Monday, July 21, 2008

A broken teapot, a cremated brulee and a grumpy waitress... fun and frolics at 'Village East'

171 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3UW
0871 4746693.

I decided to book 'Village East', which is located on the trendy Berdmondsey Street, as a treat for myself, the Veggie and a friend who was in the city for the day.

This Modern European restaurant seemed like a safe bet and as we had booked the special offer through '' it was all the more attractive.

First impressions were good. The restaurant boasted a stylish interior, full of polished surfaces and clean lines, whilst managing to maintain a welcoming atmosphere. We were shown to a table near the open-plan kitchen and toilets, which wasn't as unfavourable as it might appear. However as the restaurant was nearly empty I'm sure a nicer table could have been found.

Our waitress greeted us politely but unfortunately her manner went downhill from there. When I mentioned for the second time that we had booked via 'TopTable' she muttered that she would have to get us 'the other' menu, immediately making us feel like penny-pinching chancers. The specials, which she had lovingly read out only a few moments before, were still available but 'of course would be full price.' Of course. The air bristled around us as I contemplated telling her that we were quite able to afford the food at full price but liked a bargain when we saw one... Put simply: don't have a 40% off offer if you are going to be so grudging about it. This place was hardly The Ivy after all.

Well, you can imagine that by the time we came to order our food, this waitress's manner was threatening to make anything we had taste rather bitter. I had the Scallops and caramelised pork belly with carrot puree to start, followed by a rare moment of conscience (as a Buddhist I shouldn't really eat meat) in which I ordered the Pumpkin and Goat's cheese wellington. When my friend stumbled over the pronunciation of her pasta, but named all the other ingredients in it, she was rudely corrected by her maj - 'Oh, you mean the passs-ta...' Cue an embarrassed response from my friend and the settling of a grey cloud over our table.

Our starters, when they arrived, were on the small side. We decided it was probably a small portions kind of place... My 3 scallops were perfectly cooked, although the pork belly was rather anemic and didn't have the crispy crackling I had been imagining. The carrot puree looked like orange babyfood and had about as much taste. On a more positive note, the veggie's Gorgonzola tart was apparently very nice and my friend's gazpacho, good but a bit bland. I think by this point we were discussing how different this experience was to our previous 'TopTable' meals, and the quote of the night had occurred, which was 'There is only so much cold soup you can eat,' - bless her.

Mains were less enjoyable, with the Wellington looking, and tasting, more like the boot of the same name than the nicely cooked pastry and sweet and savoury filing I had been expecting. It was like it had been born of a different restaurant, reminding me of a Weatherspoon's meal, with thick dark brown pastry, cut into 2 huge slices. It tasted mostly of stodge and mushrooms, with more mushrooms on the side in a metallic tomato sauce. Our friend's pasta was better, silky and well-flavoured, but again the portion was too large. Very odd.

About this point we were assigned the total polar opposite of our waitress (who was to return for tea and the ill-feted payment). This waiter simpered, he smiled, he caressed us with his charming words... It was too much, too late - get some consistency here Village East!

I was the only one who opted for dessert (in a flawed move to salvage the meal). I selected the creme brulee as it is one of my favourites. Oh dear. Instead of being nicely caramelised by the blow-torch, the brulee looked as if it had been cremated for crimes against french cuisine. One pathetic looking raspberry covered some of the worst of the charcoal, and the innards were nice but sadly were totally ruined by the topping. Just to really seal the bad restaurant deal, little miss Sunshine brought us a broken teapot (we all ordered Earl Grey), without a word. Yes we should have complained earlier but I decided in typical British passive-aggressiveness to make a stand over the 'optional service charge'. 'You haven't given me enough,' she blustered. 'We don't have to pay it,' I batted back,'and I really don't think the service was worth 11 pounds.' She stared, went to speak to her manager and that was that. Needless to say we won't be returning, deal or no deal.

The writing on the wall:
5 out of 10
Price: Starters from 5.80p, mains from 11.80p, sides 3.00p, desserts 6.00p, wine from 15.50p.

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