All reader reviews by Savage Pink
We made our first visit to the Empress on Saturday afternoon. We called and booked a table for 3pm, only to be told when we arrived that the kitchen closed at 3pm and our booking shouldn't have been taken. The hostess offered to serve us one course. When we asserted ourselves and explained that we had taken a taxi across town specifically and that they shouldn't hold their customers responsible for their mistake, she agreed to speak to the kitchen again and we were told we could order as we wished. After this inauspicious start, the service was generally quite good although there was one time when we had to search for a member of staff to bring us some salt & pepper.
We kicked off with a pint of prawns each. All of the prawns were full of roe which made the job of eating them particularly messy, and I'm never comfortable eating prawns which have been harvested during spawning. £8 a pint was a bit steep.
As a main we both opted for the sirloin steak with hand-cut chips. The cuts were on the bone, but particularly thin (about 1/2 to 1 cm thick) and laden with fat & gristle. They were well-cooked (rare and medium as requested) but underseasoned. The chips were excellent, fat cuts and fried twice - lovely and crispy outside and fluffy inside. Again, at £15.50 a plate, the steaks were overpriced. The wine list was excellent - we had a glass of Chapel Down sparkling wine with our prawns and an excellent bottle of Coto Imaz Rioja. The restaurant itself was busy and *very* noisy -- a downfall of the room's acoustics. With three bottles of water and 12.5% service, our bill came to £106 for lunch!
Conclusion: The service was quite good (excluding the faux pas with the booking) and the food was very average, and certainly very overpriced considering the portion size and quality of ingredients. I won't be tempted to eat here again, but I might have a bottle of wine and some chips!
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Food 5 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 4 | Value for money 2
Visited on Saturday afternoon around 4.30pm, just as the market was closing. The restaurant was about 3/4 empty, however the hostess asked us if we had reservations. When we replied no, she asked again "not at all" while busily consulting her clipboard. Honestly, if there were more than 10 people in the 150 cover restaurant for the entire time we were there, I'd be surprised. This kind of snobbery immediately disappoints. Unfortunately, my starter of calamari was like chewing rubber bands. I had to wait about 5 minutes to attract the waiter's attention and send it back. My friend fared better with his fish soup, which was good but over peppered, and rock oysters, which were fresh and satisfying. My main of grilled monkfish was well cooked and lovely, as were the accompanying veg garnish, which was al dente and tasty. Unfortunately my mixed salad was comprised only of frisee and watery, tasteless hothouse tomatoes : hard to believe when you're sitting in the heart of Borough Market. My friend's halibut was overcooked to the point of disappointment, but not disaster. The service overall was pleasant but mostly inattentive with the staff seeming more interested in serving themselves than the few customers they had. This being my second visit, I don't think I'll try again as their cooking does not make up for the cool welcome.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Food 5 | Service 2 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 3
Discovered Flaneur by accident when passing on a Saturday evening. We were made to feel welcome and as others have said, the ambience is very inviting. The restaurant tables are at the back of the food hall, so you are surrounded by 20 foot high shelves stacked with exotic tins and boxes. The set meal was excellent value at £21 for two courses or £35 for three. My asparagus with roquefort butter was a generous portion, very fresh and perfectly cooked. My friend opted for courgette and feta fritters which were served with toasted pine nuts and rocket, and he had to fight me off his plate it was so good. My main course of steak was a decent cut, cooked perfectly medium as requested, accompanied by somewhat tired and greasy potatoes which was the only disappointment of the evening. The mushroom and cheese risotto was tasty. The dessert was absolutely heavenly - we both had the super moist chocolate cake. The waitress brought a soup tureen full of double cream to the table with a ladle, which she left with us for the duration. Not so good for my waistline but both amusing and delicious. We had an excellent bottle of cava with our meal for £24 and some delicious coffees and armangac with dessert. We found the staff to be charming but reserved and I will definitely be going back. Great food and wonderful value.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Food 8 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 10