The multimillionaire restaurateur Richard Caring – the man behind the The Ivy Collection – has just been Amazonicoed. This is a new expression which means suffering an act of aggression that may not be intentional. It happened to me about 33 years ago, when I was with friends on a deserted beach in Goa. There was no one else to the left or right of us along a coastline that stretched out as far as one could see. Ahead was the sea, behind us palm trees and the odd shack.
We were having a small picnic. Then out of the blue came a local family. There were endless miles of spare beach but they set up right next to us. Children ran about shrieking and the adults started to cook up some vast feast. There were grills for fresh fish and hot stones for breads. And in spite of the near-idyllic emptiness they didn’t seem to notice us.
A second example, from which the expression actually emanates, can be seen on Berkeley Square in 2020. Back in 2015, Richard Caring opened Sexy Fish, a flashy, fashiony place of showy vulgarity and Asian-inspired food. It seemed that with this kind of offering he had the street to himself – the whole goddam beach, if you like. Then all of a sudden (in what was a bank next door), a much flashier, more garish, much larger and way more Instagrammable place opened. And this place – Amazonico – makes Sexy Fish look like a parochial chip shop. It must be wandering what the hell has just slapped it round the gills.
What is surely more galling is how good Amazonico is. The food, the service, the drinks: the whole lush jungle is just fabulous.
But to enjoy it, for God’s sake follow me. Once you’ve got past the door, the coat attendants and the front desk, have a drink at the large, swanky bar by all means, but don’t stay and eat in this bit; the lounge comes with a DJ, thumping music and goofs pouting at themselves for Insta-selfies.
Walk on by, past the kitchen and massed ranks of staff, round to the right and through to the rainforest that is the actual restaurant. Here the atmosphere calms, there’s a live jazz band and even though it’s vast you can settle into a table, each one flanked by bubbling jars stacked high to the ceiling, and feel intimate, comfortable and in acoustic heaven.
We were assigned the impeccable Valentina, an Italian waitress who in spite of dozens of other tables never caused my arm to ache with weary waving. She whisked to us endless pretty dishes inspired by Latin America and Japan. There was guacamole subtly seasoned with sea urchin and green plantain crisps for texture, and raw prawns (carabinero, known for their large size and bright-red colour) marinated in yuzu with popped corn – another triumph of subtle flavour and satisfying crunch.
We also ate a plate of skirt steak marinated in chimichurri. I’m obsessed with the latter: when it’s great, it’s worth an airline ticket and tons of carbon emissions. Amazonico’s entraña was a glistening revelation of charred fat and pink flesh, and the chimichurri sauce was coaxed to further tasty beauty by the grill. There was a stunningly simple plate of charred broccoli stems and carrots, too. Two duff notes were a flat-toned humitas de choclo – mashed corn – which tasted like I suppose it should, dull and softly woody, and the sauce that came with a single grilled £33 carabinero prawn, which I can only say was gloopy and pornographic.
Our feast ended with a perfect chocolate fondant and refreshing grilled pineapple. As for the price, it knocks Sexy Fish out of the water. In money terms, Sexy Fish is a forlorn beached whale – Amazonico is far more expensive.