BURO. food critic Frankie McCoy visits The Standard’s Decimo
Very cool bars have never been my natural habitat. The problem, I think, is that I am not very cool. I’ve sat in Chiltern Firehouse for 40 minutes ignored by hot girl servers; stood outside The Box in the rain at 2am watching beautiful people slink in before me. I’ve spent half the night at Annabel's in the toilets… reading the Guardian on my phone, rather than confront my deep insecurities in the cool crowd outside. Very cool bars reinstate me as a butterball bookworm of a child, wide as I was tall, head buried in a nineteenth century novel.
But now I’ve fallen for a very cool bar. It sits on the tenth floor of the new The Standard hotel in King’s Cross, accessed by a private lift which is protected by both a bouncer and a lady with your name, if you’re lucky, on a list. There’s a madly beautiful view of the fairytale facade and clocktower of the St Pancras Hotel through huge windows; the bar itself is red and gold and cool all over. The supermodel host greets me by name so enthusiastically that I presume we were once school friends, or siblings; begs to take my coat and get me a Ciro, their cooler take on a margarita. It’s all very cool, but very warm and I think: Maybe. Maybe, finally, I have arrived.
But this bar is really a waiting area for Decimo, the very cool new restaurant from Peter Sanchez-Iglesias, whose very cool Michelin-starred restaurants Casamia and Paco Tapas in Bristol have London’s feedophiles scampering up to the West Country, twittering madly with glee to have snagged a table. Obviously I’ve never been able to get a reservation.
Decimo is supposedly inspired by Sanchez-Iglesias’s Spanish heritage and Mexican holidays. But it feels more like one of those terrifying interactive ‘dining experiences' - Sex in the City, or Bonfire of the Vanities, or general Nineties New York excess-themed, like no one noticed that we're in Brexit-torn Britain at the turn of 2020. Here at Decimo it’s all ‘will that be 25g or 50g?’ of caviar on your tortilla, warm salty eggs popping uneasily on oozing potato slices. It’s a £40 gimmick (£75 with 50g cav). But hey, there’s Laura Bailey and Mary Charteris on the next table - what’s a forty quid omelette between cool pals?
My friend Steve is staring at the curtains. "It’s…. macrame!" he whispers, the Coleen Rooney of haberdashery. Those nostalgically perfect views of St Pancras, the one job that this 10th floor hotspot had? Here in the restaurant, they're shrouded in Seventies net curtains. Caring about views? How uncool.
There are good things. Fabulous croquetas with innards of God’s own mash, cheesy and flecked with jamón. The marvellous melting dried beef, cecina. Slapdash manchego quesadillas, the sharp cheese slopped onto crisped tortilla, a house party snack made by a host six gins to the wind. Suckling pig shoulder is good in a disconcertingly cannibalistic way - skin chewy and piggy, flesh silken, a little creepy.
But for all the caviar-spattered excess, Decimo feels weirdly mean; the retro irony of Seventies Mexicana lost among tiny pre-desserts that turn out to be our actual desserts - a tablespoon of chocolate tart and a marinated fig for £11 - and beautiful staff whose laser gaze slides across us as we wave in vain for wine. We burn through £185 and leave feeling empty and cold. That’s not cool.
Meal for two with drinks: £185
Decimo The Standard, 10 Argyle Street, London WC1H 8EG
PHOTOGrAPHY BY Tim Charles