I was a fan of this site’s previous guise as Osaka, so was glad to see that new kid on the block The Muddler is still flying the flag for those after pan Asian cuisine away from the chains elsewhere in the area.
Any similarities with its predecessor, however, stop there. The Muddler is a much more chic affair: a tasteful nod to the grandeur of the 1930s with an Art Deco finish on the mirrored walls, solid granite tables and alcoves decorated in a striking gold leaf that has a touch of The Savoy’s Beaufort Bar about it. Unlike The Savoy, it looks expensive, but not intimidatingly so.
Open for both food and / or drinks, it’s ideally placed for pre-Theatre Royal dining and is a stone’s throw from Monument station if you’re getting the Metro through.
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The menu’s as classy as the decor with a well thought out blend of dim sum, robata grilled dishes, tempura curries, udon bowls and sushi.
Prices are pretty reasonable for dishes of this ilk with dim sum coming in at a fiver and mains starting at £13. If you’re visiting at lunch or pre-theatre you can shave off a few pennies by picking up three courses for £15.
We chose a sushi platter to start which, at £18, was really good value for 12 pieces of this moreish delicacy. In keeping with its neighbour over the road, it arrived with an air of theatricality with a pot of smoking dry ice swirling around the mouth-sized morsals of tuna, salmon, prawn and more. It’s a simple, but effective, touch and helps to make this place feel fancier than most on Grey Street.
A side of edamame beans (£3.50) was also devoured with gusto, though they could have done with more of the chilli salt.
For mains we chose to muddle it up with a pick ‘n’ mix of small dishes.
Crisp tempura prawns came with a punchy wasabi mayonnaise that I’d happily have taken a pot of home while the steamed pork dumplings, served authentically on a banana leaf in a bamboo box, were tightly packed parcels which were plump with flavour and perfect for dunking in a satisfyingly sticky hoi sin sauce. In fact, they were so good we ordered a second round but this a place where you’re encouraged to eat and graze at your leisure.
We also enjoyed the kimchi chicken (£7) - tender chicken breast marinated in garlic, kimchi, coriander and ginger, which tasted light at the time but beware of garlic and kimchi breath the next morning.
With a name like Muddler, you’d expect the cocktails to be good and the gold leaf-topped ones being prepped at the bar certainly looked impressive.
I was swayed by the wine options, however, and was really impressed with an easy-to-drink Faustino Blanco Rioja which comes in at £9 a glass so it’s worth getting the bottle for £26 if you’re planning on staying a while.