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|Address:||33 King Street, London WC2E 8JD|
|Tel:||020 3544 6064|
|Price: £56.00||Wine: £18.50||Champagne: £49.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sun 12N-2.30pm Mon-Sun 5-11pm (Sun -10pm)|
3 of 4 people found this review helpful.
oh dear, maybe it was a slightly off night, so E & OE etc etc
We rushed in, 5mins late for our 7.30pm slot (previously on the 'phone “table back by 10 please”), but not to worry – “your table will be ready in two minutes.” eh?
Can I take your bags as there's no space at the table. Huh. really? ‘no’ space? Turns out she wasn't lying – table for five (with one at the end), but we had to squeeze in six. Three ‘thinnies’ down one side, me and the other broad-shouldered one opposite. There really was no space for the bags.
7.55pm and the menus hadn't come. “They'll have to remove me physically,” I muttered – long day at work. Should really get a proper job, away from The City.
When it came, the menu was a bit safe, a bit disappointing. I wasn't feeling tuned-in enough to work out whether it was particularly seasonal or not. Most reviews had described CM as roughly good/classic/reliable, maybe somewhat more inspired than that; but the big deal was supposed to be the woh-man-tic atmosphere.
I suppose it was. CM is pretty cosy – we were downstairs, in the booth on the left before the courtyard. If you look hard you could deconstruct it into clubby furnishings, generally low lighting, some twinklers, some plastic hedge, and a few mirrors for added sparkle. If you're a softy or in the mood, you'll like it. But for me, well… you guessed it!
The special was black…iberico…pork chop. I should have chosen that, it was pretty tasty if a little pink for most (including that diner), and for me a bit under-seasoned. I had sweetbreads, then pork belly.
So to the serious bit, the food.
Pretty well cooked sweetbreads, tender, again bit under-seasoned for me (and I'm not a salt addict). Slightly caramelised salsify which was a bit bland, diced mushrooms, forgettable pan jus, and four little imperceptible green leaves. The combined effect was too rich, in a sort of tacky-on-the-tongue, cream of tartar, cornstarch-y way, too homogenous, and crying out for balancing acidity. I took some of the remaining black olive tapenade leftover from the bread course to raise the flavours out of the flabbiness, thus sacrificing the delicate flavour of the sweetbreads and salsify for the uplifting quality of the olives… and sadly their overbearing saltiness. Mistake after mistake. Next.
I fancied pork belly, a nice slab, properly rendered, crispy skin, tasty unctuous layers of flesh, and naughty but acceptable remaining fat in between. It came rolled, like a metal presentation binder – crispy, well…hard on the outside. Smokey potato fondant thingy, well-cooked clean flavoured dark and pretty broccoli tips, caramelised cocktail onions (acidity – bravo!), mustard and tarragon sauce. Just had to remind myself of the sauce constituents by checking the menu online – didn't detect the tarragon and that's usually pretty obvious. Moreover it would have lent another source of much-needed acidity to another mercilessly rich dish. The belly was ‘piggy’ – you know, really porcine; but not a gamey, or developed flavour. Maybe I should have thought more about how it would turn out given it was baby suckling pig and therefore a relatively thin cut of belly (say an inch before cooking, rather than one-and-a-half). The mid layers of fat were just a bit too connected, and not quite sufficiently disintegrated (don't know the technical term) for it to be enjoyable in the sense that fat around well cured ham can be. I was also disappointed by the crackling. Well rendered – yes; but too chewy. I guess it was cooked separately, crisped, then reapplied to the rest of the pork at a temperature when it was bendy; thereby allowing it to be wrapped round the cut of belly, and harden into a horse-shoe-shaped restraining role on cooling. Tidy!
Anyway I couldn't finish it – too rich…even after carefully portioning the onions to relieve as many mouthfuls as possible, and eeking-out the small glass of barbera. I hadn't made the mistake of joining the others in the bread course, and had only crunched one bread stick. So theoretically my appetite should have been there.
At that precise point I wanted a citrus sorbet cure. But in the time it took for the dessert menu to arrive, I'd gone-off the idea. Though spiced pineapple with alphonso mango, coconut financier and pina colada sorbet was tempting. I settled on nothing, knowing I could steal some of my wife's mint tea and one of the accompanying petits fours. They were good.
Everyone else seemed pretty happy with their food; though they are all less…er…demanding than me. The squash soup was well-liked; I mentioned the special iberico; the lamb looked ok too. I fail to get excited by duck and figs, or by chocolate fondant and raspberry sorbet.
Wine. It's a pretty old fashioned (out-dated?) list, all 90 leather-bound pages of it. Multiple Moutons, lines of Lafite etc. and pretty hard – I thought – to find many reliable names sub £40/50quid. “Which one of these two wines,” I named them, “is a better example of their grape?” A negroamaro around late£30s and a barbera around £40. The boorish wine waiter took me off into blends at higher prices. Not interested I calmly repeated the question, slightly louder this time, and got my answer. The barbera was fine. I'm not an MW, but I know enough not to be bullied. He may get away with it if you're gazing into your intended's and don't want to argue over thirty quid here or there on the price of your ice-breaker.
More importantly, haven't they heard there's a reasonably-priced biodynamic wine revolution going on in the rest of London? Perhaps King St. overheads are frightening?
Table service was generally ok: from the late-tenwtysomething men, some well-balanced, some a bit too familiar – the we're-not-mates-just-yet kind. And then by contrast the younger twentysomething women came across as meek, barely communicative and fading into the background behind the alphas. It didn't bother me, much. But I think if I was here on a date I'd hope to get female service.
Value. It isn't. Not so much because the prices are high – they're not stellar; but because you can find better food elsewhere. But it's not that bad. It's not as lazy/consistent a menu as the Wolseley; but it did read like clubby favourites. I should probably give the “seasonal” claims another chance. The problem is that the food is quite rich, and unless you're in such good shape and it doesn't matter, you really shouldn't eat here that often. So it falls probably falls into the ‘treat’ category where, I suppose, the point ‘is’ to serve you something indulgent.
I won't be returning – it's not for me. But woh-man-tics might.
I feel the urge to suggest alternatives, but I'll resist. Coincidences of great cooking, interesting food, and good service are rare, and maintaining them is hard. I need to get out more and discover some.