All reader reviews by Backdrifter
I too am surprised by the poor experiences previous reviewers had. The few times I've been here I've had no problems - the staff have been friendly and efficient, and the food has been very good. Most of the times I've been are for breakfast and the pancake-based ones in particular have been excellent. The portions are pretty big so it's worth breakfasting there if you don't have lunch plans.
It's usually very busy and by 10am there's normally a queue for entry. Yes, the queue is outside on the street as there is no room for people to queue indoors, so be warned. I've not had to wait very long on my visits. One time I went late afternoon and had a very generous sandwich with salad and sides that was a meal on its own.
Oh, and the leggy girl with short blonde hair who works there is really cute. Okay, that's not strictly about the food but as there's no rating for 'attractive staff' I thought I'd mention it here.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Food 9 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 9
We tried this place based purely on an acquaintance's recommendation and hearing it was highly rated on the F Word. Had we read the comments below we wouldn't have bothered, though I'm relieved to say we experienced nothing like some of the stories mentioned.
A lot has been said about this restaurant so I'll be brief. The food was okay, but unremarkable. We were puzzled how it could be so highly rated by an internationally renowned chef on a national TV show. For the quality and portions, the prices were very high.
The other main thing that struck us was how the dining room lacked any atmosphere at all. While our experience wasn't too bad, we decided we wouldn't bother returning. We've since been told that Charm Thai in nearby Teddington is much better. Recently we turned up there but couldn't get a table as it was so busy. So we went to the Cocoanut pub in Kingston, also nearby and which has a Thai restaurant, and only just got a table as it too was very busy. On our way there, we passed by Simply Thai and it was nearly empty. The food at the Cocoanut, by the way, was immensely superior to Simply Thai, with lower prices and bigger portions. I highly recommend it.
Saturday, April 07, 2012
Food 5 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 0 | Value for money 1
We hadn't been here for a while, and our previous visit had ended on a mixed note when the banana sorbet I had for dessert was unpleasant and I abandoned it after 2 or 3 spoonfuls. The waiter was commendably forthright, saying he wasn't surprised as he'd thought it was a strange idea for a dessert, and took it off the bill.
We weren't put off by this and had meant to come back but it's been a while. This time we had a very tasty beetroot and goats cheese salad and some outstanding potted shrimps to start, the latter accompanied by crisp home-pickled cucumber and melba toast. The mains were even better, excellent home-made spaghetti loaded with shreds of delicious crab meat and subtle chilli heat, and the best cassoulet I've had - soft haricot beans disintegrating in the mouth, rich confit duck falling off the bone, lovely garlicky boudin blanc, buttery chunks of rendered-down belly pork. It was a ribsticking meaty winter-warmer, absolutely full of slow-cooked-in flavour.
We shared a dessert of delicately lemon-flavoured baked cheesecake - proper baked stuff, soft yet firm and crumbly, none of this mousse-like fridge-based nonsense. It came with a sharp tangy berry compote which I asked to have on the side (it would normally be poured over, which I don't like). Service was friendly and efficient, as it has been every time I've visited.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Food 10 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 9
As with a previous reviewer, I visited Kokeb after a matinee show at the Pleasance Theatre nearby. I'd looked it up on the internet when searching for restaurants near the theatre; walking up Roman Way we initially didn't think there'd be any commercial places there as it all looked very residential, but suddenly there was a small parade of shops including Kokeb.
This was late afternoon/early evening on a Saturday and at first it was just us. The owner was very friendly and as mentioned many times below happy to explain the dishes. We had the vegetable platter and the doro wot. I already knew I liked doro wot from having had it at the sadly departed Calabash so was eager to see what it was like here - I was not disappointed, it was rich and spicy without burning your mouth, the dark flavourful sauce neatly mopped up by the lovely injera bread. The veg platter was very tasty, including some outstanding lentils. Castel beer washed it all down most agreeably. By the time we finished, other diners were starting to arrive.
Now we want to find reasons to travel from SW London to Caledonian Road so we can eat here again. Must check the Pleasance itinerary.
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Food 10 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 10
We tried this for morning coffee and danish and will definitely go back. The coffee is rich, dark and top-quality. For an americano they just do you an espresso and leave you to top it up from a jug of hot water - an excellent idea for a real coffee aficionado to tailor their own beverage.
Decor is simple and cosy. Will definitely return for lunch some time.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Food 7 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 9
We went for breakfast, having seen it listed as a recommended breakfast destination. We liked the decor and atmosphere, and there is some lovely-looking stuff in the shop area.
