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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

THE MODERN PANTRY









The wind was driving in my face
The smell of prickly pear



Restaurant openings have been a bit thin on the ground recently. In Manhattan, somewhere London sees as a pretender to its title of World's Greatest City, you'll get any number of new gaffs in a given week - it must be good to be a reviewer over there. Here in Blighty, you usually have to work a bit harder.

One place you couldn't miss if you were passing by was The Modern Pantry whose gestation appeared quite protracted and probably painful. The restaurant, or as it will eventually be: deli, cafe and restaurant, has been opened by Anna Hansen who was chef at Providores in Marylebone. And like that restaurant the sort of food served up has been informed by fellow Kiwi Peter Gordon.

I'll fess up now and admit I don't really get Mr Gordon's cooking which always seemed to me like throwing together disparate ingredients and hoping something stuck, so to speak. The menu at The Modern Pantry isn't as out there as at say the Sugar Club but there's still the sense that no country is safe from being plundered for its ingredients. That's probably the Modern bit.

This was the opening evening so all food was half-price and they did give advance warning of potential hiccups. As it turned out the service was pretty good: friendly and attentive with only a bit of a delay at the beginning making us feel unwanted and unloved, but then we are so needy. The food though was a bit more problematical.

After some decent spiced nuts and some decidedly average bread HS went for the Chorizo, Date and Feta fritters. He though these were good but hated the accompanying Tamarind Yoghurt which he thought was much too sour. I couldn't detect any Chorizo in the fritters. Come to think of it I couldn't taste any Date or Feta either, the little balls coming on more like a sort of Falafel.

I wasn't really wowed by my Grilled Ox Tongue. The meat tasted ok but needed the application of a hotter grill (the idiosyncrancies of a new kitchen ?). The salad component lacked the expected pizazz and the Manouri was tasty but was one ingredient too many in the dish.

HS described his main course as a 'school dinner' curry and I must admit it didn't look that appetising: the poussin was supermodel wan and in desperate need of some colour. We considered sending it on an all-expenses paid holiday to Florida.

Happily, my Onglet was much better. Cooked rare, it had that beefy, offally taste that good Onglet has. The Miso marinade wasn't overdone and the quality of the meat was allowed to come through. I thought the cassava chips were interesting and well made but no substitute for the real thing.

That Steak showed that maybe the kitchen was beginning to get the hang of things, it also showed that there are the seeds of some decent cooking here. If you would pardon the rather clunky simile, it's like successfully packing a suitcase which is all down to having the courage to leave things out. And as we know less is always more (and all that shit).

But the above was just our take on The Modern Pantry. It's new, there's a soft opening offer, so get down there and come back and tell us what you thought. I promise I won't set HS on you if you disagree with us

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was there on the opening night too. Must admit the poussin in your shot doesn't set my mouth watering on sight, looks like the kind of thing you might get in one of those dirty-yellow polystyrene boxes. But my experience of the evening was very different. TOTALLY disagree with you on the cassava chips which I thought were superb and considerably more interesting than 'the real thing'. The whole Onglet dish was bang on in my opinion. Both exactly what you want when ordering steak and chips yet somehow refreshingly different too. I had the aubergine to start (also lovely with a sweet yet tart sauce that had me wanting a spoon). My main was the sea bass with quinoa. Which I ordered despite not being much of a fan of quinoa. This was really well-judged too, if not quite a spot on as the Onglet. Finally I had the Earl Grey Panna Cotta which was exceptionally good. Almost savoury yet with just a sufficient hint of sweetness. Onglet aside you seem to have eaten differently. But I am confident any teething issues with dishes will be just that. I think you have to be up for some surprises with fusion food, which isn't what everyone is looking for. But this place has the potential to be something really special.

Thursday, August 14, 2008 4:15:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

Hi and thanks for taking the time to leave a thoughtful comment and for giving another view.

HP's review was fair, I think taking into account the soft opening and the fact that Anna was new to the kitchen

I have a more negative view of fusion cooking being of the "just because they have gone around SE Asia on a motorcycle why should we suffer?" school, but there are elements here that show it could be very interesting if not always successful. I think my chicken was a total misfire and the sauce with the fritters mouth puckering, but I really liked the fritters themselves.

I was the one who was really down on the cassava chips, dry and flavourless. But, the meat and the cooking of the meat was very good as indeed was the service, if still finding its feet.

It certainly has potential, but I suspect with my wariness of "fusion confusion" it will never be a regular on my dining out calendar

Thanks again for giving a considered response.

Simon

Thursday, August 14, 2008 4:24:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely place, it's casual but a glamorous feelm food highly rated by our group with particular wow's for the vegetarian dishes- that beetroot main dish just great, we were all jealous we hadn't nabbed it. Dishes didn't all arrive in syncy but not a serious issue, as I except it will improve. Staff very nice and relaxed, non-pushy but attentive. Liked it all, looking forward to trips 2 and 3 !

Sunday, August 24, 2008 1:01:00 am  
Blogger Bombay Beauty said...

Must try this place when I'm next in town. In general I agree with you about fusion cuisine, with a slightly different logic. It's hard enough to get very good food of one cuisine -- why not get good at one thing rather than distracting with fusion?

However, I must say that I like Providores, at least the tapa room. I find the combination of flavors and ingredients really pops nicely. At the same time, I find the staff unbearable -- not once out of the 10 times I've been there have I had uniformly good service. Sadly I actually avoid it for this reason. If I want rude service and good food, there are plenty of cheaper places in New York...

BB

Sunday, September 14, 2008 2:22:00 pm  

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