Drakes Tabanco

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Drakes Tabanco dining room

We arrived at Drakes Tabanco having heard this is a new, yet subtle Spanish tapas bar in Fitzrovia focusing on authenticity, simplicity and the people. We checked out the menu which is Spanish but has British inclinations too. The idea behind this sherry and tapas bar is that when Sir Francis Drake came back from his travels he kick started the sherry industry and so the menu reflects this era. The restaurant is small with a little sherry bar offering what they call ‘real sherry’ that is stored for years and is dry, and full bodied. Tabancos are unique as they are served straight from the barrel and Drakes Tabancos serves just them. We were early but this did not seem a problem for the incredibly helpful Spanish waiters and they sat us down at a lovely table near another beer where they prepared cold food and sliced big legs of ham. The small restaurant is downstairs and is light with black and white prints of Spanish generations. I think as the place was so cozy, it would have suited to be a little darker and maybe use candles instead of bright lights.

There were two menus but choose to have the tasting menu as it gave a nice selection ofunusual tapas and also came with sherry to par. Now as regular readers know, I like my wine, but have never tried sherry so this was a first.

The first course was compiled at the cold food bar next to where I was sitting. This consisted of picked cockles served on soda bread and a seaweed butter and served with a classic Fino – a light sherry. Our waiter painstakingly explained the ingredients in the dish and their origins or relevance to the dish. He then went on to explain why the Fino worked so well with the dish – we later learned it was his first week and although being from the local region of Spain we were still surprised at his knowledge. The pickled cockles were laid on the pre-buttered bread and as stated were freshly prepared so that the bread did not soften with the pickle. I adored the seaweed butter which was salty and yet had a light tang.

We were then served smoked scallop with avocado puree, cured sardine and dill with the Fino en Rama. Again this was explained in depth and the Fino had more depth and was aged longer to create this intensity. The scallop was sliced through the middle so that we both had two large disks of scallop. I was slightly nervous that the fish would be too smoked especially as scallops are so light in flavour but they were cooked through and very light in flavour, remaining their pearl colour. The avocado puree was smeared on the side and was tangy and light, matching the scallops beautifully.

We were then served our first warm dish which was slow cooked egg yolk served with leeks and romesco. This time the sherry was called ‘Amontillado’ which was much more golden in colour and was my favourite at that point as it was dry but had a hit of oak at the back of the mouth. This dish really shone for us as we both agreed we would not have picked this on the menu but it really was a winner. This shows the benefits of having a tasting menu I suppose. The dish was served in a small circular bowl and served a bright red sauce seasoned with spicy peppercorns and mixed with slow cooked leeks. In the middle was a egg yolk that was barely cooked so that the white membrane had turned opaque keeping the golden yolk together. The dish was outstanding and if you go there I strongly suggest you order it despite its unassuming name.

The next course was served with a rare sherry called ‘Oloroso’ which was very intense and golden in colour. We had the option to have either the braised pig cheek or the short rib of beef. I went for the pork cheek and was pleased with my choice as this came out piping hot and the cheek literally feel apart when touched with the fork. The potato puree with flecked with toasted hazelnut and was hearty. My partner ordered the short rib which was served with crushed parsnips and thyme jus. Now the rib was fatty so I am biased as I don’t like too much fat no matter how tender but I have to say it made the meat so tender and melted in the mouth. My only criticism here was that it was not warm enough and so lost some of the flavour.

After our main course was served we were given cheese and biscuits. This was Zamorano Cheese – a local cheese from the area and topped off with either quince jelly or Malaga raisins. The cheese was hard, milky and subtle and worked well with the quince and the huge dried raisins that was pleasing to the eye This was served with a much sweeter sherry called ‘Old India’ which was supposed to be one of their most rare sherry’s and was very sweet, golden and aged.

Our final course was hazelnut ice cream with a chocolate sauce and confit orange peel. I loved this as a dessert as I do not generally have a sweet tooth this was a great hit for me. This was served with Pedro Ximenez sherry which was much darker sherry, very sweet and I felt a little over powering for the dish. It tasted as though someone had juiced a raisin.

