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Cape Town Fish Market W1
By the Palladium, a de luxe 'high-street-style' restaurant offering an extensive menu stretching from sushi to surf 'n' turf; it combines the charm of an Angus Steak House with the culinary flair of a Garfunkel's.
As Oscar Wilde once observed, only fools don't judge by appearances, and - on such a basis - we doubt most readers would ever venture into this new outfit, near the Palladium. From the outside, it looks like an American mall-restaurant, circa 1992. The name of the place is intriguing, though, and many people have - as we do - fond reminiscences of dining in South Africa, so we thought we should check it out.
When you do go in, though, you are able to confirm that this place is indeed the antithesis of what most critics probably think of as an ideal restaurant (small and independently-run, serving tasty dishes from a short but seasonal menu in a gracious environment that's comfortable without being flashy). The interior turns out to have as much charm as the exterior, and there is music which is loud and (mainly) American.
The menu is a multiple-page printed document which first tells you what telephone number to call if you too would like to franchise the 'concept'. Not today thank you. But - as at another (classier) Saffa import nearby, Haiku - it's the menu's sheer length and lack of focus which is particularly depressing. You couldn't possibly assimilate it all (or describe it here), but it doesn't matter as you quickly give up caring: you know that the food is not going to be any good anyway. As it turns out, you're right.
Our lunch did include some pretty decent California rolls, from a Yo! Sushi-style conveyor which occupies one part of the restaurant - did we mention that? - but otherwise everything was somewhere between dreary and inept. And not at all cheap either. Many main courses (such as many of the fish dishes, which are some sort of house speciality) break the £20/head barrier, and total spend for two could very easily pass the £100 mark.
So ignore Wilde at your peril. This is a restaurant strictly for those who are can't, or lack the discernment necessary, to judge by appearances.
5 & 6 Argyll St, London, W1F 7TE
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Last orders: 10.45 pm