The restaurant is located on Heddon street, tucked behind and running parallel to Regent Street, it's certainly located in close proximately to whatever you may want from your night after dinner. It's adorned in giant green foliage, with mirrored walls and gold ceilings, it looks a little as if an ornate conquistador's galleon has come to rest in the middle of a Jungle clearing, but with a prominent DJ booth, and centrepiece bar.
They say, do what you know, and there are not perhaps, four words more apt to describe the triumvirate of creators of Mano of Mayfair.
Romain Fargette has owned restaurants, night clubs and beach clubs up and down the French riviera since he was 18. His founding partner Alexis Colletta is an established entrepreneur, and together they persuaded the winner of Top Chef Brasil 2020 and MasterChef: The Professionals semi-finalist, Luciana Berry to be their head-chef, and launch Mano of Mayfair. Luciana was born in Salvador Brazil, and grew up in a traditional South American family and food centric household. Mano of Mayfair, seeks to fuse the varied exotic fruit-rich uniqueness of Brazilian cooking, with the delicate fresh ingredients and fish from Japan.
The cocktails are on theme and on point, the Air Mano, is an appropriately light Aperol infused Pineapple, and Cocci Americano infused Rosemary Champagne with a roasted pineapple soda water. It was dangerously delightful, and correspondingly morish, with the flavours working well together, none overpowering, and all the nuance and soft tastes given a moment to hit a tastebud.
The food is an imaginative mix of unusual marriages, both simple and complex flavours meet their opposites, married to delicate and robust meats and fish and all crowned by unexpected ways of cooking them to heap on yet more flavour.
My favourite example of this, was the “Coalho”, a light and firm elastic Brazilian 'beach cheese' from the Northeast. It is traditionally sold on a stick for roasting over a fire, as it doesn't melt when heated. It's a cheap Brazilian snack, here elevated to its zenith. Mano's version was covered in molasses, yakitori sauce and sesame seeds, and was served browning on some hot charcoals at your table. It's one of those foods that seems at odds with other examples of it you've encountered before: It's both lighter and tastier than I expected, and yet firm enough to stand up to the fire, without being as hard as a raw Halloumi, and utterly without its squeak. Beautifully tasty without being overly rich, I could have repeat ordered this a few times.
The Pão de Queijo Raphael, were Brazilian cassava and cheese dough balls, that had fresh black truffle grated over them at the table. Again, the lightness of the cheese and the dough, went unexpectedly well with a surprisingly light truffle, which often overpowers everything with which it shares a plate, but here, there was no such domination, just delicate enhancing harmony.
The Bacalhau, a salted cod croquette and karashi mayo, was nice if not the revolutionary experience a salted cod can often be, and the Tuna tartare on a beer and squid ink tapioca cracker hit the right notes of freshness, taste and texture that one hopes for from a great tartare.
The signature dish, a Moqueca de Camarão, Aviú e Castanha, is a Moqueca stew with Tiger and Amazonian prawns & cashew nuts, that we had served with sushi rice cooked in coconut milk. The stew was light and flavoursome, the coconut not even a little heavy, and the large prawns meaty and to the bite. And for myself, perhaps I'll never go back to rice cooked any other way, what a great idea to infuse rice with delicate flavour, and keep it light and firm.
I was glad I had this dish before the Costelão com Misô however, as this black angus ribs and miso was a rich and rounded dish brimming with umami taste, that clawed attention with its robust flavour profile, and soft meat. Had there been a bone, one may have been tempted to over-use the metaphor that the meat 'fell' off it. But thankfully there wasn't, so you the reader are spared this descriptive hackery. That being said, the trick of the meat being so soft, yet having such good integrity made for a rewarding mouthfeel, and it's this dish that makes my mouth water as I write this.
Finally, came the dessert, a pineapple cake with coconut and cachacca ice cream, that was nice, although I can't really recall it, because it was competing with what was about the best crème caramel I've ever had. My memory in fact can't summon a superior example. It was served with Brazil nuts and a salted miso caramel sauce, and I've thought about it repeatedly since then. Crème caramels are easy to make poorly, they can collapse or stick, and be bland or burnt with equal alacrity. A stunning crème caramel then, is a delicate balancing act of firmness, softness, and caramelised sugar unallowed to even glimpse a burn. This was what I tasted a few nights ago, a deft perfection of a 'simple' French recipe, milk eggs and sugar, allied to a sweet miso caramel that nodded to both Brazilian and Japanese cuisine.
Mano of Mayfair, is nascent, but already they're hitting their stride. They're fully booked for the next couple of weeks, so you'll need to book early to avoid disappointment. Do be adventurous when ordering, your boldness will be rewarded, and for the love of God, save room for that crème caramel.
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