Food lovers should seek out this exclusive temple of arty cuisine

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Salmon with yuzu rose petals, hazelnuts and foie gras (Amethyst)

It takes us a minute to find Amethyst, tucked away in an unassuming bank-like building on a side street in London’s great Piccadilly. I could call it a hidden gem, if such wording weren’t banned here at The Independent. It’s bound to be exclusive: this chef’s table and supper club experience can only accommodate 21 guests at a time, along a curious communal table with irregular cuts. Encrusted with genuine amethyst slabs, speckled with seashell-like flecks, it faces the lackluster open kitchen like a theater audience waiting for the curtain to rise.

And the show continues. I’m coming with my restaurant-loving sister who expects edible art with showmanship, and we’re not disappointed. We saved our appetites for the 12-course tasting menu (count them), imagined, designed and prepared by star Italian chef Carlo Scotto – previously of London hit Xier, mentored by Angela Hartnett and formerly of Michelin-starred Murano and Galvin The Chapel among others.

Our minimalist banquet, inspired largely by Japanese and Scandinavian cuisine but with flavors from around the world, kicks off with a glass of Nyetimber English sparkling wine and three instantly intriguing canapes. Each is served on a smooth pebbled platter, often topped with something earthy (seeds, hay), creating layers of texture on the already captivating gemstone table. We keep quiet as we taste each in the recommended order: a croquette topped with truffle shavings is a highlight, as is a Moroccan pantyhose. briouat filo pastry infused with nettle.

A friendly sommelier pairs the wines with the following dishes, each distinct in texture and unusual in its combination of flavors. We head to Scandinavia for pure snow scallop caviar coated in salty caviar, earthy Japanese matsutake mushrooms and delicate edible flowers.

A cube of salmon is decorated with flora and infused with rose petals, its sweetness boldly blends with a layer of buttered foie gras. We’re introduced to concepts like mahlab bread, a dense Egyptian bun served with a Jackson Pollock splatter of mashed yellow squash, walnuts and fig leaf, painted freehand on the plate.

The Gemstone-Inspired Dining Table and Open Kitchen (Amethyst)

The Gemstone-Inspired Dining Table and Open Kitchen (Amethyst)

Swirls of fresh cavatelli pasta, served with sun-dried tomatoes and paprika, are the most traditional dishes this Italian chef gets with his storytelling; the most avant-garde being a lump of coal served in a pool of liquid. At first bite, the latter turns out to be Scotto’s version of Japanese black cod, seared in molasses with caramelized miso and sweetened with a dashi broth.

About that “12 course” claim: Some of the dishes counted here are more like a bite of canape, while the average dish is restricted in size anyway, so don’t worry about starving yourself beforehand. Not everything is successful or generous: during our visit, a “pear, liquorice, rum and maple” liqueur glass tastes only of pear puree. The wines are well matched, with some new discoveries for us here too; ours includes an orange wine.

What’s nice (I mean inclusive) about Amethyst’s tasting menu is that the options are flexible: you can visit lunch to have a three- or five-course menu, or opt for six rather than 12 dinner dishes. Prices range from £55 for the five-course lunch to £150pp for the 12-course dinner. A classic wine pairing costs an additional £155.

Amethyst dishes including beef ras el hanout and coal-like black cod (Amethyst/@lateef.photography)

Amethyst dishes including beef ras el hanout and coal-like black cod (Amethyst/@lateef.photography)

With dishes ranging from arty to delicious, the only thing Amethyst can blame is taking itself rather seriously. The room with the chef’s table is cozy, the lighting dimmed. You feel like the staff is trying to sneak in seamlessly without disturbing things or attracting attention.

We had fun sampling all the intertwining flavors of each dish and admiring the Japanese-Scandinavian ceramics, but it didn’t feel like a place to laugh loudly, toast or chat with other diners (intentionally seated at a sufficient distance to avoid conferring). It really felt more like a master class in gourmet cooking and presentation, a learning experience, than an evening – and there is a place for that. Serious foodies and aspiring Masterchefs will love it; those dining for the buzz and conviviality might look elsewhere.

Yet Mr. Scotto never said he wanted to open a hotspot. He described a mission “to take diners on a culinary journey based on [his] own travels…with a real blend of flavors and cuisines in every dish”. To that I say: mission accomplished. The interplay of rose petals with salmon, salty miso with sweet dashi, and fig with white chocolate and salt will stick in my mind for a while.

Amethyst, 6 Sackville St, London W1S 3DD | 020 3034 3464 | amethystdining.com

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