We haven't thus far indulged at many of the chicken speakeasies that have been popping up around London over the past 12 months, so it was about time. What's more, as many will know, Chicken Shop and Dirty Burger are essentially next door and owned by the same people (Soho House). Being in Kentish Town, we were resolved to try both, though interestingly, according to UrbanSpoon, Dirty Burger has twice as many blog posts as Chicken Shop so in the trend wars, burgers it seems remain supreme.
Like Dirty Burger, Chicken Shop focuses on a single main course option, but against the rough and ready, round the back and in the shed burger joint, Chicken Shop is a large, comfortable and family friendly. You can choose a seat at one of the tables or at the large front table that puts you in spitting distance of the grill (that's the distance at which the grill can spit fat at you). Of course, as can be seen in the first picture below, this is also where the action is.
We really liked Chicken Shed as much as anything for the vibe and the people; sitting at the counter, it was like being part of the family and all the staff seemed invested. Even though the seasoning rub is top secret, they share: it involves paprika oregano, salt, 24 hours and a few others things that you can find out for yourself. The skin of the chicken is especially lovely and as opposed to too many chickens served elsewhere, with every bite of white meat you find yourself chasing down some chicken skin to add to the fork also. The chicken had dried out a little inside and that was a real shame because otherwise, we'd have something here that was close to perfect, but them if you're a one protein wonder, it needs to be.
There are sauces available, hot or smoky, while you also get a half lemon garnish; ketchup and the like is also available. The crinkle cut chips, the same as those at Dirty Burger, are excellent. This seems like a great place just to hang out however and if I had to choose between Hix's super slick Tramshed
or here, Chicken Shop would definitely be my choice (and portion sizes are much better here also). For chicken and chips though, I'm not sure I would make too significant a journey, but if I lived close, or happened to be close by, I would definitely be stopping here for a fix. Should you plan to do so however, you will need to be a little organised since Monday to Friday, it doesn't start serving till 5pm, on weekends however, doors open at midday.
The entrance to DirtyBurger in Kentish Town is one of the scariest we've stepped through to purchase food. To get there, turn off the main road, go round the back, when you see an upturned oil can with dirty burger painted on it, turn left. The entrance is in the corner, under the fire escape, the doors rusting corrugated iron. As I step through this industrial style entrance, I half expect to find stolen BMW's being chopped for spare parts. But no, it really is a burger shop.
The sparse simplicity of its exterior continues on the inside, not least because this venue is in fact just one big corrugated iron conservatory with a service hatch cut through into the main building to which it adjoins. A wooden ledge runs the length of the walls of the small space inside and a very large communal table sits in the centre. Seats are bolted to the floor adding a little further to the edginess.
The menu is simple: Cheeseburger (£2.50). Sides: Fries, onion rings (each £2.50). The drinks menu was obscured by a pillar and I am still kicking myself that I missed out on a milkshake. Oh well. I buy a Coke (bottle format) which you retrieve yourself from a fridge in the dining area. There's even the day's papers around for you to read to pass the time, though think The Sun here rather than The Times.
When the burger arrives, I love it. The name of the place is so appropriate: with melted cheese and whatever special sauces they put on, within moments of picking it up, my hands are covered in it all and I can hardly pick my drink up as it slides from my fingers, all properly dirty. I may upset several parties with this comment but everything here put me in mind of MEATliquor right at the beginning. There's the loud music blasting through, and like MEATliquor, the off the wall setting nevertheless provides coherency and a venue that feels accessible to all, but not at the expense of a crappy burger. We said in a recent post that some places just get burgers and DirtyBurger completely gets it. They didn't ask how I wanted my burger done, they just serve it proper from the get-go.
