The dining room is a slightly cramped rectangular affair in Pimlico, with wooden floor and cream walls decorated with Chinese prints. When we arrived we were presented with the wine list, which was excellent in more ways than one. Growers were well chosen e.g. Ridge, Trimbach and Etienne Sauzet, and the mark-ups were very fair indeed. Some wines seemed only a little more than retail, others perhaps twice retail. We waited a while and no menu appeared, and when we were asked were told “we do not have a menu; we just bring you things”. This seemed a pretty odd thing not to mention when taking the booking, and it seems to contradict some other reviews I have read, but although I asked again the staff were insistent that no menu exists. Well, it is good enough for Astrance in Paris so I suppose that is OK, but right until the end of the meal we had no idea what the bill might be (the dinner part appears to have been £38.80 per person, with drinks etc extra.
Unfortunately that is where the similarity with Astrance ends. A dish of minced chicken wrapped in a lettuce leaf was seriously over salted (and to my taste that takes some doing), while a cup of meat soup with it was quite fragrant from the herbs in it but contained more minced meat (duck and guinea fowl) which had little taste (10/20). Spicy beef slices were both chewy and oily, and I would have welcomed some actual spice to distract from the texture of the cheap meat (10/20). Some battered green beans were again absurdly over-salted (10/20) though a pair of prawns were at least cooked OK (11/20). A dish of tuna and aubergine was simply slimy and tasteless while salmon with sesame sauce was horribly dried out through overcooking (10/20). “Spicy squid” continued the overcooked, chewy theme and lacked spice, while a tofu dish with black bean sauce was at least edible (11/20). A pair of scallops were cooked reasonably correctly (12/20) which is more than can be said for chewy “spicy lamb”.
Noodles were served in a hideously over-vinegary sauce, so it was strange to find a competent cooked piece of sea bass with ginger (12/20) amongst the culinary carnage. A braised beef dish had cheap, chewy meat that was cooked tolerably but was just nasty; I had trouble cutting it with my teeth, never mind the knife provided. This meal ended with slices of pork belly with ginger that were horribly overcooked, essentially charred, and putting a few shreds of ginger on top does not disguise a blackened piece of meat. Only on one occasion did anyone inquire as to why we were leaving most of the food, which surely should have been a clue that things were not going well?
Service was dismal. Our wine was whisked away yet the staff seemed utterly incapable of topping the glasses up, even with multiple reminders; surely just leave the wine on the table if you have not got properly trained staff. Other than the wine list, the experience we had this evening had almost no redeeming features, and although a lot of small dishes were presented, it is not a bargain if most of them are inedible. The most basic errors in cooking and seasoning are hard to understand. Some might find the service eccentric in some sort of charming way but I just found it pushy. I recall having a dismal service experience here ten years ago but at least I recall the food was edible. I’ll give it another ten years before trying this again.