Regular visitors to London's Soho, China Town and Piccadilly areas cannot failed to have noticed the huge shiny edifice that has gone up in the place of the old Swiss Centre. Pale, sleek and shiny, it stands out like a sore thumb from the smaller, and mostly much older, buildings surrounding it, especially those at the lower end of Wardour Street.
This is the new W Hotel, part of a well known global chain of modern and (self-labelled) cool hotels.
A friend had enjoyed a great lunch in the hotel's Spice Market restaurant so was keen for us to visit for dinner when we last met up, earlier in April.
I quite liked the funky interior – a blend of pseudo-Asian and funky modern.
But I was put off immediately by the low table and chairs – within 5 minutes I was fidgeting about trying to work out where to put my legs, within half an hour, I was really uncomfortable and by the time I was left I felt I'd been shoehorned into a kiddie play house for a day. For this reason alone, I will not be going back, regardless of the food…
Still, I was dining with a dear friend, we both had lots to catch up on, so we quickly ordered and got on with the business at hand – chatting.
The menu meanders across much of South-East Asia. My friend warned that portion sizes were "huge", so we restrained ourselves. In fact, I didn't find them any larger than standard, though our two starters and two mains were plenty between us.
We both started with raspberry lychee bellinis, which were very good indeed. My friend went on to have some wine. I stuck to tap water, which the staff refilled regularly.
Salt and Pepper Squid with Yuzu Dip and Pickled Chilli (£9) was so so; a bit chewy and uninspiring. My (cheap) local takeaway does better.
Fragrant Mushroom Egg Rolls with Galangal Emulsion (£7.50) were an improvement, though still didn't wow. The dip didn't really go well with the rolls, though they were decent enough.
The Nonya Seafood Laksa with Gulf Shrimp and Scallop (£22) was very tasty. Despite the poncy foam with dribbles of orange and green oils across it, the flavours were excellent and the prawn and scallop of good size, though only one of each, with just a couple of other pieces of seafood besides.
The Grilled Rib Eye with Garlic, Coriander and Sesame (£24) was also delicious, served over a bed of pak choi and with a decent serving of that vivid, punchy sauce over the top. I really liked this.
The welcome was warm and service remained friendly and helpful throughout the evening… perhaps because there were so very few other diners to look after? Of course, that's not surprising, given the prices – I assume they are set to match the expectations of the hotel clientele but they are way too high for the area, given its proximity to China Town.
Given those prices, plus the hit-miss quality of the food, this is not likely to be a destination I visit again.