Bill Granger is an Australian restaurateur and food writer (with multiple TV series) who has restaurants in Sydney and Tokyo; this is his seventh venture, and his first in the UK. The dining room is light and bright, with yellow upholstery, small tables packed together and a separate bar area with a few stools for overflow diners, of which there were plenty. No reservations are taken, which presumably means this is aimed at the locals, as not many people would wish to trek across London only to find they couldn’t get a table; this would be a very real risk, as we shall see.
It is an all-day affair, with separate menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner (Mr Granger’s reputation was made with his Sydney restaurant “bills”, and specifically its scrambled eggs). I arrived at a couple of minutes before noon and was presented with a breakfast menu (“served until 12”), but when I asked for a lunch menu I was given a quizzical stare by the waitress, who then checked her watch, wondering whether the moment was right for this transition. I could feel a “Falling Down” movie moment potentially coming on, but then sanity prevailed and a lunch menu appeared (well, in fact it was a dinner menu that was presented, but after just one more attempt I got the lunch menu). By then it was high noon anyway.
The menu is breezily written and appealing, with sections for soups and salad (a burger was £11.80, add £2.40 for cheese), as well as hot starters and mains. I opted for linguine with prawns (£13.50), which took over 20 minutes to arrive but was not quite right when it did. The linguine was OK but a little firm, the prawns slightly overcooked, but the main issue was an excess of lemon used. The idea of using it to provide a little acidity was fine, but in this case there was too much and it was the dominant taste (11/20).
Much better was chicken schnitzel (£11.50) with salad. The chicken was reasonably moist, encased in a coating of fried Parmesan crumbs, with a pleasant salad that had a little bite of chilli (13/20). Desserts were generally around the £4 - £5 mark, with offerings such as “cakes” at £4 and crème caramel at £4.50, but this was lunch and I was running out of time (an hour had elapsed by the time my main course was finished).
Service was friendly but rather chaotic, and visibly pressured. Despite the restaurant having opened just two weeks before my visit, the place was packed for a weekday lunch. I arrived just before noon and got the last table, and tables were being turned around me. I was in a group of three tables, and each had service issues: the couple at the next table tried several times to get their glass of wine, but the food still arrived before the wine, while the next table to that were visibly frustrated by the difficulty in getting attention. I waited a long time to place the order, and at first the waiter confidently said “I’ll get your bill straight away” before waltzing off; only later did someone else return to take the order. It is early days and such problems can be ironed out, but on this visit the staff seemed rather overwhelmed.
The bill came to just over £28 for two courses and just tap water to drink. At dinner this may seem OK, but if you had a tolerable bottle of wine and dessert then you would be looking at a bill of around £50 each, which is a lot for food at this level. At lunch it is not good value: for £25 I could have eaten a three course lunch at Michelin-starred Gauthier, or for £35 had a three course lunch nearby at two Michelin star The Ledbury (prices correct at the time of writing). I know which I would rather do. However the endless stream of people turning up at this visit (many of whom were turned away) suggests that the place has its formula well-suited to its local customers.