We were partially wrong in our assessment of its activity level with the venue still half full of suits and ties even as three o'clock approached, and given what we've said above about the interior density, you'll be little surprised to learn that even when half full, it still seems fuller than a many a full restaurant ever does. Exposed brick work, blackboard menus and when seated at the kitchen bar counter, the heat of the burners brushing your cheek, it does without a doubt though have its own authentic charm.
While personal space is a personal preference, service was simply bad with a waitress for whom apathy would have marked a considerable improvement in attitude. When the bill came at the end noting 'service not included' it seemed like a summary of the meal rather than an invitation to tip and this was one of the very few occasions where we decided that a tip simply wasn't warranted. To be fair and in contrast, on our previous occasion there, we found staff, including the cooks behind the counter to be of a much happier demeanour and perhaps it was just one of those days.
Our two starters to share were New Orleans Oysters - deep fried oysters with tartare, and dressed crab. The deep fried oysters were excellent, a light crisp breadcrumb coating fried to just the right degree, perfect with either a squeeze of lemon or a drop of Tabasco. The dressed crab was attractively dressed with chives and egg though we had to ask for some bread to eat it with and a lacklustre basket was then provided that looked a little sad, as if it it was the leftover basket from a departing table which quite likely it was. The crab itself was well done and fresh and gave no cause for complaint.
One main was a beef, Guinness and oyster pie which looked promising, arriving with an an impressive pastry dome sitting on a hot pot of beef and Guinness with two oysters on the side. Remove the pastry and pop the oysters into the pie to complete. Sadly, the pie was at best bland, certainly underseasoned, the meat and sauce almost flavour free and bitter, possibly the result of overcooking. The salt encrusted pastry overcompensated for the lack of seasoning in the pie and on eating the pie contents together with a fork of crust, the salt became over powering.
The bowl of Moules Mariniere saw the mussels cooked just fine but the cooking sauce itself seemed little more than white wine with an excess of melted butter. It rendered the whole dish simply bad. Our waitress was of course uninterested on the food left on both plates if she had indeed even noticed.
Related post: J Sheekey Oyster Bar
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