Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bamboozeled - a chinese in Lewisham

Bamboo Garden

124 Burnt Ash Road, Lee, London, SE12 8PU
020 8318 6688

Whilst housesitting for our Lewisham based friends, the Veggie and I found ourselves with rumbling stomachs and a joint feeling of laziness. What to do? Although our friends were rapidly gaining enough pizza and fried chicken menus to paper their dining room with, we had our sights set on a marginally healthier chinese.

I mustered up the energy to dial a random takeaway from the Yellow Pages. As we only had around 11 quid on us and were simply beset with too much "holiday" drowsiness to seek out a cash point (it turns out there was one about 2 mins away), my first question was: Do you take cards? No they did not. Cash or cheque only, madam. After receiving the same answer from 3 other establishments we decided to trim our order down. I called 'Bamboo Garden'. No they didn't take cards but as I explored, yet again, what they had versus what we fancied I knew it would be this one or marmite toast for two. In the end, with salt and pepper ribs, chicken and cashew nuts, stir-fried veg, egg fried rice and veg spring rolls selected, the grand total was 11.60p. Result.

About half an hour later our order was delivered. Everything seemed in order until I got to the Veggie's stir-fried dish. There were what looked suspiciously like cashew nuts lurking under the see-through lid. I opened it. Yep, definitely quite a few of the little brown suckers. I can only imagine that they misheard me and thought I had wanted the veg dish with nuts instead of the veg dish and chicken and cashew nuts. Anyway, as it was the food we did have was more than enough.

My salt and pepper ribs were as good as I have ever had. The spring onion, garlic and chili added a pleasant kick and while the ribs weren't in the crunchy batter you sometimes get in this dish, they were tasty and reasonably sized. Add some decent egg fried rice and golden crisp spring rolls and you have a good value, nicely balanced meal (not in the 5 a day way of course!).

The Veggie enjoyed her stir-fry even though she isn't a fan of nuts. We also received some free prawn crackers which were perfectly fine, aside from the rather weird colours they came in (green and red!).

Over the course of our stay we ending up ordering from 'Bamboo Garden' again. Mistake. We had the benefit of a menu the second time around, but it just wasn't as nice. I went for dry ribs as I had a mad meat craving. Dry ribs are dry ribs, but they were good and quite meaty; I polished them off no trouble. The rice was also nice; we went for a onion fried version which added a nice crunch to the dish. Sadly, the Veggie's soup and main were below average as was my main course.

She had ordered a thai hot and sour veg soup, and as she ate most of it I was surprised when she said it had been pretty poor (she does love her soup that one). Apparently it had too much of a chemical chilli tang and had some of the traits of dishwater. Oh well, perhaps 'Bamboo Garden' was overstretching itself. Its menu boasts several different specialities ranging from thai to chinese to regional dishes, plus chips and curry sauce.
Her thai red curry main was 'too potatoey, without enough coconut milk.' I made an error when ordering my main which I never seem to learn from: Be very wary when ordering duck from a chinese, crispy duck is mostly fine but you can be severely disappointed with any other kind. Mine was the latter. I had Ginger, garlic and onion duck. Where to start... the duck was pale and flabby and sparse. The dish had overly large pieces of ginger and consisted of tons of onions in a watery sauce. Bad times. At least we had those colourful prawn crackers and 2 free fortune cookies to console ourselves with.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The seeds are out there...

It is being described as the movie event of the year, with fevered anticipation amongst its still obsessed fanbase growing by the day. They have waited 6 years for a new chapter in the lives of Mulder and Scully, with 10 years having past since the first big-screen outing of The X-Files. Whilst I was a big a fan as any in its early season heyday, before Duchovny became disillusioned and Andersen's focus drifted to films and theatre, it was a big part of my life. I was proud to be an X-Phile.

But even as I was looking forward to the film I couldn't stop my mind drifting to one of my memories from the show...the infamous sunflower seeds so favoured by Fox 'Spooky' Mulder. Whose idea was it to make the character have a fetish for sunflower seeds and did Duchovny develop a taste for them too? It may seem like a silly question but I'm sure that it wasn't just me who picked up a packet after seeing Mulder munching on handfuls on the show. According to the EZ site (http://www.ez-entertainment.net/blog/?p=201), sunflower seeds still play a part in the quirks of Mulder's character in the new movie.

