A case-study in ‘how not to do a restaurant opening’ (and that was leaving aside the ultra-mean portions); the design of this City newcomer is great, but is the current environment going to be receptive to this ostentatious spin-off from a West End original that was never such a ‘rave’ in the first place?
How forgiving should you be to a restaurant that’s just opened?
It’s a question restaurant reviewers ask themselves (and each other) a lot. Our attitude can be summarised, ‘if you’re charging full prices, expect to be judged accordingly’. So we were a little nonplussed by the performance of this pricey City newcomer.
Not an accusation you could level, by the way, at the design. Perhaps stung by the comparisons its dusky West End forebear has drawn to Hakkasan, the style here – and they’ve spent a packet on it – avoids dark hues for a light colour scheme. A large shimmering bar dominates the space, which is cleverly subdivided into a cocktail area and a main dining area, saving the room from feeling like the box it basically is. Who’d have thought a few years ago that you’d get a place like this somewhere as boring as Angel Court?
We had been warned at the time of booking that full restaurant service was not yet available. However, having checked out the bar menu, we’d decided to press on regardless. More fool us.
Perched on plush white leather in the luxurious bar, it quickly became apparent to us that our rather beautiful waitress had no great command of English, or, indeed, any feeling at all for what she was serving. ‘Cobra’, she explained – unwrapping for us an arcane mystery of the East – ‘is an Indian beer’.
Don’t blame her, though. Blame the powers that be, who – in a top dollar joint like this – should have given her a bit more basic training. They should also, while they were at it, have made sure that the coffee and credit card machines were working, and avoided the numerous interruptions by various members of staff updating us on their bungling progress in trying to rectify matters.
And the food? OK, this was the bar menu. Even allowing for this, portions are outrageously dinky. A £6.50 portion of asparagus, involved maybe two spears (or was it three?) pretentiously chopped up and served skewered by multiple cocktail sticks on a tiny little mound of coconut rice – the sort of portion you might feed to a mouse in a cartoon. Stuffed peppers? £7!
A £28 seafood sharing platter for two might have fed two Lilliputians, but for two regular-sized adults it looked so tiny, we initially presumed it was for just one of us, and they were about to go back for the same again. What a hoot! One cute, litte spicy seafood parcel each. But how to divide the last of the three prawns? If they wanted to starve us, at least they could do so with evenly numbered bites. And, yes folks, that’s over £5 per morsel.
The chef came over earnestly to enquire what we thought. So we told him. The food is really enjoyable, spicey, carefully put together, but there just ain’t enough of it. He nodded, said he might make some changes, and scuttled off looking a bit uncertain.
Needless to say, no one dreamt of offering us anything off the bill, despite being new customers who couldn’t have made their underwhelm-ment clearer.
The value equation here would be extremely doubtful even had we had the slickest of experiences. But the casual arrogance with which some operators expect customers to pay top dollar for their learning curve is baffling. Haven’t they heard of opening-month discounts? Or, if you’re going to rip people off, couldn’t you at least do it competently?