All reader reviews by fuzwuzzle
I'm afraid I do have to go against the grain of most of the reviews here. 8 of us got on the tube to canary wharf and took a 20min hike to El Faro on 30 June 2007 on the back of the strength of the reviews here. So my expectations were somewhat high. The layout and decor of the place was spanish enough. There was even a copy of Nick Harman's review printed and posted at the entrance.
Firstly, service was averagely friendly and attentive though I was disappointed that they had a lobster shortage that day (saturday). Then came starters, we started with the cheese selection, octopus, pork belly confit and jabugo ham. The cheeses were a let down. We were not told what the cheeses were and cheese should (should it not?) be eaten from mild to strong but we weren't instructed on this either. Some of the cheeses were flavourful, others were not. The octopus were in miniscule amounts, they had to be bolstered by serving them on potatoes. The only saving grace was the pork belly which the crunchy rind and melt-in-the-mouth fat.
Mains were met with mixed responses. (The oven roasted suckling pig, their specialty, was only available mondays to thursdays btw). The grilled monkfish I had was woeful. 15.50 pounds for a piece of fish the size of six matchboxes on top of confit of leeks. I have no idea that confit of leeks wa simple fried leeks with simple seasoning and over-generous amounts of salt. (Did I notice some cream in there too? I was too much in despair at the portion of my food!) The monkfish was grilled to unperfection. Still chewy, not succulent. But the real teaser was the tiny amount of sauce that came with this was so very deliciously good, but oh so achingly little!
I had a taste of the grilled tuna too. All tunas I've eaten outside were fillets - this was the shape of a cube. Naturally, there was a totally raw part right in the centre (the fish was requested medium rare). But then the caramelised onions that came with this was so very nice. I also had the taste of the veal which was actually good! (Darn, should have ordered that!). Nil value for money.
Bread - yes the stuff of life in the northern hemisphere - i think it was about 2 pounds a basket. I can't remember - I was trying to decipher the bill that came usefully in spanish. Four tiny pieces in each basket, I had four pieces to myself to try to make myself full.
Wine - we had the dehesa de la granja 2001. The menu says describes it as having autumn flavours with a dense chocolate element. A wine aficionado correct me - but I got nothing of these flavours!
This restaurant makes me want to do two things. Either just go to subway where at least flavours blend and you get full on wholesome food or go blow a fortune at gordon ramsay's or something where i know i wouldn't be let down by the food or the service.
We left without dessert.
Sunday, July 01, 2007
Food 6 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 0
High expectations. Highly fulfilled. It is probably a tribute to the establishment that I am somewhat at a loss for words at what to say because for all the hype piled on it, it manages to pull it off. Took the tasting menu - everything as described (though a few tiny changes to the ingredients). Only two let downs I can think of. Firstly, the amuse bouche, potato soup puree and leek mousse - way too salty, did not do justice to the natural flavour of the dish. Secondly, although the service was absolutely top class, the people there can afford to smile a bit more and not be so uptight! They were really on the ball, maybe too much, and it showed which took away some of the finesse of the entire place. Other than that, brilliant kitchen tour, signed menus, complimentary truffles - I think I can die happy now...
Friday, June 29, 2007
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 10
Cold. dreary. rainy. sunday. evening. what do you need? Why ... some hot grilled vegetables and beef stew for three of course! Alexander the Great, 5 mins from morning crescent and tucked away behind camden high street. The restaurant was almost empty when we arrived and then cordially invited in - served with olives, carrots and pickled chillis. Good start. Starters were filo warpped mint and sinach with cheese, smoked sausages and pork slices. Not too salty, lemons came with all to complement the grilled taste.
Mains - greek beef stew with pickled onions - tasted fairly robust and tasted suspiciously like it was made from a tomato-based worcester sauce, nothing to scream about. grilled swordfish - a winner, tender enough swordfish which, alone, gives a hefty boost. Then, more grilled vegetables and rice. The only serious let down was the chips - extremely greasy (Do not order!)
Service - good given the restaurant was nearly empty. Couldn't fault a thing
Overall - could do with a little more finesse. Not all the tomatoes and onions need to be grilled no matter how tasty they are. Might go a little easy on serving huge lemon wedges.
Will return of possible for the meze, claims on the menu to be the best in london....!
