Harden's survey result
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The promise is of British “comfort food” efficiently delivered at these spartan canteens (whose handily located South Bank branch can be “great for a business lunch”); its ratings are perennially hamstrung though by incidents of “sloppy” service, and “the worst cooking ever”.
Such a shame this perennially promising English-canteen chain remains so “lacklustre”; it has some “useful” locations (on the South Bank especially), but too often suffers from “unmotivated” service and food that “fails to live up to the promise of the menu”.
Even in Paris, many bistros really do serve up 'cuisine grand-mère'. In England, however, what restaurant would ever think of serving food like granny's? It would surely be the quickest way to bankruptcy. That is the view the owners of this brand new restaurant - in the pleasant new development around Spitalfields - have set out to challenge.
There's certainly nothing remotely granny-ish about the décor of this clean-lined corner site. With its neat rows of well-spaced benches - and its more comfortable-looking, but still quite severe-looking banquettes - this looks every inch a cool diner for the 21st century. The typography of the place-mat/menus - with no hint of Ye Olde anything - elegantly continues the same rather spare aesthetic.
The cuisine, however, is as close to traditional-English-domestic as you're ever likely to see in a restaurant. Devilled kidneys on toast make a delicious 'starter' (and in a generous portion, for £5.50). Gammon, mash and parsley sauce is just like Mother makes (well, our mother anyway). Apple crumble is a generous dish, if perhaps not as crumbly as one might ideally like (sadly, also quite authentic). Everything is done with care - strong filter coffee, for example, comes with a proper small jug of hot milk. We did not try breakfast - served all day - but it would be surprising if it were not very good.
So is this a winning formula? It certainly seems quickly to have found a following, and - as we couldn't help hearing - all the neighbouring diners were all very happy with their choices. On the downside, when service is as slow as that which we encountered, one can't help noticing that the benches really are very hard indeed.
all day noon - 11 pm
Last orders: 11 pm