La Genova. Walk on by.
Out with B and her father D, we were having a cheeky Monday lunch. I don’t often do lunch, but I made an exception, as D is excellent company and the two together are highly entertaining.
Not wanting to be too adventurous, B thought that this place would be perfect for her father. Who is nearly 82. Not that you’d know it. Defying his years, he’d walked from Regents Park, via Selfridges and L’Artisan du Chocolat. Impeccable taste.
La Genova is one of those places near my office that I have always avoided. It looks old-fashioned and touristy. As I walk in, the many and varied photos of Z-listers, cluttering the walls of the entranceway do nothing to change that view.
B tells me that I am wrong in my prejudice and that she has eaten well there and that her father will like it. I curb my cynicism and anticipate a traditional, solid meal, circa 1980.
It’s fairly empty, save for the obligatory middle-aged Italian male, eating alone and B’s father, who, having arrived early (or as he would aver, on time, at 10 minutes before the arranged slot) is already deep in conversation with the waiters. B is already parent-shamed, seeing her father as an English version of Larry David but without the tact. We chat about how this place might work very well for the oldie-friendly section of my blog .B thinks it works for the unfriendly-oldie that is her father.
From the menu which has clearly not changed in the last thirty years, I ordered chicken consommé with brodetto. Vermicelli in chicken stock. This was fine, good even, though more of a broth than a consommé, but decently flavoured. Both B and Larry/D had a large tricolore salad to start. It looked fine – not beautifully presented, in fact roughly arranged on the plate, but adequate.
For the main course, Spaghetti alla Vongole. I do recall that the waiter mentioned tomato sauce, but I was not concentrating. More’s the pity. SAV is a dish that divides. Using tomatoes in it is old school. Elizabeth David does it, in Italian Food. Even the River Café has a tomato version. But the modern way is to cook it using simply, using garlic, chilli, parsley and white wine.
Unsurprisingly, this was not prepared the modern way. It was not even prepared in the old way. It was simply prepared in a very bad way. The wrong type of spaghetti was used. It was overcooked and claggy. The sauce was lukewarm. The clams were either from a jar or tinned, mashed together – either way they were inedible. Truly disgusting.
And Larry wasn’t happy with his Spag Bol either. We both ate about three mouthfuls. The waitress cleared the table. Not a word about the uneaten mounds of pasta on our respective plates.
The waiter was summoned, so that Larry might complain about the waitress and her lack of curiosity. The waiter looked shocked. As if it had never happened before. As if. All this set to a banging soundtrack of Sex Bomb. Perfect for your parent.
B had polished off her veal in Marsala wine. She liked it. B had an entirely different restaurant experience to Larry and me and I present it to you in the interest of balance and fairness.
And to be fair, they took the pastas off the bill. So at least we didn’t have to pay for pasta we couldn’t actually eat.
I have no idea how restaurants like this manage to survive. Gullible tourists? People who normally don’t go out and come Up West for a treat and like to party like it’s 1979? I remember the bad old 1970s. It really wasn’t good. And if you don’t believe me, here’s the proof. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.