Malibu Kitchen, The Ned, London: restaurant review
Does an average diner reach the same conclusions about restaurants as a food pro, who may get special treatment if recognised?* Laura Rowe and olive reader Steven Walker compare notes on Malibu Kitchen at The Ned, London
Check out our review of Malibu Kitchen at The Ned, and see if an expert restaurant critic comes to the same conclusion as an olive reader...
Our editor Laura Rowe has reviewed restaurants for more than a decade. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @lauraroweeats
Steven Walker works in banking and loves Italian food. His best eating out experience was the chops at Blacklock, and he has a weakness for salt and vinegar Squares.
Nine restaurants, more than 200 bedrooms, a rooftop pool, private members’ club and grooming parlours… The Ned, set in the former Midland Bank building, is quite the spectacle. It was originally designed by Sir Edward ‘Ned’ Lutyens in 1924, and the restaurants sit in the historical 3,000-square-metre former banking hall, separated from each other by verdite columns and Grade I-listed walnut banking counters.
Malibu Kitchen is all about Californian cuisine, with a menu that includes superfood salads, cold-pressed organic juices and ‘wellness’ shots, raw and cured appetisers (including ahi tuna poke, octopus ceviche, and cured ham with bee pollen), and numerous vegetarian options.
Try the matcha panna cotta for dessert, served with passion fruit sorbet and meringue, or a fruit ‘n’ veg cocktail – The Fiery Lion blends Grey Goose with turmeric, ginger, apple, agave and lime. thened.com
Our pro says…
The welcome at The Ned is hardly warm – after getting past a round of bouncers, some fashionable young things, busy on their phones, stopped to ask if we were members or had a reservation before we were granted access. *I was not recognised.
Malibu Kitchen is tucked in the right-hand corner of this sprawling building, heaving with ‘suits’ and ‘blow-dries’, so don’t expect a view of the central music stage. In fact, you can barely hear the live jazz above the roars and ra-ras.
Arriving early (how very uncool) our table wasn’t ready, and with no room at the inn/bar to perch in here, we were told to seek refuge in one of the other restaurants. We prop up the marble bar at Cecconi’s next door, where the service picks up as I’m offered a negroni list. It’s not the best I’ve had, but it’s served with a smile.
When we sit down, we’re reminded (now for the third time) about our need to leave within 90 minutes (food is served until 11pm).
Padrón peppers with an almond purée lack that essential ingredient, salt. A starter of asparagus is better, with a red onion relish, cherries and some on-trend yet bland yellow petals – but a cynicist might imagine this was put together for Instagram more than flavour.
Sea bream tacos are overcooked and served with limp coriander stalks and lacklustre pico de gallo. Brick chicken is better – a coating of turmeric gives it colour (although no flavour), it’s juicy and a spiced mayo lifts it – but overgrown flat-leaf parsley that’s tough, with some grapes and cherry tomatoes does not a salad make.
The only dish possibly worth returning for is a raw salad of ‘young’ coconut, green papaya, shredded veg, heart of palm, and deliciously aniseedy holy basil, dressed in an Asian-style sour and salty dressing, served with a spiced nut paste.
Raw chocolate cake was silky but had an overwhelming (and unpleasant) green and unripe banana flavour, heavy with coconut oil, rather than, you know, chocolate. At the other end of the spectrum, a stack of cookies was dry.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The one saving grace of Malibu Kitchen is that it’s surprisingly affordable. However, with an exclusive atmosphere, menu that fails to deliver, and difficulty to book, I’d give it a wide berth.
Total for two, excluding service: £98 (including wine)
Our punter says…
We were welcomed by three separate groups of greeters, providing a human sat nav to Malibu Kitchen (one of many restaurants at The Ned). Our waitress gave us a really informative run through of the menu, readily taking us through the cooking process of ‘brick’ chicken and providing recommendations of customer favourites. One minor point: she was not able to provide any clear wine recommendations.
Although the menu looks rather small, there’s a good variety of dishes including a strong selection of vegetarian and fish options.
To start, we had the padrón peppers and cured ham with melon. Being a fan of padrón peppers, I was looking forward to a plate of charred salty goodness.
Unfortunately, the salt was replaced with a rather bland almond aïoli, which failed to add anything to the dish. The cured ham and melon was superb, a simple plate of prosciutto and melon, supercharged with bee pollen and chilli to give the dish an added kick.
On to the larger plates, we ordered the ahi tuna poke, brick chicken, cauliflower steak and courgette ribbons. The star of the show was the brick chicken, recommended by a friendly couple sat next to us (who stopped eating to watch our reaction to the first bite). The chicken was juicy and tender, with the crispy skin complemented by a paprika-spiced mayo.
Cauliflower steak was thin and overpowered by a mound of parsley and mint, which masked the cajun spices of the steak. Courgette ribbons were actually ‘courgetti’, and at £10 was the most expensive side dish I’ve ever ordered.
THE BOTTOM LINE
A lot of care and attention has been put into The Ned, which I’d liken to a super-sized Brasserie Zédel. The main hall is very large, which created a stale atmosphere – at times it felt as if we were eating in an opulent food court.
The restaurant is located in a small corner of the hall, which felt rather cramped and out of place. I’d definitely visit again, but would opt for a different restaurant.
Total for two, excluding service: £105.19 (including wine)