In the words of my companion, everyone and their mother seems to be at the Ned these days. The Ned (it’s a diminutive of its founder Lutyens’s first name Edwin) is a 252-room luxury (and thoroughly) expensive hotel, private members’ club (2,000 people on the waiting list) and event space from Soho House. Membership grants access to the hotel’s rooftop pool and the magnificent former basement strong room with walls lined with safety deposit boxes. It’s one of London’s biggest openings this year. Unsurprisingly, Instagram has been awash with photos and stories of its April opening. Fittingly, the space (and the food, on which more, later) are highly social media friendly.
Set in what has been something of a black hole for foodie spots – the Square Mile – the Ned has found home in what was formerly the HSBC HQs. The 11-storey building was designed in 1924 by Sir Edwin ‘Ned’ Lutyens. The Grade-I listed building has been transformed into what feels like a movie set. The basement room even has the giant circular safe door that was used in the Goldfinger film. Now a lavish bar serving cocktails and cicchetti, it still has a totally OTT Bond aesthetic: jewel-toned velvet furnishings, patterned rugs, taxidermy birds and a ribbed walnut bar. The Ned’s listed status has meant a respectful and light-handed renovation Thomas though, with many original features still standing – from the 92 African verdite columns in the former banking hall, to old ‘safety deposit’ signage in a main stairwell.
For those of us who aren’t quite members, a trip to the Ned is like venturing into a gastro-theme park. The Grand Banking Hall, the “belly” of the building and of our bodies, has been transformed into a jazzed-up food court-esque space. It feels like something of a first class business lounge in an airport terminal, boasting nine restaurants: there’s an English café, a French Brasserie and a branch of the northern Italian chain, Cecconi’s. There are also several different American restaurants – the grill, the deli, the bar and the Malibu Kitchen – a Californian mirage of egg white and kale, dusted with chia seeds with an everything-free menu. And then there’s the one we go to: Kaia, which specialises in the now ubiquitious poké bowls.
Pronounced Poh-Kay, it hails from Hawaii and is popping up on menus and food markets all over town. Essentially a fusion of sushi and ceviche, poké combines pickled/marinated vegetables, sticky rice and for those who eat it, raw fish. The vege poke bowl, “Rainbow” (£9), which I ordered, was arguably the prettiest non-human thing inside the Square Mile. After all, I wouldn’t expect anything else from a menu that’s been co-curated by @ClerkenwellBoy.
Generously filled with papaya, beetroot, edamame beans, sweetcorn and tamari glazed nuts, the bowl was packed full of zingy flavours and textures and had a punchy kick which I enhanced with squirts of their yuzu mayo. The star of the show was the florally cut avocado at the centre of the dreamy bowl, which lent the whole dish a creamy indulgence.
At £9, it’s very reasonable for the City: good for when you’re giving off that illusion of a champagne lifestyle on a cava budget. Though given the Ned’s clientele seems to be primarily banker types – indeed, our adjacent diners were casually just chatting through the spikes of the FX market that day – I doubt this is a primary concern.
Although a little corporatey – inevitable given its City location – the Ned offers something for everyone. Most of all, I’m glad we can finally find an evening poke spot. So if I do ever fancy a night poké/poke, or fancy exploring the rest of this emporium, and so to Ned…
The Ned, 27 Poultry, EC2R 8AJ