I’ve got a Bill Granger book. Bill’s Basics. He’s smiling on the front of it. He doesn’t look English. He’s too happy. I liked the idea of his fabled Aussie breakfasts and the pictures are good. I haven’t quite got round to using it.*
And I am not covering the breakfast offering, which looks great and needs a whole blog of its own.
I have tried to get in quite a few times, but every time I wanted to go, it was at what I would call “normal” eating times and with the no-bookings policy, there is always a long queue. So unless you’re local, or you don’t mind standing around on the pavement in the wrong bit of Notting Hill, don’t even think about coming at peak times.
So it was the day of my office move and I didn’t really have the energy to cook. I’m still looking for a local place that I can default to on evenings such as this, but I haven’t found one yet. If Honey & Co were open every night, that would be it. But it isn’t and I keep on searching.
So, it was 6pm. That time beloved of pensioners and families and I thought I’d give it a try. And a few days before Xmas, many of the locals had already gone off skiing, or to the country or whatever it is that they all do, so I managed to walk right in.
I was asked to choose my table. Yay. It saves me from having to ask to be moved to a slightly less crap table than the one suggested. If there is an alternative, I will not sit packed between other people in a long row. Nor will I happily sit on a “refectory” style table. I’m English for God’s sake. I really don’t want to strike up conversations with my neighbours, nor do I want to hear them. And the waiter touched me. Twice. Let’s not dwell on that.
But there are no communal tables here, so they’re safe. It’s a very open and airy space and has a good feel. The décor is unobtrusive and there is good lighting.
Ah, lighting. Yet another of my (many) bugbears. I have an ongoing battle with one of my partners about lights. I don’t want Vegas in the office, practically blinded every time I walk in. Bright ceiling pendant lights? Work of the devil. Here, the lighting is atmospheric and subtle. Too subtle for photographs, as it happens so none available.
I had some trouble choosing from the menu, so I asked the waiter for a recommendation. Risky, you might say but hey, sometimes I like to just go mad and lose control.
Obviously I didn’t give him entirely free rein. That would be ridiculous. I narrowed it down to three. He chose crisp pork belly and watermelon with soft herbs and peanuts. I liked the sound of it, but the watermelon pieces were joke size and there was too much sugar in the dressing. I’m all for the whole sweet/sour tamarind thing, but there’s a thin line between punchy/gutsy and overpowering. This crossed it.
And then coconut/caramel salmon. Again, a salad dish (waiter might have mentioned?) with warm pieces of just-cooked, crispy salmon and desiccated coconut on top. I couldn’t really taste any coconut, and I’m not sure I could work out where the caramel was either. Having said that, it was tasty and properly cooked. Again, not subtle.
Because we are all so excited these days about burgers, I had a look at the one on the menu. It cost £14.50. Cheese was extra, at £2.50. So were chips. £3. On a par with the much-talked-about £20 Burger & Lobster offering. Not a giveaway.
This menu is a bit all things for all people. Dishes are mostly unchallenging and a slight bit of excitement is added by the Aussie fusion edge. It is a (fairly pricy) neighbourhood gaff in a pricy neighbourhood. And the service is friendly, if a little hit and miss.
There’s nothing here to scare the locals. To me, it wasn’t exciting enough. It was like Providores-lite. The food doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the menu. I was, frankly, disappointed. Not so that I would never return, but I wouldn’t cross London for it.