The notes below are from a meal in January 2006.
The art deco dining room is impressive, with a few tables in an upstairs gallery but mostly just a very high-ceilinged space. Tables are tiny and packed tightly in. The formula is very much ike The Ivy or J. Sheeky i.e. comfort food, and who is to criticise? A starter of mushroom risotto featured rice that had absorbed just about the right amount of chicken stock, all very good considering that the dish was not made the traditional way (15/20). For main course I tried a hamburger, which arrived as an impressive slab of meat on half a bun, in order to show off just how generous a hunk of cow it was. The taste fortunately matched the confident presentation, and this certainly knocks the “Gourmet Burger Kitchen” into a cocked hat. The burger was served simply with a slice of cold tomato and a few slices of gherkins, along with (at extra cost) some quite capable thin chips (14/20). My wife had “crab hash” rather like a fishcake, served with sliced and marinated slices of cucumber and a slice of cooked tomato (13/20). Dessert was mixed, with a capable lemon tart featuring good pastry and well balanced filling (15/20), but a poor apple strudel that was almost cold when served, and with stringy apple filling (10/20). Coffee was of good quality (15/20).
Service was a shambles, with a bottle of water having to be asked for three times before something similar turned up. Then on the bill I was overcharged for two items, which is annoying given they also introduced that horror from the past, the £2 cover charge (for nothing whatever that I could detect unless it was the barely replaced rather dull bread rolls). Another oddity was that they use a bizarre “wine glass” that is essentially a water glass, with no wine glass shape whatever, allowing the bouquet of the wine to dissipate rather than being concentrated. I asked for a champagne glass instead as these were the sort of wine glasses someone might serve at a bad student party (apparently they were “specially designed” for the place, a triumph of design over utility). Oddly the wine list, while short, is well chosen and fairly priced e.g. Mas de Daumas Gassac white at £38 is not at all bad, and there are plenty of choices in the £20-£25 area. Peculiarly, they have a few coat-racks around the place and just dump people’s coats on these, yet there seems to be a downstairs cloakroom (perhaps this is reserved for the truly trendy). Overall, if I ignore the dismal service, coat neglect and wine glasses from hell, the food mostly works, though it is no yet as assured as the Ivy. They open all day, serving breakfast and afternoon tea as well as the usual meals.
Further reviews: 12th Oct 2012