MPW’s rebranding of the former City restaurant, Lanes, offering a ‘plain vanilla’, arguably rather dull, British formula; if Marco’s involvement has added any particular sparkle to the experience of dining here, it was not apparent on our visit.
arco Pierre White – the former enfant terrible of English cooking, and the man who supposedly made Gordon Ramsay cry – can be a vexing person to write about. He sometimes seems to have little involvement, legally speaking, with restaurants with which some people assume he is associated, and if you get it wrong – legend has it – the solicitors’ letters start arriving pretty quickly.
The name suggests, however, that MPW really does have some involvement in the relaunched City lunch spot, which is situated just five minutes’ walk from Liverpool Street station. It is not clear that he has put any money into the relaunch. It is more, it is suggested, that he is seeking to help out by lending his name, and recasting the menu for troubled times.
And what a dull menu menu it is: a sort of parody of steakhouse-meets–Langan’s Brasserie. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with simple British food and/or steak, but rather that the only justification for doing them – if you’re a great and famous chef, anyway – is doing them notably well, or offering an overall package of notably good value.
We couldn’t say we noticed either feature. Yes there is a dish of the day for £10, but most starters are around that price too, and steak and chips run from about £22 to about £32, which is hardly a bargain. Red wines kick off at £23 a bottle. A typical business lunch for two here is easily going to tip the £100 for two mark, which – while not excessive by local standards – is certainly no particular bargain.
And the food? Our steak was good. But the chips were absolutely vile: on removing the dish, the amiable manager (and co-patron) did not enquire why we had eaten only one. What is Marco – the man who once charged someone £25 for personally-cooked chips, so great is the finesse he can apparently bring to cooking them – doing associating himself with a steakhouse that can’t reliably deliver decent chips?
Everything else we had was good/standard/run-of-the-mill. The highlight was a guest’s nicely timed (but small) piece of liver; the lowlight, a Cambridge burnt cream (or, as we say in English, crème brûlée), where – though Marco is famous for his puddings – neither the topping nor the base were what the French would call ‘correct’.
In short then, it seems that – as is so often the case – the name of a famous chef above the door of a restaurant should be regarded as a warning as least as much as it as viewed as an encouragement.