Restaurant review

BULL & BEAR MANCHESTER – Utter Bullocks

Bull & Bear is Tom Kerridge’s Northern outpost in the brand new Stock Exchange Hotel, which sits proudly in the financial district in Manchester City Centre. Co-owners Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs are responsible for funding the project, and the restoration has taken a lengthy seven years to complete before it opened its doors in November 2019.

I had been inside for 10 minutes and I had already said: “what the fuck” under my breath around 20 times, making that two very sharp inhalations of breath per minute – which is no way to embark on a relaxing dinner.

As I strode into the restaurant I stood there momentarily slack-jawed as I tried to get my head around what they have done in the dining room. An architecturally stunning space, but why have 12 giant television screens, is this a restaurant or a PC World? Confounding this bad decision is the material they choose to screen; which is a variety of world sport from NBA Basketball, to Premier League Football. Such an elegant space that isn’t noticed by half of the room as they are too busy gawping at the sport.

Perhaps the TV’s are there to detract you from the sculpture in the middle of the room, which is a haunting headless figure performing a victory salute. Truly one of the most bizarre pieces of art ever to be given pride of place in a restaurant.

restaurant image

Cocktails were ordered as swift libation was needed. This was a promising pre-cursor as my barrel-aged Boulevardier was decent. Other samplings included some rather good none alcoholic offerings as well as a peanut butter Old Fashioned. Perhaps we should have stayed at the bar?

Taking our seat in the restaurant and we had to endure the usual spiel of; ‘have you been here before’, and ‘let me explain the menu’ (cue my next sharp inhalation of breath) ‘It’s a sharing menu, dishes come in the middle and are served when they are ready.’ It is a very curious decision to have chosen this style of service, as the dishes on the menu are completely at odds with the small plate revolution that they are seemingly trying to embrace. Dishes on this ‘sharing menu’ included a pumpkin soup, a beef burger, a whole rotisserie quail and a steak pie. All dishes which are very well suited to a single diner rather than a group.

 

Kerridge’s food is the one element I could not fault. After eating at the Hand & Flowers in Marlow several years ago I have been a fan ever since. He’s such a nice guy and a wonderful ambassador for the industry. His voice is perhaps a touch too quiet amongst all of the noise in this concept.

Highlights included the rotisserie beetroot which was accompanied with a deliciously salty feta. Crispy pigs head with a celeriac remoulade – good, but better if you omitted the spiced date sauce which was overpoweringly sweet. The chicken kiev was wonderfully nostalgic, and just the kind of comfort you want on a cold January evening. The B&B chips were ace, and even better when you dunked them in the gherkin ketchup.

The service must also receive praise here, as our sommelier was a delight, and was able to swiftly resolve an issue with our wine. When pressed on the abundance of TV’s he said he doesn’t even notice them anymore – I wish I could say the same. Further excuses were made by saying; ‘it’s a hotel restaurant’ and as such is a guest expectation. I’m quite sure Jason Atherton has never considered transforming Berners Tavern at the London Edition Hotel into a sports lounge.

In summary; a vanity project for some ex pro-footballers, who have roped in one of England’s most eminent chefs to provide the menu but apparently not much else. B&B tries to score but hits the post for me.

Dinner for 3 with a cocktail each and a bottle of wine and service £280. thebullandbearmcr.com

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London restaurant, Restaurant review, Uncategorized

Experiential Dining – The New Normal?

The most ridiculous place I have ever been out for dinner was a mobile dining room attached to a crane dangling 150 feet in the air above Londons South Bank. Ridiculous in the main part because it was 5 degrees, blowing a gale and my inability to shake off the preoccupation of needing to pee was somewhat distracting.

Dinner in the sky

In the landscape of modern dining, I’m sure that dinner in the sky sounds quite modest in comparison to some of the more outlandish offerings available in the City. You can have food thrown at you by Basil Fawlty in an immersive dining performance or be quaffing moonshine while locked in a prison in the Alcotraz’ experience, where they encourage full-on Guantanamo attire and an obligatory orange jumpsuit. Staged and forced fun still seems to be more palatable than dining on the high street which continues to see a steady decline in patrons.

Seemingly the more obscure is the most popular and lets not forget ‘The Shed’ at Dulwich created primarily to expose the ease of forging TripAdvisor reviews, by creating a fake restaurant. The bi-product of the stunt was the unexpected demand for the non-existent venue which had consumers desperately scrambling to get a table at what they thought was London’s latest hot ticket. The simple truth being; it was a Shed in someones back garden, and all of the staged food photographs were a mixture of ready meals, bathroom sponges and Gillette shaving foam.

