01 March 2013
I desperately wanted to love Granger and Co. The fact that it has taken me more than two weeks since I dined there to share my thoughts on my meal tells a story all of its own. Before heading there for a cosy dinner for four with a group of girlfriends I was excited by the concept: a self-taught chef, does so well that he has outposts across the globe, with an interesting take on flavour combinations by virtue of his Antipodean roots. Walking home each evening I was struck by the queue that happily waited in the cold for the no-bookings tables. On the weekends the crowd seemed to multiply to biblical levels with groups of young families adding to the mix of expectant diners. The place must be good. But back to my dinner.
The restaurant space itself was pleasing enough: Simple chocolate banquettes, chairs that were accented with sunshine yellow backs and the regulation discreet but modern art greeted us on arriving for our early evening supper, (picked to avoid the aforementioned queues). First things first; the welcome and service in general. Perhaps it is because of the general hoop-la surrounding this place that the service oscillates between being ignored because hey, you should be grateful to be dining here and hurry-up=already with your choices as we have mouths to feed that are shivering on Westbourne Grove whilst you dare to idle at your table. Neither approach was particularly pleasant. My friend waited the best part of twenty minutes for her soft drink, and when it finally came there was no word of apology, and at the other end of the scale the same waiter kept on asking for our order when we had quite clearly said we were waiting for our fourth guest so that we ordered at the same time. It was all at odds with the apparent relaxed and friendly vibe promised or indeed paid for.
Onto the food: I have always been a lover of all things fusion and the short menu promised much. I am always a fan of a short menu. Better to do a few things well than promise the world and fail to deliver. My starter of salmon ceviche with grapefruit, avocado and sesame was beyond delicious. There was the reference of east-meets-west in the flavour combination, the citrus of the grapefruit added a sharpness to proceedings and the avocado was creamy and ripe and not hard and stringy as is so often served in restaurants. The dressing, which could have so easily been the school-bully on the plate and overpowered, merely held the core ingredients together. The bar was set high, but then came the crash with possibly the most disappointing main I have had in some time. We all opted for the Sticky Chilli Pork Belly with Spring Onion Salad. I was psyched given my amazing starter, however, what we were served up with (as we all ordered the same dish) was something that could have come out of an upmarket supermarket packet such was its ‘blah-ness’. When you order pork belly, you’re expecting a richness of flavour, the slow-cook method is meant to allow for all of that sinful fat to melt in one’s mouth and solicit the not very dignified smacking of lips. I was expecting to be hit by chilli heat, and for the eastern influenced marinade to sing on my palate. The fact that I am writing about what I EXPECTED says it all. It seemed as if the kitchen had a collective break during the prep of our main courses, as what we were served up with was pork belly that had been cooked for the correct time but was lacking in flavour and most criminal of all had been allowed to sit on the pass and thus arrived at our table the wrong side of lukewarm. Not good. The Spring Onion Salad seemed like an afterthought, two Cos lettuce leaves and a roughly chopped (probably going for the self-taught vibe) spring onion with a passable dressing that was nothing like the one on my starter. As I never leave food on a plate, I ploughed through, inwardly cursing myself for not having ordered my starter as a main course and been done with it.
Suffice to say I had lost all interest in having pudding, but I did wash down my disappointment with a delicious Sauvignon de Touraine that was at an entirely reasonable £28 a bottle. We were also distracted from the gloom of the main course by the rather exciting news that one in our number had just gotten engaged. Will I return to Granger and Co? Definitely not. Do I think it will be affected by this: not at all; people still come to Notting Hill to live the would-be movie of their life and there are always plenty of takers for an illusory moment, even if it comes in at £172 for four.