London restaurant, Restaurant review

FLOYD’S Dalston – The Rise and Fall of the Neighbourhood Restaurant

It’s Friday night, the sun is shining and needless to say we are the only two people in Hackney foolish enough to bury ourselves away when the sun is merely lingering over the yard arm. However in a shady spot on Shacklewell Lane you can get away with kidding yourself it’s dark.

Arriving in the dining room I spot my name scrawled on a piece of A4 paper sandwiched between a tired piece of lavender and bottle of tap water, which is actually a nice touch, all very style over substance but it does the job. The restaurant styling resembles something rather Cornish, with an egg shell emulsion coating the floor and ceiling and foraged knick-knacks found on Newquay shoreline littering the shelves.

floyds 1
Orders for cocktails were taken swiftly by a thoroughly charming Australian, which further compounded the feeling of being in Padstow. After a quick glance towards the bar to survey the bar tenders ability I resisted the urge to order a Gin Martini and decided not to stray from the list and opted for a Spicy Margarita. Trés bon, and very competent – in fact, a Gin Martini wouldn’t have been beyond the realms of their capability.

The menu is very well structured and reassuringly small, featuring four to five choices for starters, mains and sides offering something for everyone from your gluten intolerant vegan to your flesh eating carnivores. We were unanimous in our decision for starters and both went for the pigeon breast. It was highly unusual, with a tangfastic sour kick of rhubarb on the side and a bulgar wheat salad. The breast itself was perfectly cooked with a deep purple gamey colour staring back at you, but it was seasoned within an inch of it’s life which completely disguised the flavour of the meat. It also required a damn good chew to get through it, which had me suspecting they picked it up in Trafalgar Square.

Main course was a toss up between the Dover Sole and the Chicken Supreme. I wouldn’t normally go for chicken in a restaurant but I felt compelled to order it as I had seen it arrive a moment earlier to the only other person eating there, but thankfully my duo in our culinary escapade wanted the fish, so we got both.

Dover Sole was a disaster, it was so overly lacquered in butter that the flesh had the consistency and appearance of a used condom. It also made it rather impossible to fillet due to the binding nature of the sauce, further on in the evening I also saw one go back to kitchen. The Chicken Supreme was average with the skin lacking the crisp that each and every clucking creature deserves. The best thing about the dish was the potato croquette which took me right back to school dinners with a satisfyingly crunchy coating and a fluffy, salty spring onion infused centre – definitely the star of the show.

We opted to skip dessert, as a drink in a nearby bar was beckoning, but after whiling away a couple of hours the restaurant had become full to bursting, and the service which started off so attentive and bubbly had descended into mediocreville with us being all but forgotten about.

Anywhere else in the country this would be passable fare – but here in what is becoming the most vibrant and diverse area for culinary excellence it isn’t good enough. But would I be sad if Floyd’s was no longer here? Yes. Every town, village and city has a need for a neighbourhood restaurant, a place where you can decide to tip up and have some fresh, locally sourced grub. Yes Floyd’s falls short on many levels, but this is in comparison to some of the best in London.

Judging by how busy this restaurant was on a Friday night, I suspect its future isn’t in jeopardy, but to court the mid-week crowd and be more sustainable in this market, they need to completely simplify their offering; get rid of the over elaborate garnishes and busy plates of food, beef up the wine list with more wines under £28, and make the whole package cheaper. But most of all they need to remember to; K.I.S.S – Keep it simple, stupid – Because Dalston needs you!

Dinner for 2 £110 with wine, two cocktails and service. 89 Shacklewell Lane, London E8 2EB (020 7923 7714 floydsonthelane.co.uk) Open Monday-Friday 18.00 – 23.00 and Saturday-Sunday 12.00 23.00.

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London restaurant, Restaurant review

ROTORINO Dalston – Love at third sight

It has been a long time since I have been so singularly bowled over by a restaurant or a pork chop (more on that later). The last time I experienced such synergy within an establishment was when Barrafina opened its doors on Frith Street over seven years ago, now decorated with a coveted michelin star I feel a similar trajectory could be in store for Rotorino on Kingsland Road.

Over the past few weeks I have been three times, and each time have fallen a little bit more in love with the place. Obviously there are a few tweaks that could be made – the draught from the door for a start, but the place exudes such charm that these faults are quickly overlooked.

On my most recent visit it was a nightmare making the booking. The online server kept crashing, and then after ten attempts to call I finally spoke to someone. Here we go I thought, the wheels have started to come off. Wrong – the hostess on the phone quickly allayed my frustration, apologised and slotted us in.

We were running fifteen minutes late and I feared a stern reproach from the hostess due to our tardiness, however we were greeted with a welcome as warm as the sun, and directed towards our table – away from the door as requested.

The restaurant is stylishly decked out with rich turquoise panels, and terracotta tiles, all very trendy med, with booth seating clad in emerald and soft brown leather. It’s good looks clearly haven’t gone unnoticed either, with it being used as a location in Channel 4’s latest sitcom ‘Catastrophe’.

rotorino
Our waitress was over within thirty seconds to present us with our menus and instant disappointment overwhelmed me when I saw the pork chop wasn’t on the menu. Just as I was about the grab my coat and leave I noticed it had been relegated to the specials board.

With our orders placed we got cracking with some wine, and opted for a bottle of Negromaro from Puglia in Southern Italy, which was more ruby red than Dorothy’s slippers and smoother than James Dean and a snip at just twenty quid. The rest of the list is concise with all price points catered for with a good range available by the glass. It also makes such a difference that they store the wine in a temperature controlled cabinet, so it can be consumed at it’s optimum.

