Style appears to be as important as substance at Mezemiso, a Japanese-Lebanese fusion and London’s newest luxury rooftop cocktail bar and restaurant.
The experience begins as soon as you step inside the glass elevator at the Crowne Plaza Albert Embankment. In a flash, it whisks guests from the lobby to the 14th floor, offering panoramic vistas over the city as it ascends.
The view improves further in the restaurant London’s landmarks in plain sight through floor-to-ceiling window. Inside, no expense has been spared on the essentials – the chairs, tables and bar stools all have a luxurious feeling of weight to them.
An artistic interpretation of the River Thames, which flows below, is set in the floor and guides you through the restaurant to the terrace, where shisha and cigars can be enjoyed as the sun sets of the Houses of Parliament.
As the name suggests, Mezemiso is a fusion of Japanese and Lebanese cuisine, but instead of actually combining the two in some clever fashion, they have kept them starkly separate.
Executive chef Madlene El Saikali is responsible for the Lebanese side and he shares the kitchen with head sushi chef, Victor Klomu. Both are very well established in their respective areas of expertize, but they have made no attempt to collaborate in any tangible sense.
The Lebanese menu is traditional in its offerings. Appetizers include an indulgent hummus topped with lamb shawarmaa and freshly baked pitta. A cold serving of rice-filled vine leaves balanced out the heaviness of the hummus very well.
Attempting to compliment these sharing plates with anything from the Japanese side is a tall order. The scallop and prawn gyoza was in itself delicious but clashed heavily with the above. Meanwhile, the crispy duck baozi were a big disappointment with the meat dry and the steamed bun flat.
A show-stopper of a main course came from the Lebanese side. Mezemiso claim to be the first restaurant in London to offer the salted fish, a whole seabass encased in a salt shell.
This salt shell is cracked open tableside, allowing guests to enjoy the pleasant aromas as they are released. Encasing it in over four pounds of salt means all the flavors are retained inside. It produces one of the most tender pieces of fish you are likely to taste.
However, it was not without its problems. Firstly, along with the filleted fish were the inevitable inclusions of some salt crystals, which led to several very salty mouthfuls.
For dessert, a Lebanese version of a cheesecake, made with knafeh dough, tasted just as good as it looked. It was crunchy, light and well seasoned with jasmine, offering a quintessential north African flavor and a welcome hit of sweet after the sour main dish.
A dessert wine cocktail complimented it well. The drinks menu was impressively expansive. It is an indication that once the summer sun returns, Mezemiso will be one of the hottest drinking spots in town.
As for the food, the overriding sense is that it will be best enjoyed by sticking to one side of the menu. That grinds against the restaurant’s philosophy of sharing every dish. Inevitably, most diners will choose from both menus and find their palates being pulled in too many directions.
There is, however, great potential at Mezemiso and guests will be enamored by the knowledgable waiting staff, decadent surroundings and wonderful views.
The style is most definitely there and the substance may not be too far away.