It might be the Year of the Rooster, but the animal you should be following is the monkey. At the ultra-hip MNKY HSE in Mayfair your experience may vary depending on the time and day of your visit. It starts out in the early evenings as an intimate bar before revealing itself to be a fine-dining establishment and then transforming into a party destination of choice for discerning music lovers.
It is situated in one of the smartest locations in Mayfair on Dover Street. The entrance has a rather mysterious, secretive feel with austere black doors and curtains to stop prying eyes from seeing the interior. Whilst we didn't dwell long in the bar upstairs, it was seductively welcoming with fine use of rich red leather and immaculately polished fine wooden furniture. You can't help but notice their quirky collection of paintings include a superhero dressed in blue spandex with the MNKY HSE logo.
The mood lighting downstairs is at the right level that keeps celebrities and ordinary folks looking glamorous and at ease. The caged alcoves in particular look ideal for private parties and guests requiring more discretion. The electronic waterfall feature is mightily impressive as well.
The food here is all about their head chef, Pablo Peñalosa Nájera revisiting his Latin American roots and combining it with the best of British seasonal ingredients to create a winning formula.
The weakest dish from their exceptional menu was perhaps the trio of guacamoles. You would expect more differentiation between the smoked, wasabi and chilli flavours; but the flavours tasted rather timid even though the quality of the avocados was undeniable.
In contrast the yellowtail ceviche was full of colour, vibrancy and flavours. Jícama, which is a Mexican turnip, is the perfect foil for the slippery texture of the fish, whilst the orange, ginger and passion fruit notes are expertly infused into the dish.
There is a fine selection of meat, vegetable and seafood dishes on the menu, which is guaranteed to keep your guests satiated. Of the meat choices, I would recommend the juicy US beef tenderloin. Whilst the portion isn't particularly filling, the meat is of the highest quality and kept warming on a quaint coal smoker. The choices are marginally more limited for vegetarians, but I recommend the fried courgette flowers which are stuffed with rich tasting goat cheese and spicy poblano peppers.
Ultimately, it is all about exploring unusual flavours at MNKY HSE. Their signature octopus dish also combines avocado purée with poblano chili sauce and a smattering of salmon roe. It is these exotic flavours that makes dining out a truly treasured experience.
Make sure you take time out to try their expertly devised cocktails. I tried a very smoky and elegant MNKY Business, which combined Ron Millonario XO Reserva (a Peruvian rum) with a very rare tobacco liqueur, Jade Perique Liqueur de Tabac. On top of this they add Antica Formula, Peruvian bitters and cherry wood smoke. It you love your cocktails intense and smouldering, this is the one for you.
Later on in the evening, tables are moved aside and the venue becomes a dance floor with cutting edge music from the very best DJs from across the globe.
Currently, MNKY HSE is offering an express three-course business lunch for £24.50 including tea and coffee.
MNKY HSE has set a high bar for other aspiring all-encompassing venues to follow.
Words by Baldwin Ho