Restaurants: Style over sustenance

Tracey MacLeod Eating is only part of the experience at London's myhotel. Just as well, because the best bits don't come on a plate. Photographs by Morley von Sternberg

In the mid-Eighties, travellers began returning from New York with wide-eyed tales about that city's new wave of super-stylish hotels - places like the Paramount and Royalton, whose doors were guarded by walkie-talkied male models and whose bathrooms had apparently been designed by sadistic minimalists. Here in Britain, a night in a hotel has traditionally been an experience to be endured rather than enjoyed. We may furnish our homes according to the gospel of Conran, but we're condemned to stay in places that look like our parents' spare bedroom: all fussiness, chintz and supernumerary cushions.

Recently though, the British hotel scene has enjoyed a design-led resurgence, with the growth of stylish hotel groups like Malmaison, and the launch in London of the Metropolitan, One Aldwych and various smaller boutique establishments. The latest is myhotel and, for fun-seeking visitors, it has a wonderful location - just off Tottenham Court Road, on the border between Bloomsbury, Soho and Fitzrovia, or North Soho, as we're now being encouraged to think of it.

East meets West is the big idea behind myhotel (the use of lower-case lettering, in the tradition of ee cummings and kd lang, is another, far sillier, brainwave). Converted from the old Bedford Corner Hotel, it's been designed for owner Andrew Thrasyvoulou by Terence Conran's CD Partnership. The refit has been carried out strictly in accordance with feng shui principles, and the hotel promises to offer its guests Oriental discretion and service combined with Western efficiency and technology.

There was certainly efficiency, to an almost Moonie-like degree, in the way me and my companion Helen were greeted as we alighted from our taxi in front of the hotel's sleek glass entrance. A uniformed woman came flying at us, grinning wildly and saying, "Have you come to check into my hotel?" At first we took her to be the owner, and were marvelling at this personal touch, until we realised she meant "myhotel", rather than her hotel.

We found Sharon beached on a low-slung sofa in the corner of the bar, looking decidedly nervous. "I was nannied in here by about four people," she squeaked. Still, the hotel had just opened, and we could see why the staff were so excited. The bar is state-of-the-art chic, in a restrained, Conran-ish way. Chairs and ottomans are covered in strokeable leather and expensive, retro fabrics, books and CDs on the shelves lend a welcoming townhouse feel, and there's also the mandatory designer fish tank, like a huge flat-screen TV permanently tuned to the Discovery channel. The only other noticeable feng shui touch was a casually placed copy of Feng Shui for Modern Living magazine, though the Bonio-shaped zinc bar apparently owes its curvy lines to the ancient discipline.

The East meets West idea extends to the restaurant, which is called mychi, in tribute to the Oriental concept of "chi" or positive energy. There are echoes of both an American diner and a Japanese noodle bar in its canteen-style tables, glowing woods, and low-backed booth seating. True to Conran design tradition, it boasts a visible pantry line, with chefs bustling around in full view of the clientele; Gordon Ramsay-like outbursts are presumably stifled for the sake of preserving good karma.

The short menu is a primer of contemporary Pacific Rim style, accessorised with Middle Eastern touches. Some of the dishes are so fashionable they could even have featured in Vogue - surely the halloumi cheese wrap is a near relative of the pashmina shawl? Unfurling our designer chopsticks, we all headed East for our starters. Sharon's crab rolls were a feast fit for a supermodel, a virtuous melange of crab, ginger and what she described as "coleslawy stuff" wrapped in crisp lettuce leaves. My sushi selection owed more to California than Kyoto, in that greater care seemed to have been paid to its appearance than to the way it tasted. I wasn't even sure that there was any fish hiding in the dainty whorls of rice. But at least it was succulent and fresh.

Helen's dim sum selection was served in a steamer, despite the fact that most of the pieces were fried, and was only one step above the equivalent offering from Marks & Spencer. Helen, however, wouldn't hear a word against it, having already decided that myhotel was very much her kind of hotel. "It might not be at the cutting edge of dim sum," she eventually conceded, "but I'd still really like to stay here."

Anyway, as the menu reminded us, eating is only part of the mychi experience, which also includes "sharing, talking, dreaming, laughing, planning and relaxing". They missed out panicking, bitching, bickering and making fun of fortune-cookie philosophising, all of which we also managed to fit in. A sensational bottle of Au Bon Climat from the thoughtful and adventurous wine list also helped to get our chi flowing nicely.

The variable quality of the starters continued into the main courses. I was fairly happy with my chicken yakitori, which was actually more like a Middle Eastern chicken kebab, featuring seared hunks of skewered meat, peppers, and what I took to be a mushroom, only to discover too late that it was a chicken liver. Sharon's Thai-style chicken came in an enormous portion, four joints in a sludgy sauce which nodded towards a green curry, but whose blandness betrayed none of the expected zing of lemongrass or sweet basil.

Helen tried to stay positive about her salmon teriyaki, but it was a challenge - it was over-fishy and unpleasantly dense in texture. "If I invited people round for dinner, and tried to do the kind of food they serve in trendy restaurants, this is what it would be like," she concluded. Side dishes of jasmine rice, garlicky bok choi and mashed potato ranged from competent to disappointing.

Still, mychi isn't really a place for people who are passionate about food. It's lifestyle-led, for diners who want to co-ordinate their eating experience with their designer outfits, and to enjoy themselves in a stylish, unintimidating atmosphere. As such, it works very well, and at around pounds 25 a head, there should still be a bit left to contribute towards that next trip to New York

mychi restaurant, myhotel, 11-13 Bayley Street, Bedford Square, London WC1 (0171-667 6000). Daily lunch and dinner. All cards accepted. Disabled access. No smoking.

Suggested Topics
Sport
Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
football
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Rodgers showered praise on Balotelli last week, which led to speculation he could sign the AC Milan front man
transfers
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music(who aren't Arctic Monkeys)
News
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
science
Extras
indybest
News
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
people
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Software Developer - Newcastle - £30,000 - £37,000 + benefits

    £30000 - £37000 per annum + attractive benefits: Ashdown Group: .NET Developer...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Digital Project Manager/BA

    £300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Digital/Ecommerc...

    Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home