Included in the tasting menu was a coffee so we both ordered espressos to waken us from our fuzzy heads from the strong sherry. We loved the fact that the staff really cared if we liked the food, it was personal to them. They took care to talk us through each ingredient choice and really listened to our feedback. This place is trendy without meaning to be so. It is small, ran by a small team who are incredibly friendly. As a result Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls gives this place:

Food                             Service                      Atmosphere

4 Stars5 Stars3 Stars

 

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Gaucho – Farringdon

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We visited Gauchos on the spur of the moment after a long day of work and a celebratory catch up. We have always tried to avoid Gaucho having thought of it as a pretentious steak house although I secretly wanted to go to satisfy our curiosity as well as the fact I could be less of a hypocrite once I had been to try and test it. I think personally Faringdon was a good choice of location for me as it is less trendy and full of people who actually enjoy good steaks and good wine – I mean who doesn’t.

Anyway we walked through the heavy glass doors and were greeted by the receptionist who found us a seat opposite the kitchen. I like to see the kitchen when i’m in a restaurant as I find that it shows honesty about their food and cooking as well as the fire being warming and adding to the business of the place.

Gauchos are renown for being dark and the Farringdon place was no different but it was cosy and warming in a way. We were welcomed by a eastern European waitress who asked if we had all been to Gaucho. I wanted to pretended as though I had as I cannot be patient when they give their pre scripted speech but unfortunately my fellow diner said she hadn’t before I had a chance to nod. Damn! So this entailed a dramatically prolonged performance that I am sure every diner (and therefore most readers) have had to sit through where they patronisingly explain the cuts of meat while holding a wooden board with different cuts on their shoulder. Dinners can do nothing other than awkwardly nod and smile in appreciation. I hated every second of that.

After that ordeal we looked at the menu and chose the starters and cuts of meats that we actually wanted. We ordered the Ecuadorian cheviche, the raw tuna dish and the king prawns with black pudding. These came out quickly; the cheviche was light, fresh and tasty with onion, coriander and tomato to beef up. The tuna was cooked rare and sliced thinly; this was served with wasabi and avocado which worked very well as a complement to the dish. I ordered the prawns and these were served with the rich black pudding. I liked the fact that they changed the seafood to prawns which is usual scallops which can often can be over powered. We were happy and looked forward to our main courses.

Do not fear, throughout we were being topped up with white wine (white at Gaucho I hear you cry – our colleague likes white and I like alcohol so I am not going to moan)

For main course we ordered two sirloins and two rumps, these we ordered with creamy spinach, fries and carrots. The steaks I have to admit were cooked to perfection; I like mine rare and my colleague medium/rare and both were certainly that. The peppercorn sauce was light and not too rich, the carrots were glazed but al dente and the spinach was nice although slightly over cooked and the creamy sauce was a little too watery. Overall we were satisfied. The food was cleared away quickly and I have to say the waiting standard is high – if not overly done if you ask me.

Our drinks were constantly topped up, we were asked ‘how is the food’ at least once a course and menu items explained in too great a detail that it ended up seeming patronising. Despite this the service was very professional and friendly.

I really liked this place and am a little grieved to admit, yes the Hawksmoor is less pretentious but the food is good. If they cut the OTT serving staff and all of the stage’ry, I would give this place top mark, but due to the patronising performances, too attentive staff and the ‘playing it safe’ menu; Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls gives this place:

             Food                                Service                       Atmosphere

2 Stars3 Stars2 Stars

steak

Les Deux Salon‏

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We have noticed this place pop up earlier in the year and on later inspection, saw that is was the sister of sophisticated British restaurants Wild Honey and Artubus so we suggested to visit with friend. Les Deux Salon as the name implies is French so steers away from the British fusion of the other sister restaurants and instead moves to a more casual Parisian style Brasserie.

Les Deux Salon is on a side street just off the Strand so is a great meeting location. The large windows have steel piping on the antiqued windows. We walked in to the grand restaurant and met at the desk to give our names and coat. We were shown to our table which was past the large old fashioned bar and in a slight alcove. We were seated at a crisp white table on a cushioned bench with wooden seats opposite us. The floor had tiled white and black stone and when one looked up there was a second floor with a large oval shape in the centre.

