I'll wait 'til twenty past
There’s an entirely coincidental link between my meal at Water House and my meal at El Gordo’s new opening The Warrington: both are more or less situated on the Regent’s Canal. To my shame although I’ve lived in London for over thirty years I’d never walked along the Western section so I thought it might be a good idea to work up an appetite by attempting the trek to Maida Vale. Of course old lardy here completely underestimated the task ahead and had to return to street level and use conventional transport to get there in time.
You can’t really miss the Warrington Hotel which is situated a short hop away from Maida Vale tube station. It’s a good example of that endangered species the Victorian Gin Palace, from the ornate columns (and there’s more of them inside) which flank the entrance to the art deco stained glass and the huge marble-topped bar inside on the ground floor, it’s all delightfully OTT and has obviously been a labour of love for all involved in the project. It would be worth visiting even if you’re not going to eat in the restaurant just to gawp at the place. This would also have the added advantage of annoying the whingeing locals who take a dim view of refurbished pubs which serve decent food. They really wanted that Tesco Metro.
The light and airy restaurant on the first floor is a very pleasant place to spend a few hours over lunch. It appears that little bit more formal than GR’s other diffusion places but actually it’s much the same: straightforward modern British menu; friendly efficient staff; clean sharp lines all over the place (and heavens be praised – no musak). Classic Ramsay gastro in other words.
That menu ticks all the right boxes too – I could eat most of it given enough lunchtimes. But I only had one.
A Steak and Kidney pie was the highlight: all light crisp pastry and rich satisfying filling came with tremendous double cooked frites. However, this was bookended by three lesser dishes.
A small serving of Clams came with lardons of Gloucester Old Spot which had a great depth of flavour but which completely overpowered the shellfish. It was a touch on the salty side too – somewhat tempered by the cider used as the cooking liquor.
In homage to Jay Rayner’s new book The Man Who Ate the World (hey that sounds similar to HS’s book) I slipped in a dish of Snails in Parsley Butter. A dish like this needs to be served – or at least it does when it is the classic escargots au beurre d’ail – as hot as hades, all sizzling with little brown flecks. The first mollusc you eat should burn your tongue as it goes down. The hot buttery juices should beg to be mopped up. Unfortunately this was the Brian the Snail version: polite, reticent even, with the butter gently fizzing under the shells. Tasty but sort of missing the point.
I’d filled up on the very good bread (I’m not going to leave buttery juices whatever their temperature ) so I really didn’t need a pudding. But, you know, I don’t need to eat out all the time…but I do it anyway. The Knickerbocker Glory had just come out of the fridge and needed some serious chambreing to make it palatable.
Critics have been a bit sniffy about Ramsay’s new restaurants but the man is practising what he preaches and if the end product is consistent and of a good standard, which I think it is, then where’s the problem ? Having said that I’m going to backtrack a little - I can do that because it’s our blog and we can do what we like, so nerrrrr - I felt the food here didn’t quite come up to my expectations: the prices were a little too high and the quality a little inconsistent. It was also the first place where I felt that I actually was paying towards the £5+ million refurbishment costs (if that makes sense).
I still had a good time though, the failings weren’t disasters and having chatted to the staff and seen their enthusiasm for the venture I’m sure most kinks will be ironed out and it will become a useful dining option to have in the nabe. If not, there’s always that walk - this time Eastwards - along the Regent’s Canal which coincidentally and rather spookily finishes at Limehouse right by GR’s first baby: The Narrow.