February 3, 2020
As well as being voted the most beautiful street in Britain, Grey Street is also one of the most visited, with a string of great bars and restaurants that are really thriving – particularly refreshing in the context of a casual dining market that is, in many places, struggling to sustain itself.
One of the newest additions to the famous sandstone street is pan-Asian restaurant, The Muddler. Opposite the historic Theatre Royal, this eatery has a growing following among the region’s gourmets and not without reason – the food is excellent, the service attentive and the atmosphere relaxed and welcoming.
From the outside, The Muddler looks more like an upmarket bar than somewhere to sample the culinary treasures of Japan, China, Thailand, Korea and so on, but step inside and immediately the senses are filled with aromas of the Orient.
A lot of time and effort has been put into the fit out and the result is quite impressive. With matte black walls and brushed brass fixtures and fittings, there’s an aura of opulence to the place. It almost feels like a kind of Asian art deco.
Large gold-plated alcoves and a mixture of marble and dark wood furnishings feel genuinely luxurious and looking out onto Grey Street makes it a great place to sit with your dim sum and watch the world go by.
A subtle mix of jazz classics, standards, bebop, rhythm and blues create a kind of Roaring Twenties vibe, very much in keeping with the art deco characteristics of the restaurant. This was refreshing as you can often go into a restaurant where the music bears little resemblance to how a place looks and feels.
With all of the senses singing to the same tune, my colleague and I took a look at the varied double menu – one for sushi and one for almost everything else.
On the main menu, you can see the full spectrum of Asian delicacies, from Agedashi (hot) tofu (£5) through to classics such as Thai green curry (£14) and pad Thai (£13). The sushi menu also blends familiar rolls with some more experimental takes.
Under the guidance of our knowledgeable waiter, we opted for a mixture of sushi, small plates and the dim sum platter (£22). The platter arrived in a traditional bamboo steamer basket and was packed with chicken and vegetable gyoza, prawn and pork dim sum, beef and duck spring rolls and all of the accompaniments.
We also shared chicken teriyaki (£7), bulgogi pork belly (£8), diamond jubilee uramaki (£8) and active volcano uramaki (£7.5). With these choices, we pretty much sampled the full range of Asian influences The Muddler brings together under one roof.
Starting with the dim sum platter, the gyoza was excellent, with the translucent dumplings retaining a smooth, stretchy texture without taking away from the crunchiness of the meat and vegetable filling inside. The spring rolls were also everything they should be – light, airy and crispy without drying out the beef and duck filling within. Whoever thought to wrap shredded hoisin duck in tempura rice paper deserves a medal.
The chicken teriyaki was tasty, tender and elegantly marinated but the real stand out dishes were the two sushi plates and the bulgogi pork belly. Marinated in garlic, red chilli, mirin and sesame oil, the four equally-cut cubes of Korean-style pork belly packed a lot of flavour – a lavish treat for the taste buds.
The diamond jubilee sushi rolls combined crab meat, avocado, cucumber, tamago, salmon and tobiko into a simply stunning dish. It was a feast for the eyes, as well as the stomach, with tender slices of salmon draped over sticky rice parcels and tobiko (flying fish roe – similar to caviar) sprinkled on top.
The active volcano rolls were my personal favourite – spicy marinated tuna, spring onion, sesame seeds and chilli sauce wrapped up and fried tempura style. Delicious.
For those looking for a break from the high street or a working lunch with a luxurious twist, head to The Muddler – it’s perfect for sharing and gives diners a comprehensive introduction to the finer points of pan-Asian cuisine.