Do me red do me blue
What goes on behind door number two ?
The other day I wondered whether Mark Hix still had any connection with the Rivington Grill. The question was answered for me (sort of) the other day when I popped into the Shoreditch branch for an impromptu supper. There he was, at the bar, chugging away on a glass of Rose and looking rather hangdog – mind you, he always looks that way – apparently oblivious to all the hustling and bustling around him.
Chastened by the critical drubbing his new West Country eatery had just received ? Possibly. Sudden realisation that Dos Hermanos were right about the Oyster and Chop House being no more than a very ordinary gaff and that all the professional critics (whatever that means) were wrong ? Possibly not. But first a drink.
I’d visited SAF a few weeks ago, had a queer sort of meal and decided that I’d only return to try their drinks. A Dry Martini is the classic test of a bar tender’s skill. The small variations are endless. Like, say a Steak or the inside of a boxing ring there’s nowhere to hide if things go wrong. Unfortunately, SAF got several things wrong. The Martini glass was too big and hadn’t been chilled – putting some ice in for a few minutes was never going to work – and with a standard pour the drink was a bit lost in the bottom. When the barman was making the twist most if not all the vital oils were lost to the ether leaving very little for the drink. Luckily the London Gin used was good so all was not lost. The least I could have expected at £7.
It’s been a while since my last visit to the Rivington Grill. Once a mainstay of DH dining out in the nabe it proved to be a little too inconsistent in quality for the high prices charged. It felt that things were back on form though as I was seated promptly and brought some decent bread and pork scratchings.
Things got even better with my first course. A Scotch Duck Egg was everything I’ve ever wanted in a Scotch Egg. I was expecting some pre-cooked, solid, cold thing. Instead, what arrived had a crisp greaseless breadcrumbed exterior, a warm sausagey layer and a perfectly cooked duck egg at its core. This was Scotch Egg++. The Caper Mayonnaise was great as well. My only (slight) disappointment was that I would have like it served whole so I could have had the pleasure of breaking it open and discovering that someone in the kitchen could cook.
The menu at the Rivington has become even more Hixified than it used to be – it’s peppered (see what I did there) with stuff like Blythburgh pork belly and Speyside flat iron. And who else has Sea Purslane on their current menu ? So, of course, my steak had to come with a name, in this instance, the Bannockburn rib. Chosen because its name spoke of something massive and bloody that would put up a hell of a fight, the reality was more mundane: a fairly polite lump of meat, untidily butchered. The kitchen had at least made a fair attempt at getting a char on the outside and although it tended to charcoal in a couple of places it was correctly rare inside.
Even so, I was disappointed with it. It tasted underhung and was tough (not in a good way) and hard work to eat. This was in part down to the crappy steak knives. They do make a difference, you know.
Chips were vile. Possibly the worst I’ve every had…and I’ve had a lot. They tasted as if they’d been pre-cooked and had been allowed to desiccate – possibly uncovered in the fridge. I had about two of them. I got an apology but really they were so bad that even if I’d been comp’d the whole meal I would still have felt diddled. These were Chips--.
But then, just to confound me further, I had one of the best double espressos of recent times and which was relatively cheap to boot. The accompanying Somerset Brandy helped smooth things out a tad too and sent me off in a slightly better humour.
Like Oyster and Chop House and similar to our earlier experiences of RG the inconsistencies and the lack of care shown with some of the dishes is annoying as it could and should be a whole lot better. I might persevere with RG though as it’s nearby and it did serve me that Scotch Egg. Damn you, RG, you caress me with one hand while poking me in the ample belly, hard, with the other .