According to episodes of the show Mulder picked up the habit of eating unshelled sunflower seeds from his father, who always had a reassuring bowl of them in his study. Now I've tried unshelled sunflower seeds and damn, are they tricky to eat. To begin with your salt consumption goes through the roof as you crack them in your mouth and suck off the salt at the same time. Maybe I was doing something wrong but they got caught in my teeth and were just to fiddly too bother with. The shelled sunflower seeds are perfectly edible but lack the coolness of the crunch.

Yes I did say coolness - I would like to argue that Mulder has helped to make seeds cool. They were to him what a cigar might be to other men. And make no mistake they are now viewed as a very trendy snack - I've even known people to be rather snobby over them, making a show of adding them to their trolley, spurning crisps and biscuits, and so on. You can get mixed salted seeds, mixed toasted seeds, seeds with a soy sauce, Munchy Seeds (expensive pots of flavoured seeds) and many more varieties. We are encouraged to add them to salads, sprinkle them over cereal, top desserts with them and use them in cooking to add flavour and crunch. But are they really as healthy for us as we are led to believe? The makers of Munchy Seeds, unsurprisingly, tell us they are incredibly healthy:

"Ideal for coeliacs, people with diabetes, vegetarians, vegans and those concerned with their health and nutrition.

Naturally high in Iron, Vitamin E and Zinc; gluten, Cholesterol and nut free; rich in protein and low in carbohydrates." (http://www.munchyseeds.co.uk/healthbenefits.php)

So we are told that Munchy Seeds are a good source of protein, and provide much needed zinc and iron to a vegetarian or vegan diet. Just be sure to chew them well, folks!

I think that the healthiest seeds must be those that are toasted, unsalted and unflavoured, as any flavouring is bound to add quite a bit of salt to them. For example, the company's Cajun mix tub has 1.7g of salt per 100g. It should also be stressed that like nuts, seeds should be eaten in moderation as they are high in fat, 49g per 100g of the cajun mix. Although they are low in saturated fats, if you sit and eat half a tub they won't be good for you.

I must admit that one of my most pleasurable seed eating experiences was chomping on Marks and Spencers Vanilla coated pumpkin seeds, which I have no doubt contained a fair whack of sugar. However, if you buy the cheaper unflavoured or branded seeds and toast them in the oven with herbs and a little good olive oil, you won't get better in the shops.

Back to Mulder: It appears that the habit of eating sunflower seeds stems from The X-Files' creator, Chris Carter's love of the snack. As Carter is an aging hippy it begin to make sense. However, for Duchovny, Mulder's habit has been less enjoyable, as he explains in an Q&A for the new film -

"...[the sunflower seeds thing] actually comes from Chris’ habit of eating them – I myself am not a fan. But I will say that when I read this script there weren’t any sunflower seeds, so I told them to put some in. Which was surprising considering I hated having to eat them."

Okay, so we know he's not going to become the face of Munchy Seeds anytime soon! I am seeing room for a Mulder branded sunflower seed though...

If you are a fan, rest assured Mulder and his beloved seeds will be reunited in 'The X-Files: I want to believe', out on July 25th in the US and August 1st in the UK. If you aren't a fan, you're missing out. Check out The X-Files Essentials on DVD now, to get you up to speed for the film. And don't forget its sunflower seeds not popcorn!

Be minted at St Germain

St Germain

89 -90 Turnmill Street, London, EC1M 5QU

020 7336 0949


This lovely french restaurant near Farringdon tube station (follow the billboard directions), describes its style as 'Paris meets New York', a statement I'm inclined to agree with - this is one chilled out, yet very chic venue.

We arrived early for our 7.30pm booking and felt obliged to take advantage of the 2 for 1 on cocktails (between 5-7pm). The barman, who appeared to the the head waiter as well, was very friendly and accommodating. When the Veggie wanted a non-alcoholic drink - not included in the 2 for 1 - he said he would provide my long mango and gin cocktail at half price, making it a steal at 3.25p. When I explained we had booked a table he made life easier by adding the cocktails to our tab and also asked us where we would like to sit, in a booth or at a table? Grateful to be given the choice, we opted for a booth as they looked more comfortable and were also more spacious.

We sat in the bar area to have our cocktails and immediately the strains of the day faded away. The lighting at St Germain is perfect, not so gloomy that you struggle to see what you are eating, but soft enough to relax mind and body. The well designed furnishings add to the atmosphere, being stylish yet comfortable (often hard to get right) with high stools available as well as the cosy benches. I sampled the Veggie's long raspberry cocktail which was heavenly, and again great value at only 3.00p.

