For those not familiar with Racine, it is a French restaurant situated in Knightsbridge just a short walk from Harrods serving Bourgeois French cooking. The interior is instantly recognisable in the French style and given the rents in Knightsbridge, the tables are authentically close together in the Paris style. With prices at the level you might expect for the area, while Racine does not posses a star, our expectations were high, especially given the widespread praise it had received.
With our usual hunger to try much of their offering we thought we'd order a four course lunch with the cote de boeuf as the second course to share across a table of four before we all enjoyed self selected main courses.
For the starters there was universal excitement at the scrambled eggs and fresh black truffle which was chosen by three of four, while yours truly selected the warm garlic and saffron mousse with mussels, another dish that had come much recommended.
With the plates brought to the table, the first surprise was that despite three truffle dishes now in front of us, there was no real aroma of truffle. Not one of us around the table could pick up on the truffle for it was without smell. Nor was the shave the most generous but this was not portion dependant, it just didn't smell of anything. Missing the aroma, it is little surprising then that the taste was also of nothing for the two are directly related. In every respect, this seemed a truffle of no consequence. To add insult to injury, the scrambled eggs were also disappointingly washy. The garlic and saffron mousse was in most respects the dish of the day with the saffron and garlic flavours subtly combined in a light mousse. From here though it would be downhill.
Possibly due to the poor cooking, the beef was also tough. Despite serrated knives, the effort required to cut the beef was immense leaving us at times with white knuckles given the force that we need to apply. Furthermore, the top char didn't in fact cut through, rather, it broke away in fibre like lengths. We were little surprised then that the beef tasted of very little. Despite this being a dish for two shared between four of us, beef remained on the plate when it was cleared because it really wasn't worth eating.
The grilled rabbit was good but not exceptional and had to be enjoyed out of synch with the other main courses. When the partridge did come back, it was not this time over cooked but it was cooked inconsistently (even within a single bird) ranging from a close to rare to cooked through. It too challenged the diner to extract the joy from the bird. At our recent Waterside Inn visit (admittedly both more expensive and with 3 stars), we nevertheless drooled at the partridge dish. Here, you would not be able to tell it was the same bird that we had so enjoyed in Bray.
Four people round the table, all four disappointed and for the rest of the day, conversation dominated by both the need to marvel at how bad the meal was and a need to move on to put it behind us lest we get angry at the experience and expense. We started by suggesting that this must be an off day because Racine has so many fans and advocates. That said, we don't want to go to the expense of going back to find out if this was an off day or not, for the London restaurant scene is currently far too vibrant to waste our time also.
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