Let’s start at the end. ‘I see your espresso has arrived before your pudding, so let me get you another one, without charge’. No, not one of Private Eye’s ‘Sights you seldom see’ cartoons, but something a waiter really said at this new brasserie. It may sound too good to be true, but it was consistent with the good and affable service throughout our meal at this Farringdon joint. The backer is Neil Walkington, who used to work for Will (E&O) Ricker: the latter’s gift for hiring and retaining truly hospitable staff has clearly been passed on.
We liked the design of the premises too: for an atmospheric restaurant setting, it’s hard to beat a lofty post-industrial space, and this one – a light semi-basement with attractive views – is no exception. Stylishly but simply done up, it sets high expectations for the quality of the cuisine.
Ah yes, the cooking. Misgivings set it with the bread. In a place which has a (mainly) authentic Gallic brasserie menu, why not give people proper crusty baguette, or some tasty pain de compagne? A softer, whiter English alternative is just ‘wrong’. Unfortunately, it set the tone for what followed. A goat’s cheese tart was largely melted into an opalescent grey-white goo with not particularly palatable associations, and too sweet. Pan-fried salmon was bland and, mash likewise. A chocolate pudding, if rather better, did little to lift the feeling that it’s the cuisine here which is the weakest link.
It’s too early to write the place off though. With appalling timing, Mr Walkington was mown down by a cab just before the launch of this, his first solo venture. Let’s hope he’s soon out of hospital, and can set the place on the path to achieving its full potential.