All reader reviews by Jo
We used to love The House - it was an unassuming neighbourhood gem, turning out consistently good quality fine dining-style food, with passionate and courteous staff. We last visited a year and a half ago - and my, how things have changed.
The House has morphed into a chavvy gastro-pub, with Sky Sports on the wall, and a late bar on Fridays and Saturdays. The restaurant seems to be an after thought.
There were a few rowdy drinkers in the pub, but the restaurant was empty at 8pm on Saturday. Despite this, we were "greeted" by a waiter barking "have you booked?!", before being shown to a table.
We were asked if we would like a drink - we fancied treating ourselves to a glass of champagne, but on studying the wine list, saw that only prosecco was available by the glass. Not ideal, but we went with that given the lack of alternatives. The waiter shook his head and said there was no prosecco left, they had sold out. Sold out of the only sparkling wine available by the glass? So we asked if, in these exceptional cicumstances, he would consider opening a bottle of champagne from the list - we would pay extra... "err... um... no, sorry, we can't do that... sorry". They could have made some easy money by just trying to be a bit flexible, but it seemed beyond them. Never mind good customer service.
Then the bread basket came round - small white rolls which looked home made - and not in a good way. Mine was pappy and slightly stale. I make better bread myself.
The waiter came back to tell us what the Pie of The Day was. Pie of the Day? I thought this was fine dining? The menu also had rather too many dishes on it, something that always causes alarm bells to ring for me. Can this kitchen really turn out all these dishes fresh and perfectly executed?
We just had a really bad feeling about the place, and looking at the prices in the menu I had an overwhelming urge to get up and leave there and then, and save myself £160. So that's what we did.
We shan't be returning.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Food 2 | Service 2 | Atmosphere 2 | Value for money 1
I heard about this pop-up venture via the London Eating blog - and all I can say is, thank goodness I did!! Quite simply one of the best places we have ever eaten at.
From the very helpful reservations manager, to the polite and friendly staff serving us, not to mention the wonderfully quirky and historic surroundings, Bonnie & Wild is a treat.
The simple food is out of this world. For starters - the crab bruschetta was sweet and fresh, and the pigeon breast was rare and tender.
We both went for the stand-out main dish of venison steak, and weren't disappointed. Rare and juicy slabs of barbequed meat, with a delicious fruity sauce.
Being able to bring our own bottle of wine from home meant we could enjoy a decent aged rioja with our meal, something that would have cost over £50 had we ordered from a wine list. The £3.50 corkage charge per head (not per bottle??) was a bit tight however.
It's such a shame that this is a short-lived experiment - I would happily revisist all year round. If you can reserve a table over the next two weekends, go for it while you still can!
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Food 9 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 7
I've only recently discovered Spianata & Co, having previously walked past their various outlets incorrectly dimissing them as "another prepacked sandwich place". That couldn't be further from the truth.
The real draw is the amazing in-store baked bread - light, crisp and totally delicious. The sandwiches are made fresh each day, with fillings of simple Italian ingredients. The mozzarello, tomato and pesto is fantastic grilled, and the smoked salmon and cream cheese on multiseed bread was delightful.
There is a good selection of sweet treats - so far I've tried the strawberries with yogurt, chocolate mousse, and fruit salad - all of which were carefully constructed with beautiful ingredients. I agree with the previous reviewer - Pret had better watch it's back on this front!
Coupled with the great food, the staff are efficient and friendly.
Monday, July 04, 2011
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 5 | Value for money 8
I went to Regina Margherita (confusingly, also known as Made In Italy) a couple of weeks ago on the suggestion of a friend, who really rated their branch on the Kings Road. We booked a table for lunch on a hot Saturday. Upper Street was swarming with people, but upon arrival at Regina Margherita, we were surprised to find it completely empty.
Not to be distracted, we looked over the menu and decided against pizza - given the hot weather, we fancied something a bit lighter.
My friend went for a simple board of antipasti - which looked great. As you would expect, some slices of salami and parma ham, with a few olives scattered about.
I ordered the fried squid and tiger prawn salad, with rocket and lemon. Having specifically selected from the Salads section of the menu, I had visions of a generous green salad, tossed with chargrilled tiger prawns, and some fried calamari rings. Costing the best part of £15, I was expecting great things.
However, what arrived was beyond ridiculous. A mound of battered, greasy deep fried calamari AND prawns - battered and fried in their shells?! - with a token garnish of lettuce leaf.
I complained to the waitress that this was not at all what was expected from reading the menu. To be fair, she was apologetic and quite sweet about it, and offered me a side salad from the menu on the house. This however consisted of tasteless iceberg lettuce, tossed with grated carrot and tinned sweetcorn, which was vile.
I barely touched any of it, but was still charged in full for the calamari & prawn "salad".
My friend wanted to make more of a fuss about it, but I felt somehow resigned to the fact that we had just made a bad choice choosing this place. I just didn't feel that they "got" just how bad their food was, and that no amount of complaining would make a difference.
Since that weekend, I have walked past this restaurant several times, and it is always empty. Now I know why.
