A top spot for brunch. By Angela Zaher
Don’t just focus on the destination, you need to enjoy the journey. And so, Saturday brunch at The Standard’s Decimo restaurant begins with being ushered into the exterior red pill elevator (everything here has an American lilt in line with the hotel chain’s US brand; loos are “washrooms”). You are then elegantly whisked up to the 10th floor whilst being serenaded with the breathtaking views of London’s King Cross area where the magnificent Victorian red-bricked St. Pancras Hotel lies side by side with Google’s futuristic horizontal skyscraper. It’s an exciting ride and you are already buzzing with glee by the time you arrive on the 10th.
Stepping into Decimo, despite it being an overcast and rainy Saturday, fills one with warmth and sunshine thanks to the burnt orange and earthy hues punctuated with vibrant green cacti and succulents. It’s like a 1970’s extremely glamorous Mexican beachside villa where Hollywood stars might vacation. Macrame curtains, taverna style furniture upholstered in luxurious velvets with Missoni style prints add softness to a space that wows but doesn’t overwhelm. This is relaxed luxury (but don’t go in flip flops, shorts, or ties- the warning is on their website).
If, like me, you consider brevity to be a virtue then Michelin-starred chef Peter Sanchez-Iglesias’ Saturday Brunch menu will delight. It’s available between 12-2pm and sits alongside their fuller day menu but if a proper brunch with bold and challenging flavours that will set the tone for an adventurous weekend is what you are after, you only need this small but perfectly formed menu. Baja tacos (fried fish filling) are served individually, two types of sharing tacos; one meat, one veg, two types of egg dishes; tortilla or a baked egg dish which are also good to share. It’s a menu that encourages togetherness, tactile eating, messiness.
We kicked off with two contrasting cocktails. Fuego: a champagne cocktail. Dainty and elegant to begin with, served in a coupe. But the coupe is empty save for a sugar cube injected with smoked chilli and paprika bitters and Oloroso (aged) sherry. The champagne comes in a small lab beaker allowing you to be the mixologist in this experiment. Part Marilyn Monroe, part Walter White. The other, a Michelada- a Mexican bloody mary with Estrella beer- is a standard, robust cocktail but when expertly balanced like this was, even Marilyn Monroe might forsake her glass of champagne for it.
We shared a gambas rojas tortilla. As perfectly round, tempting and glazed as a donut, but when cut into, it oozed egg gloriously. As delicious to eat as to look at.
Decimo is known for its use of the charcoal grill for most of the food that the kitchen produces so expectations were high for the half grilled chicken. This comes cut up in a pan surrounded by a deep red sauce with just the right amount of heat made with annatto adobo seeds (a mild Latin American spice that colours cheeses like Red Leicester). It was as succulent as we hoped with a charred skin that sets the saliva glands going. The chicken is served with a stack of homemade corn tortillas and a variety of small dishes filled with fresh piatonne bean (flat green beans) and spring onion salad, jalapenos, salsa verde and salsa tatemada (a rich smoky salsa of charred chillies, tomatoes, onions and garlic). You grab a tortilla and pile it up as little or as much as you like from the side dishes, a chunk or two of chicken and a squeeze of a lime wedge before wrapping and eating. I would not say this is an ideal first date dish; sauce seeps out, chins get covered in dribble and fingers need regular wiping on the once white napkin. But if you want to convey how seriously you take your food from the get go, then this may be the perfect place to start.
The only downside to Saturday brunch at the Decimo is that it’s difficult to prise yourself away. The temptation to lounge languorously, watching beautiful people come and go for the whole weekend in this retro chic and uplifting setting, is powerful.
Decimo at The Standard, 10 Argyle Street, London WC1H 8EG