GILGAMESH: LESS AN EPIC MORE A TRAGEDY
Let’s make this abundantly clear. I don’t often take pictures in/of urinals. Well, leastways not since the court order. But, I did tonight because the gent’s at Gilgamesh is a truly extraordinary place in which to point Percy at the porcelain.
In fact Gilgamesh is extraordinary for so many reasons let alone it’s gold plated khazi.
It is extraordinary for being the largest restaurant in the UK with a possible 700 covers.
It is extraordinary for being the result of £12million worth of investment by three Israeli business men inspired initially by the Buddha Bar in Paris but who, after a visit to The British Museum thought that ancient Babylon would be the perfect theme for a Pan Asian restaurant.
It is extraordinary that all of this is in what used to be The Stables in Camden Town
It is extraordinary for being the place that Ian Pengelley, the Icarus of London restaurants should try and repair his wings after the hubris and the crash and burn that was his eponymous liaison with Gordon Ramsay
Most of all, however, it is a place that is extraordinary for prising such a vast amount of money from you for cooking ( if that is the term ) of such ineptitude that everyone involved should be ashamed to the very core of their Babylonian slippers.
I like Ian Pengelley. I can’t claim to know him but, he always comes over as an affable chap on TV and when I read that he was going to be in charge of the kitchen here, I thought it would be the perfect location for me and a dearest friend to have supper.
The location of the restaurant seemed truly bizarre situated right next to Camden Lock amongst all those tatty shops selling tat. But, all became clear when the host explained that one of owners owns Camden Lock. That’s just as well then. He can probably afford to lose the money when this place closes in six months.
The room is vast. I am not talking big, enormous or huge. I am talking the size of a small country. My friend had arrived before me and had been plonked at a table in the middle of the room. When I turned up, she was visiting the aforementioned bathrooms. She assured me that the women’s bathrooms were pretty extraordinary too. I don’t have pictures to prove it.
So, there we were like two ink dots on a sheet of A4 paper in the middle of this Babylonian sneeze of a restaurant. By the time we left, there were perhaps another four tables occupied. I suspect that you could have another 60 tables occupied and still feel like you were dining in an empty room.
They have had a “ friends and family day’ and a “ press day” where all the nationals ( the usual suspects ) came to fill their snouts at the trough of free food. But, this was only their third full public day. They told us they had been full the previous two days. So, that is nearly 1400 people wandering around London wondering where the hell £120 went and half a dozen journo’s thanking God that they never have to put their hand in their own pocket for a meal.
The menu is limited. Limited in oh so many ways. There are some salads, some Sushi and Sashimi, some Dim Sum and some main courses. Prices are high with salads being between £10-12, Sushi between £6-11, Dim Sum around the £5 mark and the main courses over £20.
That’s about the same price as Hakkasan or Roka. Unfortunately, the cooking is more like The Jade Garden at the bottom of The Goswell Rd.
We ordered a bit from each part of the menu to try as wide a variety as possible and then sat back for a few minutes chat before thinking about eating. No such luck. Within about 2 minutes of ordering, food began to arrive and arrive and arrive until 80% of our dishes were on the table.
I asked the waitress if Ian Pengelley was actually in the kitchen or had just designed the menu. She assured me that he looked at every plate before it was sent out to the table. If that is the case then he really has lost the plot and the Gordon experience has left his abilities in the kitchen shot to hell. This was food that ranged from OK to bland to limp to soggy to nasty to “ I am going to hunt you and your family down like Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear”
They also said they had 36 chefs in the kitchen. I can only assume they were watching the World cup.
There seemed to be no particular order to when the food arrived. First up some soft and chewy prawn crackers, followed by Har Gau that was no better than you can buy in any supermarket in Chinatown. Garlic chive and mushroom dumplings actually showed some signs of a decent kitchen but the arrival of a flaccid papaya salad with a betel leaf tempura which was a tough as Sumo’s jockstrap soon dragged the level of the meal back down again.
The edamame snacks we ordered to begin with arrived after all of this and just as we got a potion of crispy squid served in a twist of a Japanese newspaper ( a schtick he first came up with at E& O, I think ) The peas were fine. Hard to ruin really. Not so the squid. Leathery enough to require conversation to stop while we chewed, this was a real travesty of what can be a truly lovely dish.
Two parsimonious slices each of yellowtail and tuna sashimi arrived atop a ludicrous bowl of dry ice which bubbles menacingly but pointlessly and a tuna roll was made with nothing more than tuna mayo sandwich filling. Really very, very nasty indeed.
The only high in a series of defining lows was a dragon roll of unagi and avocado which, while not screaming fresh did not, at least, scream “ throw me away”
A sweet salad of pork with scallops was better. The pork was crispy and sweet with honey. The scallops, a tad overcooked were fresh.
The other main course was a Nobu stylee Miso marinade Sea Bass which my friend quite liked but I thought was slimey.
So, that was it. All served lickety split. In fact we were in and out in under an hour and twenty minutes. That is Nobu speed without Nobu quality of cooking.
The bill was incorrect as they had reduced prices just before tonight’s service in reaction to comments on the previous two nights. They changed it immediately but, suffice to say, that even with the reduction it still came to a horrendous £124 for two including service which was fine but damn well should have been given that there were staff there for 700 and there were 20 people in the room. We also ordered a bottle of Picpoul at £15 not badly priced on what was a menu with nosebleed inducing mark ups and little imagination
This is amongst the worst meals I have ever eaten in London
There was Gordon Ramsay’s at Claridges, the biggest flop since Howard the Duck.
There was Restaurant Tom Aiken where happiness goes to die and where you win a prize if you can tell a starter from a main course from a dessert.
There was Chinatmani where I suggested they change one of the names of the dishes on the menu to “slop” to save time
Gilgamesh is right up there amongst them. It is by far the most stunningly misconceived restaurant I can recall in recent memory and even more remarkable as I think it marks the death knell to the major league career of a chef who could and should be offering much better
I would rather suck my brain out with a straw than ever eat here ( if that’s truly what we did) again