THE MARQUESS TAVERN & GORGEOUS GEORGE
There are some restaurants that get everything right. The food, the atmosphere and the service. They are few and far between. There are others that get one bit right but fall down on the others. An amazing room with food that truly sucks and service out of the Eve Braun Charm School or great food with service that comes with a sneer or charming service with food that should be served in a trough.
It seems almost impossible for places to achieve any sort of balance. Tonight was a perfect example.
It had been a very long day. A conference for our UK sales group had seen us offer up not only a great BBQ prepared by our “ house” chef, Tony but also a presentation by “gorgeous” George himself. Mr Galloway was in full effect. Presenting to our reps his Autumn release of THE FIDEL CASTRO HANDBOOK, he won over a difficult crowd with his with considerable charm and charisma before heading down to do battle on Question Time.
By the end of the day, I was redy for a pint and a simple meal.
Hermano Primero had sent me a note that a pub about 30 seconds from my office had just been taken over by the good people from Green & Red and might be worth a try. So, about 6.15pm, I headed to THE MARQUESS TAVERN and found HP sitting at the bar sipping on a pint of Young’s Ordinary and perusing the beer menu. I soon joined him with a pint of Waggledance and we spent a perfectly happy hour drinking beer and waiting for the restaurant to open at 7pm. They have a vast range by the bottle, a regular guest ale ( tonight Everard's from Leicester ) and a draught Perry and proper cider.
A few of the old locals wandered in, looked around a bit bemused and then left again. I am not surprised, the prices have had to be hiked to pay for it all and a pint of Waggledance was a whopping £3.30 a pop.
When they did open, we went to the back of the bar where the room had been turned into an identikit gastropub ( whitewashed walls, blackboard menu etc ) and had a perfectly acceptable table for two.
Initially, the service was very good as we were the only people in the restaurant area. That was soon to change, but stay with me.
The printed menu was a direct lift in design from St John and so were many of the dishes on it. Further interrogation revealed that there are two chefs. Paul Hayes who was the butcher at St John and Jamie Weber who cooked at The Ivy. So, good provenance there then.
And so the food proved. We chose three starters.
A Rabbit terrine was chunky and full of flavour. HP placed it just below that at Vinoteca but felt that it would have benefited from the presence of some toast
Deep fried whitebait made with beautiful fish from Steve Hatt and were huge examples of the type, perfectly fried and crunchy but I thought some tartar sauce would have been a good accompaniment.
Wood pigeon salad with a salad of peas & Sorrel. The bird was suitably pink but the peas were shrivelled and the sorrel horribly over salted. We pointed this out to the young Polish waitress who gave a kind of “ oh well” kind of shrug. The first sign of the service to come.
Not bad so far and enough to make us think that this may just be a place worth revisiting. A thought reinforced by the main courses
Rare Roast Sirloin with Chips and Beetroot Puree was one of the better pieces of beef I have tried recently. Bought from James Elliott on Essex Rd, it was aged for 28 days and tasted of beef. Not always the case. The chips were crunchy even if the puree added very little to the dish
A plate of rabbit with garlic was very good indeed. A leg and saddle had been marinaded in red wine and was slow braised and served with roasted garlic and some unannounced Jersey royals which were demolished by HP as I wasn’t going to eat them as CARBS =DEATH.
They have a limited wine list and which offers a range of English wines. More fool us we made the mistake of ordering one of them. A Chapel Down Epoch 1 2004 which was truly vile and even more so when we tried to chill it down to take the edge off. You can say it was our fault for ordering it but, if the wine is on the list, it needs to be any good. We talked to the restaurant manager about it. Not complaining, we ordered it after all, just telling him that we did not think it much cop. He did not seem that interested.
Then, it all began to crash & burn. We ordered a couple of puddings. Both excellent.
An Elderflower Jelly with a very good Vanilla Ice cream
Apple Pie with custard.
With this, we ordered a glass of Mead to share. It took us three reminders to actually get it to the table. By this time, the restaurant area was filling up and the service seemed to be failing in direct proportion to the number of people in the place.
When we ordered coffee and tea, service seemed to be in freefall. HP’s coffee was declared the worst in living memory, even after he complained and had it changed. It took another three requests to get our small glass of Somerset Apple Brandy with our coffee and at least another four requests to get our bill.
Around us tables were all getting agitated and the people next to us claimed to have waited some 40 minutes for their starters ( for the record Potted Salmon which just needed to be taken out to the fridge )
The manager seemed to spend most of his time hunkering down at the table behind us with people he obviously knew, but, even though he was superficially apologetic when we told him what we thought of the service, i am not sure he really took the comments on board. He made some noise about breaking in two new waitresses. Perhaps, I should have said I was breaking in a new bank card and only offered to pay half.
The bill for two came to £90. Hardly a small amount even given the fact we ordered a few extra drinks.
The food here is very good. Well sourced and well cooked and with real flavour. Unfortunately, the service with even a little bit of pressure applied falls to pieces and makes it unlikely that either of us would rush back to return. A great shame.