The first wave of dishes arrived within a few minutes and we began the evenings culinary journey with the calamari (£9.50) which was moreishly salty with a satisfying almost Southern-Fried style crunch to the coating, even better after we added the obligatory squidge of lemon. The coppa and pickles (£5.00) was also upon us which is a delicious cured pork neck that melts in your mouth, almost like those weird Orbit ‘fresh strips’ that dissolved on your tongue, the pickled beetroot accompanying the coppa offered a welcome hit of vinegar to counter the fat.

Then on to the pork chop (£15.00). It really was the most delicious slab of meat I can recall eating for a long time. I had to resist grabbing it in my hands and giving it the Henry VIII treatment. Instead we used the conventional method of knife and fork whilst making noises that usually accompany activities occurring between the sheets. It was served with gremolata which added a sharp citrusy element whilst also providing a nice mellow garlic flavour to the meat.

We also ordered the burrida (£20.00) which was our least favourite dish. I felt it was slightly overcooked and the fish had lost it’s texture and become a bit flaccid. Previously I had the cod as my seafood main which was much more successful and had a wonderfully charred skin holding the fish together, however this wasn’t on the menu on this particular evening, which I took as a positive as it demonstrates an ethical approach to sustainable sourcing of their fish.

On to dessert. I do find it the most ridiculous statement when people say about food that it is ‘better than sex,’ my first reaction is always to think that they clearly aren’t doing it right. That is until I tasted Rotorino’s chocolate cake (£6.00) it was spongey, silky, rich and milky with crunchy hits of honeycomb that reminded me of a cadbury’s crunchie, it was also rippled with pistachios, each bite offered something a little bit more than the previous. Singularly the best dessert I have ever tasted.

Coffee was a bit bizarre, as it was served in a little ramekin that wasn’t designed for the purpose of housing coffee, which means you end up getting foam in all the wrong places.

Consistency is perhaps one of the most difficult facets for a restaurant or bar to achieve. They may launch with a fanfare and a string of great reviews but keeping the quality going is the challenge. A challenge that this restaurant has risen to and surpassed. They are onto to something very special here, and local competitors in and around East London should take note, everything about the place is so well done that it all seems effortless. I shall be returning for my fourth pork chop very soon.

Dinner for 2 £91.00 with wine and service. 434 Kingsland Rd, E8 4AA. (020 7249 9081 rotorino.com.) Open Monday-Friday from 6pm Saturday and Sunday from 12 noon.

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London restaurant, Restaurant review

POND Dalston – Anyone else got that sinking feeling!?

In the latest wave of new openings in the culinary revolution currently occurring in and around Dalston, Pond has now washed up on our doorstep. The remit of this new contender is serving what is apparently the ‘toast of the US dining scene’.

It is in actual fact Hawaiian cuisine which i’m sure wouldn’t be an altogether unsuccessful concept if it were executed elsewhere and by a different chef – unless you’ve missed the subtext, the food was poor.

Located in the dodgy end of Gillett Square – on approach you may feel slightly out of place unless drinking neat rum or Guinness from the bottle, so I would suggest you do both as it will soften the blow of paying the bill at this place.

Aesthetically Pond Dalston ticks all the right boxes, it’s on trend with it’s industrial exposed brickwork, warehouse location and funky Hawaiian shirts adorning the pretty staff. Being thoroughly enamored with the vibe I felt I needed to relieve the excitement with a trip to the little boys room. It was upon viewing the toilet bowl that my excitement faded and I decided against draining the weasel – the old chap has seen some sites in it’s time but this porcelain was straight out of a halls of residence.

With a full bladder I felt it best to heighten my discomfort so obviously turned to the cocktail menu, an experience that was altogether positive, if not a little sweet for my pallet. I kicked things off with a ‘Tinglet’ which is based on a homemade cordial of Ting. The world is a better place with Ting ‘innit, so this beverage received rapturous applause.

pond bar

Moving through to the restaurant we were given our menus which were secreted in a National Geographic magazine – nice touch, very Dalston. I took to the helm with ordering and for a table of four, ordered a couple of dishes from each section of the menu.

From the small plates section we opted for the Kalua Pork (£9.80) and the Fillet Poke (£10.20). Both of which were thoroughly unpleasant. The pork reminded me of fowl that had been frozen, thawed out and microwaved and was served with a green sauce that had the texture of baby food but sadly not the taste…it had no taste. The texture of the Fillet Poke was halfway between fat and gristle – a poke in the eye would have been preferable.

I also ordered us a selection of sushi rolls, which were rather good, and to their credit they served kizami wasabi which is a version of fresh wasabi which provides great depth of flavour and offers a good accompaniment to the rolls. Sashimi here is best avoided. It wasn’t the most unpleasant flavour we had that evening but it was tasteless and not the best quality.

Other lowlights included the Smokin Cow (£21.00) beef ribs which were dryer than the Sahara and the Sambal Black Cod (£23.50) which hadn’t been de-boned and nearly sent me to an early grave.

Accompanying our meal I had a few glasses of crisp South African Chenin Blanc which was a good pairing, but the rest of the list really ought to be reviewed. It lacked any kind of thought and was limited and overpriced. They have no bottom range in the list, so those on a budget will struggle to find a wine.

The service here at Pond really ought to get a mention, as it was fluid and consistent and punctuated with some good banter – I was slightly perturbed when I initially saw the bar staff perusing the latest edition of National Geographic, however hindsight demonstrates that this was a willingness to swot up on the menu, rather than a keen interest in the Amazonian Bull Frog.

Named Pond as a reference to hopping over the Atlantic to the UK, I think it an appropriate title, as i’m quite sure this restaurant will go the way of the Titanic on it’s fated trip over the pond and sink without a trace.

Table for 4. £178 with wine and service. Unit G2, Stamford Works, 3 Gillett Street, N16 (020 3772 6727 pond-dalston.com). Open daily 5pm-11pm.

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