For a new opening to stand out in London’s crowded restaurant scene, it needs either an attention-grabbing concept or a knockout menu. Humo has both, which explains the laudatory reviews and the instant popularity: when we visited on Wednesday evening, there wasn’t a spare seat in the place. (Although the restaurant only covers 34 so there aren’t that many seats to begin with.)
Like many a Mayfair restaurant, HUMO could easily pass for a high-end nightclub, albeit a nightclub where someone has built a large bonfire in the middle of it. There’s even a little cocktail bar in the corner for patrons to enjoy an aperitif while waiting for their table.
So here’s the concept: Humo doesn’t use electricity or gas to grill its ingredients but wood, numerous different types of wood. (You have your British oak, your birch, your walnut…) Different woods impart different subtleties of flavour. That’s the idea, anyway, and I’ll take their word for it. Certainly the flavours I encountered were very good indeed.
Sit at the bar and you're practically in the kitchen as the team painstakingly prepare multiple delicacies on a four-metre grill. The kitchen itself is a magnificent construction of wood, steel and fire – your face will literally be warmed by the flames cooking your food. The experience, conversely, is very, very cool.
What to order?
Chef Miller Prada draws inspiration from his native Colombia, the Michelin-starred Endo at the Rotunda where he worked for six years, and the Italian heritage of his head chef. The a la carte menu is split into four sections: Ignite, Smoke, Flame, Embers. (Six, I suppose, if you count the Smoke and Flame Vegetarian menus.) Alternatively, you can opt for a six-step tasting menu selected by Chef Prada himself. Obviously we went for the tasting menu.
Dishes change on a daily basis so while I can’t promise you the same experience, I can vouch that yours will be delicious. Ours started with a deboned Lancashire chicken wing coated in a honey glaze. It was wonderful, like eating a little cushion of perfectly cooked flesh. Even better was the seven-days trout with caviar. The trout is sliced into ribbons, its freshness balancing perfectly against the caviar's sharp tang.
Amid all this meat, one of the highlights was a salad! A garden salad, good enough to make a T Rex go vegan. The leaves are flavoured with a special miso dressing only used here; smashed potatoes provide the muscle and East Sussex sancho peppers supply the crunch. It’s followed by slices of scallop and fresh pear covered in a wonderful Speyside sabayon.
Cornish lamb is a worthy climax. Two lollipops of meat perfectly cooked on the bone. Savour every scrap, mop up all the beetroot sauce. Then polish off the creme brulee concoction that arrives for dessert. You may want to share it – we've very much reached the loosened belt stage of the evening.
Each course has its own wine pairing. All were good, a few were exceptional. Organic Demaines Salles wine is a crisp delight. A light Matthiasson from the Napa Valley packs a fine punch; it may float like a butterfly but its sting is considerably more pleasant than the average bee’s. And then there’s 12 Volts, with a body that Ellie MacPherson would envy. Cool name, even cooler label depicting cartoon mammals frolicing over a history of WW2 written in German.
What’s the damage?
Look, it ain’t cheap. The tasting menu is £105 per person, with another £79 if you fancy the paired wines. You’ll spend less if you go a la carte but not vastly so: most dishes are above £20 and you’ll want to order a few. Ditto, the vast majority of the wine will set you back £50 a bottle at the absolute minimum.
The question, as always, isn’t how much money are you spending but do you get value for it? With Humo, the answer is yes, you very much do. You know where your money’s gone; just be prepared that quite a lot of it will be going.
Anything else to note?
Don't want sit with the Muggles? Book into Abajo by Humo – a 10-seater chef's table situated downstairs, priced at £130 per person. Reservations open on the first t of each month for the following month, Friday and Saturday evenings only.
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12 St George St, London W1S 2FB; Humo