When we had finished our drinks I asked the barman if we could take our table a bit early, which he said was no problem. At this point the restaurant was almost empty, so whilst it may have been silly for him to say no to my request, it was just another example of the good service displayed throughout St Germain. A waitress took us to our booth and we ordered more cocktails. I went for a Dark and Stormy, which was mostly rum, ginger beer and lime, tasty but heavy on the booze. The Veggie had what was possibly the star cocktail of the evening, the Apple Mojito. This divine concotion was a blend of apple juice, mint, crushed ice and sugar. Boy, was it good and so refreshing. It was the kind of drink you could have a go at making yourself, which just added to the appeal.

We munched our way through warm bread and soft butter, whilst perusing the smallish menu. Although this was another Top Table booking we decided we would go for the al la carte rather than the very limited '2 courses for 15.00p offer'. I also feel I should mention that this offer is on the permanent menu and is not a especially created for Top Table customers...

Looking over the menu one could see a number of vegetarian choices such as a risotto, a pasta, goat's cheese croquettes, a soup and a tasty sounding salad. It was a nice surprise for the Veggie as so many restaurants still only have 1 or 2 choices for the non-meat or fish eater. After some deliberating I decided to have the Crab roulade to start and then the Gorganzola tortelli for my main. The Veggie, a little overwhelmed by the selection of dishes, went for the pea and mint soup (her favourite) to start, with the intriguing Cauliflower cheesecake to follow.

After a short wait with the restaurant beginning to fill around us, we were presented with our starters. The Veggie's soup was a triumph, 'so fresh it tastes like they have only just shelled and pureed the peas.' High praise indeed. My starter was very pretty to look at; the round of white crab meat sat on a circle of cucumber and red pepper in a sea of what appeared to be pea puree. This was then topped with avocado mousse and a crosshatched potato crisp. The avocado mousse was just delicious as was the fresh-tasting crab.

Sadly my main course was not a patch on my starter. Firstly, it consisted of a rather mean portion of pasta with only 3 tortelli, surrounded by a pumpkin veloute and salad leaves. Although the tortelli were quite large they were hardly enough for a starter let alone a main. To make matters worse the pasta was extremely al dente around the edges, which rather put me off the dish. Luckily the Veggie had ordered a side of rocket and parmesan with which I supplemented my meal. However, I still felt my main was poor value and it was a shame as it let down the rest of a perfectly good meal.

In contrast the Cauliflower cheesecake was a hit. It was smooth and delicious, once you got over the weird factor. It was also well presented with a dressed salad surrounding it and a tiny floret of cauliflower on top of the circle of cake. I was jealous.

To finish we decided to share a dessert. I was tempted by the creme brulee, just to see how it compared to Village East's woeful effort, but in the end we opted for the impressive sounding Chocolate marquis. This turned out to be a mouthwateringly rich mousse like cake with a hint of coffee, served with a dollop of clotted cream, chocolate sauce and a chocolate crisp topping it off. The dessert was so good that it managed to make me forgive my disappointing main.

The total bill came to 62 pounds which we both felt was good value. Our cocktails alone were around 19 pounds, so it was easy to see where we could have saved if we had been stricter with ourselves.

I would definitely go back, but I would be more selective with my choice of main dish. From what I could see emerging from the kitchen the meat and fish dishes were more generous and looked well-cooked. Also don't go expecting a traditional french menu, this one is lighter and quite innovative.

It is also worth mentioning that St Germain offers 50% off food on a Monday. It's a perfect place for a business lunch as well as a romantic evening.

Writing on the wall: 7 out of 10

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Girl Who Ate Everything - a review

Website
A well-known food blog by Robyn Lee. Robyn also writes for Serious Eats

If you like food I guarantee you will love 'The Girl Who Ate Everything'. Robyn Lee reviews experiences more than restaurants, her style is witty and engaging whether she is reviewing a meal at a Paris eatery or a dish made by friends. The site is extremely well designed and easy to read. It's worth visiting just to drool over the most mouthwatering photos of food I've ever seen. I'm not joking, they are amazing, and are bound to make you crave whatever she blogs about!

Robyn eats out. A LOT. I wish I ate out as much as she does, but knowing how my inner greedy monster sometimes gets out of control I'd probably be like that woman in 'What's eating Gilbert Grape?'. If you haven't seen the film, suffice to say the character needs to be fork lifted out of her home.

