Onima: Mykonos comes to Mayfair? I think not

Onima carries a conceit like few other restaurants I have come across. A quick look at the website and you are asked to ‘experience, imagine, believe, feel and shine.’ Precisely what, it may be justifiable ask? Per the Onima blurb, the guiding premise is bringing Mykonos to Mayfair. Full disclosure, I have never been to Mykonos, but I don’t imagine my initial impression would be of an austere building with a cream marble-floored and wood-panelled hallway, which is how I experienced Onima for the first time. Nearby venue La Petite Maison, while 1400km from Nice, does authentically create an impression of Cote d’Azur ambience. Onima, by contrast, felt decidedly stuffy, a Victorian pig painted with 21st Century lipstick. Maybe – just maybe – if I wanted to be generous, assessing the décor is to miss the point. People come here because they want to be seen; isn’t that part of the ethos of the glamorous set at whom Onima is surely targeted? Well, on a Friday lunchtime when a comrade and I visited we comprised one-third of the restaurant’s guests. In other words, Onima had just six covers. With Mayfair rents being what they are, prospects do not auger well, even if we were assured that the place filled up in the evening. Perhaps they were all at the beach in Mykonos proper? They certainly wouldn’t have been coming to Onima for the food – that’s clear. The approach taken seems to be combining the on-trend: a slight nod to localism with some token Greek influences, a few Italian crowd-pleasers and some pan-Asian fillers for those who can’t do without their raw fish and Instagram-friendly shots. Greece (and the Mediterranean more generally), I am regularly told, is renowned for the freshness of its ingredients. This may be the case, but it wasn’t on show at Onima. I had hoped that my starter of baby spinach salad, artichokes, pecorino and balsamic would, in its simplicity, allow the base ingredients really to shine through. Sadly not. The dish was blandly forgettable in every sense. Meanwhile, my comrade’s deep-fried calamari with Arrabbiata sauce sounded and looked like it had been dredged up from the 1970s. There was an emphasis on frying over flavour. Onima did better with its main. We were impressed with both the presentation and the taste of a salmon dish paired with aubergine and a fascinatingly original tofu mayonnaise. The battle had, however, been lost by this stage. At least a bottle of Chablis (chosen from an admittedly decent list) helped the lunch along. Maybe things are different in the evenings, but based on this trip, I don’t feel sufficiently compelled to investigate further.