest stops and loo breaks, whenever necessary.
Puddings were a luminous, perfumed sorbet of lychee and strawberries and a floating island, as light as a cloud.
ItÕs very clean, carefully considered food which leaves you full, but feeling misguidedly virtuous. I hope it retains its freshness and meticulous attention to detail when Australian chef Tetsuya Wakuda departs Š though he will return once a month to oversee the menu. On a downside, according to the bill, we appeared to have drunk two bottles of water at a stonking £9.00 though I donÕt remember being asked if we wanted another bottle.
I was too busy chatting to one of my most intimate acquaintances Š my dentist Roman, and for a change both of us were anaesthetised by the end of the evening. I trust this man with my life and lots of my money. But as we left, there was the inevitable and obligatory social kiss moment. How can you kiss your dentist? ItÕs like jumping into bed with your gynaecologist. Surely itÕs against some Dental Hygiene Rule. So, like the wimp I am, we shook hands awkwardly. But then Roman knows IÕm a coward. He has seen me beg.