The prank had everyone fooled including The Guardians Jay Rayner who was rebuffed for a table. Nevertheless, the consumers desired to seek out something extraordinary that promoted its success. Had they have knocked out some food they might just have made a go of it, but having good food in your dining space is only one part of the essential components required for success.

Other contributing factors, include the ability to brag about it on social, and having an environment so unique that it distracts you long enough to keep off your iPhone (until you get it out to photograph your dry ice amuse-bouche). Does this mean food has become the least important factor of eating out?

This week I found myself dining on the Victoria line. This wasn’t the daily face-full of commuter armpit, but thankfully something far more palatable, in the form of a Supper Club organised by ‘Eatwith’. Supper Clubs are not a new trend and have been in existence as long as we have been hosting dinner parties. In the last few decades pop-ups such as this have been a springboard for some of the capitals favourite restaurants, such as The Clove Club which had humble beginnings in a first floor flat above a pub in Shoreditch, but seemingly what has changed over time is the way these dining concepts are being presented.

Our Victoria line dining car featured a delicate tasting menu of Andean origins curated by Head Chef Beatriz Maldonado Carreño (Bea) who originally hails from Bogotá Colombia. Bea was part of the team at Corazón Soho, which demonstrates a degree of proficiency.

Upon being presented with the menu, I struggled to link Columbian cuisine to the setting. I’m not suggesting it had to be pie and mash with jellied eels, but this menu was about as un-British as you can get. Tenuously we soldiered on with the opinion that Peruvian cuisine is trendy, Lima is the soon to be the most Michelin star rich territory in the world and London is a city on the gastronomic pulse, make sense?

The food was utterly charming, and each dish was presented by the Chef herself, which immediately has guests emotionally connected with the creator – heaven forbid you don’t like it as she’s just over there with really sharp knives.

Dishes were well balanced and colourful but after four Negronis fairly unmemorable. Although I do remember a purple potato that tasted of hay, which isn’t a criticism.

In terms of an immersive experience, there was a real feeling of discomfort due to the proportion of seating, the hot then cold ambient temperature and the tuneless din of a full tube train, all very akin to the morning rush hour – TFL would have been impressed with the re-enactment.

Tube Image

However it is all of these imperfections that ladder up to making it perfect as the modern-day foodie doesn’t just want to eat fabulous food, they need it to look good and most importantly they want it to be instagrammable.

Tube Image 2

I just wish that this particular restaurant had been hurtling back towards central London at 60mph instead of being stationary and leaving me slightly squiffy in the arse-end of London. Cocktails in an Uber anyone?

Dinner for two £49 per head for set menu, excluding alcohol and service. http://www.eatwith.com

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London restaurant, Restaurant review, Uncategorized

CARAVAN KINGS CROSS – Suggest You Camp Elsewhere

It worries me that this restaurant was established in 2012…and it’s still trading. Not only trading, it’s doing incredibly well. Not satisfied with packing out the Old Granary Store at Kings Cross from dawn till dusk, they have since opened a further three sites; Exmouth Market, Bankside and the City.

Lauded by Time Out as ‘one of the best’ for brunch, has seemingly inspired a wave of vanilla diners that are unfamiliar with what a good brunch looks like. At least someone seems happy with it, as the staff working there certainly aren’t.

Our first interaction set the tone for the afternoon, as we received a welcome as severe as the fringe that the hostess was sporting. Without flinching or removing her eyes from her screen she told me the wait would be 45 minutes. With that she handed me a bag of coffee beans and told me to wait at the bar.

As well as being the main villain of this piece, the purpose of the bag of coffee beans is supposedly used to identify hungry patrons impatiently waiting for a table. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when they came up with this idea. How a small bag of coffee with a three digit number on is helping the staff swiftly expedite guests to the empty tables is mystifying – if it were to spontaneously combust when your table was ready they may be in with half a chance.

bag with numbers

During our wait for a table I approached the bar to order some drinks, and my appearance seemed to distress the bartender. Further distress was caused after requesting two drinks which appeared to be the zenith of her bad day in the office. Once I submitted my order she turned on her heel and marched to the till, pausing only to yell at me to enquire on my coffee bag code. After yelling back my numerical identify she informed me the drinks would be right over.

Cue fifteen minutes later a bewildered member of the team was pacing the floor with a lukewarm flat white attempting to track down a three digit number on a bag of beans. She seemed genuinely broken by the process. I took her out of her misery and informed her that is was probably for me, and also that ultimately her shift will end, and she will be able to leave this place, but alas I imagine her dreams are plagued with small bags of coffee containing three digit numbers.