I ordered kidneys on toast and Mrs Backdrifter had porridge and prunes. Everything was good quality, but overpriced. I got a fairy generous helping of kidneys, way out of proportion to the one meagre little piece of toast. For £8.75 they could stretch to a scond piece of bread, couldn't they? The porridge was very good but again, £6.75?
The star of the show was the superb fresh-squeezed orange juice, and at just the right refreshingly cool temperature (too many places give you room-temperature juice).
I'd buy stuff from the shop but probably wouldn't go back to eat at Albion.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Food 7 | Service 5 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 5
I made a brief visit to La Bottega recently, and was impressed by the food and service. Not being in the market for a full meal, I had a toasted ham & cheese foccacia followed by a pastry and a very good strong coffee. I'd definitely like to go back for a proper meal. There are Italian goods on display for sale as well.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8
I've been to St John many times, and always enjoyed the food. When I read negative comments here about the food, while I usually like it I accept that it won't be to everyone's tastes. But what really baffles me is the frequency of complaints here about the service. As I said, I've been to St John many times, and apart from a couple of instances of long waits between courses, have never had the kind of service problems others have had, according to many of the reviews here. I don't doubt those things happened, I'm sure reviewers wouldn't be making it up. Yet, the rudeness and incompetence described so often, has never happened to me. How can this be?!
On my most recent visit, I enjoyed my meal as ever, especially a main of tender mutton and pearl barley. The queen of puddings dessert was okay but not one of the better ones I've had here. And dare I say it, service was - as it always is for me! - attentive but not overly so, friendly without being too chatty, and helpful.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 6
Visited during August 2010 and regretted it. Average food - shredded fried chicken a bafflingly unearthly luminous orange colour, ribs in gloopy sauce practically impossible to eat with chopsticks or bare hands, good fried rice, and an utterly repulsive drink called Honey Lime which was like slightly tangy dishwater slops, complete with scum. Unsmiling stone-faced service, which you sometimes expect in Chineses but can excuse when the food is good, which it wasn't.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Food 3 | Service 0 | Atmosphere 0 | Value for money 1
How has no-one commented on this place yet? Went there during the summer and loved it. Excellent hearty food and top-notch service; we had, among others, punchy devilled kidneys on toast, goat's cheese and barley risotto, and a very tasty slab of pork belly. I especially liked the dessert, a take on old favourite Arctic Roll which worked very well. There was a good range of bottled beers - I liked the Williams Ceilidh Premium Lager. And we really liked the crockery too! (Churchill plates). Reasonable prices given the food quality and portion size. Add to which a nice comfortable and characterful setting, and a very cute friendly helpful waitress (Jasmine, red hair and dreamy accent) and it was perfect.
We were so impressed we also visited Amore Dogs (Italian - cute waitress this time was brunette Becky with dreamy Australian accent) and the Underdog basement bar and enjoyed those too.
When we're back in Edinburgh, we'll definitely be going to the Dogs (I bet NO-ONE'S ever thought of that before).
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Food 10 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 10
I just discovered this place, having wandered past it a few weeks ago and making a mental note of it. It's easy to miss, being so non-descript on the outside.
We had a Saturday lunch and are already plotting our return, having enjoyed it so much. It won't be for everyone, with its somewhat cramped interior and slightly brusque service, but these didn't bother us when the food and wine are this good. Plus we just happen to like places that don't look pristine and have short menus.
We had mains of luscious tortellini of pumpkin and ricotta in sage butter, and perfectly grilled pork with silky boulangere potatoes and cavalo nero, followed by a zingy lemon tart and a slice of the best pumpkin pie I have ever tasted, dark and shiny and unctuous like a caramelly, nutmeggy egg custard tart. Both were encased in perfect shortcrust pastry.
Drinks were top-notch, starting with a lovely Kingston Black apple liqueur and rounding off with a rich dark sherry via an excellent red.
I gather it's been running for about 25 years and I'm not surprised to learn it has a devoted group of followers, which we have now joined.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Food 10 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 10
Photos in the window give the impression it's packed out with politicians but it was just me when I arrived. The staff could barely bring themselves to speak to me, but I noticed they greeted subsequent arrivals like old friends. Perhaps this spurred them on a bit, as by the end of my meal they'd loosened up a bit and one of them even shared a laugh with me.
I chose this place to eat as the menu looked a tad more interesting than most other Indians. I was drawn by a starter from the specials list, a fish 'chutney' lusciously described as being generously spiced but which turned out (after an extraordinarily long wait) to consist of a sparse portion of cooked mackerel with some onion & chilli on two puris - underwhelming and overpriced at £5.95. The xacutti chicken main was slightly better, but again at odds with its overblown description - it didn't taste any different from an average chicken korma in an average high-street curry house. A small portion of pretty good plain basmati rice - advertised as 'pilau' - and an okay paratha completed the meal. Well, at least the beer was nicely freezing cold.
