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

Monday, February 02, 2009


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.

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Blogger Unknown said...

I made it here on the weekend as well. I thought my oysters were rather good and fairly priced although I opted for the cheaper ones - the Maldon Rock oysters. I quite like some of the concepts that they have put in place such as the market pricing. Did also notice the call for a tip on the card machine despite the "optional" service charge already being added!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009 9:53:00 am  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

I am afraid, I have to agree with my estimable brother that the "Market Price" schtick has become (if it wasn't always) a chance to upsell. Do they tell you how much your dish will cost or does it come as a horrible surprise on the end tab? mmmmmm

Tuesday, February 03, 2009 10:18:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the menu,it looks like "jabberwocky food" .Doesn't seem like it knows what it wants to be so does a mix-n-match of lots of stuff.Jack-of-all-trades and master of none,perhaps?
Will probably be hugely popular in Nothing hill,but that's West London for you.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009 3:24:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having been a regular of this pub in its various guises throughout the years, I can say that they've totally spoiled it!

Looking at the menu, it looks a bit dodgy. For example, the food that is "market" looks as though it's fresh, but what about the food that is a fixed price? Where's that from? The freezer?

Unfortunately, the owner has let Canadian manager, Michael, run wild with his North American ideas, such as paying staff minimum wages so they become aggressive salespeople in order to get tips. Unfortunately, as we all know, people rarely tip in pubs nowadays, so I guess the staff will just become aggressive human beings!

One final point: service charge is not obligatory in this country, and when I was last at this poor, mucked up pub, I got them to take it off my bill!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009 1:22:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know why,but I got a feeling that all I can read from these posted comments is just pure jealousy.. maybe because this place is already a huge success... and It's not a pub anymore,so don't get confused...

Thursday, February 12, 2009 3:18:00 pm  
Blogger Boy Wizard said...

I have to say i am more in the Gourmet Chick camp here and found it to be a decent place that can be forgiven a few teething problems in the first weeks.
Sat in a window booth and really got stuck in. It is nothing new for staff in London restaurants to be paid minimum wage and bolster their wages with tips, and we ought to be happy that the tips are going to them rather than to the owners, so i don’t think the upselling complaints really wash.
I look forward to the butcher being on site, which i believe starts soon, so that the market price can come to the fore and we can pick our own cuts or fish to be prepared later. This has worked successfully at butcher & grill and hawkmoor and should make buying a big steak there are real treat. Appreciate though that the message is maybe a little convoluted at present given the seafood platter having a fixed price and the market not yet getting going.
Also, as a big wine fan, I thought the wine selection was very decent once you get into the 20-40 range where cash margin has clearly been used. I’ve paid £10 more for some of these wines in restaurants elsewhere in London. Lots by the glass too which has to be applauded.

Friday, February 13, 2009 10:04:00 am  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

If you are going to shill a place so obviously, you should at least try and be a bit subtle about it and get your facts right. You can't choose your cuts at Hawksmoor unless you call in advance and The Butcher & Grill is actively one of the worst places in London


Friday, February 13, 2009 11:36:00 am  

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