We have little reason to regularly visit Kentish Town but DirtyBurger might have just changed that. There are very few places where we'd make a special journey to eat a burger, but that list has just grown in number by one. The oddest surroundings really, but I can't fault what they do here. This is definitely one of London's very best burgers, and at £5.50, it's burger heaven.
signposting the way
a somewhat scary door
this is the whole restaurant
as it comes
and after you unwrap your presents
My first visit to Henry J Beans met with a massive service failure which reduced their takings for the night if only by a few pounds. Reflecting on this, perhaps they don't care because I can imagine this place gets very very busy so maybe everyday is like Christmas for them and accordingly, any notion of a service ethos has gone out the window. I actually found the food here to be okay, but it presents an interesting contrast against another of our recent posts, Hard Rock Cafe
, where it was the service, not the food that was the highlight. Which would I return to? If I had to go to either, it would be Hard Rock, because at Henry j Beans I was simply ignored most of the time, while at Hard Rock, they sought to make me feel wanted.
Located on the Kings Road, Chelsea, Henry J Beans is a US styled 'bar & grill' with TVs on the wall, ribs on the grill and Budweiser on tap. The interior has both high tables with bar stools, and more traditional tables with chairs. For food, I wondered if there is a dedicated dining area or can I sit and eat anywhere? Dithering accordingly, I hung around the entrance signalling clearly for a staff member to approach, no one did. I wandered a bit further in to be even more visible, nothing. I made eye contact with a waitress while standing around, she was pretty and she ignored me (these might be connected). Tired of standing, I sat at a high table, no one approached. Of course, what really irks you most in these situations is that there actually seemed to be quite a few staff, and they would often be standing around chatting to each other.
I had read the menu outside, a good job since I wasn't offered one inside, so I went to the bar and ordered. Initially I was ignored there too. Eventually, I was served. They asked me for my table number so perhaps all food does need to be ordered at the bar, though reading other reviews now that I am home strongly suggests table service is the norm. My ordered ribs arrived quite shortly after, they at least were brought to the table, though I had to ask for more than just one paper napkin. The ribs were okay, nothing special, again, leaning heavily on BBQ sauce but acceptable. But after these were cleared away, nothing. No dessert menu, no 'is there anything else I can get you', simply ignored again. I was actually going to order dessert, but after sitting at my table for a while as staff continued to talk to each other, and continued to ignore me, leaving just seemed like the best option.
So whether it is the case that Henry J Beans is too rich to care about their customers, or too stupid to care about their customers, this customer is not stupid enough to pay them a return visit.
some, but by no means all of the restaurant
Wind the clock back a decade and the City on a weekend was a desert: nowhere to eat, nowhere to drink. That now (happily) has changed and after I emerge from my Sunday lunch at New Street Grill via a cocktail at Old Bengal Bar, I can't help but feel I've stumbled upon a great secret. There are three criteria in our view for the big thumbs up when we write up a visit to a place: the quality of what they serve, the quality of the service and the atmosphere. Old Bengal Bar ticks all three boxes and while I'm sure the bar is rammed on a weekday as local knowledge of the Bishopsgate crowd comes in to play, on a weekend, tourists can easily walk by New Street without ever realising it's there; even I didn't know (properly) the offering until today.
This visit to Old Bengal Bar was mid Sunday afternoon when I thought I'd stop by for a drink after my meal next door before heading home. There's an extensive drinks menu featuring both popular and somewhat more esoteric cocktails. The charming and lovely Peter is behind the bar making your drink while Sebastian, their house DJ, lends atmosphere with music pitched perfectly for the room (and size of the room). I got chatting to both during my brief time there because Old Bengal Bar is an inherently friendly place where you feel like the staff have embraced you stopping by. You can discuss, as I did, what whisky you should have in a Whisky Sour (I chose Lagavulin 16 year old if you're wondering), or request what music you want to hear. It's a cliche to say that it felt like home, but it really did, it was that comfortable.
Sundays are difficult days, we've perpetually struggled across London for a good lunch, too many places are closed and too many places seem too run of the mill to want to spend time in. I left Old Bengal Bar happily thinking I could spend 52 Sundays a year there. If it weren't for the fact they close at 4pm on a Sunday, I might never have written this blog, for I might still be there. But sitting at home just a few hours later, because of Peter and Sebastian, I feel I've had the most magical Sunday. Not many places can achieve that, that's special. Old Bengal did. What to say? Cheers fellas.
