Consistent acclaim elsewhere inspired us to save Richard Corrigan revamped Theatreland veteran (1916) for a special business celebration.
Initial impressions are indeed favourable: the creaky character of old has been given a facelift, giving the whole enterprise – from downstairs oyster bar to upstairs dining room – a confident veneer. Things started to go a bit awry, though, when our party of six was steered to the rather stately private room. If we had wanted a private room, we would have asked for one, and the obvious problem of such a half-baked arrangement was immediately apparent: service was too often off the case. When a waiter’s head was occasionally poked around the door, its owner tended to be a bit matier than was called for
Materials are of high quality: oysters, for example, were exemplary, and a salad with root vegetables was something of a highlight. Smoked salmon, however, came in almost canapé proportions. Cooked dishes got a mixed press: pheasant and bouillabaisse were pretty good, but both sea bass and a mixed grill were disappointing. Puddings were fine, but perhaps tellingly only the cheese got a ‘rave’.
A very sour note was struck by the treatment of a veggie guest. Sure, Corrigan is famous for his meat dishes and this place is a fish specialist, But so what? When you’re entertaining on business you can’t really pre-vet your guests for a requirement that is hardly that unusual. To add insult to injury, a ‘special spaghetti’ – eventually promised, with much song and dance – turned out to be a plate of over-buttered and over-salted tagliatelle, with a dollop of parsley for ‘decoration’. You too, dear reader, could have done better at home, and you too would have been as embarrassed as we were.