It wasn't one of the worst meals I've had but it was uninspiring and I have no plans to go back.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Food 5 | Service 4 | Atmosphere 3 | Value for money 4
Since my 1st visit in Sep 08, on which I commented below, I've been several more times and on the whole enjoy the food. But I have noticed a gradual decline in standards of service over the months - it seems to me no longer as friendly as before, and they now appear to be afflicted by the same malaise that lots of other restaurants suffer: they render me invisible once I've finished my main. In wishing to either order dessert or get the bill, I end up waiting... and waiting... and waiting. This is irritating anywhere, but especially in a place that seems able to bring the mains to table within minutes of ordering.
Plus points, though - they have recently had an offer of £5 for each main - I think this is an early evening/weekday deal and it's good value. The dessert menu has been expanded and now includes a lovely coconut dessert with mango sorbet in.
I will probably go again but am close to having 2nd thoughts due to the drop in service levels.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Food 7 | Service 4 | Atmosphere 5 | Value for money 9
First impressions: a nice spacious place with a mix of wooden tables & chairs and comfy chairs/sofas with low tables for those with drinks only. Unadventurous but appealing menu with sausage & mash, baked salmon, seared tuna, steak, etc plus some sandwiches. Not feeling in a very meaty mood I ordered a baked halloumi sandwich and a side of fries. I felt like I was intruding by interrupting the continuous conversation the barmaid was having with a customer (it went on for the whole time I was there) but that said, she was very friendly and helpful (and very cute - I love the gap in the teeth) and I found ordering and paying at the bar very convenient, though she did offer the option of table service and paying at the end.
Being a bit of a cider snob I was pleased to see they had bottled Weston's Organic, very nicely chilled. The sandwich was generous and tasty, packed with halloumi and unctuous caramelised red onions. The accompanying salad was also a healthy portion, nicely dressed but with the ubiquitous lollo rosso (I can't bear this bitter leaf that most eateries seem obsessed with) and some very wilted leaves well past their best. The fries weren't what I was expecting - not frites as such, more skinny chips but delicious.
I was up for dessert but of the three listed, the one I really fancied - orange pastry tart - was unavailable, so why keep it up on the blackboard? The board, by the way, didn't seem to be for specials as it featured many of the dishes on the printed menu, but they weren't completely the same, so I'm not sure what the deal was there.
I'm not often in the area but when I am I would probably go back. There were a few things that needed ironing out but the food was good enough to warrant a return. At 7pm on a Tuesday it wasn't very busy but I can imagine it must be popular later in the evening and at weekends.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Food 8 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 7
I haven't been to Mexico so can't verify the authenticity of Wahaca's food, but can say that on my 3 visits so far I've enjoyed it. I've tried some of the small dishes which are around the £3-£5 mark, and also the one-plate menu where for example you get a fairly substantial burrito, or similar, for £6-£9. It was all nice tasty stuff, no major complaints. I also recommend the refreshing hibiscus drink. Yes, the space is ultra-trendily warehousey and not very aesthetic, but Wahaca certainly makes a change from the usual Tex-Mex places serving formulaic slop and striving for the tedious hey-woo-yeah we're-fun-&-loud approach.
In response to some of the comments below: service has been friendly on all my visits, none of my servers have ever sat next to me to take my order, meat (and other) quantities have been fine and not stingey at all, and the comment that all food has coriander on it is simply not true, at least in the course of my visits. I do agree though that they are keen for you to add various side/starter orders - this is standard in many places but try to resist it especially if you're going for small plates, until after you've got your order and then add it if you want.
If you arrive after 6pm you will almost certainly have to queue for a while. I went past later, about 9.30, and it was busy but there was no queue.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Food 7 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 9
Maybe I don't know enough about Malaysian food but I thoroughly enjoyed my dish of nasi lemak, the item criticised by one reviewer below. Maybe the rice could have been a bit more coconutty but the sambal was nice and the rendang tasty, the anchovies crisped to ultra-fishy perfection. I also had some roti flatbread which was flaky and delicious, and came with a spoonful of zingy pickled veg. I'd happily have had a side dish of the pickles on their own.
The 'creme caramel' was rich and unctuous and went down a treat with the sweet malaysian coffee. The drink billed as "ice water syrup with lime" turned out to be rose water syrup, in which the lime wasn't very apparent. Luckily I like rosewater but a lot of people don't - it's a strong flavour. This needs to be corrected on the menu and meanwhile staff should tell anyone ordering that drink what it actually is. One slightly irritating and unnecessary touch of presentation was the green plastic banana-leaf sheets on the mains plates, which just get food trapped beneath them and aren't needed anyway.