A full hour of standing with a bag of beans on my head, I decided to go back to the severe fringe on the door. Quelle surprise, they had been trying to find our number, and our table had been ready some time ago. A frustrating admission, as now the only place to seat us was a sharing table by the door. I wasn’t prepared to challenge as I was so hungry that eating the stupid bag of coffee was starting to seem a feasible option.

Sitting down and perusing the menu further fuelled my agitation. If discovering new ways to describe salmon and eggs was the primary deliverable of this restaurant then they would succeed with flying colours. Menu descriptions were unfathomable and pretentious. Example; ‘Seasoned brown rice, sesame salmon, avocado, miso mayo, mung beans, pickled ginger, furikake. The reality was somewhat different, and as such was sent back upon delivery.

Poached eggs on sour dough was passable fare, but not worth a sixty minute wait, additionally we should have omitted the smashed avocado side, as it was over processed and more reminiscent of exorcist slime rather than anything that once resembled a vegetable.

Underlining my utter distaste for this restaurant was the Jackson 5 soundtrack. I love a bit of MJ, but there’s a time and a place.

Attempting to search for the positive I must give a nod to the coffee. Regardless of the lukewarm offering we received on the day, Caravan does great things with the beans by roasting their own and farming it out to whoever wants to buy it. So my recommendation would be to buy a bag and enjoy it in the comfort of your own abode. Personally, I will shudder when I remember the foil packaging, because who wants to be just a number?

Brunch for two with a glass of fizz £60. Breakfast menu: 8am – 11.30am, Mon-Fri. All Day menu: 12noon – 10.30pm, Mon-Fri & Sat from 5pm. Brunch menu: 10am – 4pm, Sat & Sun. No reservations.  020 7101 7661. www.caravanrestaurants.co.uk 

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London restaurant, Restaurant review, Uncategorized

THE MARKSMAN Hackney – Sharp Shooting East End Publicans

I’ve had the Marksman in my sights for a while, but have been unsuccessful in ticking it off until now. One of my previous failed attempts was due to a bank holiday kitchen closure, and as it happens that afternoon wasn’t marred by disappointment, but fortunate discovery as we decided on Bella Vita at Broadway market, and happened to taste the most sublime crab ravioli in London, heavenly pockets of crustacean royalty encased in fresh sheets of pasta – all enough to ensure the first choice of venue was the last thing on my mind.

The Marksman public house has been a trading pub since 1869, and as you can imagine has a legion of session drinkers not quite willing to let go of their favourite watering hole, so on the one hand you have a thirty something Hackney foodie coming to sample a casual red mullet with fennel and bergamot sat next to Ernie who is content to sit for hours sinking flagons of IPA. This clash of cultures is one of the most endearing parts of the Marksman – even if it does seem that Ernie has probably been here since 1869.

Sitting down to pore over the menu, and the small yet focussed selection of dishes on offer threw up numerous possibilities, so between three of us we ordered a small smattering of starters to share and plumped for our own main courses. Opening up we had some crispy pig skin, which was aerated and satisfyingly crunchy…the piggy popcorn gets thumbs up from us all. Cornish crab was the next to arrive and was the disappointment from round one, it was a little too subtle and was crying out for a kick of citrus, and had the unwelcome addition of quite a bit of shell. Rounding off we had clams which were pleasant enough with a sauce bordering on a classic marinière style, but with more boozy bite and less cream.

My main course of treacle cured pork belly was one of the more accomplished dishes of the day. Slow cooked and juicy it tasted remarkably like a frankfurter, which was wholly unexpected but certainly pleasing, as was the baby onion garnish which reminded me of pickled silver skin onions and had the same palate awakening sourness, coupled with a breath taking dollop of homemade mustard meant this dish had it all. The fried potato side dish was equally rather special, imagine a deep fried dauphinoise, utterly decadent and the only time we sat in complete silence throughout the entire lunch. The Spring green side was underwhelming in comparison and desperately needed seasoning.

marksman pork belly

Brown butter and honey tart was ordered for pudding and even thinking about it now is inducing large jowls of saliva to droop from my mouth. Inconceivably divine, rich and creamy, with an almost digestive biscuit savouriness to the base. It lasted 5 seconds.

Attention to detail at The Marksman is excellent, from the stark white plates and bowls to the mismatched antique cutlery and the parchment paper for the menus, all work together to create a sympathetic aesthetic in an ancient East End boozer. Service was particularly charming and anchors the whole experience.