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
19 June 2007 - Gourmet Rapide lunch
If one has to epitomise Sketch, all you have to do is to stick your head into the toilet. Yes, just in enough to activate the motion sensor that sets off the flush for the latrine (in the guy's toilet at least). Just take in that psychedelic headrush then proceed up the stairs with the maitre 'd and enter grandly into the lecture room and library.
The lunch menu today was in the usual order - canapes: cumin sticks with creamed tuna sauce followed by an assortment of four starters to be eaten in a clockwise direction. Then, a choice of three mains and then a final menage a trois of dessert then ending with a petit fours flourish.
What then is sketch about? As some other reviews below point out, a weird combination of tastes. But then (remember the toilets) , that is exactly what I feel gives sketch its character - electicism, some jarring mixture of tastes yet some sort of unity. If you go to sketch with high hopes of a carravagio or monet, your expectations might be dashed by a full frontal exhibition of Dali or Hirst.
Look at the starters for example - Carrot puree and salmon tortelloni (what I would call the western version of the wonton), pigeon dumpling with grapefruit(woefully small I have to add), custard of rhubarb with broccoli and cauliflower vinaigrette sauce, cucumber and apple jelly with slices of apple and what I think should be gruyere cheese. Not exactly what I would call classic french dishes.
Then mains - skate on a couscous-like mixture (believed to be boulgour cereal) with figs and apricots or shredded braised beef with bak choy, potato dumpling, leek ad reduced wine sauce - once again, a mish-mash of tastes.
Last example, the petite fours and canapes - guiness jelly, and summer fruit jelly among other things
What's the verdict on such a mixture of food? An assault on the tastebuds surely. Absolutely nothing to do with harmony. If one desires harmony, a pret-a-manger BLT should do the trick. Sketch is more of fusion than french. If one needs a further analogy . metaphor, please do visit their rather user-unfriendly website.
That was the blurp on the food, what about service? Well, my partner's and my poor-student look was not lost on the waiters. "Don't worry, the coffee and tea is inclusive" *earnest look* + "Uhm, would you want wine with your lunch? *unsure look*. Well, I have to admit we didn't have the wine but the sparkling water did not come cheap either (most expensive at 10 pound a bottle). But the thing I appreciate was that there was no condescension, only understanding that gourmet rapides inevitably attracts the "creme moindre" of society. Other that that, service was the usual attentive sort you would expect at a place like this.
A short note on the atmosphere - the decor I particularly appreciated, not too overdone but rather stylish. However, it would have been good to have soft music in the background. Just a personal preference
In closing, probably what sketch did well was that it got the real basics of fine dining right (ironically, not achieved sometimes even by the most starry of fine dining establishments). Prompt, attentive and unobtrusive service + dishes out on time + clean, warm and well-presented dishes. A major sticking point? The gourmet rapide is obviously cooked according to available ingredients, half of the dishes did not match the menu description (I did request to keep a copy of the menu which did causes some uncomfortable shuffling). Other than that, if you desire traditional french, go to Le Gavroche. But if you want something other than sainsbury's and got some spare change, you might want to head to sketch, just for that afternoon of pampering.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Food 7 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 7
A classic! A classic so-so restaurant. The only upside were the cocktails - pina colada and singapore sling were done perfectly. And then it went kinda downhill, albeit at a gradual gradient, form there. The only thing special was the fried green beans, big fat green beans fried in batter, a little too salty though. Steaks were nothing to shout about. Vegetables boiled and tossed in a little fat, nothing more. As it was a birthday, they had promised complimentary dessert. Absolutely gobsmacked - one scoop of ice cream on a plate with drizzles of toffee sauce for two persons. That was when the downhill reached a plateau. Service was decent enough though. Definitely not value for money
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Food 6 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 3
Been to Dong San twice. Once as a couple and the other as part of a group of 10. Was not disappointed on both occasions. Initially, the description of the restaurant as a "Japanese and Korean restaurant" didn't bode well for me. I had gone there expecting specialised Korean cuisine. But I was probably comforted by the fact that there were Korean groups eating there, both times I went!
