FLASH: IN THE PAN
Was it really two years ago that DH visited the last pop-up restaurant of note, The Reindeer ? Run by those good people behind Bistrotheque, the popular East London restaurant, it was a lot of fun and the food wasn’t too bad as I remember.
Now they’ve come up with a new temporary restaurant Flash (ahh ahh) as part of GK Contemporary at The Royal Academy. To quote from the blurb “FLASH isn't The Reindeer (Boo); there won't be a tree covered in fake snow anywhere in sight (and presumably no gamine types prancing around in pixie outfits)”. It’s also temporary in the sense that it won’t be around for ever but will be with us for almost three months which doesn’t seem very flash or true to the guerrilla spirit at all. More like a hard-nosed business decision.
There was also some other guff about “exciting restaurant space…blah blah…installation..blah blah” which meant zilch to me but back in the dog days of July it seemed worth a punt. So on Saturday after a drop or two of a fine Albarino at the Cork and Bottle we made our way over to the RA where the joint was jumping in the West Room.
The only problem was there was no joint to jump. We’d got a phone call earlier in the day to say that because of problems with the extractor fan there would be no grilled dishes (but there would be 50% off the food). This sort of ripped the heart of the menu out for me as I had my eye on the Cote de Boeuf or the Grilled Duck with Foie Gras. Oh well.
The aforementioned installation seemed to consist of walls built of packing cases with some paintings and decorations placed here and there and an ornate lampshade overlooking the scene. All pleasant enough and an ok place to eat in but we didn’t really feel part of some cutting edge dining experience.
When they said there was a discount off the food I didn’t realise they meant the portion sizes would be reduced by 50% as well. Take the Ham Hock and Eel Terrine that I had. It was a clever combination: the smokiness of the eel working well with the slight sweetness of the ham. But it was served in a waffer thin portion. I only hope future diners get a bit more for their £8.50. HS’s crab was better - a big mound of fresh crustacean meat interspersed with some nuggets of avocado. The spinach was unnecessary. We ate a third starter of marinated beets without comment.
My Roast Cod was an excellent piece of fish. It came with a crisp skin and had been cooked perfectly - no mean feat especially in an unfamiliar kitchen. The supporting extras were not bad either: some microgreens, fennel and a sauce vierge, but as with my terrine it was a pretty mean serving of fish. HS pronounced his Fish Taco merely ‘ok’ which may have been to do with the fact he is just back from LA where such food is done better and cheaper.
The long wait for pudding meant that when they eventually arrived we were ready to leave so they just came on as a series of sweet squidgy things which had started to melt with the odd crispy bit thrown in. HS tells me we had Ginger Parfait, Orange Pannacotta and a comped Lemon Trifle but really they could have been anything.
I have a theory that the best time to visit a new restaurant is in its first couple of weeks. My experiences are that the staff are extra-enthusiastic and while there may be one or two problems the cooking is probably is good as it’s ever going to get. There are exceptions of course, for example the chef who likes to develop their menus over time and take their patrons with them. But these are few and far between.
In the case of Flash I actually think that the cooking could get better, there was enough good stuff going on to suggest the kitchen knows what its doing. The problem for me is that there wasn’t enough occasion to dining here to differentiate it from anywhere else. It’s just a pretty expensive restaurant that will be around for a finite period of time. HS's reaction to the meal was a shrug of the shoulders which encapsulates our thoughts precisely.