The Marksman shoots, and is well on target with its rustic, old school flavours all executed with modern pizazz.

Lunch for 3 £168 with a couple of glasses of prosecco and a bottle of wine. 254 Hackney Road, London, E2 7SL. Check website for opening hours (as they are very detailed and slightly confusing!) marksmanpublichouse.com

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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

MISSION Bethnal Green – Mission accomplished or mission impossible?

From the brains behind Hackney Road’s hippest wine bar Sager & Wilde comes the latest in a swathe of new establishments cropping up in East London. Billed as a ‘Californian wine bar and kitchen’ I felt the depths of winter the most appropriate time to indulge in some sunny SoCal delights.

During the Summer I did spend a few weeks traveling through California with a slight sojourn into the Nevada desert, and the food and drink was a mixed bag. The week spent in the desert eating beef jerky and and drinking neat gin doesn’t count, and besides a few incredible meals in LA it was all rather unremarkable.

So being fully aware of California’s culinary potential I was intrigued to see what Mission had to offer and was hoping to be transported to a hot spot in Silverlake as opposed to a dead end in Venice Beach.

A huge palm tree greeted us on arrival, which was a warming sight as the connotations of this tropical specimen were rather welcome on a Baltic Winters evening. Sadly the theme of cold was going to be a recurring motif during our time spent here, beginning with our table placed directly next to the door which ensured that neither us or the food remained at a temperature akin to California.

mission-interior-1-addie-chinn

Being a rabble of six friends who hadn’t seen each other for a while, high on our agenda was a raucous catch up, however this wonderful human interaction was clearly not what our rather cold server had in mind for our evening. Getting the order in was her only priority, which was proving difficult as menus were only sparingly provided. Eventually we submitted our orders, which did cheer her up – marginally.

To start I had the ox cheek parpadelle (£12.00) which was dry and bland. I had to request parmesan cheese to liven it up which took the waitress by surprise, and thus took an age to arrive. This style of dish is a default choice for me, and I have ordered it twice memorably. Once in a restaurant in LA called Osteria Mozza (osteriamozza.com) and another on home turf in a cicchetti style eatery named TOZI (tozirestaurant.co.uk) both of which offered a rich and velvety ragu which left you threatening the server with a blunt spoon if they approached too early to remove the plate. On this occasion however it was gladly returned.

On to the main event, and I was very pleased with my duck (£15.50). It was rudely pink, and cooked  to perfection, plump and juicy with just the right amount of caramelisation of the fatty layer encasing the meat. It was however served in what I can only describe as a cereal bowl.

Sadly further down our table there was trouble brewing with the beef chop (£60.00 for 2 people). The main issue being it was overcooked. Naturally I offered my input and suggested it could be an aged meat which would suggest why it wasn’t ‘pink’ as requested, but after masticating with a piece for longer than comfortable I also joined the school of thought that it had been basking under the grill for far too long.

By way of apology for the over done steak the management offered the whole table an apple crumble to share. A smart move, as correcting a cocked up steak is one of the biggest challenges in a restaurant, due to cooking and resting time  – especially a £60 cut. The gesture certainly redeemed some of the service failings throughout the night.

As you would imagine wine is high on the agenda here, which is what piqued my disappointment above anything else. You simply can not get a decent bottle of wine here for anything below £32. The ‘Mission House White’ (£26.50) was vile, acidic tart and unpalatable. The Pecorino Tiberio (£32.50) was better, but still extremely thin. We eventually bought a few bottles of the Foxglove Zinfandel (£41.50) which was bold and beautiful, but I still had a gripe with the grape, as it was freezing cold. I questioned our waitress and she informed me it had come from the cellar, as if this was supposed to fix the fact it was served sub-zero. If you are charging over the odds for your wine why don’t you show it some love, and keep it in a temperature regulated area like other restaurants charging the same would do?

In terms of wine pricing the same can be said of their original venue Sager & Wilde, as the last time I went I remember stumbling out £80 lighter after splitting a couple of bottles of red. However the cost felt justifiable as the service was excellent, the glassware reeked of expense and it’s a cosy venue. They need to look to what made them successful in their first venture and emulate in Mission where possible.

My lasting impression of Mission will unfortunately be the price. There has been a trend lately of narcissistic foodies launching restaurants in East London and strapping on a Mayfair price tag. Whereas I wouldn’t necessarily put Mission in this category they need to seriously consider what value they are actually offering their customers, as there was far too much wrong with it to justify the cost.