Peter pouring my whisky sour
my whisky sour x x x
Old Bengal Bar
Hard Rock Cafe in the same week as the disaster at Reform Social, are we off our, err, rocker? Well, maybe, though this post might surprise.
Several weeks back, we declined a PR invitation to celebrate the Legendary Burger at Hard Rock Cafe, but instead, thought we should check it out in our own time, on our dime and so get the real experience. There's not so many blog posts on Hard Rock, I think Chris Pople pretty much killed those dead in their tracks with his devastating assessment back in 2011 (read the post here
). According to UrbanSpoon, this was the first, and to date, the only independent blogger assessment of the place, strange for a restaurant that is so popular, there is almost always a queue and a wait time to get in. Accordingly, it simply has to be worth a look (and after Reform, I'm prepared for anything).
Our conclusion might be surprising to many: there is a genuine and valid place for Hard Rock Cafe in the London hospitality sector in our opinion. To be clear, Hard Rock Cafe isn't a place for food bloggers. It's not even a place for people who read food blogs. And it's certainly not a place for people who can name London's top ten burger joints faster than most people can name their own children. The small amount of food that I tried was bland and instantly forgettable, even as I was still chewing it, but it never scaled the heights of being totally awful. So why then am I being so kind?
The reason that I can forgive them the food is that while sitting there, watching everything with my beady blogger eye, I came to appreciate that HRC had created a proper service culture that puts to shame many a 'better' restaurant. The greeting on the door is a smile and welcome, approach the door and a member of staff is there to open it for you, the staff seem to genuinely like people (it's amazing how many waiters in other restaurants can perform their task professionally but fundamentally don't actually like people).
Nothing seemed too much trouble for them. If you are one of those fussy eaters (the table next to me was - can I have that without the mustard, this on the side, and I don' t like....), the answer from staff was always 'no problem' said with all the appearance of sincerity. Sodas at Hard Rock are 'bottomless': my glass never sat empty for more than 30 seconds before my waiter Erik (we're on first name terms) breezed in to swoop up the empty glass and replace it with a full one. And when one family with two smallish children were leaving, their waitress, who had clearly engaged with the munchkins, walked out with them to the pavement to say goodbye; it all ended with high fives for the little people. For sure, high fives are not what I want as a food blogger, but if I were a parent with children in tow, I'd be thrilled. Perhaps that approach to service (and of course an undeniably impressive rock memorabilia collection) is why my fellow diners were a remarkably diverse group of individuals.
The no problem approach also meant I could order my burger medium rare 'no problem' and that's actually how they cooked it, it just didn't taste of much and the cheese on top was a scary fluorescent yellow. The bacon, and I have to point out that I'm never a fan of bacon on burgers here, there or anywhere, only served to add an unwelcome chew and make it a little salty. To be honest, I didn't bother finishing my Legendary Burger, couldn't really see the point. But if, as most, you're too busy trying to read the inscription on Eric Clapton's guitar to really worry about the shade of yellow of the cheddar, you're in solid company. The meal is something else to do, something to chew, while your attention darts around the room clocking the display: most probably finish their food without realising they've actually eaten something (other than now feeling full up, food quantities are decent enough). And to be properly fair, the food here is if anything better than most available 'pub grub' meals in London that tourists would otherwise find themselves eating and the surrounds are ten times more exciting.
