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Harden's says...

Arch One SE1

A boon for Waterloo travellers and South Bank culture-vultures - a modestly-priced bar restaurant, where an ex Gordon Ramsay group chef dishes up simple but satisfying fare at notably keen prices; this is a provisional review, though, as we're told that the formula is set to see major changes as the new régime settles in.


Regular readers will know we usually head up our reviews with a photograph, but - for reasons explained below - we've been persuaded that none is yet appropriate in this case. So please read on'.


It may be Marcus Wareing who has grabbed the headlines of late, but he's just one of a number of chefs who were once associated with the Gordon Ramsay empire, but have now struck out on their own. Neil Ferguson, who carried the can for Ramsay's initially poorly-received New York opening, went on to launch his own successful restaurant in the Big Apple.


Another recent 'ex' is Gemma Tuley. She may not be a household name, but she was quite a star in the Sweary One's empire, and was even sent off to do an 18 month stint with Guy Savoy in Paris. Her first solo break was being entrusted with last year's relaunch of Foxtrot Oscar. This was given such a dismal reception that it's no great surprise - given the NYC precedent - that she too now finds herself no longer part of the famous group. (Whether she jumped, or was pushed, we have no idea.)


On the evidence of a recent visit to the South Bank, though, there's nothing much wrong with Ms Tuley's cooking. Indeed - whether be accident or design - she offers just the sort of completely no-frills menu which FO's regulars would probably rather have taken to, had it been offered to them.


What was extraordinary about our lunch was its value. Just £12.90 buys you three courses and a glass of the house wine. Even with a coffee and tip, that's £17 dead. Yes, just £17. For this less-than-princely sum, our meal for one comprised a generous (but pallid) chicken terrine, an excellent (and suprisingly large) piece of nicely-timed halibut, modestly garnished, and a red-fruits crumble.


The setting, in a railway arch, was comfortable enough too. In the evenings, there are smarter tables (cloths and all) on the mezzanine - with good views of the comings and goings at Waterloo - but the formula isn't really much fancier. You could have a solid traveller's supper, or pre- or post-theatre dinner, for around £35 a head. And that is the sort of value of which London - outside the ethnic sector - is still far too short.


BUT that's the current picture, and we're told major changes to the look and style of the operation are planned in the next couple of weeks. Watch this website for developments!


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1 Mepham St, London, SE1 8RL
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Last orders: 10.30 pm

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