A friend (Miss M) and I decided to hit up Hotel Hotel’s new restaurant/eatery/bar/thing, Monster, last night before seeing an early film.
Hotel Hotel is located within the trendy Nishi Building in New Acton, the same building that houses residential apartments, Palace Electric Cinemas, a Government Department, and a newly opened Max Brenner. You’ve probably seen pictures of Nishi’s famous staircase, and at the top of those stairs is an open area, belonging to Hotel Hotel. The space is dark and moody, and houses a bar, tables for dining, tables for casual drinks and the hotel reception. It’s kind of a weird space, and the tables are confusing shapes and layouts – some tables I thought were for groups of 6/8 were actually for four but because of their awkward shape everyone seems to sit either really close or really far away from each other.
The film started at 6:30, so we rocked up to Monster at 5:30; thankfully they do food that early! As the space has many uses, we weren’t quite sure where to “check in” for our dinner – especially since we hadn’t booked. Thankfully the host (maître Dee? head waiter???) saw us looking lost and approached us. We were sat at the weirdest shaped table, which I couldn’t quite fit in to one picture, so here’s a drawing (the black dots are seats for parties of two):
The menu for Monster is split in to two types of food – a bar menu (small snack dishes) and sharing plates (about the size of a normal meal, but you order a bunch and share). The host explained that for the two of us “a couple of dishes from the bar plates, and 3 from the sharing plates” would do the trick. Miss M and I exchange incredulous looks; how much did this guy think we could eat? And how much money did he think we had – the dishes are quite pricey! I must admit we had to google a couple of the dish elements – ‘Jamón iberico de bellota’ (I understood ‘Ham’) and ‘beef kibbeh nayeh’ (I understood ‘beef’).
Our helpful host then returned and offered to assist with any menu translations we required – and in being so helpful, he actually insulted us. I believe he said something along the lines of “I speak chef, I also speak bogan – so I can translate chef to bogan, and bogan to chef”. Ahem.
As I have a stomach the size of your average computer mouse, I don’t need a lot of food – so we decided on ONE bar dish, and ONE sharing plate.
We decided to start with the ‘Labneh, dukkah, rose served with warm sourdough’ ($12).
Oh god, I’m still thinking about this dish today. It is the perfect bar food, substantial and filling but still bursting with flavours and textures. If I could have fit in more than one piece of sourdough, I would order the whole plate to myself – true to my form, I did continue to eat when I should have stopped. The sourdough was indeed warm, it was toasted perfectly so it wasn’t hard but still stable enough to deal with the labneh I heaped upon it. The labneh and dukkah worked perfectly together, the spices and nuts in the dukkah offered depth of flavour and a nice crunch against the smoothness of the cheese.
If I was in a more relaxed setting, I would have licked the plate.
We then kept up our Middle Eastern theme with the ‘Pulled lamb shoulder, pistachio, yoghurt, vine leaf, pomegranate and brik’ sharing plate ($28).
First up, don’t expect to be able to share this plate between two people. It is not big. It also has no ‘sides’, you order those separately. But that didn’t really matter to us as we’d just eaten our weight in bread and the lamb worked in beautiful as a follow up. The flavours from both dishes complimented each other perfectly. Serious hat tip to us for our ordering skills last night.
Although you can’t see it very well in the picture, the lamb was straight up delicious. The meat fell away in flawless morsels and it had a strong meaty flavour, which matched perfectly with the other elements of the dish. The brik – crunchy pastry – was flaky and crisp; the pomegranate was a sweet hit amongst the savoury flavours; the pistachios offered a crunchy texture and (duh!) a nutty flavour; the yoghurt was smooth and helped to bring the dish together; and the vine leaves were crunchy and fun. I really liked this dish. A lot. In my mind I was again threatening to lick the plate.
The service at Monster, though friendly in general, was weird. Apart from our unknowingly insulting (but well meaning) host, the wait staff around the floor would deliver or pick up dishes from the table without saying a word. They seemed to float in the space, not quite doing anything except bringing plates – I saw one guy fixing up the position of a dining chair for about 5 minutes (hint: you put it against the table with the legs under the space under the table). Once the host took our order, we didn’t see him again until he was offering us dessert, which we declined due to full stomachs and time constraints.
Thankfully we settled our bill swiftly, and we made our film in perfect timing. Also thankfully we were able to get the hell away from our table quickly – a couple sitting near us had just been delivered the stinkiest fish I’ve ever encountered at a restaurant!
I must say, I really wanted to hate Monster. There was a lot I didn’t like about the space, the setup, the creepy waiter who appeared out of nowhere with our dish and scared the shit out of me – but you cannot fault the food; what we ate last night was fantastic.