So while I didn't see much point to their Legendary Burger, I did see a point to Hard Rock Cafe. You don't go there for the food, you go there for the experience, and that's why we think it has a place in the London hospitality scene. We've been in plenty of restaurants this year, good restaurants with great food, where the service was not a patch on what HRC offered, so seeing us not wanting to go back. A rude waiter can dampen your day just as much as a shitty burger, sometimes more. So even though I didn't like the food, and even though the place overall is not my thing, they treat you well in a unique surround, and for the majority of people I'm sure, that's more important than queuing for an hour and a half in a quest to discover London's best burger.
the Legendary Burger
endlessly decorated walls
Honest Burgers is clearly out there competing at the highest level in the capital's ever escalating burger wars, but somehow it hadn't really crossed our consciousness thus far. Admittedly that probably says more about us than them, but on recently receiving an email inviting us to try an upcoming special burger (a True Blood burger - an undead cow perhaps?), an invite that we politely declined, nevertheless, it did make us think that we should give Honest Burgers a try. So days later, here we are.
Knowing so little about HB, it was only good fortune that saw us turn up at 5:25 (midweek Soho opening times are 12-4pm, and 5:30-11pm) allowing us to get a table, for by 5:35pm they were already full and new arrivals were told to expect up to an hour's wait. The reality is however that it doesn't take long to pass through and back out the doors of Honest Burgers because it's a focussed operation: beef burger, chicken burger or a veggie alternative. With burgers coming only as a cheeseburger, an Honest-Burger or the day's special, and no starters and no desserts, all but the most indecisive will struggle to order quickly here. Worth noting, they say on the menu that all burgers are served medium unless otherwise requested; our request for medium rare was no problem at all we were delighted to find.
When the burgers arrived, they looked good and tasted good, so very much the burger business. Famously, they source their meat from The Ginger Pig, so one can have full faith in quality. Some places just instinctively understand how to put together a good burger and so it was here. It was excellent from first bite to last. My only point of issue is that the burger is on the smaller side of things (though in the photos below, admittedly, they look pretty huge). While we went there very, very hungry, the burger and chips alone didn't entirely fill us up, and maybe a dessert would have taken us to the finish line, but at Honest Burgers, it is just burgers as already noted, so that's your lot. Given the fact the cheeseburger costs just £8 for a top quality burger, I can't argue against value, but I think I would rather have paid £10 for it to be a little larger. But maybe I was just excessively hungry/greedy that day.
Of late, we have been Patty & Bun enthusiasts, so how does it compare against our favourite? I really enjoyed my meal at Honest Burgers and would snap a future one up in a heartbeat, but as much as I did enjoy it, my P&B allegiance remains intact. I don't know how long the queues and the wait gets for Honest Burgers at peak times, but I am guessing from what I saw this week, that the answer is extensive, so again, as much as I enjoyed it, would I queue an hour or more for it? Great burger then, great price, and definitely worth eating, especially if you can immediately grab a table, otherwise, you'll need to make up your own mind as to whether it's worth queuing for (and clearly many believe it is).
the day's special (American burger)
What a gift. This page is briefly stained by my tears of gratitude. Novelists don't usually have it so good do they, when something real happens (something unified, dramatic and pretty saleable), and they just write it down?
- Martin Amis, London Fields
Three years in to writing this blog, we didn't think we could be surprised; we were wrong. Scattered across the internet is an offer by Reform Social & Grill: lobster & a half bottle of wine for £14 (the offer is shown above, together with a screen-grab of our confirmation email). The siren call of such an offer was too good to miss, so we booked. Return tickets on the Titanic would have been better value. We know why lunch offers are made, loss leaders, the hope of up selling, extras and the spread of fixed overheads across a larger customer base; better to have a full restaurant right? Accordingly, the offer as advertised is good, but not too good to be true (so I thought).
Up front, we should say that the manager Giovanni, after we registered our complaint, came to address our issue and did the best he could; the end result was that no charge was made for the meal. We clashed on ideologies however and ultimately he acquiesced, but then, I was the customer after all. Of course, I think I'm right, but feel free to judge. I liked Giovanni, he was reasonable, but if restaurants were a game of poker, he had just been dealt seven two offsuit, there's only so much you can do with that.
So the deal was this: having booked the above offer, and thinking that I was walking into the Reform to dine on lobster, chips and a half bottle of wine for £14 (I know, I know, a good deal), I hadn't properly read the small print. Despite the headlines, and a confirmation email, I was told on ordering that it was not lobster, but a lobster burger.
