Just off Regent Street, a potentially useful brasserie, under the same ownership as Ottolenghi, and in a broadly similar (if more ambitious) style; format and location are undoubtedly very handy, but these attractions are undermined by high prices.
pmarket deli/pâtisserie Ottolenghi has a legions of fans, many of whom have been keenly awaiting the opening of its backers’ latest venture. Given the level of anticipation, it would be fair to say that the reception overall to their Soho débutant has been a touch muted. Not that anyone’s found much wrong with the food, just that portions are small and prices are high. As we are not the first to observe, even lunch, drinking modestly, can easily set a couple back the wrong end of £100.
Our test meal for one comprised three savoury dishes (the recommended minimum), a dessert, a glass of wine and a cup of coffee. The bill came to £46, including service. With one exception, everything we ate – including the home-made sourdough with olive oil – was very good. The exception was lamb meat balls with yoghourt and pomegranate seeds, which tasted of very little.
The prettiest part of our meal was the rice pudding with cardamon – a sort of Impressionist delight, and it tasted as good as it looked. But then – at £6.50 for a few mouthfuls presented in the sort of small dish typically used for crème brûlée – it probably should have been.
If one were looking for justification for the prices, one might observe that huge amounts of money have clearly been lavished on the setting – all those brass light fittings, and all that marble can’t have come cheap, and the loos are intriguingly mirrored and polished in a manner that would befit a small palace.
The basics, though, have sometimes been overlooked. The bar, for example – with none of the ‘feature’ lighting one expects nowadays – is rather dull. We could hardly help noticing this, as we sat at the bar counter which has a view of bar and the service lift. And the whitewashed brick of much of the interior is an economy statement quite at odds with all other aspects of the operation.
In the end, the ‘package’ — lavish expenditure to create a semi-faux-rustic environment in which to enjoy good but unremarkable food at high prices – struck us as a bit twee.
De luxe rusticity is always a difficult trick to pull off, and with some discouraging precedents. Think of Marie Antoinette attending to her freshly-washed sheep at Le Petit Trianon in the grounds of Versailles, Her ultimate fate, as we all recall, was not a happy one.