We were served bread and ordered a coke and mojito while we looked through the menu. We ordered the house soup which was chicken and sweet corn and the steak tartar. The chicken soup came out in a pottery high walled pot and looked very authentic. It was creamy, hot and sweet, which was lovely on a cold winter evening. The tartar was served with ciabatta which nicely soaked up the rich meat juices. The tartar was thick and well spiced with tobacco sauce, Worcestershire sauce and pepper. The egg on the top was nice and golden although as the meat mix was quite small it almost dominated the dish.

We then were served our main courses which consisted of king tiger prawns with chili and lemon and a chopped steak with fried egg. We were informed that the mains come with no sides, so we ordered the creamy spinach and green beans. I am pleased that the waiter informed us of this but I do begrudge having to order sides to make a dish a full meal. The tiger prawns came out whole so were quite messy to pick apart especially in a professional setting (but that was my fault) but I was given a lemon bowl to refresh my fingers. The prawns were well cooked and went well with the rich creamy spinach and al dente green beans. The steak dish was a little over cooked especially considering it was feather steak. It was chopped roughly and served with the fried egg on top – very Parisian. The richness of the egg paired well with the lean meat.

Our waiter was French and very professional, which suited the surrounding. Our drinks were regularly topped up, crumbs brushed away after each course yet he was not overly attentive. My only slight niggle was that we had to wait a long time to get the attention of the waiter for the bill at the end, which is a pet hate of mine. I am not sure if this was because he forgot or so that we would not feel rushed; either way I would prefer to get the bill in a timely manner after we communicate that we don’t want a dessert. Over all we felt satisfied with this brasserie, which felt very authentic, in both its atmosphere, service and menu.

As a result Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls gives this place:

             Food                               Service                    Atmosphere

3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars

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BFI Resturant – Southbank

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We visited BFI before attending a jazz evening at the Waterloo Vaults. The BFI restaurant is under Waterloo bridge right on the river. There are tables outside both in summer and winter (with heaters in the winter) and then a large restaurant on one side with the bar on the other.

We had not booked but fancied a casual non chain restaurant affair – which is quite hard to find on South Bank. While it is owned by Benugo, being based in the BFI gives the place a real unique feel. 

The waitress thankfully found a free table for us and we sat and took in our surroundings. It is an open plan restaurant with the kitchen visible from the restaurant area. We took a look at the menu which is English in cuisine. Note the bar serves some fabulous bar snacks including squid, lamb kebabs and chicken thighs.

We ordered the salmon fillet with root vegetables and spring cabbage and the steamed mussels with cider and sour dough.  My salmon was perfectly cooked; served on a large wooden board and a bed of salad,  it was a lovely light meal. The mussels came out steaming and were deliciously juicy and flavoursome. This was soaked up with the heavy sour dough.

We have to say nothing until this point went wrong but we did hear two other tables moan that they ordered different dishes or the service was too slow but we disagree . However it would not be fair not to mention the long wait we had for the bill – which we just assumed they had forgotten.

 We really enjoyed our meal and although the service was a little …forgetful… it was certainly pleasant. The atmosphere by the Thames is relaxed, arty and casual. The food was freshly made and well cooked and flavoured. We were satisfied, now off for the Jazz!

                 Food                           Service                       Atmosphere

3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars

BFI

The London Foodie – French Supper Club

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We heard about the French Supper Club in N1 through a mutual friend. The host, Luiz Hara, is an Italian-Japanese Brazilian chef living in London, who left a career in investment banking to pursue an interest in food.

The food, service and atmosphere was top quality. It’s not surprising when you see the chefs stylish home and start to hear more about his training in Japanese cuisine in Tokyo and graduated with the Grande Diplome from Le Cordon Bleu.

Luiz Hara now hosts Japanese Super Clubs but this month he also added a few French Supper club options due to his interest in French cuisine. We found his house and were welcomed at the stylish house, upon arrival we were served with a gin and tonic accompanied with a sardine tart that melted in the mouth. The guests (who we were introduced to there and then) were mingling in the living room that is full of antiques and curios until we were asked to take our seats at the dinner table; which was underground. As you walked down the stairs there was a mezzanine floor which the ultra modern bathroom was situated and at the bottom of the stairs was a huge kitchen with a number of helpers running around.

