On the first of what will likely be many times you pay a visit to Humo, one of the newest restaurants to debut in the finely gilded Mayfair streets, you’ll note a few good things about its arrangement of trout and caviar. The freshwater fish, recognised for its mild flavour and soda-orange flesh, is brought from the waters of Hampshire and prepared with the ikejime method, a Japanese slaughter technique considered the most humane way to kill produce of this type. It’s aged just shy of three weeks, marinated in juniper, smoked with its branches and softly scorched with a bit of applewood. It’s flashed gracefully and cleanly under a knife, sectioned into seven equal blocks, each the size of a small chocolate truffle. Matured caviar, grilled faintly in konbu kelp, is spooned on top.
And the experience, when it lands in your mouth, is a pretty mind-bending thing, enough to snap you from the sinkable comforts of your plush seat, with the soft, ripe feel that can take your mind to a high-dining Roppongi sushi-ya, but with the barest wisp of sweet smoke that makes it taste as though it’s been held by the hands of a Charleston whole-hog pitmaster. It is as much a gesture of artistry as it is of cooking dinner.
Trout and caviar
For a city that is tough to surpass in its diversity – rich in its technology, spoilt in its science, forward in its fashion and where chefs have long been celebrated for their trompe-l’œil fruit pâtés, their skill at plating produce with little intervention, and their ability to boil pasta to a Bolognese-worthy chew – there still remains an immovable fixation with the primitive notion of live fire. It’s a school of muscled cooking that has brought renown to chefs Lee Tiernan, Neil Campbell and Neil Rankin, and the experience, when it’s just right, is total immersion: the jumping of flames, the enigmatic shadows of the smoke, lumps of coal and wooden logs jumbled in a flickering high-heat inferno, and the feeling of pure lust as you study raw cuts of meat, mounds of vegetables and fresh slaps of fish flavoured by a method as old as time.
Humo chef Miller Prada, an acolyte of Endo Kazutoshi, a hero of the sushisphere, is one of the latest to build his philosophy around fire, his debut dining room centred on a four-metre-long grill, his menu providing abstract details of the heat and intensity levels that each of his dishes receives. But while the kitchens at Black Axe Mangal, Rovi and Temper bend towards an aggressive freestyling with the oven and pit, lulling diners into dinnertime hazes with their blistered flatbreads, their charred peppers and their crusted hunks of sirloin, Prada waltzes with the subtlety of the flame, enhancing tastes rather than charcoaling them entirely. While others Pollock, Prada is moderate, almost discreet in his application.
So there’s a turbot exposed to oak embers, its clean taste modulated with the curried hit of a sauce made from the bones, and enhanced by the sweet hints of plump morels. Highland beef, perfectly composed with bits of yamadashi kelp and singed leek, explodes with the juice, the chew and the pleasure of the most peerless item you’d find in a first-rate steak restaurant, not as overwhelmingly concentrated as a pricier cut, but mineral-rich, transcendent and condensed into a couple of superb bites of brown-and-scarlet meat and just right with a sip or two of the fiery-sweet grapefruit slap of the ‘Anillo de Fuego’ cocktail.
But before you dream of those majestic proteins gliding to your table, there’ll be a trio of ice-cream-scoop-sized hunks of cauliflower that’ve been cooked under silver-birch ashes and finished over its embers, singing with a sweet cream of Rokko miso, yuzu and clementine, showered with bits of nori, and truffled heavily with a wonderful blizzard of a Spanish winter variety. Stout spears of West Highlands langoustine are anointed with a bit fermented Kissabel apples and wrapped with a flatbread and a sluice of sauce made from its brain. If it’s in play, the segmented scallop, hand-dived in Orkney and barbecued over half-century-old whisky barrels, is moistened by a sabayon with a little white konbu; and you likely won’t leave a dinner here without trying the chips of salsify and Jerusalem artichoke that have been sweetened by brown butter and perfumed with Aylesbury oak, spectacular enough to be a main on its own.
And then there’s the blissful ending. Even with the mercurial, erratic spirit of grill-and-pit cooking, a chemists’s precision is brought to the dessert plate. What is listed as ‘La Andina’ is a composition of gorgeous cream made from Lancashire milk, plugged into a hollowed-out Colombian granadilla, a type of mild passionfruit that Prada devoured amorously as a child, and warmed until it resembles something like a creme brûlée – just without the bitter-sugar layer – a gentle, giving pudding that reminds you of why you’re glad you never listened to your dentist’s advice to lay off the sweet stuff.
On some nights, you may finish with the babà, a soft sponge split in half, with a quenelle of ice-cream enriched with barley koji and a scattering of caramelised grain-of-paradise seeds, noted for their aromatic, complex spice. For a fleeting second you may think of the finest brasserie you visited when last in Paris. But you are not in the alleyways of Le Pigalle or Le Marais, you are in Miller Prada’s universe of fire cooking – and, in his universe, everything he touches is pretty damn hot.
- Humo, 12 St George Street, London W1S 2FB, humolondon.com
- Starters from £12; mains from £24; desserts from £14
Want more food recommendations? Read our review of Kuro, a restaurant where everything just feels right…
Become a Gentleman’s Journal member. Find out more here.
Become a Gentleman’s Journal Member?
Like the Gentleman’s Journal? Why not join the Clubhouse, a special kind of private club where members receive offers and experiences from hand-picked, premium brands. You will also receive invites to exclusive events, the quarterly print magazine delivered directly to your door and your own membership card.