That said, as one to take a blow on the chin, and for £14, for a meal that was in any case an experiment, I can live with it, so I shrugged and didn't mind. Lobster burger, £14, hey, why not. The shocker however, the real punchline to this tale of woe, was that the lobster burger was later described as containing exactly: lobster 33%, crayfish 33%, pollock 33%. How was this possibly a 'native lobster burger' as described on the menu? Having expected something like Burger & Lobster's magnificent lobster roll, I was speechless when this bland patty of nothingness arrived. It tasted of nothing, really nothing and how would you possibly verify it even had 33% lobster in, you certainly couldn't taste it. Did I mention, it tasted of nothing?
To recap then, I sat down expecting lobster and chips and now I was eating a pollock burger. I debated this with Giovanni. "it's not a pollock burger" he said. But if it is 33% lobster, and 33% pollock, why is it any more a lobster burger than it is a pollock burger? The logic was damning. If this was a lobster burger, it was equally a crayfish burger or a pollock burger. Of course, lobster sounds better. Crayfish and pollock are only declared by the waitress, not the menu, and even then, not percentages, you are only told that the lobster burger contains crayfish and pollock so the patty can keep its form (and I even missed that, amnesia perhaps, which I can only put down to the shock of a rug being pulled from under my feet).
With 33% lobster, 67% something else, Giovanni informed me "legally, we're allowed to call it a lobster burger". If to your customers you have to resort to "legally, we're allowed to..." then really, you've already lost the argument. I'm a diner, a customer, not a lawyer, and this is not a court of law. The dining room at Reform seats about 60+ people at a guess. My dining companion for the day, @cityjohn
and I were the only two customers in the whole restaurant. Legally then you might be right, but an empty restaurant says your customers don't want to eat this shit. Giovanni tells me au contraire, it's very popular; even after they've eaten it I wonder?
For £14, the wine was not bad, and the chips were good, thick cut and cooked pretty decent, but if I sign up for lobster, and that's the real and only reason I'm here, and the menu states 'native lobster burger', I don't expect to find myself eating pollock and crayfish as 66% of what's on my plate. They have a beefburger on the menu also, should we reasonably assume then that this too is only 33% beef and 66% something else because legally, that's all that they need? Nay.
This was, in my opinion, the most cynical manipulation of a menu description that we have encountered since starting the blog. Had the manager not pointed out that it was legal, and I'm sure he's right (after all, we now get horse meat in crispy pancakes instead of beef), I would have questioned its legality, but as Chapman said as long ago as 1654, 'the law is an ass'.
native lobster burger contains 33% crayfish and 33% pollock, but apparently it is legal to call it a lobster burger
lobster burger (see above)
the alternative meal deal, hanger steak, lots of garlic
Sometimes you book a restaurant days or weeks in advance (or years if you are eating at Dabbous
), at other times, you just walk the streets and see what you find. Four doors down from Pitt Cue is Carnaby Burger Co, and as I passed by, I wondered if they considered it bad luck to be so close to Pitt Cue or good luck that Pitt Cue only holds around 20 people. And in the age of the celebrated burger and lauded chains, how would an independent that nobody blogs about compare. Lunch venue sorted then.
First off, the Carnaby Burger Co is much more than burgers (yes, I was surprised too). As well as starters (including calamari, wings, nachos and more), within the mains there's chicken fillet burgers, hot dogs, and a 'big char grill' offering a steak, steak and eggs, or BBQ pork ribs. They even have a vegetarian section and a salad section on the menu, though admittedly, I didn't look what was on either. On the burger front, there's 9 burger options and a choice of ciabatta or brioche buns. Faced with altogether too much choice and despite entering a restaurant that says 'burger' above the door, I perversely decided to order ribs. Two things steered me in this direction: how would they compare with those I had yesterday at Smollensky's
(which were not special), and how would they compare with neighbouring Pitt Cue
, a placed famed for its BBQ pork.
