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
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
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

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Commercial Litigation Associate

    Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

    Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

    Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

    Digital Content Officer - Central London - £33,000

    £28000 - £33000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive (Digital Marketi...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform