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

Monday, September 15, 2008


Talk about the famous road not taken
In the end we never took it

Large Hadron Collider ? Large Hadron Bollocks more like. We’re living in a new Dark Age where seemingly intelligent folk think the World was created sometime last Thursday. Bad Science and irrationality rules so who really cares about some pointdexters tumescing over imaginary particles. No, what we really want is more celebrity chefs, cookery related programs or maybe a new restaurant complete with a meaningless press release.

Step forward Time and Space Restaurant whose launch at the newly refurbed Royal Institution was, I suspect, not completely unconnected to the aforementioned collider going online. Unfortunately instead of applying their collective, massive intellect to getting someone decent in to do the food, say a Paul Merrony of Giaconda fame, they’ve outsourced - I know, you’re shuddering already - the operation to Digby Trout who are owned by Elior, a sort of French equivalent of Searcy’s.

They obviously needed a bit of PR spin to launch the restaurant so they’ve chucked in Anton Edelmann’s name (like, er, who cares) and also the phrase “molecular gastronomy” which a) no one uses any more and b) seems to be represented by a slow-cooked egg.

Time and Space is, in fact, very aptly named. For the whole evening I was the only one in the dining room so the staff had loads of time on their hands and I enjoyed plenty of space - which I suppose is a result of sorts.

There were other things to enjoy about the place, though. Bread, baked in the restaurant was superb and would put the stuff in much grander establishments to shame. Particularly outstanding was a dense rye bread pungent with caraway and a small roll that had the thinnest crispiest of crusts and a very light crumb. It was so good it had me mentally rolling up my sleeves and preparing myself for the feast ahead.

I have no doubt the Brioche Toast that came with my first course was homemade as well but that was as good as it got. Rabbit and Duck Liver Terrine was served far too cold so the tastes didn’t come through at all. I’m not sure who thought it was a good idea to swathe the terrine in raw carrot but I can tell them it wasn’t and they shouldn’t have. Apricot sour cream was a poor substitute for some chutney or cornichons.

Barnsley Lamb Chops (as oppose to the Pork variety, presumably) was a surprisingly decent piece of meat, cooked accurately pink, it had a good seam of fat. It came with some good, crisp straw potatoes and a blob of Baba Ghanoush. Unfortunately, the catering company have appeared to have enlisted the brainiacs of the RI in an attempt to come up with the thinnest chop in the Universe. I’m just glad there won’t be many people visiting from Barnsley to see it.

Ice Cream was (once again) homemade and very good. Even better was a tuile/biscotti that adorned the pud – methinks there’s a serious pastry chef at work here.

Coffee was poor – but then in this country it usually is.

There are the elements of a good meal here – the bread and pud were exemplary and the meat despite the meanness of the serving was nicely done - but I think they are always going to be battling against the constraints imposed by a corporation whose eye is continually on the bottom line and whose number one responsibility is to the shareholders and not to diners. Let them prove otherwise.

What I said to HS about Searcy’s @ St Pancras also applies here: the food that was served was probably as good as it’s ever going to be. Mind you, things could have been a lot worse, they might have opened another branch of Leon. If that had happened I might found a new use for that Black Hole.

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