She also travels a fair bit, meeting up with her online friends and trying out local cuisines. She has certain food that she just adores, such as Pistachio gelato, and goes through phases such as her 'sandwich phase.' It's all very entertaining and all too easy to lose track of time perusing photos of pulled pork and the like. She also shows a rock steady commitment to blogging that I admire. Robyn is an example of what hard work can achieve - yes she majored in Food Studies but that is no guarantee of an enjoyable job, not without putting in the extra graft anyway. I'm sure her blog played a significant part in her landing an internship at 'Serious Eats'. Seeing her potential they gave her a job, which she describes as 'the best in the world.' I certainly wouldn't disagree with her!

Whist Robyn is one of a kind she also recommends a selection of other food blogs, such as 'Slice' (also part of the 'Serious Eats' group and perfect for pizza lovers), 'The Hungry Cabbie', and 'The Amateur Gourmet'. What makes her site unique is the amount of interactivity with her readers: there's a map tracking where her readers live; a forum; a facebook group and links to her 'eating companions.'

I would recommend studying this site if you are thinking of setting up your own food blog. It has definitely been an inspiration to me.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Leffe at Cafe Rouge? Tres bon!

Hotel Ibis Greenwich
30 Stockwell St
London
Greater London
SE10 9JN

02082 936660

Website

For some reason, Cafe Rouge has always been one of those places I have avoided. I seem to have some rather dark memories of a disappointing meal there that until a few days ago had stopped me from visiting this french-themed restaurant chain. That my most recent experience was purely due to hunger rather than choice should tell you I wasn't expecting much.

Having said all that, I am pleased to report I was pleasantly surprised by Cafe Rouge, Greenwich. The veggie and I, with tired feet and hungry bellies, homed in on the venue for a late lunch.

The place was heaving with families and couples out to enjoy what was left of a mostly rain-free sunday. It was so busy I wanted to turn around and walk straight out again but thankfully we were directed to a quieter corner, albeit right by the toilets (what is it with me and toilets? do I look like I have a weak bladder or no sense of smell?!). Luckily it didn't spoil the atmosphere too much, and I was just grateful to be tucked away from the masses.

Our polite waitress bought us the over-sized menus which were written in translated french and boasted regional specialties, quick dishes, a separate section for fish and a children's menu.

To drink, I requested the Fruli (a strawberry wheat beer), as it was advertised on our table. Unfortunately we were told it was sold out, and I was about to resign myself to a standard lager when I spotted Leffe Blonde on the menu, one of my favourite beers. My expectations immediately rose as in my experience only the minority of pubs and restaurants offer it. The veggie opted for an apple juice.

As I was reassessing my opinion of the place I decided to select the classic french dish of Steak Frites. However, as that was rather large and expensive at 14.95p I opted for the lighter option of Minute Steak instead (a 5oz steak with French fries, watercress and beurre maison). The veggie ordered the onion soup for a starter and the goat's cheese salad for her mains.

As I had skipped a starter we opted for my mains to be served along with the Veggie's. Her Soupe à l'Oignon, with melted gruyere croutons was pronounced "delicious" and as she is something of a soup connoisseur that is high praise indeed.

Onto mains: I knew my steak was worth the wait as soon as the plate swooped down in front of me. It was a tasty piece of meat, nicely cooked as per my orders (medium well done), and enjoyable to eat, if a little tough in places. The fries were lovely; thin, golden and crisp. Both were complemented by the little pile of watercress and the herb butter that melted so seductively on the steak.

I tried some of my companion's Goat's cheese salad, which consisted of a well-dressed mixed salad with olives and onion and 3 large circles of toast covered with mild creamy goat's cheese. It was perfectly agreeable, although the veggie felt the cheese was too mild and compared it unfavorably with one she had enjoyed in Paris. I argued that anything would taste better with in view of the Eiffel Tower! However, we both agreed that the cheese in this case was a little too thin and suffered from the lack of its waxy rind, resembling cheese on toast more than anything.

That being said, we both cleared our plates, so they were definitely doing something right. I mulled over whether to order another Leffe, but decided to opt for a dessert instead. I couldn't resist the temptation of the Fondant au Chocolat with creme anglaise. The veggie initially refused the offer of a second spoon, but I asked for one anyway. The fondant arrived in a pool of the creme, which was a little bit tart cutting through the richness of the dessert. The sponge was slightly too dry but the gorgeous liquid centre made up for it and soon the veggie and I were crossing spoons and chasing mouthfuls around the plate.

Service, as you may have gleaned, was unobtrusive and pleasant, something that chains often seem to be better at than higher 'class' establishments.

