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

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Whenever I go out with a Glaswegian chum of my acquaintance, we often come to the same conclusion about restaurants but often for very different reasons.

She loves the glitz and glamour, I love simplicity. She likes the chef to do something clever, I like them to buy good ingredients and not fuck about with them too much.

In our own roundabout way, we often find ourselves walking out of a restaurant together going “ooh, I enjoyed that” but disagreeing entirely on the reason why. Mind you, we also have plenty of examples where we disagree almost to the point of violence. We came close to it today and that was just discussing Barrafina, about which she is, of course, entirely wrong, it being officially ghastly.

For once however, we agreed about the restaurant we were visiting, in this case The Duke of Wellington on Crawford St and for the same reasons. The food is terrific, comprised of well sourced ingredients and deftly cooked by the exotically named Fred Smith, ex of Ransome’s Dock, The Walnut Tree and Bibendum.

We both agreed that the room was rather nice despite the eclectic mix of posters on the wall (Ricky Gervais, Che and front pages of The Sun anyone?) We both agreed that the furnishings were on the cheap side and that a bottle of Albarino for £38 was bordering on the iniquitous.

Most of all, however, we agreed that there was hardly anything on the menu that we would not consider ordering.

To begin, the blowsy Scot went for Papparadelle with lobster and dill. We both agreed there was lots of fresh, perfectly prepared lobster and pasta, but she thought it had “too much sauce” she was wrong, of course and, when she had the good sense to pass the dish over to me, I cleaned the bowl with my finger.

Old Spot Rillettes, were more standard gastro-pubby stuff but pleasingly not served fridge cold and with some proper crunchy bread upon which to perform a balancing act of meat and cornichons and peppery watercress. I thought it was slightly under-seasoned, she did not. I was right again. But, it was still a great beginning.

Her main course was spot on too. Guinea fowl breast came with puy lentils and a slightly threatening Toulouse sausage. The skin on the breast was crisp and crunchy while the meat stayed juicy, a hard task for so many chefs. The sausage was firm, meaty and well spiced, the lentils retained a crunch. A perfect winter dish.

When I saw that the inevitable inclusion of steak on the menu offered the brave choice of a 45 day aged piece of beef, I had to choose that and was not disappointed. A slab from The Ginger Pig, came cooked perfectly rare to order and served with chips so properly prepared that I had to move the plate to the other end of the table to stop my friend eating every last crispy morsel.

I am not a great one for puddings, but if someone can cook as well as they had displayed so far, then they are probably worth trying and they were. A mixture of British and French cheeses were in excellent nick, with a creamy Roquefort being the pick of the bunch. The sticky toffee pudding was exactly what it should be, deeply delicious but light.

We had done so well so far. We had agreed on a lot of things, from the friendly service, the fact that a passable Chablis was over priced at £26 and that the food itself was impeccably done. Then she had to go and ruin it by getting all silly over a sparkly statue down by the Gents. Like all women the sight of anything shiny sends her all a quiver and it took her a good five minutes to settle down.

Fortunately, I was able to drag her back to some level of common sense and we asked for the bill. I was being treated so did not see the final amount. I am guessing with three courses and a bottle and a half of wine, around £100 including service.

As we left the restaurant, we both said “ooh, I enjoyed that” and for once, it was for exactly the same reasons. The food.

I enjoyed the moment, so did she. It will probably never happen again.

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Blogger plum-pie said...

sigh. every single critic in britain is wrong, only our simon is right. 'they're all oot of step but oor jock'.

barrafina is a class act: don't let your personal prejudices blind you to it. and of course it's more expensive - it's in soho innit.

btw, the adjective you're keen to overuse isn't blowsy but ravishing. but hey, helps to keeps the identity under wraps!



Wednesday, January 16, 2008 5:40:00 pm  
Anonymous Krista said...

thanks for pushing this one up on my list! can't wait to visit.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008 8:08:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

I recently revisted Barafina after a year and I have no reason to change my original view i.e. it's ok but nothing special and way overpriced. Good to see Nieves Barragan still working hard behind the counter but it was all a bit hit and miss.

Croquetas were good and nicely creamy inside. Chipirones were over-battered and not great. Clams were well...Clams. Morcilla was very oily - the chosen method of preparation is not very good. I had them redo it for me.

Cochinillo (from Segovia) Asado was excellent but expensive. Actually, the better bargain was the head of the pig which was going for £6.50 and had plenty to get stuck into.

A selection Turron was four tiny bits of two types, both a bit dry and not very good. A rip-off at £5.

You also have to put up with Soho meeja babble which is enough to put anyone off their meal.

Friday, February 08, 2008 9:04:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

I also visited DoW with some friends in the evening. I found it expensive (especially the wine) for the standard of cooking. The place was rammed and I wonder if having to cook for upstairs and downstairs was stretching the small kitchen a bit. It's possibly better for lunch during the week.

Friday, February 08, 2008 9:07:00 pm  

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