( Theguardian) – Are you hip enough to book a table at this achingly chic new Spanish-Mexican joint?
Decimo, a Spanish-Mexican restaurant by Peter Sanchez-Iglesias, has opened at the top of The Standard Hotel in London. Decimo, as in Spanish for 10th, is the floor that it lives on. The capital was, to my mind at least, not pining for any more fancy restaurants at the top of tall buildings, yet still they come. I could write a hospitality MA thesis on how cooking standards plummet the more floors one ascends to the pretty view. No sane person has ever thought that duck with waffle sounded like a delicious idea, but add the chance of vertigo to the recipe, and there’s a lemming stampede towards the lifts.
That said, I was curious about Decimo. The rest of The Standard, including two other restaurants, Isla and Double Standard, opened in the summer, but this vast mezcal and aguachile palace took its time to reveal itself. Meanwhile, the hotel itself quickly became my go-to recommendation for travellers in search of fun. It is, in parts, a David Lynch-style dreamscape of fractal carpets and flickering hearth fires, and in others a party palace on a Quentin Tarantino set. The yearningly gorgeous suites have minibars with full bottles of Patrón silver tequila and baths out on the balconies in the open air, so you can be stark naked and clutching a loofah, yet just out of view of the commuters at St Pancras.
This whole swinging scene lives in a meticulous restoration of the 1974 brutalist architectural chunk that was once Camden town hall. I cannot vouch for drunken nudity occurring during its use by London council workers. Nor did any reissue of a parking permit ever involve kalibos red cabbage with blue cheese or quail with a mole glaze.
Decimo, for all my chunterings about food with a view, turned out to be more than worth the wait, and it, too, is somewhere I would now point people to. It feels like the beginning of a whole new era in London restaurants, and it is entirely Los Angeles in mood. Vast, slick, multi-levelled, painstakingly designed, laden with cacti and succulents. A dragoon of hostesses, all six foot tall and clad in fitted, floor-length hessian smocks tailored to their tiny ribcages, chivvy you every metre of the way from the elevator to your table. London is used to expensive, multi-million-pound hotel restaurants that mean well and talk a good game, but that are actually chilly, sterile spaces. Decimo is the opposite. It is beautiful, decorated in shades of burgundy, ombré and green.
But what is the food like, I hear you scream? Well, it is slighty ridiculous, sometimes delicious, sometimes “meh”, but at least it aims to challenge. Does anyone actually want cabbage and blue cheese? And I’m not entirely sure tortilla (fancy runny omelette) even complements caviar (fancy runny fish goo) yet, like zombies, diners order it (at £40 for the small one). Food comes on wooden boards, on top of brown parchment paper, or on pale, marble slabs. Dinner resembles an autopsy by a highly precise pathologist. The quail, in its peculiar, not entirely lovable mole glaze, looks like a mafia warning. Four pieces of strategically sculpted carrot steeped in orange cost £6. Carbs do not play a huge part on Decimo’s menu, or in the lifestyle choice of anyone who works there.Advertisement
One of the greatest things I ate there, or indeed have eaten all this year, was a fairly innocuous-sounding concoction called “marinated red peppers”, which turned out to be an odd, circular serving of rich, smoky-sweet, remarkable-tasting pepper served on marble with nothing. “Would you like bread?” asked one of the celestial visions. What else would we do with it? Scrape the marble with a knife directly into our mouths?
I called Charles before writing this, and he asked if we’d even eaten here. I said, “Yes, we sat at the table and ate bowls of amazing smoked almonds. And an absolutely gorgeous piece of turbot. The staff were lovely and they talked to you about mezcal.”
“I don’t remember eating,” he said.
“You had quail, which arrived cut in half on a marble slab. We had gambas rojo, which were delicious, but, like, £18 for four. And a plate of cecina. And chocolate tart, which was sort of so-so. The staff all seemed to be models.”
“I remember the staff,” he said. “Definitely.”
Decimo – gorgeous, sexy and glamorous as hell – is sweeping the restaurant world into a new decade. Whether Charles is getting to go there with me is an entirely different column.
• Decimo The Standard, 10 Argyle Street, London WC1, 020-3981 8888. Open Tues-Sat, dinner only (for the time being), 6pm-3am (midnight Tues & Wed). About £75 a head, plus drinks and service.