"It's not much but it's ours"

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


A few weeks ago, I read a story in one of the Sunday papers about one of the world’s great private art collectors giving his cleaning lady a Renoir ( I think ) because it had “ gone into the wall”

I really didn’t understand what that meant until Hermano Primero suggested we have supper at The Peasant tonight. The Peasant was one of the second wave of gastro pubs following on from the opening of The Eagle and it must have been open over ten years by now.

But, I never really notice it even though I walk passed it every week on my saunters into town. It had, as the art collector might say “gone into the wall”

So when HP made the suggestion, I thought “why not?” it is a lovely evening, The Peasant has a lovely small terrace and my last meal there ( some five years ago ) had not been at all bad. How awful could it be? Well…………………..

Actually, not as awful as some, but pretty bad. Not Gilgamesh bad, not The Ambassador bad, not Vinum bad, but bad enough to make you despair of mid level dining in London and certainly too bad to warrant the £91 bill for two ( not including pudding)
The chef is Giancarlo Vatteroni who previously cooked at Moro and Providores and his background in the “hey lemon grass is on special at Borough Market” club shines through in the menu which veers from culinary Esparanto to total gibberish.

We arrived a little early, took a seat on the terrace and had a pre supper beer and had a look at the menu. I have never had to ask what so many ingredients were ( Fijoa salad, anyone?) and I felt sorry for the waiter who had only been there a week and had been sent out, like a WWI fighter pilot without adequate preparation. I am not surprised he was floundering. In fact flounder was probably the only ingredient in Christendom not on the menu in which each dish had at least six ingredients

After a dizzying and slightly worrying few minutes, we ordered three starters

Poached Monkfish cheek with Salted Cod Brandade, Caramelized Red Pepper and Avruga – Not a success. The fish was slightly mushy although the brandade was excellent. A plate of that on its own would have been just the job

Tea Smoked Quail on a Coconut Curry Sauce, Kumera, Fijoa Salad ( apparently like a guava ) and a tomatillo salsa – tasted more burned that smoked and that left a nasty residue in the sauce which smothered any flavour in the quail.

Pork Head and Corriander Terrine with Pickled Daikon, edible flowers and a wasabi salad – a very poor terrine that had not been packed densely enough so had no real bite, texture or indeed flavour. For all his use of ingredients, Giancarlo seems petrified to season his food.

Main courses, unfortunately, were little better and in the case of HP’s a great deal worse.

Roast Lamb Chump on a Quinoa, artichoke and broad been salad with onion rings and new season garlic foam – asked for rare. Arrived grey. Sent back and arrived again rare but burned on the outside. The meat had little flavour and did not indicate that it had come from a woolgiver of any provenance. The salad was actively foul.

Tagliata of Argentinia Beef striploin with wild mushrooms, radiccio and shaved parmesan – at its best, this is a beautifully simple dish. This was not at its best. I had not specified how I liked my beef so cannot complain that it was overcooked. I can complain that the dish was tasteless and that there was ( again!) a lack of seasoning. I asked for some lemon to squeeze over the pan in an attempt to give it some zing, but it didn’t work.

A decent bottle of rose, well priced at £19 kept us on the right side of unpleasant. But, the arrival of our bill did not. My beloved mother would have said £91 was “ just plain wicked” and she would have been right.

It may be that my tastes are getting more simple as I get older but menus like this fill me with horror. Chefs who hurl as many ingredients as they can find into a pan in lieu of any culinary personality. These dishes, apart from lacking freshness and taste lacked maturity and any discernable level of skill.

We did not want to face pudding here for fear of what it may contain so popped down the road to St John for some lovely Burnt Ice Cream and some chocolate cake. A slightly “Groundhog Day” feeling for me as I had done exactly the same the night before after imbibing too many cocktails and eating too much sushi with my new best chum. Petra “Chocstar” Barran. ( remember for all your mobile chocolate needs )

So, not an unpleasant way to finish an evening but, as far as I am concerned, The Peasant can go back into the wall.

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