Kaia at The Ned, restaurant review: I'm bowled over by your Bond aesthetic

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Poke and other dishes at Kaia at The Ned, London EC2
Lotus eaters: the food at Laia is healthy, boldly flavoured and picture-pretty

27 Poultry, London EC2R 8AJ

Contact: O20 3828 2000; thened.com

Lunch for two: £80

 

'Gringotts!” exclaimed my 14-year-old.

“Fidelity Fiduciary!” his mother replied. 

Inside the lobby-cum-movie-set that is The Ned – Nick “Soho House” Jones’ newly-opened, dementedly extravagant reworking of the vast Lutyens-designed former Midland Bank HQ in the City of London – we were Top-Trumping famous fictional banks.

The Ned (it’s a diminutive of Lutyens’s first name Edwin) is both a 252-room luxury hotel (and it is extraordinary, in the age of Airbnb, to imagine there’s still a market for brand new 252-room hotels, even in the City) plus a private members’ club (2,000 people on the waiting list), membership of which gives access to the hotel’s rooftop pool and the magnificent former basement strong room, with a giant circular safe door (as seen in Goldfinger) and walls lined with safety deposit boxes.

This OTT Bond aesthetic unsurprisingly got a thumbs-up from the 14-year-old. “When can I join?” he asked the charming gentleman behind the members’ basement check-in.  “Well, you can apply in four years. Hopefully the waiting list will be a bit shorter by then.”

In the meantime, for those of us who are unlikely ever to belong or even just sleep over inside the rooms’ rather literal interpretation of Roaring Twenties style, the Ned is effectively an insanely upscale food court boasting nine differently gastro-themed 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 one nobody in the right mind would ever bother going to – a Californian mirage of egg white and kale, dusted with chia seeds. And then there’s the one we do go to, of which more in due course.

You are not well-dressed enough for this place, Mum, said my son with, it must be said, forensic accuracy

Anyway, if Lutyens had ever done first-class airport lounges, well here we very much were. “You are not well-dressed enough for this place, Mum,” said my son with, it must be said, forensic accuracy. I was indeed – unapologetically – a 53-year-old mother-of-two up from the provinces via public transport, wearing at least one item of clothing that might have been bought from TK Maxx not terribly recently.

He was, however, unfairly comparing me to the Ned’s clipboard-clutching 20-something hostess/PR/greeter, perfectly – ie international punter-appropriately – dressed; no naff nametags here. 

However, I had sprung my firstborn from school for a treat: so if, postprandially, he wanted to move on to the streetwear temples of Soho, I warned him that he might wish to up his game, politeness-wise.

I left him browsing the old-books-bought-by-the-yard-for-the-purposes-of-interior-styling and headed off to the loos, via The Safe. On my return he was all “Mum, can’t we just look around here for a bit and then eat at Wagamama?”

Though specialising in 'healthy food', Kaia might appeal to a teenager capable of eating his own body weight in fried chicken

He decided, age four, that eating out equalled Wagamama. It subsequently became all-but-impossible to get him to eat anywhere else and, loyal to a fault, he has never strayed further than No 72 on the menu either, merely graduating from the child-size portion to the adult. 

He turns 15 in July and has just overtaken me in height – something of a Parenting Moment – and while I know that we are not done with No 72 (it’s the chicken katsu, FYI) yet, now seems an appropriate opportunity to gently widen his culinary horizons, so here we were, booked in to “Asian-Pacific-inspired” Kaia, which, though “specialising in healthy food”, does so in a less emptily aerated manner than its neighbour, Malibu Kitchen – and thus might appeal to a teenager capable of eating his body weight in fried chicken. 

And his mother. Who had somehow managed get all the way to 12.30pm without so much as the sniff of a protein or carb, buoyed only by caffeine and the glamour of having just landed a walk-on part in other people’s exciting movies.

I was faint with hunger so we began working our way through the snacks of edamame beans with yuzu chilli and the crispy prawns with wasabi mayo; sharing the Ahi Tuna poke bowl (an Hawaiian staple – poke literally means “cut into pieces”) so you get a bed of rice layered with raw tuna cubes, slices of avocado, chilli and pineapple and garlanded with flowers.

This was not only arguably the prettiest non-human thing inside the Square Mile but, somewhat against the odds, turned out to be a hit with a 14-year-old boy. “Amazingly brilliant,” says mine. 

Pillars of society: Kaia at The Ned Credit: Clara Molden for The Telegraph

Then (still hungry) we shared steamed rice and cut a swathe through the teriyaki salmon (“Perfect!”) and the tarragon miso black cod which, having been marinated for 48 hours, has flesh so miso-suffused it caramelises beautifully on the robatayaki grill.

I also had a bottle of Hitachino Nest Red Rice beer – a pink, Belgian-style strawberry-tasting pale ale of extreme deliciousness. (I allowed him a slug or two and he concurred, so I am either the best mother in the world or the worst; it’s such a thin line).

In fact, the only thing that stopped Kaia from being the perfect mum-and-son Pacific-themed City Saturday brunch venue was the nearby sound of sawing and drilling as another themed food-pod neared completion. 

If it’s not finished by the time you arrive I’m sure it will be by the time my son’s club membership comes through.

Meanwhile, here’s his review: “This food is amazing. I’d like to live right here in the hotel cos it’s kind of got everything you want, hasn’t it?”