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

Friday, May 09, 2008


Don't seem right
I've been strung out here all night

For those old enough to remember, Jack Charlton once referred during a TV program to his “little black book” which had the name of players he was going to “do” o the pitch. I’ve just added a name to my little black book: the div who invented the Vapour Grill.

Hermano, what is this Vapour Grill of which you speak ? Well, as I was told by the manager of The Beehive - Claudio Pulze’s first foray into the world of gastropubs – that it was the reason my Cote de Boeuf didn’t have any char on it. Apparently, as well as the grill part there is a steaming element to the cooking process, to keep the meat moist (it says here). And that’s why the menu didn’t describe the steak as ‘chargrilled’. All my fault then. Silly me.

The shame of it was that you could just make out that the meat was of decent quality and properly aged and was crying out for some TLC. The forty minute Vapour Grill treatment made it look and taste rather grey and sort of damp. That gradation of flavour between a good char on the outside and the rare inside seemed completely lost. To be fair the manager did discuss my issues with the steak but I wasn’t convinced that anything would be different in the future.

Along with my drowned steak there were some of those chunky i.e. fat chips which really needed another frying when they might just have approached the ones the Anchor and Hope serve with their CdB. There also was an overdressed and over-salty salad and finally a couple of flaccid (are you detecting a pattern here) grilled mushrooms and tomatoes. All served on a pointlessly big carving board which required one and a half tables to hold it.

It was a bit of an odd place The Beehive. It’s been given a makeover but then the money seems to have run out because, if my memory serves me correctly, all the chairs were mismatched. The avowed aim was for it to be a pub but it seems more like a half-hearted attempt at being a Gordon Ramsay gastropub. The effect is somewhat disorientating. The menu is similarly a bit all over the place. If there is a theme it’s Italian but along the way there’s little detours to Japan, the Mediterranean, France and Britain.

Anyway, I had a go at constructing a meal out of the options and came up with the Deep fried sardines in onion vinegary marinade – which I guess is escabeche – to start. Now, I’m not an expert on escabeche but this one seemed a bit insipid: the marinade didn’t taste of much and the sardines although meaty weren’t really improved by their dousing. A load of toast had been awkwardly plonked on the side of the dish and was a bit too charred. It wasn’t awful, more like so what ?

After my disappointing steak I was hoping that the Gelati and Sorbetti might be homemade but I was out of luck so I was stuck with chugging down a decent espresso and grappa.

Just before I left I noticed Mr Pulze at the next table no doubt planning his next resto opening and how he could rise up the chart of London restaurateurs. It struck me that the more places these guys open the less interested they are in what the restaurants are actually delivering to the customer. It’s all about concepts and market share and trends. You get the feeling that they don’t care that much about the food, service or experience any more. Sometimes you can just taste the cynicism…that and the effects of that frickin Vapour Grill.

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