If my gripe at Smollensky's had been that the ribs had been inadequately trimmed, here at Carnaby Burger Co, I could instantly see from the shape they had done a much better job in this respect so credit where credit is due. The result was that pretty much everything on the rack (ex the bones of course) was edible and when finished, the bones lay in a heap at the side of the plate stripped clean, devoid of extraneous and unwanted piggy debris. There's a little bit of heat in the rub to set a tingle to the lips while the meat itself was moist with the BBQ flavours within, not solely reliant on being smothered with sauce to give impact. Overall then, a pretty good job. Only two small issues arose, first, and slightly trivially, the serving wooden board was barely big enough to hold the contents and one you start having a go at the ribs, food tended to fall onto the table. Second, the glaze on the ribs had at the extremities dried out somewhat and gone hard. Fortunately, this only rendered the end rib on each side difficult to tackle so no big deal really. Most of the rack however was spot on.
This was actually a pretty good rack of ribs, so making Carnaby Burger Co a place I would potentially return to. Eating solo, I didn't get to see the burgers, and that was a shame, but the waitress did tell me that if I wanted a burger, medium rare wasn't a problem. Yay!
Service was friendly, interested that all was okay, but not invasive, and with my ribs priced at £15.95, identical to Smollensky's, today's offering felt so much better. Okay, it's not Pitt Cue but you can get in here and if you can't get in to Pitt Cue, here is where I'm sure many end up: it may even buck their spirits. Finishing with an inexpensive chocolate mousse, I left the restaurant happy and pleasantly surprised.
If a chain of restaurants has managed to survive 25 years in the capital, you can reasonably assume that it's either a) very good, or b) past its sell by date; it's been about three years since our last visit to a Smollensky's (pre blog) and we wondered how it would now seem. The website meanwhile notes Smollensky's is one of the great names in grill restaurants... [and] continues to operate with the same values that Smollensky's flagship restaurant... began with back in 1986...
1986 is a bit early even for us, but I do remember that visiting Smollensky's in the early nineties was still considered an exciting new thing to do for food and a night out. But back then, British food was really quite poor and an American based grill that cared about service and food could shake things up a little. Without doubt however, over those 20 years, food in the UK has been on an inexorable journey of improvement and whether you consider the competition to be Pitt Cue, Red Dog, Byron, Burger & Lobster, Goodman, Bodeans or even Bubbledogs, the formulas that worked in 1986 will need to be considerably updated if Smollensky's is to stand shoulder to shoulder with this new peer group. Sadly, for us today, it fell well short.
A starter of blackened shrimp with creole mayo and lemon wedge (yes, they advertise the lemon wedge on the menu) had no real impact leaving you to wonder if it contained any creole spices whatsoever. A crayfish and mango salad was nice enough, and pleasingly, the salad leaves were fresh and crisp, but a heavy hand on the Marie Rose sauce provided a challenge even for a sauce lover like me.
When the order for the burger was taken, we were asked 'how would you like it done?'. The right question, heaven, hope surges. But then when it was ordered medium rare, health and safety kicked in and we were told medium is as low as they go; hope plunges. The burger was better than expected (we now didn't expect much), but in playing the game 'if Goodman's burger is a 10, what is this on the naught to ten scale'; the answer was a four. Since there is a Goodman in Docklands just five minutes walk away, and a burger there costs £15, the question is actually important. A basic burger at Smollensky's costs £10.50 with £1.25 for each extra topping (including cheese) which means that this £13 burger is price comparable. The dip in quality versus a Goodman therefore is inadequately compensated by a lower price. Patty & Bun meanwhile price all their burgers below a tenner; enough said.
Our other main was the ribs. Among the problems here was that they had not been properly prepared. As About Barbecues & Grilling
says When cooking a rack of ribs, you want it limited to the actual bone section of the ribs. Well above the ribs is a section of meat filled with cartilage, little bones (the Chine bone) and connective tissue... you can also find it by looking for a long line of fat that runs lengthwise along the rack.
