Restaurants & Nightlife

5 MINUTE READ

First look: abc kitchens at The Emory

Words by Georgie Young

18 April 2024

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Everything you need to know about Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s new restaurant (hint: it’s about to be a must-visit).

Does Jean-Georges Vongerichten ever take a day off? The chef behind over 60 (yes, six-zero) restaurants and dining concepts has just opened his latest, abc kitchens, on the ground floor of sail-shaped new hotel The Emory. And, like his other 59 restaurants, it is very good.

New Yorkers will already be familiar with the abc concept, having had not one but three abcs (abc kitchen, abcV, and abc cocina) in NYC since the 2010s. But for anyone on this side of the pond in need of a refresher: abc’s ethos is all about using fresh, organic, sustainable, and ethically sourced produce. Heavy creams and meat stocks are swapped for vegetable juices and fruit essences, with the overall aim to create forward-thinking, plant-focused food.

Of course, Vongerichten is not the only chef taking this approach in London (Mauro Colagreco at Raffles at The OWO, for example, is so into locally sourced plants that each dish is presented with a painting of its hero vegetable). But it is the first time all three abc concepts have been united under one roof – and the first time we’ve seen this style of cooking from Vongerichten in London.

The restaurant is on the ground floor of The Emory, Maybourne’s new ‘progressively spirited’ hotel next to The Berkeley on Knightsbridge. It’s so close to The Berkeley, in fact, that the two currently share an entrance (The Emory’s will open next week), and the dining room smells like sugar, thanks to Cédric Grolet’s army of master pâtissiers next door.

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From the moment we enter, strolling through a glossy bar and past a well-stocked wine cabinet, we feel instantly relaxed. Everything is warm-toned, from the copper-coloured bar and dark wood tables to the rose-gold cutlery and orange ombre water glasses. Unoffensive disco music is playing at an unoffensive volume; the walls are adorned with a collection of Damien Hirst paintings (is it really a high-end London restaurant without at least one of his artworks nowadays?); and an S-shaped sofa snakes along the side.

There’ll also be a wraparound outdoor terrace opening in summer, General Manager Mike Walker tells us, as we sit in the gloriously space-age Emory Bar and sip a fruity highball that feels born to be sipped in the suntrap he’s describing.

But what of the food? For all its technical talk of being supplier-centric and plant-focused, the menu is surprisingly unpretentious. Sure, you could eat roasted lobster or scallop tartare, but you could also have a burger and fries – or a tomato and mozzarella pizza. You can also see the influence of all three abc kitchens from the get-go: here are the chipotle tacos made famous by abc cocina; over there’s a vegetarian section that borrows its maitake mushroom from abcV.

‘It’s an eclectic menu focused on sourcing the best ingredients from unique suppliers and farms,’ says Head Chef Ben Boeynaems. ‘I hope it’ll attract a conscious diner that thinks a bit more about what they’re eating and where it’s coming from.’

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As seems to be the rule for London restaurants nowadays, everything is designed to share – although, thankfully, the phrase ‘small plates’ is nowhere to be found. So, we start with the table snacks, which – in the case of the dosa, anyway – are practically table-sized (although we have no complaints about being served a colossal crêpe scroll topped with coconut yoghurt).

There are also a few unexpected twists that keep things interesting – the guacamole is pea-based and chilli-spiked, and the crab toast (a slice of salty, buttery heaven, by the way) is topped with vermicelli and a scattering of purple flowers.

You could stop there and simply sink into your seat and enjoy the conviviality of it all. But that would mean missing out on genuine delights from the rest of the menu – like chargrilled, doughy octopus bathed in paprika crème fraiche and heightened with a zing of guajillo vinaigrette. Or the celeriac katsu topped with sour ketchup and garlic aioli. Or the tahini-tossed, herb-topped roasted cauliflower. Or the desserts, which are something to stay for, dream about, and come and order five more of (try the orb of fruit-stuffed coconut meringue – the proof is, quite literally, in the pudding).

Like many new openings at the moment, abc kitchens is not a white-tableclothed, hushed-tones hotel restaurant. It is a relaxed, friendly space with good food, great wine, and a dining room you actively want to spend time in. And who knew plants could taste this good?

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Georgie Young

As our Digital Editor, Georgie writes about all types of luxury – whether that’s deep dives into London restaurant trends, interviews with famous faces, or travelogues from all over the world.

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