The specialty dish i feel is the raw beef salad called Yukhae. The bibimbak, beef and rice was very good too. Kimchi pancakes were a delight too. However, there are a few flaws to this restaurant. Firstly, Korean BBQ plays a big part in Korean cuisine so it escapes me why the tables are built with BBQs but not used. Secondly, the restaurant gives complimentary free flow spinach and kimchi - a good way to get your five a day but I feel that the spinach could be better seasoned and more than one type of kimchi servied. I might consider even paying for this! A let down were the soups - my spiny fish broth obviously had the same soup base as the seafood broth. (But I only had soup twice there)
With regards to service, great staff, friendly and attentive. But overall service was a let down - why? There were only two waitresses serving the entire restaurant! Granted it isn't a huge place, but the sheer magnitude of orders just took their toll. A few mistakes with my order were inevitable and probably expected. The poor girls really seemed over-worked!
Overall - food was great, atmosphere was good, service could be better with extra hands.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Food 8 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 8
*texan accent* "Ah! Good ole 'merican BehBehQoo"
I've been to Bodean's twice this year. The first was in a party of 12. We had the party/family menu. Great starters, chicken wings (well-seasoned), quesadillas (crispy on the outside, ssavoury on the inside). Nice hot fries and the bean stew was great (these were free flow for a big group). Mains were pretty ok, ribs were good (not fatty!). The only let down were the pulled pork, sausages and chicken. There is absolutely nothing special about pulled pork. How do you make pulled pork at home? Roast a loin and then pulse for a few seconds in the food processor with some seasoning. Sausages - better onesavailable at the supermarket. Chicken - ditto.
The second time I went back was in a part of 5 - 5 big carnivores. Though I'd give Bod's a second chance. Disappointing. No mention of the family/party menu on the menu itself. Asked for it, was told that it was only for groups of 12 or more. Starters were good as usual - i noticed that the crab cakes were better this time. Mains, once again a let down. Lamb ribs were horrible, obviously not a good cut. Full of fat and skin, a real let down. Steaks were over-cooked leading to a tough exterior. Chicken and ribs - as described above. The corn bread, once again nothing special.
Service was of a good standard. Attentive and prompt despite a friday night crowd.
Overall - just a OK. Nothing to scream about. Useful restaurant for a big group. Great for meat-lovers. Otherwise, might be a little pricey...
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Food 6 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 7
Believe me guys, I am/was this close to giving this restaurant maybe 7 stars on average for all categories. Not a fine dining restaurant, that's acceptable. A decent Indian menu with the usual, that's acceptable. Crowded and tightly packed tables, that's ok too, not too fussy about that. Restaurant trying to rob customers ... yes, you read it right the first time...it was not a rip off- but a robbery
here's how it happened:
7pm - enter restaurant
730pm - eat
9pm - tables are cleared
945pm - bill and change arrives
Yes ... the bill and change took 45mins to arrive ... no they didn't take a bus to the bank to get it either. Here's why: my bill=19.79 pounds. I put down a 20 pound note. Waiter assumes 21p was tips. No receipt, no bill arrives. Date gets uncomfortable. 25 mins later, I ask for my change. 20 mins later, bill and change arrives. At least the waiter bothered to smile, how nice ...
I threw change in my pocket, walked out, never to return.
Here's the crux: After the waiter returned with my change, should I have left it there as a tip just to prove that I didn't need the money to buy a bar of chocolate but to show that as a matter of principle restaurants should not rob its customers OR did I do the right thing by pocketing the money since a tip is to be given for good service, for which I was not shown?
Monday, June 11, 2007
Food 7 | Service 0 | Atmosphere 4 | Value for money 4
This is not a haute-cuisine, forefront of culinary genius type restaurant. The food is decidedly ordinary - something you could find in any decent medium-sized cafe. I had mediterranean salad and the mixed seafood grill. Portions were not very big. The salad had "fried halloumi cheese" as claimed in the menu but I suspect the cheese was thrown on a grill plate. Even so grilled halloumi cheese should be soft and tasty. This one tasted like the char-grilled squid starter. The oergano-marinated chicken pieces tasted like all-purpose seasoning marinated chicken pieces.
Also, I sincerely believe that the saffron rice that came with the seafood should be renamed turmeric rice. Finally, the seafood skewers tasted like they had been boiled!
The food will sell somewhat if the restaurant was located on a busy high street. Don't get me wrong - ordinary food can be delicious food if prepared and executed the right way, with some decent effort and with the proper ingredients.
The service was fast, efficient and friendly and the food arrived promptly. thumbs up for that.
But for all that it was worth, the price was too high and the house wine did the restaurant no favours....
Saturday, June 09, 2007
Food 1 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 1