THE FOX & ANCHOR and LA PLAZA: POST CHRISTMAS TURKEYS
Since returning to London from up North, DH have been out and about trying a few places that have been on the radar for a while but have not yet come high enough in the reckoning to pay a visit.
On Thursday, towards the tail end of a pub crawl, which involved pints at The Dolphin, The Ship Inn and The Mitre, we found ourselves stepping into the recently refurbished Fox & Anchor in Smithfield.
Now owned by the people of Mal Maison, it has been given the full treatment and certainly looks the part on the inside, but there’s the rub. It is, as my blessed mum would have said, “all fur coat and no knickers” with all the thought going on the décor and none going on the food or the drink, well certainly not on the quality, at least.
I guess it is no longer fair to call it a pub anymore. It has been designed to give visiting tourists from the hotel nearby, or those who have paid £165 to stay in one of their own rooms, the feeling they are in a “real” pub with out actually having the possibility of coming in contact with dangerous locals.
So, beer is poured in “ye olde London Towne” glass bottom metal tankards and they offer bowls of pork scratchings and cockles whch sat on an otherwise dpepressing looking oyster bar.
But, the beer is wretchedly kept, we left most of our pints, and served by staff, who may be friendly enough but don’t have a clue about what they are serving. The pork scratchings, £1.50 for a tiny bowl, were nothing of the sort being blobs of chewy cold pork.
I don’t dislike the Malmaison group and, when they have the common sense to have a steak option in the hotel restaurant, they usually make a decent stab at it. So, it may well be that the food coming out of the full kitchen I saw downstairs will be reasonable, particularly at breakfast.
But, on this showing, I think it is strictly one for the tourists.
Yesterday saw more disappointments. First up a trip to see I AM LEGEND, one of the lousiest pieces of cinema junk I have seen in a long time. So bad, it would smell on ice. You know a film is bad when the lead is out acted by a dog.
Still, the idea of a person being all on his own apart from a bunch of savages seems appropriate as supper was going to be in West London (we go there so you don’t have to)
It really is a different country. They do things differently there.
A couple of bad pints in non-descript pubs saw us pitch up at the bottom of Tavistock Rd and a relatively new Tapas bar, La Plaza which opened, I think, in Summer.
Unlike OOPS, this had a lot going for it. Run by a Galician couple, it looked the part of a typical Spanish bar with a functional comida section and a bar stocked with odd looking bottles of mysterious liquor.
The menu too looks the part with Galician specialities like pulpo and chiperones to make you think that they know what they are doing.
It is a shame then that the food turned out to be so average. Not actively horrible, but bar a couple of dishes, no better than chain places than La Tasca and certainly a notch below the bar raised by El Faro etc.
We gave it a good go and ordered 80% of the tapas menu which all came out in rather too rapid a succession.
The Pulpo was probably the highlight, creamy and served, as it should be on a wooden board with potatoes and sprinkled with paprika. But the croquettas, a sure sign of a Spanish bars intentions, were lumpy and unpleasant.
Chorizo cooked in wine was not unpleasant and Zorza, pork with paprika had the right punchiness. The Gulas were described as baby eels on the menu which, of course, they were not, or the dish would have been ten times the price. These are the reconstituted seafood shreds you can buy in any supermarket in Spain. The equivalent, if you will of crabsticks.
The Alitas were luke warm and tasted actively strange. The pimientos de padron were served suitably blackened and salty, but in a parsimonious portion that would make even The Hart Brothers blush in shame
In Spain, the notion of moving from bar to bar means that you can select the best from each place before moving on. Here, In London, we don't have that option so tapas means experiencing the good, the bad and the indifferent in one place. Unfortuinately, La Plaza offered more of the last two options than the first.
A bottle of Martin Codax, well priced at under £20, brought the bill up to £70 to which we added £10 for service which was suitably Spanish. A large amount but, again reflecting our desire to try as many things on the menu as possible. A normal meal for two with wine and coffee would come in about £60.
La Plaza is certainly may not be worth crossing town for but I guess that is better than The Fox & Anchor, which is not worth crossing The Goswell Road for.