17 October 2011
For those of you local to Wapping and with long memories Smith’s is housed in the ill fated Smollensky’s – that means a view through a wide sweep of windows across the Thames to Tower Bridge and the Shard, hopefully it doesn’t mean it will suffer the same fate.
The room has a spacious feel, with tables adequately separated so that noise is manageable and you don’t share the next table’s details of their day. Everything is clean and smart, if a little dark. It’s dominated, on entrance, by a wall of wine bottles and the view across the river is striking. Tables come with white clothes and chairs are those comfortable looking, but actually uncomfortable, ones that restaurants seem to like.
Atmosphere is mixed, it was never more than half full during the Thursday evening we ate there, and most of the clientele were suited and presumably on their way home from work to their over mortgaged flats nearby. Music is an awful soft jazz selection that some places seem to think adds class; it might if being played live but when recorded sadly all it does is make me feel slightly murderous.
Service is also mixed, everyone is polite and helpful, but they do seem to be sadly lacking in co-ordination or organisation. Twice we got the wrong bottle of wine with them seeming incapable of grasping what we wanted even when we gave them the number of it. Gaps between courses were uneven, but always too long, plates left sitting empty just long enough to be annoying and our apologetic waitress said sorry on at least 2 occasions for the delay with our dessert order as “a big table has just had their food go out” – kind of makes you wonder how they’d cope if they were full? But, despite all that, it’s funny how much politeness helps smooth things over and, due to the staff’s attitude, it all seemed less of a problem than it could have been elsewhere if the staff were as bad as, say, Wheeler’s (see my review for details).
Food is fine – not inspirational but all very well cooked and strangely for London everything is really hot when served rather than just warm. It’s largely fish based – the slogan being ‘famous for fish’ – and so we all ate fish as a main course and I had mushrooms with garlic crumb to start and bakewell tart (which looked to have been the worst choice made amongst the 3 of us – nothing awful, just that the apple tart looked far better as did the roasted pineapple) to finish. Sadly, they committed one of the cardinal sins I really hate in restaurants of everything being extra e.g. order fishcakes and what you get are 2 fishcakes, no veg, salad or potatoes and if you want any of those things you pay for them. That has the unfortunate effect of ramping up the bill very quickly – your £15.50 fishcakes (which were very nice) suddenly become £22 when you add chips (fantastic – properly hot, crispy outside and white and fluffy like pillows inside, just about everywhere in London could learn from them) and spinach making it seem over priced by about the entire cost of the additional side dishes. Value for money isn’t good but also isn’t horrendous; its central London prices rather than local prices at £165 for 3 people before service (or £185 afterwards – though at least the service is not an automatic addition), which was for 3 courses, wine, water and everyone having a gin or vodka before starting.
Reading this back I seem to have been quite harsh, but in truth I quite liked it and will return – partly there is a lack of options in the area but also I think they deserve another chance, if they could just sort out a few details this would be a really good option.
As one extra detail the two people I ate with then went to Smith’s in Ongar at the weekend – apparently the food is as good there but the service there is far slicker.