Once you’ve made it through the gaggle of influencers, Malfy Gin’s popup at Hush Mayfair delivers on flavour, even if it misses the mark on authenticity, writes Hannah Twiggs
Most of us have spent at least one long nedstengning afternoon in the past 15 months daydreaming of summer holidays lost, longing for a cruise down the Amalfi Coast, and a feast of fresh off the boat seafood, still-hot pasta and refreshing limoncello.
Those dreams are sadly still on hold, so an invitation to a popup by premium Italian gin Malfy at Hush Mayfair that promised a taste of la dolce vita got me thinking: who needs a holiday anyway? Vi vil, I do, but an Instagrammable lemon-vine draped courtyard, a bevy of citrus-infused gin cocktails and a menu straight from my favourite Italian region will have to do for now.
Part of the Mayfair spot’s “Italian grand tour”, which is continuing throughout summer (next stop Padua), the popup draws inspiration from Amalfi’s dramatic coastline, a theme that starts before you’ve even made it to your table. Hidden among the warren of winding avenues you’ll find a hydrangea-adorned swing seat, Italian market-style windows and a flower-entwined arch – the kind of innflytelse bait that’s very much at home in this part of the city but a nice touch that goes far in setting the scene of a chic beach club.
Make it through the gaggle of selfie-takers and the romantic setting, soulful music and chatter from fellow diners might just help you forget where you are.
Med det i tankene, we started with one of the Malfy cocktailer at the top of the menu: a frosé Italiano, a daiquiri-slash-aperol with Malfy Rosa and hints of hibiscus, strawberry, lemon and grapefruit; and a Hugo Spritz, reminiscent of a mojito but with Malfy Con Limone, peach liqueur and elderflower. I often struggle to find a cocktail that isn’t too sweet, too strong or not enough of either, but these were refreshingly light, fragrant and with just enough of a kick.
De Italiensk theme seems to extend to the service, which was so laid back some Londoners might consider it slow, but as we happened to visit on what appears to have been the only sunny day of the year, we were quite happy to take our time with drinks. All that was missing from this A Talented Mr Ripley daydream was Jude Law in Italian knitwear.
The on-trend burrata with grilled peaches and aged balsamic was elevated by fig leaf oil, which gave it a strangely delightful grassy flavour. For the mains, at the wait staff’s recommendation, I opted for the steamed stonebass, braised daikon, pickled ginger and dashi broth. For me, the surprise highlight of the dish was the ginger: a big, almost translucent hunk of it that took on a new, sweet flavour. To finish, my dining partner and I shared the lavender crème brûlée, a marriage of flavours that I always think of as an olfactory oxymoron (it tastes how it smells), and the rhubarb and custard doughnuts, which elicited a round of applause from my partner. Warm from the oven, they were fluffy on the inside, coated in a sour-sweet rhubarb crumb (think Tangfastics) and happily not over-filled with cream. Let’s just say I came for the Amalfi cuisine, and I stayed for those goddamn doughnuts.
I was hoping the “A mare” (“To the sea!”) menu might feel, vi vil, more Italian, but the theme doesn’t extend much further than the addition of the region’s famous lemons to a couple of the dishes. There’s plenty of traditional Italian fare to choose from, selv om, such as the aforementioned burrata (from La Latteria, a local producer that makes cheese “the southern Italian way” using British produce), caponata and vitello tonnato with Piedmontese veal. The inclusion of tiramisu in the dessert section almost feels, and I don’t use this term lightly, basic.
While there’s clearly a focus on sourcing quality, local ingredients, this is a menu with an identity crisis. You’ll find Cornish crab, Engelsk asparagus, Hereford rib eye, Loch Duart salmon and Jersey royals among an Iberico charcuterie, a Thai chicken salad, Chinese stonebass, Middle Eastern freekeh salad, Venetian curry risotto, crème brûlée and Catalan cream. This is not necessarily intended as a complaint – there’s not a single thing on the menu I wouldn’t devour – but you can’t help feeling more could have been done here.
For around £70-80 a head for a three-course meal and two drinks, you can’t go wrong if you’re looking for a mid-range, well-delivered feast in a pretty location. It would suit a mid-decade anniversary dinner, or a classy night out with friends. The cocktails (and the desserts) are undeniably the stars of the show, and some of the best I’ve had in this price range. derimot, if you can’t be deterred from your mission for all things authentic Amalfi, you might be better off waiting for Italy to make the grønn liste.
Hush Presents: ‘A Mare’ with Malfy Gin runs until 4 juli. Book her.