All reader reviews by Archie

Texture

Went to Texture (surely the worst named restaurant in town) the other night, curious having walked passed it a few times on my way to Selfridges. It's an odd sort of place. I hear the head chef used to be at Le Manoir (an estimable favourite) and seeing as i live not five minutes away, i forgave the fact that i had read so few reviews and that i got a Friday night table with only an hour's notice (whether you like it or not, if a place is busy, it's probably 'cos it's good) and took the girl i've been calling upon of late.

We arrived a little past eight to a quite rapturous welcome from the two young, French, be-suited fellas who seemed to be running the front of house. They may well be just jolly nice chaps and that's why they were quite so pleased to see us, but i couldn't help feel they were simply relieved to have a bit more custom. The room is very pretty indeed, all decked out in that past-grandure-all-painted-white style that seems so popular. It's divided in two, a bar bit and a dining room bit. We had a glass of bubbles at the bar and then made our way through to the sparsely-inhabited dining room. In fact there were only six tables occupied throughout the whole evening and most of them seemed to be on some sort of three course set menu. That being said, the room still retained whatever atmosphere it had and we settled on down.

We ordered a bottle of Pinot-Gris (it's a good strong, classic wine list) and lovely parmesan crisp things with a wasabi and cabbage dip were delicious pre-cursors, whilst the cod skin and seaweed was less so. We both had a starter of asparagus with a parmesan "snow". I'm not a huge fan of this modern stroke of irony. I first saw "snow" on a menu at L'enclume about five years ago, and admired it then for it's technical whimsey but surely it's run it's course. Perhaps i don't like the mixture of temperatures (I also don't particularly like the trend for serving those savoury ice creams with starters). Either way, it was all gone after not long and at £11 quid, quite reasonably priced (relatively speaking). For mains, i had a bit of pig (well cooked, tender) on a bed of squid (poorly cooked, chewy) with an odd squid crisp (quite inedible). It didn't really work, but it was clever enough. The red-head had quite the loveliest salmon with garlic crushed potatoes (perfect).

I'm on a bit of a diet, so i skipped dessert, but couldn't resist trying the densest cardamon chocolate mousse, all deep and rich, with a star anise ice cream that was as delicious as it was innovative. The petit-fours with our coffees were pure modern-michelin-textbook quality; that mixture of honest chocolate truffles with something a bit zany (in this instance Fisherman Friend meringues on little cocktail sticks).

So it's an odd one. In so many ways it deserves to do really very well - the food is a step or two away from Michelin's finest, it's a well-sized, well-decorated room, the staff are great. And yet it clearly isn't.

Perhaps it's because it's just the wrong side of Oxford Street (not quite Mayfair, not quite Marylebone) but then Locanda Locatelli is literally next door. Perhaps it's because you have to walk through a bit of the bar of the adjacent hotel to get to the loos, but that shouldn't be such an issue. Perhaps it's because it has the worst name in the history of bad restaurant names. I don't know. I do know, however, that i won't go back. Not because it was bad. I've told you it wasn't. But because in a city like London, it just doesn't hold the draw to make you want to. It just doesn't quite have that pull. It's the opportunity cost of the thing - everytime you go to Texture, you lose a meal at The Wolseley, or Cecconi's or Amaya. And whilst that may not be it's fault, it is its problem.

Saturday, May 17, 2008
Overall rating 7 stars
Food 7 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 5 | Value for money 6


Le Gavroche

I don't think i can speak highly enough of Le Gavroche. It's expensive - but of course it is. The food's rich - but of course it is. It's Le Gavroche. How many other restaurants in the world are just as perfect for a business lunch as they are for a romantic dinner for two (or three, if you're into that kind of thing)? There isn't a better front of house team in London - nobody faffs, but everything is exemplary. On the rare occasion something goes awry (last time I was there i ordered an expensive Margaux and it was unfortunately corked) the staff are politely mortified and deal with it immediately and with grace.

I am lucky enough to eat out in London often, but never do I feel luckier than when it is at Le Gavroche.

Thursday, May 15, 2008
Overall rating 10 stars
Food 10 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 9


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