Monday, 30 January 2012

Bread Street Kitchen, London

Rating: 6/10  Food: a little bit of everything, Cost: £30 (average for two courses)
10 Bread Street, London EC4M 9AJ

Like fashion, art or film, restaurants are all about trends. Whether it’s “small plates”, no-reservation policies or gourmet burgers, most places, with the exception of high-end establishments, will probably indulge in one fad or the other. One big trend, and one folks can’t seem to get enough of, is pissing all over Gordon Ramsay and anything he touches. Once the enfant terrible of British cooking, Ramsay—lauded by critics, adored by the public—could do no wrong. Now, anything he goes near has critics’ cross-hairs trained on it and the masses baying for a cock-up.

I’ve had some utterly immense meals at Ramsay establishments (at Hospital Road, The Savoy Grill and Claridges) some pretty good ones (the now defunct Boxwood Cafe and Terminal 5’s Plane Food) and, to be fair, some absolute fucking stinkers (The Narrow—poor even by pub standards—and Foxtrot Oscar).

It can only be assumed that the collective ill-will stems from his utter smugness in telling everyone that will listen, via the over exposed, grotesque television caricature he has created, what makes a great chef or a perfect restaurant. So yes, you can argue, he has it coming.

And this preamble brings us to his latest London venture, Bread Street Kitchen, which has had the inevitable mixed response. What did I think of it? I liked it. I think.

On my first visit, the food would probably have rated about an 8/10 score. It was tough to fault. Myself and The Ginger ate well; between us we devoured scallops, pig’s head croquettes, grilled lobster and a phenomenal veal chop. All, in themselves, simple but expertly cooked. The service however, was terrible. And by terrible, I mean I had complained before we had even been seated. (We had a table booked for 9.00 and arrived on time at a restaurant that was at about 65% capacity. We were then parked at the bar for 20 minutes in a cynical attempt to squeeze some more money out of us for over-priced G&Ts). On top of this we had a docile sperm serving us who didn’t even bother to enquire why when I asked for the service charge to be removed. Obviously I hadn’t been the first.

But as I say, that was early days and they have since had the chance to remedy service, and to be fair, the food was worth a second visit.

My second visit took place on a quiet Sunday afternoon in mid January. The restaurant was probably about 25% full. However it’s tough to tell. If you’ve read anything about this place you’ll know already of how cavernous it is. I mean, really, it’s like a fucking football pitch. Well a football pitch with random chairs, lamps, leather banquets and decor I suspect wouldn’t be out of place in an Essex superclub. Or brothel.

I plumped for the short rib burger with Bermondsey Frier, a side of chips and a small carafe of the house pinot noir. The burger was pretty good; the meat succulent if a fraction overcooked for medium. The base of the firm buttery bun was coated in chopped lettuce and a light garlic mayo, on top of which rested our burger, the aforementioned cheese and some slithers of gherkin. I suspect some might complain about the stinginess on the gherkin front but for me it worked in not overpowering the subtle cheese. As a whole, it tasted pretty good. But then it should, it was £12. Sans chips. If I’m paying that for a man sandwich (as in a burger, not a sexual act) I expect more than “pretty good”. I expect great. I expect a burger of the standard you’ll find at Bar Boulud. And then we have the chips. Sorry but they need to offer an alternative to chunky chips that border on roasties. As far as I’m concerned: thick chips for fish and chips, skinny ones for burgers. Simple rule. Anyway, they tasted fine.

This was finished off with a slice of almond and polenta cake with crème fraîche. This was lovely. Crumbly yet moist. However, almost ruined with a sickly, cloying lemon syrup that would not be out of place doused over a pudding at a Harvesters.

There’s plenty to dislike here. Granted the service was better on my second visit, I’d still be concerned about getting lost on a busy Friday night. And the decor is going to date badly. Quickly. And the menu is the ridiculous kind of concept (choose from four sections; Raw Bar, Salads, Hot Kitchen, Wood Stone) that would have Ramsay tearing new arseholes asunder on Kitchen Nightmares screaming "Keep it fucking simple!". But despite all this (and fucking Aunt Bessie’s roasties), based on my first visit at least, the food is pretty good. So would I return? Probably.

I guess, like everyone else, I just like pissing on Gordon Ramsay. (That’s figuratively, again, not a sexual act.)

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