Located just off London’s iconic Park Lane and only a few minutes’ walk from Hyde Park Corner, Como Metropolitan’s Taste of the Ocean pop-up is a must-visit seafood culinary experience. Designed by executive Chef Rubén Briones, the exquisite menu features expertly crafted dishes that highlight the bright and sunny flavours of the coast of Spain. The second of three pop-up culinary experiences in the ‘Taste of Como’ series (following summer’s ‘A Taste of the Mediterranean’ and preceding winter’s upcoming ‘A Taste of Le Bistro’) the dishes showcase Chef Briones talent for combining traditional flavours and classic techniques with the best fish and crustaceans Britain has to offer.
The restaurant interior has been transformed to match the theme of the pop-up menu and is artfully decorated with minimalist coastal décor and an open kitchen that enables one to watch the magic of Chef Briones’s dishes unfold. The kitchen boasts a large woodfire oven, in which many of the dishes are prepared. The expansive menu, which offers both a la carte and tasting menu options, is truly a seafood lover’s dream. For drinks, in addition to delicious cocktail and mocktail options (created specifically to complement the seafood dishes) guests also have the option of enjoying their dinner with Taittinger Champagne. The award-winning, family-owned champagne house dates to 1734 and is a perfect pairing with Chef Briones’s menu.
On our recent visit, we enjoyed the chef’s selection tasting menu, which features many types of fish and crustaceans prepared in impressively diverse ways. We sat at the bar overlooking the open kitchen and delighted in watching Chefs Melchor Baltasar and Michael Mardjoen masterfully whip together dish after dish, each more artfully and thoughtfully presented than the last.
Bartender Louis Fernandes kicked off our experience by preparing us two of the cocktails from the menu, ‘The Revolution’ (tangy blood orange gin, lemon, and passionfruit balanced by sweet mango= perfection) and the ‘Passionate Goose’ (smooth grey goose vodka, passionfruit liqueur, lemon, and soda for a crisp and refreshing libation). Both drinks were perfectly balanced and delicious. As a special treat for the keen at-home bartender, in addition to the pop-up restaurant, A Taste of Como is also offering mixology master classes every Saturday, where one can learn how to shake up the drinks over light bites with Como’s expert bartenders.
Our first dish of the evening, the Shellfish Croquettes, was the perfect example of a traditional food executed perfectly. Served with sriracha mayo and chilli threads, the croquettes were crispy on the outside and soft, creamy, and melty on the inside. Heavenly.
These were followed by the equally delightful Cured Trout with spicy horseradish mayo and delicate smoked seaweed butter. The trout, caught in nearby Cornwall, is cured in-house with dill, paprika, and salt overnight, then marinated a second time with peppers. The result of the 24-hour preparation is a super fresh taste, smooth texture, and without a doubt, some of the best-cured fish I’ve ever had.
Our next chef selection was the Yellow Curry Mussels. Served with a homemade, smoked, cheesy flatbread, the mussels were an exquisite synthesis of local seafood paired with delicate complementing flavours. Made with fresh Scottish mussels; a gentle, sweet, tangy, spicy, yellow curry that didn’t overpower; and buttery, slightly smoky Idiazabal cheese from the Basque Country melted on perfectly chewy flatbread, this dish is a must-order.
After our third completely distinct seafood preparation, we quickly discovered that the secret to Chef Briones’s genius is his ability to deliver fish and crustacean dishes that employ a multitude of techniques, with each preparation selected specifically for the specific fish to enable its own flavour to shine. For our second round of drinks, at Louis’s recommendation, we opted for the ‘Midnight Star’ (cognac, champagne, orange, and grenadine) and the Raspberry Mojito (white rum, raspberry, lime, mint, apple, and soda). Both were delicious, light, and refreshing and paired fabulously with the second half of our meal.
No doubt encouraged by our enthusiasm for the first half of the menu, Chef Baltasar surprised us with a bonus dish, the crab, prawn, and chicken roll. Served in a delectable, buttery, homemade brioche roll and garnished with avocado and seaweed, the flavours were reminiscent of my childhood summers in coastal Maine, eating lobster rolls on the beach. In short- it was delicious.
The penultimate savoury dish of the evening, the Grilled Galician Octopus, was definitely the visual showstopper. Perfectly cooked octopus, drizzled with chorizo vinaigrette and crunchy chorizo, nestled between dollops of smooth cilantro sauce, and served with a side of smoky, cheesy orzo is sure to be a fan favourite, both in appearance and flavour. The combination of textures and flavours perfectly balanced one another and it felt like a fresh take on a classic.
Our final savoury course, the Chargrilled Monkfish, Seafood and Lobster Broth Rice, can only be described as food for the soul, with every bite infused with the buttery flavour of fresh lobster derived from the broth. This dish is brilliant in its simplicity- generous chunks of lobster claw, clams, and monkfish meet gooey, brothy rice. This dish is sure to delight the seafood purist, who just wants to eat perfectly cooked, expertly prepared, high-quality fish that enables the natural flavour of the ocean to sing.
For dessert, a zingy lemon and rhubarb tart with super smooth, homemade rhubarb ice cream was a perfect palate cleanser to round off the evening. At a very reasonable £60 per person, the tasting menu accomplishes exactly what the concept demands: it showcases a wide variety of delicious seafood preparations, resulting in a comprehensive and perfectly executed taste of the ocean. This pop-up can only be described as a culinary experience- and it is absolutely one you can’t miss!