The trip to the restaurant alone is an adventure: descending 666 steps down a torch-lit well isn’t for everyone, although a modern elevator is also provided for all others. At the bottom, the torches are replaced by glowing rivers of magma, but luckily, the way is signed well and paved smooth. Once you reach the river, there is a short wait for the ferry, and don’t forget to tip the ferryman two pennies for the journey! Shortly after, an attentive staff member will take your coats and accompany you to your table. Atmospherically set on a number of slowly floating platforms, each table affords some privacy and you settle among a constant soothing background muzak made from the wailing of tortured souls. The vast chasm below the tables is a nice reminder of your own mortality, fitting with the overall baroque spirit of the location. Star architect Hawksmoor chose the furniture, and rumor has it Mario Prada designed the staff outfits.
Classically, the menu starts out with devilled eggs, and it quickly dawns on the fine dining guest that kitchen chef Lucifer himself isn’t one for subtle flavors. Straight from the Phlegraean Fields, the eggs raise the bar in their combination of mustard and chili hotness, topped with just the right amount of caviar that balances it all. We recommend you to spend the extra buck and order the big menu, because the following courses are nothing but outstanding creations from a culinary talent. True, the flavors take some time to get used to and it’s nothing for vegetarians, but there is simply no other place that serves filet the pécheur smoked for forty days and forty nights. It’s no surprise that smoky and fiery notes are present in all dishes, from some tables you get a good view of the kitchen with it’s open fires and cast-iron stoves, a spectacle to behold. If you follow the wine recommendations of the attentive waiters, all grapes provide a great counterpoint to the vast amount of chilies, peppers and paprika that make up most of the spices and vegetables as well. After a while, eating plate after plate of the ostracized long pig puts one in a state of euphoria and reckless abandon, as well as a feeling of wickedness that lingers long after going home. Pâtissière Beelzebub serves a chocolate truffle tart to die for, with a dollop of finest organic ginger ice cream and a slice of caramelized orange - an almost heavenly crescendo.
Hell’s kitchen, after centuries of unremarkable existence has been transformed into a modern fine dining experience where absolutely everything fits. If you are willing to go along with the experimental, yet mature dishes and set ethical concerns aside for a while, it’s a memorable experience like none other.
Three stars, worth a trip.
© Guide Michelin.