As well as lacking basic BBQ flavours (it relied heavily on the sauce for that), and being dry at times, there was simply too much fat and connective tissue for this to be anything other than disappointing.
It left us wondering what the point of Smollensky's now was because it still feels to us like it hasn't moved on from its historical recipe for success. Maybe that recipe still works well with the mainstream, maybe there's enough office parties from the surrounding Canary Wharf area to provide bums on seats, or maybe Canary Wharf stacked only with restaurant chains is itself still years behind the rest of London's food scene. Whatever the answer, we personally would struggle to find a good reason to return.
located in the heart of Canary Wharf
the dining room
crayfish and mango salad with Rose Marie sauce
Blackened shrimp with creole mayo and lemon wedge
BBQ rack of ribs
Open just a few weeks, there's nevertheless a huge buzz immediately apparent on stepping through the door of Jason Atherton's latest (but not last it seems) eatery. Continuing the 'social' theme, this is possibly his most social outing yet and pity any poor business souls who thought they'd enjoy a lunch away from the office and talk shop, for it's not that kind of place at all, it's properly a place to meet friends, enjoy a drink and some truly great food.
While new (the place has undergone a complete refurb), the restaurant has a look in keeping with current dining identities by offering an old, almost rustic look, with exposed brickwork and unframed sketches on the wall, offset by smart leather banquettes and the odd neon sign (mostly around the stairwell). Situated over three levels, in the basement, there's a kitchen that also provides a bar style chef's table which means that you don't have to be a party of eight to dine there. On the ground floor, there's the main restaurant, and finally, if you climb the stairs, there's the 'Blind Pig' bar serving cocktails and bar snacks. The bar in fact has it's own entrance and therefore functions as both an integrated and stand alone venue.
In the kitchen is Paul Hood, Jason's long time collaborator who previously headed up the kitchen at Pollen Street Social, so here, we have a veteran chef who has been a partner in crafting the food message that won both applause and a Michelin star for PSS from the start and can therefore be expected to deliver a similar quality offering here, and he does.
Food here is 'familiar with a twist', and comfort with a lift. On the starters, a BLT has become a CLT (Colchester Crab), "ham egg and chips" uses duck it seems (not tried) and the ravioli of wild boar Bolognaise, something that many a restaurant would be happy to deliver well in its own right goes a step further here with peppered hearts and kidneys. Equally, a smoked Black Angus tartare arrives at the table so smartly dressed in salad leaves that you wonder if they've brought the right plate to the table; of course they have and it's these little extras on the plate take the food on a level from the safe combinations offered in the capital's now ubiquitous brasseries.
It's the same story on the mains: roast Cornish cod, cockles and cream doesn't stop there as others might, providing here additionally kombu and mousseron that shakes things up just enough. Only the lamb neck fillet disappointed and though the combination with sheep's ricotta potato, garlic and parsley sounded good, the lamb was a touch dry and would have benefited from a jus to moisten things up somewhat.
For dessert, the milk chocolate mousse, praline, chocolate eclair and salted caramel ice cream (yes, that's all one dessert) was an overwhelming favourite, with the eclair component especially enjoyed.
With Social Eating House combining an inspiring menu cooked well with informal surrounds, this is definitively Jason Atherton's most social restaurant yet. And with the bar upstairs rather than annexed to the restaurant, these spaces provide two distinct offerings (we will blog the bar in due course) and SEH will in our view carry forward the buzz that we experienced in the restaurant today for a long time to come.
the dining room
the downstairs chef's table
Ravioli of wild boar Bolognaise, Berkswell, peppered hearts and kidneys
Smoked Black Angus tartare, radishes, horseradish, mustard leaf
Roast Cornish cod, kombu, mousseron, baby gem, cockles and cream
Lamb neck fillet, sheep's ricotta potato, garlic & parsley
Milk chocolate mousse, praline, chocolate eclair, salted caramel ice cream