‘I like ridiculous things. I am one’
When everyone asks what Hide, the new, multi-floor dining extravaganza on Piccadilly, is like, I say the journey to the loo is like swirling around inside an enormous acorn. A vast, oak staircase transports you from “Above”, the restaurant upstairs, to the bathroom, which smells like distilled autumn and plays piped Captain Beefheart. And when others ask me what Hide is like, I say it’s basically a whopping, glass-fronted luxury car showroom with Ollie Dabbous at the stoves.
If you book for the tasting menu at Above (there’s a slightly-lesshigh-end room downstairs called “Ground”), you end up eating at eye level with the top-deck passengers on the buses heading to Piccadilly Circus, which makes you feel a bit like a Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII in the window of HR Owen. At this point, some readers may be quite irate that I’m claiming “everyone” is obsessed with all-new Hide when they’ve never even heard of it. I sympathise – it’s like this, I know, in the provinces – but I assure you, in fancy London, it’s the most ruminated-over opening of 2018.
Hide is what occurs when umpteen billion Russian mobilephone shop roubles collide with a talented, albeit baldly whimsical wunderkind chef: 400 covers, all-day dining, 200 staff; a place where the sommelier hands you an iPad that boasts 4,000 wines, the most expensive being the 2004 Penfolds Block 42 at £120,000. Pre-snacks arrive skewered on feathers and china bones. Hide reportedly has its own car lift, so both Trump and Kanye, say, could turn up incognito to eat raw bluefin tuna with prickly ash and Exmoor caviar in one of the five private dining rooms. The paid, meanwhile, can stuff their daft faces with slivers of king crab with baked turnip. Or burnt liquorice root marshmallow served on broken plates. Hide is definitely ridiculous, but I like ridiculous things. I am one myself.
“Bring me something that costs around £50 a bottle and is drinkable,” I said, passing the sommelier back his iPad. His face struggled to suppress a whimper. En route, I’d
sworn this would not be another gaspingly pricey expenses claim, where, with three or four incremental half-tipsy nods, I add a further £300 to the bill. And it’s so very easily done: optional extra courses, truffle gratings, pudding supplements, etc. Wine flights are especially vicious. Still, even by batting away cheese fees and coffees like a fine-dining ninja, and ordering a humble bottle of Portuguese Parcela Unica, we still whipped through £420 on two £95 tasting menus. The vegetarian option swaps turbot and Herdwick lamb for pulverised beetroot, celeriac origami, rose petals and an abundance of asparagus wearing different hats and glasses.
I’m still not entirely certain if Hide was a good time, but I feel relieved that I’ve witnessed it. In reality, it’s far less Las Vegas and far more “just a big restaurant” than the screaming hype suggested. No presidents or rap gods were eating upstairs, and the downstairs crowd was wildly normal. Well, you can’t serve that many covers and keep out drab-faced office crowds.
The Corpse Reviver No 2 – gin, Lillet blanc, fresh lemon juice, Cointreau and absinthe – I drank in “Below”, the basement bar, is certainly the greatest I’ve tasted in London. The religieuse pudding, the finale of 10 courses, was heartflutteringly splendid: a delicate, teal-blue tower of jasmine and wild pea flower-infused sponge, cream and gold leaf served with a tiny glass beaker of the most fabulously potent cold-brew jasmine tea. The pre-dessert of “garden ripple” ice-cream, a Fungus the Bogeyman blob of emerald meadow freshness served on a block of ice, was delightful, too. The other nine or so courses, both meat- and veg-facing, were a harmless woodland ramble. Turbot appears in a light, crushed nasturtium broth. A delicate offering of celeriac envelopes diced avocado strewn with angelica seeds.
We eat and eat, as is often the way in such places, without really eating at all. A bowl of charred kale laced with punchy, birch sap-enhanced goose is certainly unforgettable. On our woodland odyssey, this is something the Blair Witch might leave outside your tent. Possibly my favourite course, white asparagus in a filthily good slick of salty hazelnut praline, left me quite hair-tossingly ecstatic. But if you’d been on the number 19 bus heading to Piccadilly, you probably know this already. For a restaurant with five private dining rooms, there are very few places to hide.