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I’ve found it – a good Square meal!

The buzzy Leicester Square Kitchen means you can break the rules on visiting an area known for tourist-trap restaurants

07 September, 2018 — By Tom Moggach

The food menu is genuinely exciting at Leicester Square Kitchen

IT’S a golden rule of eating out – avoid any restaurant on Leicester Square. For Londoners, this is a destination reserved for hapless tourists. Walking past, you spot them in TGI Fridays, All Bar One or Garfunkels.

If I’m ever here – usually for the cinema – my fallbacks include the Cork and Bottle, China Town or Israeli restaurant The Palomar nearby.

However, a friend from Sicily invited me to Leicester Square Kitchen.

Unable to find a good job back home, she – like innumerable others – works in the hospitality industry here in the capital.

Leicester Square Kitchen is attached to the Hampshire Hotel, a five-star Radisson on the south-east corner of the square. It describes itself as a “chic restaurant and bar with a large terrace serving contemporary Mexican and Peruvian small plates”.

Keen viewers of Celebrity MasterChef may already know the place, as it featured in the episode aired on August 23.

There are seats outside, but with autumn rolling in we took an inside table by the window. Surveying the space, the décor is slick and minimalist: rough cement pillars, designer butterfly chairs and marble tables, all set within a colour palette of black and white walls.

A zinc-topped bar and open kitchen dominate the back. A quirky stretch of small circular tables is bolted onto one wall, presumably designed for the after-work crowd sipping Aztec Negronis.

The food menu is genuinely exciting – a mingling of on-trend dishes from Mexico and Peru, with riffs on tacos, tostadas, ceviches and plenty of grilled meats and fish from a Josper Grill.

Stand-outs included tender slivers of tenderloin with a sultry chilli sauce, a well-balanced sea bass ceviche and soft tacos loaded with chorizo, zingy guacamole and a salsa spiked with Arbol chilli and lemon.

The atmosphere, too, was buzzy. The restaurant was nearly full with girlfriends on a big night out, office workers loosening their ties and tourists back from a day on the town. Service was friendly and swift to a fault.

We paid around £25 each for three dishes before drink and service, but you can splurge a great deal more if you’re in the mood.

The wine list features a good range from South America, including our gently oaky Malbec from Argentina.

Desserts include a fancy coconut mousse with raspberry tuile, lime sponge, guava purée and mango coulis – exactly the kind of technically tricky dish they lap up on MasterChef. But we fancied a stroll into Soho and ice cream from Gelupo in Archer Street.

In future, I won’t be so snooty about eating in Leicester Square – this is a restaurant that well deserves a second look.

I passed my regular haunt the Cork and Bottle on my way back home. If you’ve never been, this cavernous basement wine bar has been trading since the 1970s.

This month, they’re opening their third branch in South End Green, taking over the long-abandoned White Horse pub.

Leicester Square Kitchen
31-36 Leicester Square, WC2H 7LH
020 7666 0902
leicestersquarekitchen.co.uk

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