Around the corner was a well decorated table sitting 25 people in our section. I was sitting with my friend but the other guests were strangers so it was great to able to chat with people next to you who share the same interests.

As I said the kitchen and dining area are underground and the roof of the dining room area was made of glass; it was raining which made the warm cosy atmosphere even more divine. Luiz, explained the menu which included three starters, main course, cheese and biscuits and dessert, phew! It was a bring your own wine occasion, but Luiz being the great host he was offers you some wine suggestions that go along with the meal prior to arrival as you are not told of the dishes ahead – part of the surprise.

Firstly we had a saffron soup with mussels and crispy croutons. This was rich and creamy with the mussels adding additional depth. This was followed by sea bass tartare with apple and coriander. It was light and perfect ahead of the heavy courses ahead. We then were given our final starter which was my favourite starter of the three. It was a cheese similar to camembert – but much tastier) mixed with garlic and herbs. This was grilled served with bread, gherkins and thickly sliced ham. I will certainly try remaking this at home!

The wine we bought was stored by the wine cooler and we just helped ourselves to our own bottles as necessary. I thought this was a much better idea than the last supper club I went to where the host kept asking us which bottle was ours and topping it up as and when, which was a hassle for them and us!

For the main course we had a French mince dish, very similar to a cottage pie but had a buttery, creamy mash and foie gras grilled on top. This was served with vegetables to share around the table. Although it was very rich, I ate every mouthful!

We were then served a selection of French cheeses and dried fruits served on a slate plate. This was accompanied with sliced bread which Luiz sources from Uxbridge – it is really that nice.
Finally we were served the obligatory TarteTatin, which we cut and share between us. Again this was rich especially after eating all the other rich courses but it was difficult not to want more. It was delicious. Every course was faultless; the host clearly had a keen passion in food and a talent in the kitchen. The host’s house was beautiful, so stylish and chic and it was great to meet new people with similar interest in us.

               Food                           Atmosphere                   Service

5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

camenbert

Andina

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ANDINA

This is Peruvian restaurant which had a lot of hype before opening. Based in Shoreditch, Andina is very chic – probably more suited to West London – it’s always busy so you need to book. We were after a nice light lunch location and this seemed an obvious choice (not only because we had never tried it and have it on our list.) We walked through the more casual ground floor restaurant and were taken to the downstairs dining area that felt a lot more Latin American.

The stone walls are painted a Mediterranean bright white, set against the light wood of the the bar, starcase and tables. Down stairs there is a modern bar offering a variety of exotic spirits and they do have free cocktail making classes (at an awkward time of 4pm on weekdays but still its free!)

We ordered the lamb kebabs, the risotto and the super food salad. Now the waitress was not fluent in English but very polite so we felt a bit awkward trying to correct her when she took down the wrong orders – we knew there would be errors at this point.

The lamb and thr risotto came out within ten minutes but the salad was nowhere to be seen. Now its unusual for the cold dish not to come out first so we knew she had forgotten. Despite the fact the waitress was milling around us most of the time,  she was nowhere to be seen when we wanted her. We finally got hold of her and told her we needed the additional dish, she said it was on its way – which is a bare faced lie – as she ran off to let the kitchen know there was an urgent order.

Our mains were cold by the time that the salad dish was served however the risotto and the lamb were really tasty but the lamb kebabs were over cooked so a little tough. The risotto was the star dish, full of flavour and the rice very tender. My lamb dish looked very appealing but as I said was over cooked and so awkward to eat in polite company. The salad that eventually came was delicious; colourful and full of flavour. We were satisfied with  the food but a little annoyed with the service so tried to get the bill. Could we find a waitress? It felt as though they were doing it on purpose and it was really grating. I have to say this place could do really well. The menu is fresh and certainly a change to the ‘hipster’ Shoreditch menus. Light, fresh and tasty. Yes the attention to detail and the service really let this place down. As a result Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls gives this place:

             Food                              Service                          Atmosphere

3 Stars2 Stars2 Stars

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Patisserie Valerie – Spitalfields

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We went to Patisserie Valerie for a quick lunch one work day as it is close to our offices. We have visited on a numerous occasions for coffee and cake (see here) but have never really considered it as a place to have lunch and were surprised when our colleagues suggested it.

