....No, not another dinner with Ian & Susie. Kelly and I had our very own date night at this relatively new modern British restaurant in an inauspicious location at the bottom of Roman Road. I booked it on the basis of a favourable Time Out review and the unbridled joy of finding new places to eat and drink in my area.
The restaurant itself is a pretty soulless place - it is remarkably similar to the breakfast restaurant underneath every Travel Lodge in the country. The generic furniture, tiled floor, polystyrene panelled ceiling with spot lighting, naff photographic canvases on the wall and vast expansive, curtainless windows are certainly not out of any design magazine I have ever read. There is an oddly large waiting area for the size of the place, and the clientele - perhaps only on this night - seemed to have all descended here from some far off convention. They were in groups of four or more and all well over 50. If this restaurant was a book, belying the common phrase, I wouldn't have picked it up. But the aforementioned review had prepared me, in some small way, for this - regardless, Kelly and I were there for the food.
Greeted and largely served by what I can only assume was the father, (of this father and two sons venture), who was a vivacious Italian, (I think), and liked to smile and crack a joke. We were seated, (after briefly perching in the waiting area for no reason whatsoever other than the faux leather sofas were there and empty), and set about choosing our food.
I chose pan fried mackerel on a beetroot & blood red orange salad to start. (Kelly passed, in favour of dessert later).
For me, a big mackerel lover, the fish just wasn't punchy enough.
The salad proved a great combination of flavours and I think it would have complimented the fish if only it was more smokey - it just lacked that little kick that I was hoping for.
For main I, (unusually), went for Bresse blue, pear & walnut risotto. It came out and wasn't very hot at all, so I asked for it to be warmed through. So that was a bit disappointing, but also, on its return, the contrast of the cold pear slivers with the warm risotto was lost, as it was now universally hot.
The wedge of blue cheese that had sat proudly atop the mound was now melted in to the body of the dish. The risotto itself had lost the sticky texture it deserves to become a little gloopy. The flavours were still there, but only just. I was disappointed, as I think this could have been a great dish, but it was lost in the reheat.
Kelly went for fillet of grey mullet on a bed of new potatoes, spring onion and spinach, (and a fancy sauce that escapes me!). This dish also came out cold, which was confusing at first until we were told that is how it is served.
Fine, but the menu didn't state that! Despite this, the dish was good - the fresh and crispy-skinned mullet worked well with the spring onion tang.
Regardless of the slight set back with the main course, our seating right next to the kitchen hatch, meant we watched some incredible dishes and desserts from the menu appear for other tables.
We duly decided to order a dessert too. I went for Damson parfait with strawberry coulis & biscotti. It was superb - light, tangy and a great biscuit crunch to contrast the soft creamy parfait.
Kelly had the forced rhubarb crumble with orange custard, which was also superb - particularly the new take on the custard.
These dishes were the real triumph of the meal.
The food here is progressive, interesting and perhaps more daring than the area, in which the restaurant is located, is prepared for. The food, (and the head chef), is certainly entitled to a better environment in which to be eaten, (think Andrew Edmunds). I think my mood and opinion of a restaurant and it's food is often, wrongly, made as I walk through the door. I would recommend everyone to go here - despite what is written above. The food is good and for the price, not likely to be found anywhere else locally. Just don't judge this book by it's cover!