I don't know if my waitress was the same one praised by a reviewer below, but she was certainly efficient (apart from the drink discrepancy), very friendly and amazingly cute. Dishes were served quickly but without any feeling of wanting you to hurry up and go. Interior and decor are nice, the room has a spacious feel. I will definitely return. I do agree with Metro about the website though - it's terrible, needs simplifying and should stop trying to be so shouty and "fun".
Friday, September 26, 2008
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 7
Is this a chain with a branch in Greenwich too? Anyway I went to the Clapham one and it was okay but confirmed my suspicion that there are no decent Mexican places in London. They all adopt the approach that any place doing anything remotely Mexican must be 'fun' and have loud music. The best Mexicans I went to have been in York & Edinburgh and were just normal restaurants without the hey-woo-yeah factor. But there's a market for hey-woo-yeah so I can't blame places for playing to it.
Here I had chicken fajitas that sizzled nicely on arrival but were a bit bland. The accompaniments were good - sour cream, guacamole, salsa etc. The Dos Equus beer was good & frosty. There didn't seem to be any Mexican desserts but I might be mistaken. Service was friendly but faltering, and with long gaps after my main - oddly given only 2 or 3 other tables were occupied.
Not bad, just not great either and probably not worth a return visit for me, not with the wealth of restaurants in the area.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Food 5 | Service 5 | Atmosphere 3 | Value for money 6
On my last visit I had one of the best restaurant meals I've ever experienced. All elements came together perfectly - I really could not have asked for any improvement on anything.
Some of the earlier reviews touched on problems with service - in the past I too found this to be the case on occasions but it seems to have been ironed out. We experienced no slip-ups at all and all staff were friendly, polite and efficient. I ate duck croustillant to start, and stuck with my trusty pork trilogy as main; this is always on the menu but the three component elements change each time. The star of this line-up was the pork belly and fois gras mini-burger, a quite simply heavenly combination. Even the bread of the miniature 'bap' was spot-on, slightly sweet and broioche-like with sesame seeds on top. The fois gras was perfect. We sides of mashed potato, which we already knew to be good, and sliced carrots which were subtly flavoured with cumin - a combination I wouldn't have thought of but it worked brilliantly.
For dessert I swooned my way through another 3-way 5-star selection, this time frozen mango parfait, kiwi compote and coconut sorbet. Each component in itself could have made a delicious dessert, teamed up they were stunning.
By the time we got to coffee we were on such a roll we thought what-the-hell and got Armagnacs as well, and these unsurprisingly were top of the shop. The entire meal was a triumph and I'll remember it for a long time.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Food 10 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 9
A familiar pattern for me - have a good visit to St John, then some time later read a slew of negative comments here, go back to the restaurant and find all is well. And it's happened again. I never experience the kind of pitfalls others here seem to, thankfully. And I'm a very fussy diner.
I hadn't had the bone marrow for some time so chose that; it was possibly the best serving I've had, with everything I love about this sloppy, tasty, tactile dish absolutely to the fore. How could I have stayed away from it for so long? For main I had venison liver with lentils, which featured two hefty slabs of meltingly tender liver with earthy, intense lentils, nicely accompanied by dollops of dijon mustard.
As usual the staff were helpful, and friendly but not overbearing. They made sure to ask whether I needed to get away by a certain time, which I did, and accordingly advised on waiting time for the courses.
Yet again then, I'm happy to report that the malaise others find is afflicting St John isn't evident to me. Maybe I'm just really lucky. I'm hoping to be part of a group booking for a xmas dinner here so that will be interesting, as most of the reports of group meals are not good.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Food 9 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 7
A first visit to this place that I've walked past dozens of times and which has always looked quite inviting. I ordered from the set menu (£15.95 for 2 courses at time of writing) which had an interesting if slightly odd assortment of dishes for what on the surface seems to be a French brasserie - Thai fishcakes and beef enchiladas sitting among the more expected crostini and coq au vin. Nothing wrong with that though. However, I did go with those latter two - crostini to start, coq for main. The starter was the star of the show, a generous portion of creamy goat's cheese on a crispy crouton, perched on wilted peppers with salad leaves and a dark balsamic dressing. The coq au vin was heavy on carrot and parsnip and light on mushrooms, with a tender breast and leg of chicken in a rich unctuous red wine sauce. A smaller plate with not so much root veg would have been better but it was good. A glass of the house red was a good accompaniment, while a glass of the house champagne kicked the whole proceedings off very nicely - perfectly chilled.
