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Thursday, December 14, 2006





THE HAT & FEATHERS: TOO MANY SPLODGES SPOIL THE COOK

KEEP REMINDING YOURSELF IT’S ONLY A PUB

There is a Wes Craven film ( I think ) called “ The Last House on The Left” if I recall rightly, the hook line was “ Keep Reminding yourself it’s only a film”

I am not sure why, but a riff on that line was running through my head all evening as I “ enjoyed” a meal at the Hat & Feathers

I suspect that it is because the restaurant at The Hat & Feathers is one of the more misconceived horror shows I can recall in a very long time.

Pseudo Fine dining in a raucous pub environment. It’s the future you know?

KEEP REMINDING YOURSELF IT IS ONLY A PUB

It’s not that the chef doesn’t have skills. In fact he is so in love with his technique that there are more splodges on the plates than on a Jackson Pollack. However, you never need much reminding that a few feet away downstairs the biggest decision being made is between Starporamen and Fosters ( substitute any two pissy lagers as required )

The nature of any room above a pub is that it is going to be, well, a little loud. That’s fine. It’s the nature of the beast and, as long as one realises that serving a meal that needs much level of contemplation is going to be a bit silly, one should be fine. The Fox gets it right, so, to a lesser extent does The Princess and The Sutton Arms ( excuse me while I have a quiet moment…………….. that’s better ) was the perfect example. Good simple food from great ingredients not screwed around with.

No one has obviously explained this to the good folk at The Hat & Feathers.

And, they are good folk. Very nice indeed. From the moment I arrived and managed to get through the packed bar by shouting “ There is a sale on at Suits 4 You” until it cleared, the staff were very friendly if not hugely efficient. Unfortunately, they seem to be labouring under the weight of false expectations both of their location and their clientele.

KEEP REMINDING YOURSELF ITS ONLY A PUB.

The room upstairs is laid out for higher things. Linen table cloths and multiple glasses show you that they do not want this taken as a Gastro pub. Heaven forfend. The menu the same. A few foams here, a bit of orange powder there. This is not a cook, this is a chef and you’d better damn well take notice.

Shame then that he seems to put smears and splodges above ingredients.

With two courses for £22.95 and the temerity of a wine pairing, you need to deliver decent cooking and great sourcing. This did a bit of one and none of the other.

Bread was of the " why bother if you are not going to get good stuff?" variety.

A starter of a confit duck salad with beetroot and parmesan was off the mark. The leaves were limp having been dressed too early, the duck was dry and stringy, the beets soft and the crisp, well not crisp. To compound matters someone had thought it was a good idea to lace the whole thing with a good dose of truffle oil to the extent that you could taste little else. Indeed, I am still tasting it now.

The wine pairing with this was a Rioja. It tasted of, well, truffle oil.

KEEP REMINDING YOURSELF ITS ONLY A PUB

The main course was a slow roasted fillet of beef with anchovy crumb and horseradish.

The beef was perfectly cooked but it had as much taste as a lottery winning navvy. The rest of the plate was like a crash scene of the chef’s cleverness. A smear here, a bit of jelly there, a splosh there. It might have held up, if well done in a quieter environment but not in a place where your every mouthful is punctuated by shrieks of “ you would, wouldn’t you?” from below.

There was a £3 supplement. It didn’t go on buying the beef.

KEEP REMINDING YOURSELF ITS ONLY A PUB.

I fancied a pudding. Well, it’s Christmas and it’s been an odd year, so I deserve it.

The waitress said if she had to eat one pudding it would be the Banana Split. So, She was cute. Who am I to argue?

Well, of course, it had to be a Banana Split with a twist. A banana mousse, some vanilla ice cream, a dried banana slice crisp, and a few drops of chocolate sauce. Not actively bad, just misjudged. You want to give a real twist on a Banana Split? Just make one properly. Don’t give me your smooth cheffy stylings on a Banana Split theme. For Heaven’s sake.

KEEP REMINDING YOURSELF ITS ONLY A PUB.

I got the bill at the same time. With service of 12.5% it came to £43. A lot to pay for cooking that wants to show it is clever without ever being able to show it is intelligent.

But, what do I know? The pub was packed and the restaurant was pretty full too. Although, I wonder how many people will stagger upstairs after a too many pints extolling “ I just fancy a plate of Salmon Bonito Potatoes, candied fennel, coriander and pine nut oil”

Not me.
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