We walked in and it was absolutely packed, there was no room to swing a cat but miraculously a waiter rushing by and found us a seat from out of nowhere. We squeezed in and were given the menus by a harassed looking waiter who sat us on a two person table but managed to find a spare chair for our friend and plonked it down.

Ok this was squeezed between a dribbling and frankly naughty toddler who managed to conjure up a drum set, and the counter so that the waiters had to squeeze past us. But we were impressed at his resourcefulness and the fact that we did not have to wait in the non existent reception or even worse in the bitter London smog.

We opted for the Chicken Skewer Salad, Chicken Caesar salad and a Ham and Cheese Panini with red onion. Our orders were taken quickly and not written down; I am always impressed in bustling restaurants when waiters remember orders off by heart your order no matter how complicated, practicing this in less professional establishments shows off their skills, I am madly impressed.

As soon as that thought passed through my mind I was served a coke instead of a diet coke. Ok a one and only minor mistake but it just goes to show that it saves time to write things down in long run.

The food came out quickly and looked surprisingly homemade and delicious. I was preparing myself for a pre made, luke warm, standardized dish but these really looked like they had thought put into them despite the rush in the kitchen.

The chicken skewers came on a delicious bed of salad that included olives, peppers, rocket and onion. The chicken was juicy and generously served. The Caesar salad was huge, with two whole breasts served on toasted bread. The creamy sauce was nice and thick although personally a little too heavy for a lunch salad. The Panini which was customised to suit our colleagues taste with additional red onion and extra cheese which came out crispy yet gooey on the inside and was served with a simple side salad.

We have to admit that we were expecting the worst from a rammed chain restaurant full of tourists, shoppers and hungry workers but actually the kitchen staff took care with the food preparation, the staff realised the need for speed yet made the effort to be friendly and OK, the atmosphere was lacking being in a drab white restaurant that lacked all personality but hey we were in Spitalfields so could look over the top of the heads of the diners, past the drooling child and see the square.

Definitely worth a visit in the summer when you can sit outside where there is much more room but still the quality of food for the price is not half bad.

Food                            Service                          Atmosphere

 

 

chicken skewer

Kimchee

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Kimchee is a fast food outlet and is the little sister to Kimchee restaurant in Holborn. The latter is a restaurant and karaoke bar that we have also fancied visiting. Tonight we had tickets to the Opera at the Coliseum to see Madam Butterfly. My friend had got tickets for the ‘Opera Undressed’ festival which sells tickets for the first night of opera’s at a heavily discounted price to younger audiences to introduce them to the arts. Beforehand we wanted to grab something to eat before the opera at 8pm and Kimchee based on the Strand was an obvious choice as we wanted fast, Asian, warm food yet couldn’t face another Itsu meal, as that is our usual lunch haunt.

Kimchee is Korean in style with wooden panels on the walls, minimalist wooden tables and a modern counter area. To one side is the food counter for people to choose the cold food and there are large windows on two adjourning wall. At the far end is the kitchen/counter where they served the hot food and take the payments.

The food all looked fresh and tempting and I finally decided on the tuna & egg salad and sushi and my friend went for the sweet crispy chicken which is served cold and the vegetable box with minced beef. At the counter my friend was told that the vegetable and meat came with rice with “bits in it” and he asked if that was ok. She shrugged and said that was fine. He then went on to explain that if she ordered something else her drink would be cheaper. Did she want that? It was a bizarre experience as the waiter went on to offer her different options which were not advertised (as far as I could see) and needed to reconfirm she was “ok” with everything and happy. While this was going on I decided that I was too cold for a salad and instead would have the same as my friend. If I had known that her vegetable and beef box came with rice I would have chosen it in the first place but it certainly wasn’t clear on a first visit.

Having gone through the same rigmarole as my friend when paying at the counter we finally sat down at one of the large tables. The stools leaned downwards with a point at the top of the stool; almost like a diamond, but was rather uncomfortable. The place was busy with many people taking orders away, yet all of the benches were full with a constant buzz. The majority of the people eating here were Koreans and foreigners, I liked this as it felt as thought this place was at least partly authentic.

