There are a legion of high-level draws to visiting the Ned, indisputably one of the grandest openings London has seen in a long while.
As I recently experienced, the most compelling reason of them all might be in the achingly-beautiful form of the poke bowls at Kaia – one of the eight (or nine) restaurants housed within this gargantuan new development in the heart of the City.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the backstory by now as The Ned has fast-become one of the trendiest dining destinations in town, effortlessly dominating the topic of most conversations (and lists of must-visits) of late.
Formerly the HQ of a bank, it’s been named after the architect, Sir Edwin “Ned” Lutyens who designed the original site (with its staggering 92 African verdite columns).
Given new life by Nick Jones of Soho House, the eleven-story building is also home to a 252-room luxury hotel and a private members club which affords access to a stunning rooftop pool and lounge bar tucked away in the vaults. Access to the latter is through a twenty-tonne safe door, inspired by the original which featured in the classic Bond film, Goldfinger!
Once inside the bar, you’ll find the walls lined with the thousands of intricately-engraved safety deposit boxes once holding £15 billion worth of gold bullion deposits… Blimey. Talk about doing a Bank Job!
However until that exclusive membership comes through (and with a few thousand-strong waiting list, we’re not holding our breath anytime soon), we had to content ourselves with a tipple at the Nickel Bar instead.
Tucked away at a far end of the expansive lobby-esque space (each section is seamlessly separated by an imposing network of pillars), the American-style bar is atmospheric enough – with a lively tone set by the central bandstand and a heaving mix of City suits and well-heeled fashionistas.
The questionable (maid-like) staff uniforms notwithstanding, we found the service to be friendly if a bit shoddy – despite the lengthy time for which we were parked in our cosy booth, not a single passing waiter paused to take our repeat order. A shame, as I really wouldn’t have minded another of my Clover 75 – a worthy take on the classic French 75, replacing gin with rum and lemon juice with raspberry, before topping up with Perrier Jouet champagne.
Still, a Matcha Sour at Kaia afterwards more than made up for it.
The lightly-frothy and bittersweet incarnation of a classic Whisky Sour proved a perfect pairing with poke which is at the heart of the contemporary Asian Pacific-inspired menu here.
If I’m being honest, fellow foodie, Anisha, and I did hold a few light misgivings about the restaurant initially – crammed as we were in the tightly-strapped space, not to mention cut off by the awkwardly-positioned vintage lamp standing tall between us on the dining counter.
Misgivings which were just as quickly dispelled, on the dazzling arrival of our dinner.
Each poke bowl was a veritable flavour-bomb – chock-full of vivid colours and slick textures, heartily assembled on a bed of Japanese rice.
We mixed it all together (as encouraged), liberally adding on lashings of vegan yuzu-mayo… and were surprised to still distinguish the distinctive elements, each playing its own note on our palate – right down to the faintest hint of amaranth in my vegetarian-friendly Rainbow bowl.
Speaking to Chef Richard later, we learned of the intricate thought-process behind ensuring that the final combination (of fruits and veg) worked in harmony, with no one ingredient overpowering the other. So for instance while chunks of pineapple made a sour splash in Anisha’s Ahi Tuna, they were cleverly substituted by papaya to balance the medley in my vegetarian-friendly Rainbow bowl.
It’s the same attention to detail which elevated grilled pineapple to an offbeat yet astonishingly-inviting dessert. We had at first strategically planned to hop over to Malibu (Kitchen) for a plate of Californian-style cookies, but gosh are we glad we stayed on…
Marinated with lemongrass, gently grilled and glazed with a sweet-and-savoury sticky miso caramel, the tender chunks of pineapple were served with a sharply refreshing coconut sorbet, embellished with delicate edible flowers.
A plate of mochi wasn’t amiss either, the chewy outer layer of pounded rice flour revealing a silky-smooth burst of ice cream with flavours running the gamut from matcha to mango!
It’s not often that I find myself lusting for a job in the City – and yet this is all that I could dream of on hearing word of the soon-to-launch takeaway poke and matcha bar next door!
But the greatest appeal of the Ned perhaps, is that it’s a one-stop-spot for the evening – where you might pop in for a quick post-work drink, only to be easily tempted to stay on, whether to feed your passion for poke or to pursue an Italian affair (at Cecconi’s), tuck into a matzo ball soup (at the Jewish-style New York deli, Zobler’s) or walk on a virtuously-healthy path (at Malibu Kitchen).
Even a visit to the ladies room is in itself an event, with this likely to be one of the loveliest loos in London!
Now if only I could race my way up the members’ club waiting list in time for summer… Those rooftop pool views beckon.
The Ned, 27 Poultry, London EC2R 8AJ
For more new & noteworthy openings in London, flick through to my rolling round-up, here