TERRA NOSTRA: THE POWER OF PUBLICITY
You know that the PR machine for a restaurant is in full flow when even DH receive the press releases.
Just before I hit the road on the US leg of my trip, I received an e-mail from the PR company for Terra Nostra a new Sardinian restaurant opposite The Old Bailey. I did not have time to give it a try before I left, but the mail sat accusingly in my mailbox throughout the trip and I promised myself that I would add it to my list of places once I got back to Blighty.
The PR company have obviously earned their corn with this account, because, on my return, I found out that it had been reviewed by just about anybody who is anybody and by quite a few who aren’t. Almost all of them had been complimentary which is unusual and either means they are friends of the PR person or it is actually a very decent place. Let’s just say, the PR person must have a lot of links on Facebook.
The small dining room hardly screams “Sardinia” in fact it screams cheap art sale as they offer up the chance to buy some of the worst paintings I can ever recall seeing outside of a three year old finger painting class.
There was only one other table occupied so we more or less had our choice of the ten or so tables and chose one near the bar while the waitress informed is that three of the dishes on the menu were not available including, naturally, the two that I wanted. It is not a huge menu to begin with and, with the exception of a bit of bottarga here and some Sardinian pasta it all comes over as pretty standard Italian stuff.
To begin, HP chose calamari stuffed with its own tentacle meat and I chose ravioli stuffed with potato and Sardinian cheese. The cooking here is obviously able. The calamari were perfectly prepared and the stuffing had a pleasing spiciness. The ravioli too were slightly toothsome as they should be and the filling soft and creamy. Unfortunately, the plates on which they were served were stone cold and so both dishes had cooled to luke warm before they hit the table.
The same was true of the main courses, which is a pretty basic mistake to make in a restaurant that only attracted six people, including us, during our entire visit. The dishes themselves were fine. As is often the case with Italian meals, they were just hunks of meat with stuff, hardly something to trouble anyone who has set foot in catering college.
Steak was cooked rare as requested and came with a few sauté potatoes and carrots. Hearty enough, but no better that something you might be quietly pleased to serve a friend for dinner. Likewise a piece of lamb which was perfectly pink and came with a substitute of spinach rather than the potatoes for me in my post Christmas carb conscious mode.
The wine list is short and expensive. A bottle of Cannonau came in at £26 and made me think that it might have worked in context while sitting on the island, but on a wet London Thursday in January was just a bit, well rubbish.
We skipped pudding, but went for coffee and post dinner drinks including a round we were given gratis and for nothing by the charming staff.
All that, including service came to £93. That is basically a ton, for a meal, which will live in the memory for less time than it will in the digestion system.
The fact that a place which, while not bad, but actively ordinary, has had such coverage shows the power of publicity, I guess. The fact that it was empty and by all accounts has not been plagued by custom, shows punter power a far greater force however good the PR company may be and however many favours they may be able to call in.
Power to the people.