For dessert I tried the treacle tart which came with excellent vanilla cream but bland ice cream - the latter was superfluous. The tart itself was okay. I've yet to find a really top-notch restaurant treacle tart so any tips will be gratefully received! (Even the one at that bastion of Britishness, St John, didn't hit the mark for me). I liked the general feel of the place, and the service was very good. I think I will give it at least one more visit.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Food 7 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 6
After my first visit to Canteen RFH I was sufficiently pleased to plan a return visit. It has a wide-ranging menu covering breakfast and 'lighter' plates as well as lunch & dinner plus daily pie and roast specials. I had a small plate portion of devilled kidneys on toast which could have served as a main as it had a generous heaping of tender lamb kidneys in a zingy sauce - very tasty; I followed this with pork belly with roasted apple which featured tender, flavourful meat (though the top layer of fat was chewy rather than crispy) nicely perfumed with fennel seeds. I added a silky side dish of mashed potato. My friend had a delicious pear and roquefort salad followed by smoked haddock. We both tried the treacle tart which was surprisingly light but didn't match up to the starters and mains.
Staff were friendly and helpful and organised a table for us quickly after warning us we might have to wait about 20 minutes (we hadn't booked). The surroundings were a bit soulless but this was offset by food and service. I'd definitely like to explore the menu a bit more as so far it seems promising.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Food 7 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 3 | Value for money 7
Having previously noted it did dim sum all day and evening I went there for the first time last night, being in the mood for some tasty snacks and not having a whole lot of time.
It took a good 10 minutes or more for them to inform me one of the 4 dishes was unavailable and could I choose a replacement. Half an hour after my order, the other 3 dishes arrived and were delicious - lovely slippery prawn dumplings, the firm and generous prawns contrasting beautifully with the gelatinous coating; luscious charsiu pork buns, and savoury morsels of sticky rice with sausage and peanut. Flavours and textures were spot-on, great stuff. But of my substitute 4th dish there was no sign, and regretfully (and somewhat irritably) I had to cancel it and leave, as my time had run out. The staff were helpful and friendly throughout, but service points lost for the wait.
I will go back to try again, but strictly when I'm not under any time constraints. Other dishes I saw being served all looked impeccably presented, as though all elements had been individually, painstakingly teased into position. Perhaps the kitchen should devote less time to this, and more to just preparing and serving the excellent food they can obviously turn out.
Friday, September 22, 2006
Food 10 | Service 4 | Atmosphere 3 | Value for money 8
I've been here several times, most recently last night, and have never had any of the sorts of problems described below. They sound pretty bad and I don't blame those reviewers for vowing to never return. All I can say is that, so far, all my experiences have been acceptable. And I'm pretty fussy!
Yesterday, for example, I had baba ganoush (roasted aubergine puree with olive oil, garlic, mint, parsely and beans) which came with a dish of crunchy pickles and a basketfull of warm flatbread, none of which was indicated on the menu. I also had a lamb shawarma sandwich, tightly wrapped and stuffed with tasty grilled lamb slices and salad. The fresh lemonade was BEAUTIFUL - whizzed up to order, frosty with ice and zingy with chunks of not-quite-broken-down lemon. On a hot day, it was heaven. And the restaurant itself was an air-conditioned oasis of coolness. Including two big glasses of the lemon, the total was £12.50.
Yes, the service is never exactly welcoming here but I've not found it to be so to the point of rudeness and it was briskly efficient. It sounds like, to date, I've been a lot luckier than the reviewers below - or perhaps they've been supremely unlucky. My advice is to give it a try.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Food 7 | Service 5 | Atmosphere 4 | Value for money 8
As someone else said - not very spacious; be prepared to wait for a table. And be prepared to pay a bit more for your burger than you're used to, if you haven't eaten at one of these places that are appearing now that specialise in good quality burgers. But also be prepared to enjoy a decent burger made from very tasty beef, perfectly grilled.
The menu is long and includes some fiddly-sounding combos; I just went for the "classic" - burger, bun, onion, relish, lettuce, tomato. A side order of "fries" - actually very good chunky chips - completed the assembly. A chocolate milkshake was cold, thick - but not too thick - and pretty good, served in a frosty aluminium jug that just seemed to keep on giving. I must have chugged about 3 glassfuls from it - one will easily do for two... if you can bear to share it.
I would certainly revisit this branch or try one of the other branches - there are a few now. Burger, chips and shake came to about a tenner in total. I felt it was worth it for the quality of what I got. The staff were friendly and helpful without being overbearing.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Food 8 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 4 | Value for money 9