The vegetable and minced beef box was separated into two with the bottom box holding the rice. The “bits” that he mentioned were peas, sweetcorn and herbs so he really did under sell. The minced beef was served cold as when taken from the fridge counter but when mixed with the rice turned to room temperature. The beef was salty and juicy packed full of flavour. The vegetables were all placed together and included grated carrot, bean sprouts, bok choy, spring onion, chili and green leaves. We mixed these together with the beef than onto the bed of rice. Delicious.

I also had the sushi which was a little too much altogether but I did want to try it looked different to Japanese sushi; with a thicker seaweed wrapping which is much darker in tone and they were larger rolls but thinly sliced. The meat tended to be red meat or vegetables rather than the fish served in most Japanese sushi. The sushi was nice yet heaver. We had asked if they do wasabi at the counter but the man looked at me as if I was mad then pointed me to the fridge again which had soy and wasabi mixed together “was that ok” he said. I assured him that it was – Hard work! My friends cold fried chicken was delicious although too sweet for my liking served in a caramelized sticky sauce which stuck the meat together. I was not a fan but my friend seemed to like it, so it was just a matter of personal taste really.

We really liked this place and were a nice change to Itsu if you wanted fast, healthy Asian food. The counter service is confusing but I think once you have been the first time you get to grips with what you want and can avoid confusion by being confident and taking the polite, nervous waiters in your stride. The food is heartier than its Japanese counterparts but is fresh and healthy still. We like the varied menu and the hot and cold options which are perfect for the unpredictable weather in British. All in all a good night.

              Food                              Service                        Atmosphere

3 Stars2 Stars2 Stars

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Mr Buckley’s

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We admit if you are based anywhere central/ west London this place is a bit of a pain to get to, but trust me if you like East London hip restaurants that are off the beaten track, then this is the place to go. It’s unpretentious neon sign and bare brick walls in the small restaurant is inviting. The reception is small and they took their time to find the reservation but this adds to the charm. All of the minimalist furnishings suit the Hackney interior; simple, honest and local.

The waitress explained that two out of the three options we fancied were sold out/un-orderable..damn. So instead for starter we ordered the bloody Mary tartare, and the smoked salmon with beetroot & rye bread. Although our previous orders were turned down we were satisfied as the tartare, as this was incredibly tasty with the deep red tomato and tabasco, The twist on this classic steak tartar worked well and I applause the chef for his originality. The smoked salmon was fresh, lightly smoked and salty served with rye bread. The only criticism was that we were disappointed that most of the dishes we fancied were unavailable/sold out even at 7.30 on a Saturday night.

For main course, we ordered the hake and the silver side of beef. My beef was cooked to my liking; medium rare and was well pared with the peppercorn sauce that accompanied it. The hake was milky and melted in mouth. Both dishes could have had more seasoning but the dishes on the whole worked well. Our side orders of mixed vegetables were  al dente but have to say the portions were a little underwhelming.

All in all the service was good; friendly yet simple. The food was well cooked, creative although a little limited and the atmosphere was very East end – which we love.

Based on availability of the food, the lax waitresses which ties in with the Shoreditch vibe we give this place:

Food                                   Service                     Atmospheres

3 Stars2 Stars4 Stars

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Boisdale Canary Wharf

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We have visited a number of the Boisdale chains and have always been pleased with the food quality and atmosphere.

On this particular occasion Boisdale were holding a competition to win a goodie bag worth up to £100, a glass of champagne and the best seats in the house on their jazz night. As this had been promoted regularly we were not surprised when we were chosen as we assume that almost everyone, if not everybody were chosen.

Any how we choose a Thursday when we were free and set off to Canary Wharf, to be honest I did not know that there was a Boisdale there but it does make sense considering their target audience. We managed to find the place after getting lost a number of times in the shopping mall as it is well hidden on the ground floor rather conspicuously in the shopping mall.

