I guess Bob’s just not your uncle anymore
In the restaurant biz, if you’re running a kitchen, you’re only really as good as your last meal. Fact. This is especially true if you’re going to come over all Bertie Big Bollocks about your cooking.
What a shame then that the City Café served up such a mediocre effort after the executive chef (what does that title mean ?) was bigging himself up to one of London’s free rags ('I defy a critic to be able to tell the difference between our food and that of a Michelin-starred restaurant').
A shame for me as I had to pay for a pretty dispiriting experience. I’m not sure the kitchen would worry too much – there’s probably plenty of unsuspecting business people passing through the City Inn Hotel to ensure repeat custom will never be an issue.
I did have high hopes for the meal. There was the aforementioned bigging-up (I’m a sucker for self-promotion) and the starter, nicked from the Vegetarian menu, which wasn’t bad at all. A Tomato Assiette comprised a frozen Gazpacho, which tasted fresh and very much of that Andalucian dish, a tingling mouthful of tartar of tomato and a tomato consommé which, unfortunately, only showed how poor the British Summer has been this year.
When the kitchen actually had some cooking to do things went downhill. A salad of Duck Livers suffered from large, unevenly cooked lumps of Daffy’s offal in an underdressed supermarket-style selection of leaves. The crispy shallots might have been at one time, but that time was long past. Lentil sprouts tasted good and added texture but there weren’t enough of them. Grittiness in a salad is never a good thing.
When I visualised Scallops, Pork Belly and Pea Puree I saw maybe some cubes of pressed pig with a crispy top and a nice fat scallop acting as king of the castle, all surrounded with a velvety, intensely green puree. The reality was a sliced scallop – may be one and a half at a pinch – on some dull puree. The scallop/scallops tasted fresh and were not too badly cooked but the dry, thick, slices of pork belly underneath just tasted cheap and nasty. Splodges of orange sauce didn’t add anything and putting a whole carrot on each pile was odd. A duff dish – but, hey, I’ll live.
For no particular reason service was rushed to the point of hilariousness (I felt like telling the waiters that it’s not a race, you know) - I was in and out in about fifty minutes. Actually, by the end, I was grateful to get out of there.
Oh and to answer the challenge set by the executive chef (still haven’t worked out what it means), I know what the difference is between his food and that of a starred gaff. Problem is, does he ?