The bill came to approximately 35 pounds, which we felt was good value. I will certainly go back as there were enough enticing dishes on the menu to require a return visit.


The writing on the wall:
7 out of 10

Curry night, Brick Lane

Sheba
136 Brick Lane, London, E1 6RU
0207 247 7824
Website

Eleven of us planned to meet up for a friend's birthday. The location was to be Brick Lane, and I was quite keen to book somewhere as I'd had a couple of pretty dodgy meals there in the past. I searched and found Sheba online. It had good reviews and looked inviting, but as no booking was to be made I decided just to keep it in mind.

The day of the meet came and we embarked on a mini pub crawl around Brick Lane (even spotting good ole Joe Mangel from 'Neighbours' in one pub). Time raced by and soon our bellies were rumbling above the crowd noise. Emergency, curry needed! Luckily we were quite close to Sheba at the time and a couple of us went ahead, steaming past the 25% off and free drink placard outside. As most restaurants offered the same deal (for "today only"), I knew I would have to go one better to encourage my motley crew to enter. "It's my friend's birthday," I began, "I've got eleven people here, how about 30% off?" The waiter mulled it over. Our bellies rumbled again. "They're just outside..." Finally his poker face cracked into a smile. "30% off and we will throw in an ice-cream for the birthday, ok?" It certainly was.

We all piled into Sheba and nabbed the last large table. The restaurant only has room for 30 people, so it is well worth booking if you want to ensure a spot. As it was my suggestion I was hoping Sheba wouldn't let me down. Most of us were fairly tipsy and a bad curry could easily send us in the wrong direction. We ordered our free round of drinks; a small glass of wine or a half pint of lager, being examples.
Then came the poppadoms, which were shattered and devoured in record time.

The menu was fairly large, including all the usual standards but some more unusual dishes too. My opposite on the table opted for the lemongrass chicken and aloo gobi. I decided I wanted to try curried duck as I'd never had it before. I chose the garlic duck with onion bhaji as a side dish. We also ordered two naans; Peshwari and plain and a pilau rice to share. Various other dishes were ordered from a chicken korma to a tandorri and motor panner. A note for vegetarians: as there are only 5 vegetarian main dishes, any of the veggie side dishes can be made into mains, just ask.


The food took a little while to come out which is more often than not a good thing. After all if service is too fast one suspects the involvement of a microwave. And with the exception of one or two dishes everything was piping hot.

My onion bhaji was delicious, crisp and perfectly proportioned and the garlic duck, whilst not quite what I was expecting,(I had thought it would be a dry dish), was tender and tasty and not at all greasy. My friend enthused about his lemongrass chicken, and after a bite I had to agree, it was quite unlike anything I have tasted from an indian restaurant but wasn't thai in flavour either. He vowed to search for it on other menus.

The aloo gobi was also good as were the naans. I was very impressed with the overall quality of the food - even the promised ice cream was quite a treat, arriving with a birthday candle too.

Service was extremely friendly and prompt, nothing was too much trouble. Our meal came to approx 12 pounds per head, including extra drinks.

While it isn't really a place for a romantic meal, becoming very noisy at capacity and attracting larger parties, I would definitely return. The prices were very reasonable with nothing on the menu costing more than 13.95 and the average main being around 7 pounds.

We were showered with orange flavoured chocolates and hot lemon-scented towels as our bill was brought over, and waved off with big smiles on both sides.

The writing on the wall:
8 out of 10

Monday, July 21, 2008

A trip to the Dogs, with burger and chips

Harlow Dogs
Website

I embark on this review hoping that it might be the first time such an establishment has had a review of its food published. But what do I know? It could have been covered many times, with retired greyhounds firmly off the menu, what other delights were there on offer?

I truly believe that food does tastes better in certain environments and this place was the perfect example. I arrived with 20 English and left with 14, which I felt was pretty darn impressive for my first visit. Soon, the excitement of placing a bet, combined with the aromas of stale smoke, beer and sweat had us all ravenous. As it was my first trip to the track I was rather wary of the curse of the burger, but as it turned out there was nothing to worry about. As the classic line in Pulp Fiction states: 'My, my, this is a tasty burger,' the Harlow version fulfilled; not a bit of gristle in sight and several evolutionary steps up from a McDonald's, my cheeseburger was good. I was reliably informed that the Veggie burger was also of a high standard. The burgers, surrounded by fresh and crisp chips was about 2.50. It was win:win, especially when washed down by a few pints of Stella. I'll be back.

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 'TopTable.com' 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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