Artistry in cooking can be overdone. Sometimes the occasion demands good meat, good wine, good cheese, that’s it. This seemed like an appropriate formula for lunch with an old school chum, now head of PR for a large fund managers. Knowing him not to be much of a style victim, I felt relatively relaxed about suggesting this basic-looking, year-old basement opposite the western flank of Smithfield Market.
Visual interest (such as there is) comes from the large, glass-walled wine room in the centre of the space. The place has a reasonable buzz, though, and the atmosphere is boosted by the attitude of the South African owners and staff. Why is such a genuine welcome so unusual?
Had we had more time, I’d have suggested a trip to the wine room. (There are 250 bins, with an obvious emphasis on South Africa). Both needing to work that afternoon, though, we sank a bottle of inexpensive Stellenbosch cabernet/merlot – no great complexity, but very easy to glug.
The food has no great pretensions, but it isn’t pricey and some dishes were very good Roast bone marrow was a hearty, enjoyable starter. Guinea fowl with borlotti beans was a robust yet quite healthy-tasting dish, but I wished I’d had my friend’s beautifully tender springbok steak.
On to the cheese room, I confidently suggested (already savouring the aromas of over 100 beautifully-conditioned choices) … only for disaster to strike. My old pal’s new firm give him regular health checks and he’s now a cholesterol-avoiding sap! Wishing to inflict only modest discomfort on him, I opted for an OK Eton Mess.
We left in good spirits, the venue having done its straightforward job well. Just, if you plan a trip, make sure your guest’s not on a health kick first.