It is always difficult returning to a favoured restaurant to find it changed. I went to the Summerhouse a couple of times last year are really liked its relaxed atmosphere and laid back nosh, as you can see from the review below.
How times have changed. I went again on a Bank Holiday Monday. We had a late booking, but arrived a bit early. The place was heaving. Nonetheless, we were seated straight away. I had asked, when booking, if we could get a waterside table, but was told that there was no booking for this, just turn up and see if you can get one. There were none free, but about 10 minutes after we sat down, a table at the front did come free, so I asked if we could take it. Alas no, others had bagged it. Fair enough, but why then 20 minutes later when we left, was it still empty? Had it been booked?
And yes, we lasted only 30 minutes here. I cannot tell you what the food was like this time, nor what the drink tasted of (not even the tap water) for we were ignored totally for 30 minutes. Not one single waiter (and there were many) found their way to our table. I have never considered waiving my napkin, Michael Winner like to get attention but, after half-a-bleedin’-hour of sitting there watching the surgically enhanced breasts at the next door table carefully take all the batter from her fish, eat the fish and leave the batter and chips, I now know why he does it.
I know I could have said something, but surely I shouldn’t need to? Anyway, when we heard the table behind us moan to the waiter about the 45 minute wait to get their starter, we just knew that it wasn’t going to happen. 30 minutes later we were sitting at the counter in Polpo supping on a Bellini. This is what I said a year ago about Polpo: www.squaremeal.co.uk/review/Polpo/94079. Unlike the Summerhouse, a second visit a year later only underlines just how superb the place is.
ps as I cannot do a second, separate review with a new set of scoring, I have left the scores from last August about the food and value for money, and amended only those that I actually experienced this time, averaging out the overall and updating service to where it currently lies
I am not sure that I fully understand what a “pop-up” restaurant is. Or why. The name “The Summerhouse by the Waterway” and the address “opposite 60 Blomfield Road” hint that this is a transient establishment. Like Selfridges' pop-up restaurant last summer, which was housed in a tent on the roof (a tent of Gerry Cottell proportions rather than boy scout), however, it would be hard to say that the Summerhouse is anything other than a permanent establishment.
Set in a leafy corner of Maida Vale, near Warwick Avenue tube station, this is a brick built, well; building. Ok, it has a clear plastic covered terrace directly on the Grand Union Canal, but it is has not just popped up, nor will it so easily just pop-off. Yes, with the plastic sheeting down, you can see why this might not be so alluring in the winter, but then the Dutch have no trouble with plastic covered terraces on the Amsterdam canals throught the winter, and this year, with the canal frozen over, it would have been a nice change from sitting in front of a fake fire in some anodyne gastro-pub.
Nontheless, we went on a beautiful sunny lunchtime, with the sun reflecting off the tesco bags as they drfted along, being idly pecked at by the coots that hang out under the terrace, clearly looking for their share of the food on offer. Unlike it's sister (or mother?) restaurant just down the road, the Waterway, there is nothing here between the terrace and the canal so, other than looking over the council estate, on a sunny day you could almost be on the Canal St Martin. Almost. On such days you can see why it is so difficult to get a reservation here at the weekend. Mid-week though, it wasn't too difficult and the place was only half full; various chapters of the local branch of the ladies-what-lunch brigade were in, all braying teeth, dyed black roots and leggings. Leggings? Don't these people look in the mirror? Yes, they were trendy once, but nobody out of their teens looks good in them.
The food on offer is standard, no frills fish, with a single vegetarian and a single meat option (steak, of course). We started with perfectly fine squid with a light, but still pleasent, tartare sauce; crispy on the outside, just the right side of chewy on the inside (the squid that is, not the sauce). The main course of fish and chips that we both had was also lovely; firm fish, crunchy batter, good chips. The fact that my companion had ordered the fish pie was a minor point, as the service was so friendly that it was easy to overlook this minor error. Starter prices hover around the £7/8 mark and the mains (other than the whole sea bass) are in their mid- to late-teens.
The wine list too is short and functional, some good prices but £71 for a rose? Please. I know that Domaine d'Ott is uber-trendy, but it is an awfully big ask, even for the self styled “finest rose in the world”.
A great place for a lazy Sunday lunch or, as in our case, a mid-week TBL, given that one of us was between jobs and the other was flying off that evening, so was technically on his way to Heathrow.