It's either very brave or very foolhardy to put another posh South Asian restaurant right in the middle of the capital's Chinatown.
I suppose I should say that Spice Market London - which is adjoined to the neon-glowing W Hotel just off Leicester Square - is strictly an Asian fusion place. Elements of Malaysian, Chinese, Thai and Japanese cuisine are weaved into the menu, but if you're serving food from that region of the world, you're inevitably bumping up against the myriad other established places in the vicinity.
Luckily, Spice Market comes away well, though it's fair to say that not everything 'fused' effectively at all times.
The space itself makes for a very pleasant dining experience. It's cool, New York-y, with an attractive clientele who look like they have interesting jobs and know interesting people.
The wait staff were attentive and knowledgeable, though I'm not sure forcing a variety of young European Caucasians to wear naff red 'Asian-style' outfits was a smart sartorial choice.
The food is served family-style, in other words it shows up whenever it gets cooked. My guest and I were kept busy with poppadums with a lovely chillified dipping sauce, while we waited on crispy squid, beef skewers and salmon sashimi with crispy rice. The latter was fantastic, a chipotle emulsion adding depth to the fish, while the rice gave it a satisfying bite. My guest, who doesn't much care for raw fish usually, was pleasantly surprised. The squid came with a tangy, citrus-y yuzu sauce and was cooked well, but could have used a bit more seasoning. The beef? "Excellent, though not particularly elegant to scoff," said my dining partner. "Definitely not something to order on a first date."
The portions were impressive. I was worried about haute cuisine mini-plates, but was told by our waitress that one starter each was enough and she was right (okay, so we got a bit greedy).
We shared the main courses too - tender duck in a moreish curry sauce, topped with a pineapple sambal that had caused worry but worked well. Though the Thai Short Rib Cheeseburger with kaffir lime shrimp chips sounded delicious, we didn't think it would split well, so plumped for cod with Malaysian chilli sauce. It was good.
Perhaps the one dud note of the night was the Thai jewels and fruit with coconut ice which we were persuaded to try for pudding. It was horrible, but then I have a feeling that was more to do with our negative reaction to the textures of the dish than the execution. It was fortunately rescued by a lovely strawberry sorbet, topped with candy cigarette-like meringues.
"I'm feeling pleasantly full but not bloated," said my companion as we wandered to the Tube, not always something you say after leaving a restaurant in that neck of the woods.
With some more cocktails to try next time around, Spice Market London looks here to stay.