Inside London’s newest and hippest hotel lies a little pocket of sunshine called Isla (pronounced eye-luh). The Brutalist building that houses The Standard London was transformed by Shawn Hausman Design to reflect the changing King’s Cross neighbourhood as well as the eclectic clientele that favour the Standard group of hotels.
Isla is the hotel’s ground floor restaurant, accessed via the library lounge (a tribute to the building’s former life as a public library) and next door to the Double Standard dive bar and an open garden space. Chef Adam Rawson, winner of the Young British Foodie Chef of the Year and former Head Chef at Pachamama, was chosen to lead the kitchens at both Isla and Double Standard.
“It’s really great for me because I get to work on two completely different concepts,” says Rawson. After having an excellent lunch at Isla, I returned a month later for dinner and Rawson was kind enough to give us a sneak peek at some new things he had up his sleeve. “Let me know when you’re here and I’ll guinea pig a few dishes I’ve been working on if you’re keen,” he told me before our visit.
Isla’s menu consists of small plates that are separated into Snacks, From the sea, From the soil, From the land, and Desserts. Guests will find that despite simple menu titles like “burrata”, “chicken”, or “ceviche”, Rawson takes everything to another level.
The Italian cow milk cheese is brightened with lemony dill; the chicken is rubbed with koji (a Japanese fermented rice seasoning), glazed with porcini, and served with a moreish truffle sauce; and the seabass ceviche delivers pops of contrasting flavours and textures with the addition of pink peppercorns, grapes, celery, and lemongrass.
The fuzi—an Istrian diamond-shaped pasta—is a real crowd-pleaser. Cooked in a mushroom duxelle sauce with yolk and black truffles, every table we saw had the dish sitting proudly in front of them.
Out of the new menu items that Chef Rawson had us try, the real standouts were the scallops in a rich and tasty XO sauce—which Rawson said takes a long time to make, but is very much worth it—with cauliflower and bacon, and a mushroom-chocolate dessert, which is completely out of this world and deliciously mind-boggling.
With its quirky and colourful interiors, welcoming staff, and outstanding cooking, Isla has solidified its place on my list of London restaurant favourites and Rawson is a passionate chef who is proud to take on the challenge of playing with unusual flavour combinations that keep diners coming back time and again. Despite only being a few months old, Isla is fast becoming a true London staple.
Address: The Standard, Ground Floor, 10 Argyle Street, WC1H 8EG
Phone: 0203 981 8888
Main image courtesy of David Cleveland