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|Address:||69-71 Dean Street, London W1D 3SE|
|Tel:||020 7434 1775|
|Price: £51.00||Wine: £22.00||Champagne: £47.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sat 7am-12M (Sat 8am- ) Sun 8am-11pm|
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Earlyish on a hot, busy Thursday night in Soho we hit this spot with some confusion (where's the entrance? Not through the hotel, not the staff door – ah, next one…there's the desk, where's the front-of-house person? Aha! The rather frazzled girl in the floral dress, being run ragged).
The buzz was brill, the table right by wide- open windows at the front: a rather small but perfectly placed table with the temperature so high (see said table on the restaurant image gallery). The staff were cheerful and friendly, and coped well with the frenetic level of activity. Properly cold champagne, fab-sounding menu – so good, so far…
I had the herb-roasted salmon on toast with crushed broad beans to start. It looked so pretty, little nuggets of golden-crusted salmon, a bright green smear of colour on a rustic slice of country-style toast, the plate artfully decorated with pea shoots but it tasted of…next to nothing. The salmon was underseasoned, the toast underdone & very soggy and the crushed broad beans were effectively pureed to an unidentifiable mush, again underseasoned. Boringly bland.
My friend had the spinach & pennard ridge (a goats cheese) tart. It was ‘a slice of quiche’ as she declared, surprised. She was expecting an individual tart, which was not the kitchen's fault, but it was served cold as in not-long-out-the-fridge cold rather than room temperature, which was the kitchen's fault. It tasted disappointingly bland, she said. I had a go: nice pastry, nice texture and nicely-seasoned; the flavour was delicate and much improved in the heat of the restaurant, eventually. My friend had by then got bored of it.
The boys won hands down with their starter choice: wood pigeon, black pudding & scotch quail egg salad. The wood pigeon breast was well-cooked (as in correct ie rareish), the black pudding was crunchily cooked and terrifically tasty but the deep-fried dinky scotch eggs with warm, runny yolks were fantastic: I want them as a bar snack, all by themselves – please! A really satisfying punch of flavour and novelty (I salivate as I type).
Mains: my man had steak & chips, competently cooked. The other man had duck, and the ladies both chose rump of lamb with marinated artichokes & heritage carrots (like tomatoes, the humble carrot now proudly proclaims its ancient roots). I wanted my lamb medium rare and my friend asked for medium to well-done. “Don't get them the wrong way round” I joked to the waiter. He then did, a seemingly genuine mistake rather than a punishment for my (un)wisecrack. We swopped plates, and my meat was cold. Not even warm. I asked for some hot gravy, but the staff insisted that the meat was cooked afresh. The new plate arrived with the meat nicely cooked but just warm. I gave up and just ate it; the dish was otherwise fine. My friend said hers was cold too, really, and the duck man admitted his duck was cold too. This was nothing to do with the adjacent open window – in fact the steak man was closest to the window and his rare steak and chips were perfectly hot (I blagged forkfuls while waiting for lamb rump no. 2).
The service was probably a bit slow for many people, but our group had plenty to catch up on so we happily chatted through the any gaps without caring – and the repeat lamb came fast. The wine list was okay, and the wine chosen was fine (there doesn't appear to be a sommelier, and we four knew much more about wine than our waiter, which with our combined years of age & experience didn't surprise or faze us).
I wanted to like it, I sort of liked it but not enough to go back in a hurry. Maybe my expectations were over-raised: it's undeniably a ‘happening place’ but the food didn't quite cut it. Try it.