THE ESTABLISHMENT: NEW NAME SAME RESULT
A few months ago, I ventured South of the river for lunch at a new place called Broome & Delancey, which modelled itself on a Manhattan eatery. I travelled more in hope than anticipation and returned home in misery after a meal that, quite frankly sucked.
It seems I was not the only one to think so as now, such a short time later, the restaurant has been re-branded as The Establishment, sister to a restaurant of the same name in Parsons Green and owned, I was told by the front of house, by the same people as Broome & Delancey. Still with me? Now, its aim is, it appears, to ape an American steakhouse.
I arrived before my friend, fellow food blogger, Chris Pople and was shown to a tiny table in the back room where the subdued lights just about allowed me to read the menu and over loud music did its best to distract me as I nibbled on some rather good warm bread and olive oil.
By the time Chris arrived a few minutes later, I had already made my choice and he was not long in catching up.
The blogger curse of taking pictures of every bite of food that passes our lips obviously did not cause Chris any consternation as he was doing the same thing, and, for once, it was not likely to bother anyone else as the management had a photographer in taking pictures, no doubt for their website.
My starter was picture worthy, a very decently made Chicken Liver & Foie parfait, well seasoned, attractively presented with some toasted walnut & raisin bread and perhaps only requiring the counterpoint of some cornichons or pickled garlic to make it worth £6.50.
Chris’s Brown Shrimp & New Potato salad was a flop however, the shrimp strangely flavourless, needing a hit of lemon juice to bring out their true taste and the potatoes being cold just adding lumps of starch. Serving the potatoes slightly warm could have lifted the salad and I am certainly glad neither of us contemplated £9 for a main course portion.
I had pondered on the T-Bone, even though at 16oz, it is slightly miserly, but was persuaded by Chris to join him in the 26oz rib of beef for two and he in turn was persuaded by me to have it rare rather than medium rare. The beef is trumpeted as being aged for 45 days and coming from Orkney. The place bothers me not at all, it could have been raised on Clapham Common if it tasted OK, but I was surprised given the ageing that the little flavour we could both discern came from the outside char rather than the meat itself. In the end, it just became a slightly dull slog to clear the meat from the central board on which it was served.
Sauces were passable, the Bearnaise better than the Green Peppercorn and a side of Spring Greens underwhelming. The chips, to their credit, were not fat and were served piping hot and properly seasoned.
A Dinastia Vivanco from Rioja, which Chris had enjoyed before, worked with the meal perfectly well, but at £30 (for a £10 retail, Chris told me) just demonstrated the depressing 200% mark up level that seems to be the norm these days.
With no pudding, but a brandy for Chris, we requested the bill, which was brought to the table in a cute little envelope bearing the words “The Damage” I am sure that was done with a huge amount of irony, but the pain was real when we opened it and saw the tab of £100 we had managed to construct with two courses, one bottle of wine and service which was charming if slightly harried in the buzzing dining room.
“Any place that is half decent will do well around here” Chris added as we left and he is right, The Establishment already looks like it is doing well. He is also right that it is half decent, unfortunately, the half that was decent did not include the only bit that mattered in a steakhouse, beef with any flavour.