Table for 6 £458 including wine and service. 250 Paradise Row, Bethnal Green. (020 7613 0478. missione2.com) Open
Monday 6pm-12am, Tuesday-Friday 12pm-12am, Saturday-Sunday 11am-12am.

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London restaurant, Restaurant review

GAUTHIER Soho – Not enough Jean Paul.

I had already recommended this restaurant to a friend prior to eating at it myself, so sure was I that it would be utterly exquisite. Thankfully my friend had a wonderful experience, but my meal didn’t quite hit the mark.

This particular meal was due to be a long leisurely lunch with one of the many fabulous women in my life, my Mother. Choosing venues for these occasions requires a great deal of thought, tenacity and patience. Expectation levels are usually soaring, so venue choice is key, and having been cast aside for a reservation at Chiltern Firehouse, rebuffed from Rogan’s new joint at Claridges I joined the waiting list for a table at Gauthier. Our time spent on the waitlist was luckily rather brief, so I was able to call off the hunt for a prized table for two and it was all systems go for a leisurely luncheon in one of my favourite parts of London.

The restaurant itself is located within a terraced house on Romilly Street, which makes the arrival experience wonderfully quaint as you approach the huge black door and wait for permission to enter. It has a real air of exclusivity which imparted in the correct manner receives a big thumbs up from us both.

Back Camera

Being shown to our table our feelings began to alter. The dining room itself was lacking. There was no panache and it was all quite bland. As my feet wandered over the heavy piled carpet I didn’t feel like I was in a restaurant. It had a feeling of a home where people had just moved in and hadn’t got round to unpacking or decorating.

Once we were rooted in our armchairs our waiter came over with the menus – of which there are numerous. He diligently went through all of the varying options that were available to us, and I have never come across so much choice or ways to package up and supplement your meal choice, it was quite baffling and I needed some libation to make sense of it all.

Eventually after much deliberation, a cold glass of bubbles and two freshly baked brioche rolls our orders were in, so we were able to resume our judgemental gazes towards the decoration – or lack of. It was also unusual that they had the blinds closed in the middle of the day, so  whilst we sat on the second floor of this terraced house in the middle of the day it felt like a bat cave with a shag pile carpet.

After a few brief moments we were presented with a couple of pre-starters. Firstly a pumpkin velouté, which had sadly become split and resembled the texture of baby spew which was doused in a disproportionate amount of mushroom sauce, and secondly some parmesan crisps which were extremely flavoursome and packed a great nutty punch of fromage.

To start with we had a Crustacean Medley swimming with slivers of squid. Now I may be wrong but the last time I checked squid or octopus wasn’t part of the crustacean family. The dish itself was actually delicious with an oceanic lobster bisque, but tentacles were not what we were expecting, I wasn’t about to split hairs with the staff about differences between molluscs or crustaceans so swiftly got over it.

Main courses followed shortly after, and this was the most disappointing part of the lunch. I ordered pheasant, and it was just bad. Over cooked, under seasoned sinewy meat that felt as though I was chewing on Paula Radcliffe’s left calf muscle.

There was an absence of appropriate accompaniments with this dish and the Savoy cabbage that was supposedly gracing my plate was so negligible in size that it may as well have been omitted. Chef patron Gauthier is billed as being a ‘vegetable magician’, well he was certainly very competent as he had made ours completely disappear. Clearly the rabbit he had in his hat had been busy.

Rounding off proceedings we had some coffee and petit fours, which is worth mentioning purely down to the crockery that was used. It was beautiful, unique little vessels with bold colours and individual styling. Perhaps an indication of where they ought to draw inspiration for the decor?

gauthier tea cup

I think you will likely find more atmosphere on the moon than in Gauthier. Clientele on this particular Tuesday afternoon was predominantly city boys bragging about how many times they ‘bang their mistress’, displaying language as colourful as the coffee cups. Perhaps the weekend would see a more representative cross-section of those of us spending our own hard-earned pennies as opposed to the expense accounts.

There were some great nuances running throughout the lunch such as the arrival experience, the complimentary mineral water, the stylish crockery and the comfort of the dining room. There has clearly been a lot of thought placed on this restaurant, just not in the areas I consider most important – like the food.

I have decided to save the best for last and that is the service. It was impressive. The boys had the correct amount of rapport and charm, and timed the whole experience with Swiss watch precision. Service recovery was also dealt with swiftly and sans drama – you didn’t think we were going to pay for the pheasant did you?

Table for 2 £112.50 with wine including service. 21 Romilly Street, W1. (0207 494 3111 gauthiersoho.co.uk) Open Tuesday to Saturday lunch and dinner, Monday dinner only.

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