THE COMMANDER: GONE FOR A BURTON
Blimey, the lasses of Notting Hill can’t half gab and on a Friday night in The Commander Porterhouse and Oyster Bar they were in full voice. As more and more bottles of Italian White Wine were ordered and consumed the volume level rose higher and higher resulting in a Battle Royal against the Sound System. There was only ever going to be one winner as the PA wheezily pushed out some music of the noodly jazz sort.
Still, they do say that when you’ve got a pain in one part of your body you should distract yourself by causing pain in another part. Ah, that’ll be food then. Or perhaps the service. At least the latter had the benefit of a chirpy friendliness although there was a lot of headless chickenry about as well.
Given the name of the place you immediately think of an American Steakhouse and sure enough as you start to scan the menu there’s plenty of Crustacea on offer. But there’s only three steaks and all weigh in at a puny 8oz. Of the mighty Porterhouse there’s no sign. Bizarrely, there’s also a small section of Nigiri and Sashimi. Much of the stuff (even the Chacuterie Board) is marked with that ominous phrase “MARKET PRICE”. A more suspicious soul than myself would think it was a ruse by the owners to upsell.
It certainly caught me out. My six oysters were over twenty quid which is up there with J Sheeky’s and Bentley’s. Unlike those places these were pretty poor specimens. They’d either been opened earlier or when they were opened the precious juices inside - which is one of the pleasures of eating them – had been poured away or used in stock. The result was a sad, dehydrated appearance instead of the nice plump bivalves they should have been.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen a menu with Foie Gras on it. Probably because restaurants which sell it don’t really want their places firebombed. Mind you, with a misconceived preparation like I had here it would seem PETA’s job is being done for them. The foie was all right - a bit more searing would have improved it – but it was totally overwhelmed by the Cherry Pancake which would have been ok in an American, sugar rush, breakfast kind of way but had no right being married to the delicate, buttery taste of engorged duck liver.
You don’t see Gurnard on the menu too often either. A shame as it’s really quite tasty. Here it came simply grilled. The kitchen hadn’t overcooked it but it was still a bit dry – maybe it had sat on the pass for too long. There was some saffron mash which didn’t taste of saffron and some pats of garlic and lemon butter which didn’t taste of garlic or lemon and which were propped up against the fish in the hope they might melt. I reckon the half-life of plutonium would be shorter.
There would have been some chips on the side too but the description “SKIN ON FAT CHIPS” should have come with the warning “DOS HERMANOS - LOOK AWAY NOW”. Luckily their homemade Ice Cream was pretty good.
Even with the opening week 25% discount, the meal including a decent pichet of Picpoul and a very nasty one of oaky South African Chardonnay was still north of £60. Another nasty taste was that their card machine is programmed to prompt for a gratuity even though the bill already had a hefty 12.5% added. Classy.
Obviously, cutting back on the market priced items and foie gras will bring the total down to a more reasonable level but for the moment the cooking doesn’t really cut it. That and the fact you’re a couple of minutes away from the far superior Hereford Road really makes the choice of eating in this vicinity a no-brainer.