Sometimes we just don’t get it. This Dulwich venture has clearly needed a lot of investment, and its backer (also involved in L’Etranger in South Kensington) is experienced. Why then is the new incarnation of this leafily-located Georgian mansion (previously called Belair House) so wide of the mark.
For starters, why would anyone take such an elegant space overlooking lovely parkland and equip it with a floor and chairs of virulent Easyjet-orange?
Why – in quite a posh joint – employ such amateurish staff? Our waiter chucked a pair of chopsticks down on the table so carelessly it would have been cause for comment even at Fawlty Towers. We were in stitches, not least as they were for the wrong person and had to be moved.
And then there’s the food, which is a pretentious-looking mix of French and Japanese inspirations. Why do it, when the unevenness of the results suggests that neither cuisine has been reliably mastered? That’s not to say that everything we sampled was bad. Starters included a couple of highlights with a rich, spicy pumpkin soup and yummy oysters in breadcrumbs with coriander cream. But the main dishes included a couple of real duds – not least a disappointingly turgid venison in quince and liquorish sauce. What’s more, the speed of execution was awful. In a deserted restaurant, the gaps between courses stretched interminably.
Looking to be positive, the service (despite its irregularities) does at least try hard and the wine list offers something of interest at most price points. Overall, however, the faults here crowd out the virtues. This is a real shame, because – with a bit more attention to the details that matter – the location alone could make the place a destination. Perhaps that’s the trouble.