Harden's survey result
Opinions divide on these “spacious” and well-located all-day brasseries in Chelsea (right on Sloane Square) and the City (in Broadgate). Fans vaunt them as “very pleasant” for many occasions, and particularly for a business lunch or “excellent breakfast/brunch”. Critics, though, hate them for being “so noisy” and dismiss the food as “overpriced and disappointing”.
“A Sloaney spot for ladies who lunch” – the well-known, “very lively” Chelsea branch right on Sloane Square that’s also convenient for “business lunches or drinks” (no-one talks about its City offshoot). The food avoided the drubbing of prior surveys and won consistent support this year.
Attractive bar/restaurant on Sloane Square inspiring very mixed feelings: fans say it delivers “a buzzy atmosphere and surprisingly good food” but for its harshest critics “it’s a package made in hell”: “slow, crowded, with indifferent service” and “awful, expensive cooking”. (Limited feedback on its Broadgate sibling).
The hugely convenient location of this “very buzzy” Sloane Square rendezvous, “probably explains why it’s overpriced”; it has a new Broadgate sibling, which is “good for a quick business lunch”, but likewise only “averagely good” in most respects.
The Botanist SW1
An elegantly-conceived bar/brasserie, on a corner of a square which is a byword for fashionability; the latest product from the Martin ('Gun') brothers, it offers 'high street' fare at boutique prices.
Starting off at The Well EC1, the Martin brothers have made quite a name for their gastropubs. Arguably the best was their second establishment, The Gun E14, across the river from the Dome (O2) - a smart place offering good food, but with prices reflecting the proximity of Canary Wharf. They have since opened a string of other places, always on the east side of town, always offering good to middling quality, but never anything resembling a bargain.
The brothers' latest opening is the first to be situated in what our west-centric guest described as 'the polite postcodes'. And what a location it is! On a bright corner of the square which, for many, still marks the centre of fashionable London. The site has been given an expensively tasteful make-over, which is perhaps most obviously successful in the bar. The brasserie-style dining area benefits from the light, but is an awkward shape into which the smallish tables and (admittedly comfortable) chairs feel rather shoehorned-in.
The main reservation about the Martin brothers' establishments has always been their prices, so one doesn't expect their new baby - in the heart of SW1 - to be any sort of bargain. Even so, we were rather startled by a bill - for a standard lunch, and with total alcohol spend equivalent to one decent bottle of wine - of £120 for two. This included a 12.5% charge for service which was agreeable, but much too slow.
The food - from a menu of contemporary Anglo-French brasserie 'classics' - does not really measure up to the prices. Our guest used that word 'polite' again. If it were furniture, it would be the sort people expect to find at Peter Jones - the descriptions might be reasonably enticing, but the products are solid rather than inspiring. Our overall impression on departure was the mismatch between the toppish-rank bill, and the largely unremarkable fare that had preceded it.
Probably correctly, however, the brothers seem to have concluded, that - with this location - prices are unlikely to be a matter of particular concern.
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Last orders: 11 pm