The bright light modern shopping mall in Canary Wharf has no personality and friendliness to it so we were surprised to turn the corner and find the sign for the restaurant which looked more like an entrance to the public toilets. We pressed the lift to go to the restaurant as outlined on the floor wall and when these opened we were amazed at the contrasting difference. The hall way to the restaurant was huge! Very much like a hunting lodge with red velvet, mounted deer heads and mirrors all around.

The cloak room is the first thing that you encounter and we quickly hung our coats up in anticipation and were shown to our table. The restaurant again is huge and very male dominating as are all of the Boisdale restaurants, here in Canary Wharf it was in just the right setting. Across the walls were mounted heads, old fashioned photographs and antique trinkets and the carpet was a deep red matching the whole area. The restaurant was filled with tables sparsely arranged so as not to encroach on the other diners which was a nice change from the meat market restaurants that often line Canary Wharf. The domineering bar was to one side of the restaurant filled with some first rate wines, champagnes and whiskies which I am sure some of the more flamboyant bankers enjoy on the occasional visit. Across the other side was a huge window that over looked the financial district. It was a breath taking view and I had trouble taking my eyes of it, with the towering buildings lit up in the night sky and reflecting in the quay.

We were taken to the very front of the restaurant where there were a number of tables reserved for two diners with ‘goodie’ bags in them. They must have these completion nights every Thursday as I had a pick of dates to the foreseeable future and there must have been six or eight tables this night.

We had front seats on to the stage where the live act was supposed to start in an hour or so. We were asked if we wanted anything to drink and we pointed to the bottle of red that was in the bag that had been advertised in the competition but we were told that actually this was to be taken home and not to be consumed at the table. Slightly bemused if you ask me, clearly its just a way just to pull in the punters and make them spend more than they had planned. I would go as far as to say it was false advertising although they specifically did not say we could drink the bottle of Boisdale red wine given to us on the night they certainly did not say that we could not. It was at the very least misleading. We were then asked if we were eating which we had not really planned as we thought we were going to have free drinks and jazz night but said yes as we were slightly peckish however we felt a little down as we knew we were being taken for a ride as this was all planned and the point was to make people come and get as much money out of those fools as possible.

We ordered a bottle of sauvignon blanc and looked through the goody bag which consisted of a Boisdale jazz CD, some chocolates, a miniature bottle of whisky and the red wine. I cannot see how that was close to £100 (especially afterwards as we later found out the wine was really pretty disgusting.) Begrudgingly we decided to order the rump steak with chips and vegetables; I went for a peppercorn sauce whereas my friend went for the béarnaise. We enjoyed the wine, the views and the conversation and the steaks came out pretty quickly. I have to say I am a massive fan of the Boisdale steaks which are always cooked to perfection. They were generous in size, juicy and not fatty at all. Delicious. The chips were thick with fluffy potato in the center and crisp on the outside and the vegetables consisted of spinach and kale if I remember correctly. These were well seasoned yet from my perspective slightly over cooked.

As our dishes were taken away the music started which was a band of four with a lady singing and three men playing bass and other jazz instruments (please excuse my ignorance but I have not a cell of music talent in my entire body) with a retro looking man in a Hawaiian T shirt and straw hat also coming in with the vocals. The music was chirpy 1950’s American swing and the costume was retro America – maybe even Hawaii with their get up. It was nice and we certainly had the best seats in the house to watch this however we still had the bitter taste in our mouth that we had been duped into a rather expensive night.

Although the food was not mandatory it was not a question of being tight as we do love eating at the Boisdale and would have probably have made the decision to eat anyway but it felt as if we had been forced into that decision. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful as the seats were good and we did get a goody bag it is more a question of transparency. We decided to leave at the interval as it was getting late but by then the waiters had lost interest in us as we had eaten and been served so it took some time to get the bill which was slightly irritating after 15 minutes or more. I ended up having to walk over to a staff member and asking for it in the end which is always a little embarrassing if you ask me.

This experience has certainly not put us off the Boisdale restaurants as we love the food and the atmosphere and in a way at least we have found the Canary Wharf one as we love the views and set up, but we do have to say their sales tactics were not favorable, reminding us of the lengths corporations go to make that extra few pounds and will remain with us for some time yet.

It’s a shame as there is so much positive in this review.

Food                          Service                           Atmosphere

4 Stars2 Stars3 Stars

steak

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