All reader reviews by Vestan Pance

The Hinds Head

Visited the Hinds Head today with my wife and 3 family members. As someone who enjoys both fine dining and pub grub I was intrigued as to what to expect...particularly as the owner is one Mr Blumenthal.

Walking into the Hinds Head meets all expectations - open fireplaces, wood panels and local beers are in abundance. Attentive staff, however, are not. Having found our own table we were given the (rather promising) menu.

In short: roast pork very good, crackling appalling (how difficult can it be?!), shepherds pie competent, beef excellent. As for desserts, treacle tart was more citrus than the good old-fashioned syrupy confection that you would expect.

The food was acceptable: not as good as one would have expected from Mr HB. I am sure that we have had better Sunday lunches for half the price locally and the service would have been better at Heston's Little Chef.

We drove 72 miles to get there and could have replicated lunch without leaving our village.

I will not return to the Hinds Head but the Fat Duck? That's another story!

Sunday, February 15, 2009
Overall rating 6 stars
Food 7 | Service 4 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 6


Smiths of Smithfield

Visited the second floor last Friday lunchtime with two guests. No-one to greet us so we found our own table - staff seemingly indifferent and appallingly attired. Oysters were good but steaks a disaster - I asked for a blue steak and it arrived rare. Surely Mr Torode holds dear such matters as a champion of British cuisine but evidently not.

Cheese platters were OK but expensive but the piece de resistance was ice-cold port and a catastrophic Armagnac. Farringdon is an area rich with great places to eat - St John and Hix especially - and Mr Torode needs to just try harder.

I shall not be returning.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Overall rating 5 stars
Food 5 | Service 5 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 5


Quo Vadis

First impressions of Quo Vadis were of a spacious yet cosy, well designed and impeccably presented restaurant.

Attentive staff showed us to our table and explained that the £2 cover charge included olives, water and bread - a welcome addition and somewhat of a surprise given the tendency of charging for absolutely everything in London establishments.

Oysters were excellent and reasonable priced at £9 for 6; my companion's steak tartare was well seasoned and just the right size. For main course the squab pigeon was perfectly cooked and accompanied by some purple sprouting broccoli - always good to see a restaurant using seasonal produce. We were intrigued however at the cost of a roast chicken for two at £35 - it is hard to see what 'added value' you can give such a dish.

Desserts were mixed - my treacle tart was truly amazing with a 'school dinner-type consistency and a good combination of sweet and bite from additional zest. The bitter chocolate tart was, however a little too 'supermarket'

The bill for two including a bottle of well-chosen wine was £180 - a little hefty but not unacceptable given the quality of the food, excellent service and atmosphere. We will be back.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Overall rating 9 stars
Food 8 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8


Bentley's Oyster Bar & Grill

This was my third visit here, the second of which was within three weeks. Bentley's never disappoints - whether it be a family gathering to celebrate a 30th birthday (my first visit), a business lunch (my second visit) or luncheon with a friend this time.

Initially electing to sit outside we decided quickly against it when a gust of wind took all of the glasses off he table producing a caucophany as they smashed down the street.

Excitement over my lunch companion and I enjoyed oysters (to die for - exquisitely fresh) and squid followed by pollack and smoked haddock - my death row meal - which was succulent and well presented. A very good Sancerre completed the meal.

Desserts were slightly disappointing - creme brulee was a little bit too like vanilla angel delight (my friend's words, not mine) and my gooseberry tart was actually a pie encased in over-powering pastry.

However, I will overlook this last bit as Bentley's has now become a favourite of mine and in the words of the the ever-annoying John Torode.' This place just gets betta and betta'!

Sunday, August 03, 2008
Overall rating 9 stars
Food 9 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 9


Hix Oyster & Chop House

I have to admit to being quite apprehensive of my visit to Hix - the reviews have had a common thread in the fact that they all refer to Mr Hix' antipathy to his (non-celebrity) customers and a shambolic service.

I went for lunch on Friday as a guest of 2 business associates and the establishment was predictably busy. Excellent and knowledgable bar staff soon provided the aperitifs whilst our table was prepared and presided over by our hostess Ester - ex-St John, which is a very very good thing.. Crispy crackling by way of an appetiser was tantalising and very moreish - although the three of us could feel our arteries hardening. Starters were met with a mixed reaction - my ox tongue being exemplary, whilst ox cheek was met with indifference. The wine - a Corbieres recommended by Ester - was very acceptable and balanced the dishes perfectly.

Mains for us were entirely steak-based. Hanger Steak was a revelation and at £12.75 fantastic value. A word to the wise though - if you are going to serve bone marrow only 200 yards from St John, it better be good. It wasn't - Fergus Henderson can rest assured. Portions of vegetables were slightly parsimonious and the french fries were woefully small. The Dexter steak - a whopper large enough for two was very good, although at £59.00 verging on the obscene and not a patch on the Hanger steak.

All in all I can say with all the initial worries we emerged well fed and impressed by the staff and ambience. The bill - which my associates kindly settled - was hefty at £270 for three although we did indulge in the alcohol more than most and this is appearing to be the norm in upper-end venues around London - increasingly-so in Farringdon. Mr Hix was in residence but appeared affable to those who don't appear on the silver screen, even bending down to pick up my jacket which had inadvertantly fallen on the floor.

Given the fact that St John is closed for 6 weeks for refurbishment, this bodes well for Hix. If they can deliver constantly impressive service they might just gain some of Mr Henderson's patronage for a while at least.

A good lunch - we will return but we hope that they sort out the darned water jugs!

Monday, July 07, 2008
Overall rating 8 stars
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 7


Brew Wharf

Very good canteen-style eating with an imaginative and exhaustive list of beers. One of the few places that I have visited in this country where a blue steak is just that - seared on the outside and raw in the middle. Delectable. Waiting staff are eager but sometimes a little lacking but all in all well worth a visit before catching the London Bridge train home.

Thursday, June 12, 2008
Overall rating 8 stars
Food 8 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8


Hamilton's

Went to Hamilton's two days ago for a business lunch. Agree with a previous reviewer about the general tattiness of the decor - especially upstairs on visiting the gents. The food was OK albeit on the pricey side but I suspect they can get away with it as most diners appeared to be weilding corporate Amex cards. The only true disappointment was a seafood risotto which was swimming in oil but my fellow diners seemed contented with their choices. Despite the averageness of the food and surroundings, the service shone through and we were well looked after.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Overall rating 7 stars
Food 5 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 6


La Poule au Pot

I visited La Poule au Pot last weekend with a party of 10 to celebrate my girlfriend's 30th...and we we were not disapppointed.

It goes without saying that the French service was at times 'brusque', but the food and wine more than made up for it. An excess of fine wine means that details of each diners' choices has been erased from my mind, but my foie gras on brioche followed by bouillabaisse was the finest that I can remember.

I booked the table 6 weeks previously (although I was asked for credit card details at the time - an annoying but increasingly prevalent trend) and requested the table upstairs at the back for 10 - this request was granted which, I believe made the veneing all the better as I am told that downstairs can be a little 'dingy'.

3 courses each was £40 per head...although I'm not sure about the alcohol part as my father-in-law contributed that part!

I can recommend this venue wholheartedly.

Thursday, June 07, 2007
Overall rating 8 stars
Food 9 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8


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