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

Saturday, March 28, 2009


I blame Fergus Henderson. He was the man responsible for introducing England to the pared-down style of menu that has spawned a myriad imitations. Actually, the Continentals have been doing the same thing for years – when you order a Steak in Spain that’s precisely what you get.

What you also get, or rather should get, in both instances is an impeccably cooked piece of meat or fish of excellent provenance. Anything less and the dish fails. There’s nowhere to hide with this style of cooking. Now I expect all plainly written menus to deliver on their (unwritten) promise.

So when I saw the word Chipolatas on the menu at The Salisbury, a refurbed pub in one of the grottier parts of Fulham, my foodie bones kicked in and I imagined, not just any Chipolatas but the best ever Chipolatas. The Chipolatollahs if you will.

What I got was certainly extraordinary. Extraordinary in that they didn't have a cocktail stick protuding from them. They were the sort of Chipolatas that'd you'd get, and avoid, at the Office Christmas Party. Luke warm and overcooked the four sad specimens (£3) sat there mocking me. They seemed to be saying How you like me now, foodie-boy ?

Those naughty little Chipolatas weren’t alone, oh no. Food this bad doesn’t come alone. Crab (£3.95) had been mixed with mayonnaise and put on a piece of bread which had been dipped in egg and allowed to dry. Well, it looked that way. There was also a spoonful of something that tasted mostly of garlic.

Coming at me from my right was a couple of Welsh Rarebits (£1.95). I speared one of these bad boys with my fork and yellow gunk spurted out - much like lancing a particularly ripe boil. How one can fuck up Cheese on Toast at any time, let alone in a restaurant completely unencumbered by customers beats me but the kitchen had managed in spectacular fashion. Bringing up the rear were some greasy Blue Cheese Fritters (£2.00). I didn’t have the cojones to find out what the cheese was or why it was blue.

To my right were the heavy mob. Foie Gras (£6.00) bore some resemblance to that engorged liver and was probably the most edible thing on the table but that’s not saying much. It was supposed to come on toast but as evinced by some of the other wheat-based small plates on show this is obviously a kitchen that finds the act of putting bread under a grill as arcane and mind-bogglingly difficult as constructing one of Heston B’s Ejaculating Puddings. Sweetbreads (£2.95) had been woefully undercooked. This is a kitchen that does not understand that fire is our friend.

All the dishes were pretty nasty but not nearly as nasty as the Chicken Curry (£4.00). When I saw it on the menu, I yet again failed to connect with reality as I conjured up a vision of a chef – maybe one looking not dissimilar to HB – leafing through the pages of an old cookery book, possibly Victorian, to come up with an authentic curry from the last days of the Raj (good name for a restaurant). The contents of the small bowl on the table looked like it had come from the seepage of the Welsh Rarebit except it smelled, much, much worse. I tentatively fished around inside the yellow liquid and came up with some pieces of meat that could have been anything, so grey and overcooked, were they. The smell was, how shall I put it, quite pungent. I managed a single sip without gagging.

I’m a greedy bugger by nature so even if food is poor I’ll still hoover it up but in this case I just couldn’t. The whole thing was so miserable, so utterly awful and easily the worst meal I’ve had in London that all I could do was laugh disbelievingly and ask for the bill. The friendly waitress didn’t even notice I’d left most of the food or if she did it didn’t phase her. She did ask if everything was ok but how do you break it to her, and the rest of the onlooking staff that the food is crap. Gentle reader, I bottled it.

Once outside the cold air brought me to my senses and I realised I couldn’t let the night end on such a down note. Someone once said if you have a bad meal, go and have another [meal]. It was only a short hop to the rather wonderful Harwood Arms where I managed to squeeze in at the bar for a pint of Black Sheep and one of their fantastic Veal Scotch Eggs all served by the world’s most attractive barmaid. Suddenly, The Salisbury seemed a long time ago. Let's hope I'm not given to flashbacks.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you chaps remember 'The Last Days Of The Raj'?. It was indeed a very good restaurant, one of the first to go a little upmarket.

Saturday, March 28, 2009 11:51:00 am  
Blogger Patrick said...

Is there a picture of the barmaid from The Harwood Arms?

Saturday, March 28, 2009 12:32:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

I do indeed - Amin Ali and his workers collective if I remember correctly.


Saturday, March 28, 2009 11:06:00 pm  
Anonymous T.Klein said...

why did you not tell them it was awful?

Monday, March 30, 2009 10:22:00 am  
Anonymous B.Evans said...

You haven't done the Welsh rarebit in yr trips to Wales.....

Monday, March 30, 2009 10:23:00 am  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

@ B.Evans - I will, don't fret. Can't do a bit about wales without the rarebit.

@ T.Klein - I am sure my estimable hermano can speak for himslef, but I am sure he told me he did tell them how wretched his meal was.

Monday, March 30, 2009 11:08:00 am  
Blogger Chris said...

Harwood Arms are doing veal scotch eggs now? It was venison when I was there. Veal sounds even better!

Monday, March 30, 2009 1:48:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...


Monday, March 30, 2009 4:12:00 pm  
Anonymous Bill K. said...

H1 said he bottled it and didn't tell them how awful the food was....isn't this a bit cowardly?You slag 'em off post facto,but don't have the courage to tell them straight?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 1:48:00 pm  
Blogger Chris said...

Bill: Maybe he didn't want to make a scene, or was with friends who would be embarassed, or just thought it wouldn't be worth the stress. Anyway, how is this any more "cowardly" than leaving an anonymous comment on a blog?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 2:49:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

When I complain about something is soley down to me I think. Likewise if I decide to blog about it.

Actually I said the curry was pretty awful and sort of gestured to the rest. But they seemed so unaware of how crap their food was there really didn't seem to be much point going on about it.

The fact that the place was completely empty ok a Friday night should have given them a big clue.



Tuesday, March 31, 2009 2:59:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

well said Chris

Or, perhaps, like my dreadful lunch today at The Commissary, when you are faced with bad food and hapless service, you just want to get the fuck out of there


Tuesday, March 31, 2009 3:00:00 pm  
Anonymous Bill K. said...

I understand all the reasons why people don't complain.But if you don't,you take away the opportunity for the restaurant to improve.It's pointless talking to the waiter(usually a minimum wage ,untrained person who has no idea about how the food should be prepared anyway).Ask for the manager and direct you complaint there.
And it is cowardly,Chris,to write something on a blog that you don't have the guts to say to their face.You can certainly write stuff in a blog,but it is devalued if you use the blog to take a swipe at a place that you would not criticise in situ.

Thursday, April 02, 2009 9:07:00 am  
Anonymous Peter P. said...

What else do you expect from Fulham!It is ,after all, Fulham...'nuff said.

Thursday, April 02, 2009 12:14:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Quite. But the Harwood Arms is a pearl...

Thursday, April 02, 2009 12:18:00 pm  

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