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Thursday, July 27, 2006

THE BUTCHER & GRILL: NEITHER ONE NOR THE OTHER












There are lots of bad restaurants in London. Lots of them. But, The Butcher & Grill abuses the privilege. It may have only been open two weeks but it has to go high up on the list of places to be avoided like one would the opportunity to deep throat a Bubo victim. It’s that horrible.

London, it seems finds it incapable of offering a decent steak. Oh, there is Santa Maria and a couple of Pope’s Eye’s but they are all located in places that decent people don’t want to tread to often. The rest? They may offer meat of decent provenance but, to quote Woody Allen, such small portions.

A few weeks ago, after a great Sunday lunch at Ransome’s Dock, Dos Hermanos sauntered past The Butcher & Grill. It was having a pre opening “ Family and Friends” day. The principle seemed sound. A butcher out front and a grill room in the back. Kind of like the places I have been to near the slaughterhouse in Brussels where you choose a chunk of meat, they grill it and serve with chips and a glass of beer. Nothing better.

HP had his doubts, but I thought it was worth a try even if it was a schlep from home. So, when a chum invited me to join him tonight, I gave it a go. Once again, HP was right. London, again, has just got it terribly wrong. This restaurant not just misses the point of what it should be offering, it gets in a car and drives fifty miles in the wrong direction to make sure if misses the point. I just can’t get over how bad it was.

After an “ interesting” journey around some of the industrial estates of South London, we arrived and parked just in time for our 8.30pm reservation and hd chance to look at a fairly sorry looking butchery counter and display. Now, I did not expect The Ginger Pig, but the quality of the meat here looked very mediocre. Pork with a thin layer of fat, flaccid looking veal and bright red beef.

We were shown to what must be the smallest table for two I have ever encountered. A table that even my four year old niece would have been hard pressed to use to host one of her imaginary tea parties. The gaps between the table were tiny too which proved interesting when my sturdy friend tried to squeeze in so he could see the rest of the room like a girly would want to.

Then came a 15 minute wait for anyone to come and take our order. This happened to me once at a solo lunch in NYC. I got so pissed off that I actually phoned the front desk to request a server which certainly got their attention. I begged my friend to do the same tonight, but, just before we thought the delay permitted such oafishness on our part, our server arrived.

She was chirpy if slightly misinformed. We had had plenty of time to look at the menu and I was chuffed to see a 20oz T- Bone on there. My dreams of a decent piece of dead cow were crushed though by the news that the T-Bone was off, Instead, I had to order a miserably small 8oz rib eye. I asked for it rare and with a char. “Black & Blue?” she asked “ why yes” I replied suddenly delighted that she at least knew the right language of steak. But, running a grill room and being out of the main event so your punters have to settle for second best is like running a whorehouse and then sending the guys into a room to do their own thing with a copy of the Victoria Secret catalogue. I CAN DO THAT AT HOME !! It cost less and I don’t have to come South of the river.

I asked if I could order a larger cut of the other steaks but was told that this was out of the question. It certainly was as by this time, the butcher bit was closing. I guess they just change the name to The Grill then.

My friend ordered the Barnsley chop. When he asked for it rare, he was informed that “ we can’t serve our pork rare” Mmm? That’s all well and good but a Barnsley Chop is Lamb. The opening two weeks did not include staff training then?

To begin with, I ordered a Duck Rillette while my chum ordered Dry cured bacon with broad beans. His was fine. Mine was one of the nastiest dishes I have ever eaten (or indeed not eaten and you know how disgusting something has to be for me not to finish it ) To all intents and purposes sawdust with a duck flavouring. Dry, crumbly and utterly inedible. I left two thirds. We pointed this out to our server. I am not sure it quite registered and I don’t think it was deducted from our tab although I am not sure as I did not pay.

The main courses arrived. The Barnsley Chop was tiny. On the menu it said 14 oz. I would have loved to have weighed it uncooked. I am sure it was the weight they say but both my chum and the table next to us who had ordered the same looked very crestfallen when it arrived. I am not surprised. A good Barnsley chop should be at least two cutlets on each side. My steak arrived but was certainly not black and blue. It was rare, I will grant you and it tasted quite nice, but the outside was a uniform grey as if it had just been tossed in a pan rather than grilled. Other steaks came to other tables with a decent cross hatch of grill marks so I have no idea what was happening here.

Pictures of the sides can be found in the dictionary under the word “Perfunctory” Chips were too fat, so crisp on the outside too floury on the inside as is the nature of chunky chips. Mushrooms tasted slightly stale to me like they were pre prepped and warmed through. They could not manage to ruin some green beans although God knows given time, I am sure they could find a way. Of the four sauces, the Bernaise and Hollandaise were both pretty good. The salsa verde and sauce vierge were really not.

More haplessness on the puddings. My cheesecake was dry as a bone and crumbly. My chums orange cake came without the advertised Tarragon syrup. When he asked if he should be getting some, the server said that it did not come with anything. He challenged this and asked to see the menu and she then said “ oh, you’re right, it is just that it never has done yet” So, having tasted it, that’s a few hundred lucky souls who have not had to taste this cloying syrupy disaster although they have had to put up with dry as old leather cake. Quid pro quo, I guess.

We just asked for the bill. With a couple of orange juices and two glasses of red wine and some mineral water, the cost was a not inconsequential £85. A lot to pay for a meal that is little better than a Harvester without as many visits as you like to the world famous salad bar.

As we left, the duty manager asked us what we thought, so we told him. He took it on the chin and said that they had only been open a short while. The classic restaurant excuse. If they are still bedding in, why charge full whack?

It reminds me of The Marquess Tavern when they said the same and I said “ I am bedding in a new credit card, so I can only pay you half”

Mind you, half of what we paid would still have been too much for this “meal”

I realised on the way out the model they were copying, Mitch Tonk’s successful Fishworks chain.

I think they have got is spot on as they are over priced and crappy too.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Sounds perfect for Battersea. Perhaps they can roll out the concept across the whole of South London.

Saturday, July 29, 2006 12:52:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lost your email address (if i ever had it) so just a quick note to say your blog raises a smile while i'm sweating my bollocks off in a hot kitchen.keep up the good work.

Adrian (padstow)

Saturday, July 29, 2006 1:36:00 am  
Anonymous Bruce said...

http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/experts/jayrayner/story/0,,1841846,00.html

Tuesday, April 24, 2007 8:33:00 pm  

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