Monday, July 04, 2011
Food 0 | Service 4 | Atmosphere 3 | Value for money 0
I've walked past Le Mercury many a time and seen the packed tables of contented diners, and having noticed the amazing prices listed on the board outside (all starters £3.95, all mains £7.95) I decided I really should check out this "neighbourhood gem".
On arriving at the restaurant, we were led through the attractive (and packed) downstairs area, up the stairs at the back to the equally packed and very noisy first floor. Our table was tiny and caused a fair amount of under-table knee-clashing. The tablecloths were made of paper, and the window sills were heaving with what I can only describe as 70's houseplants (Christmas cactus anyone?).
So OK, it wasn't winning me over on ambience, but we persevered and looked over the menu as the bread arrived. Hmm, some slices were slightly crispy with that been-left-cut-on-the-side-for-a-while texture, others were plain stale.
The menu was well-stocked with French classics. My other half chose sardines, I had the calamari (admittedly, not very French, but hey). Both were perfectly fine, if nothing special, but praise where it's due for the yummy tartare sauce on the side.
For mains, I chose the pork belly, and he chose the duck. Again, both were fine, but lacking in much flavour or finesse. The pork in my opinion was crying out for a dollop of the delicious garlic mash which accompanied the duck.
Wine choice was limited - none jumped out at us from the list. In the end we chose the £20 Malbec - sadly it wasn't particularly excting, and we ended up leaving a quarter of the bottle undrunk.
The service was very brisk, however this meant we had finished the meal within about 50 mins of arriving.
The best thing about the whole experience was the cost. Two courses with wine for under £50 is very unusual for London. I hesitate to say "great value" or "a bargain" however, as I really didn't think it was. Sadly the whole experience just seemed to me a bit rushed and tacky.
If you're eating out on a budget, this is somewhere worth trying, but don't expect a to discover a hidden gem of vastly underrated quality - you do get what you pay for.
Monday, July 04, 2011
Food 5 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 3 | Value for money 6
I'm already a Gaucho convert - I have never had a less than perfect steak on any of my numerous visits.
Gaucho Broadgate is a sleek and sophisticated branch of the chain, following the same tried and tested formula of dark wood, cow-hide furnishings and dim lighting. However, the ultra-modern bar entrance and "beam-me-up-Scotty" lift to the restaurant below make this place seem even more exciting.
We visited last night, and it was packed to the rafters - to be expected in the City on a Thursday evening. The bar upstairs was very busy, but drinks were delivered quickly and there was one spare section of couch to perch on while we necked our glasses of champagne.
Once at our table downstairs, we ordered drinks and studied the menus. We had a considerable wait after the drinks arrived, and had to ask for the bread to be brought to our table as we were so hungry - those cheese puff buns are divine!
We were finally shown the meat board, and I paid more attention than usual since they have had a major revamp of their steak cuts. I was disappointed to find my old favourite bife de lomo fillet (225g of juicy thick goodness) has been discontinued, seemingly replaced by 220g of two thin medallions for the same price. I ordered these and was not disappointed with the flavour or cooking, but I did hanker for that big thick piece of steak I used to love.
The sides are overpriced in my opinion, but that never stops me ordering them! £5.25 for five stems of broccoli?! (and just regular tenderstem broccoli at that, not the purple-sprouting variety described on the menu. We also ordered the pommes puree - and to be honest were a little diappointed with the average mash that turned up. Creamy silky pommes puree this was not.
I decided to splash out on a fine wine - a £62 bottle of 2005 Malbec. It tasted OK, but nothing special. It was only after studying the bottle that I noticed this bottle was a 2009 vintage! When the bill arrived, we noted that we had been correctly charged £33 for this 2009 version of the wine - so clearly a mix-up on the ordering somewhere. Our fault for not paying more attention when the bottle was presented perhaps.
So to sum up - fabulous, faultless steaks and sauces, OK but over priced sides, charming if a little overstretched service, and a fantastic buzzy atmosphere.
Gaucho - see you and your delicious steaks again soon.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Food 9 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 7
My other half and I have been considering staying at the York & Albany hotel for our wedding night, as it looks great from the photos and is perfectly located for our reception. However, having read some of the reviews on here, we were concerned that the poor service and poor food on offer in the attached restaurant would be a deal breaker. We needn't have worried.
We went for Sunday lunch this weekend, and had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. As other reviewers have commented, the room upstairs is gorgeous, and sets the tone for a relaxed sophisticated meal. When I ventured downstairs to the toilets however, I noted that there is a whole underground section of the restaurant which was busy and dimly lit - it had the feel of a nightclub... I would recommend asking to be sat upstairs if possible.
Anyway - the food. We were really happy with it. Delicious chewy sourdough bread, followed by juicy sirloin of beef with big fluffy yorkshire puddings, and the most delicious gravy. Desserts were equally yummy, with the Eton Mess and Chocolate Marquis hitting the spot. Service was brisk, but polite and attentive.
Quite a few tables had small children in attendance, which didn't detract from the ambience, actually added to it - there was generally a really pleasant relaxed vibe to the place.
We shall be staying in one of the beautiful suites for our wedding night, and won't be put off by the few bad reviews which thankfully do not seem representative of the York & Albany. Give it a try!
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Food 9 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 8