Muse, London – tweezer gastronomy, food as performance art
Daniel Primack calls me up. Let’s do dinner. Where? Muse. Sounds good, so I agree. I was in for quite a surprise – I hadn’t done any research, so I didn’t know what to expect. It turned out to be one of the best dining experiences I’ve had in London.
Muse is a remarkable restaurant. It’s tweezer gastronomy; food as performance art.
The restaurant itself is a converted mews house in Belgravia. Mews, muse, very good.
It’s also the highly personal, almost autobiographical project of celebrated chef Tom Aikens. Some people have strong feelings about Tom, so this might affect their experience either way. I went with an open mind and I loved it.
The first thing you notice about Muse is how small it is. It’s a little unsettling at first – just 25 covers split over two floors. Both dining rooms have open kitchens, and the one downstairs is smaller than the one upstairs. They are also hybrid dining rooms: a good portion are chefs kitchen counter tables, and the remainder are more conventional table seating. The upstairs countertop seats are the best (the very best is the far right one), but be aware that you are in close proximity to your dining companions.
It’s tasting menu only in the evenings. £130 a head. So relax and prepare for a succession of beautifully presented dishes, each with a story to tell involving Tom. Each dish is presented by one of the chefs, with Tom himself presenting quite a few of them. The pace is perfect, and everything is spotlessly done. There are a lot of tweezers involved.
You cannot separate vision and flavour. How the food looks, the restaurant environment, the mood in the room and even your own interoceptive state will all feed into the experience of flavour. And it is the mastery of this that is Muse’s greatest strength. You come here for amazing food, which is the pivot of a multisensory delight.
My conclusion? This is a very serious gastronomic pleasure zone. People who inhabit the foodie space may have already formed their opinions, but I thought this was the real deal. Yes, the concept seems a bit contrived. But if you are going to do this sort of restaurant project, a coherent, self-consistent theme like this is a really good place to start. Ultimately, the proof is in the cooking, and this is precision cooking and plating at its finest. The wine list is excellent, and not crazily punitive, and our sommelier was excellent. Corkage, should you wish, is £50, which is reasonable for this sort of place.