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Sunday, July 12, 2009

KONSTAM: GOOD SOURCING, BAD SAUCING
























For nearly three years, Konstam at The Prince Albert has been offering meals from ingredients primarily sourced within the M25. For almost as long DH have avoided it, not because there is anything wrong with the philosophy but mainly because, whenever we have considered going, there was never anything on the menu we would want to eat.

Come a rainy Saturday evening in July and we ducked inside Konstam after lousy beer and tables full of squeaking girlies at neighbouring gastropub, The Fellow persuaded us that it was not going to be the right a place for a quiet supper. The welcome was lukewarm as if to say “we get all our stuff from within the M25, how dare you not have a reservation?” and it continued as we were shown to one table and then asked to move to another even though the room remained half filled for the duration of our stay. Customers, eh? Who needs em?

When they finally settled us at a table where we would be the least inconvenience, there was a sharp intake of breath from HP. I thought it was the effect of all the walking on his middle-aged bones until I too looked down at the menu and whispered “fuck me” in rather too loud a stage whisper.

The prices at Konstam are audaciously set with starters topping off at the £7.50 mark, main courses coming in at £17.50 and puddings knocking at the door of £8. Shortening the distance your carrots have to travel is obviously an expensive business.

The pain of the pricing could have been alleviated somewhat if the food was any good and served with a modicum of generosity, the arrival of our starters soon told us that neither of these things were likely to be a theme through the meal, where ever the ingredients came from.

My own, broad bean tart with a turnip and shallot salad was a decent beginning, with the crisp vegetables complimenting the soft, creamy insides of the tart and the excellent short pastry. I offered a piece to HP, but he was too busy staring down with disgust at his own choice, a plate of “seared” Ox tongue with beetroot remoulade and cabbage salad involving two Lilliputian slices of tongue. They had been pan fried in too much oil and slid greasily around the plate as he tried to cut into them. The quality of the meat was spot on, but the parsimony of the dish made it almost unpalatable. The accompanying sides lacked zing and the whole dish, what there was of it, would have benefited from a good squeeze of lemon.

The theme for the evening continued with the arrival of our main courses, two small, messy plates of ugly food in tiny portions. My own main dish involved chicken that was announced as coming from Waltham Abbey. Good for it, but I suspect the rest of the bird is still waddling around Essex as the piece I received was barely a whole breast, cut on the bias in that all too familiar cheffy attempt to make small portions look more generous.

The main ingredient tasted fine, but more heavy handedness with the oil did its best to disguise the fact it was taken from a decent source. The side dishes of courgettes, cabbage and a tarragon cream added little and the addition of five, yes count ‘em, five little squares of unpeeled fried potato was the restaurant equivalent of giving the customer a raised middle finger.

Across the table HP was in his own private Hell, pushing together the thin slices of meat on his plate to see if they could possible constitute the advertised pork chop. His culinary CSI carried on for a few minutes before he called over the waiter and asked the question they had obviously heard before “is this supposed to be a pork chop?” His plate was something that should never ever have been sent out of a professional kitchen. Four small slices, again cut on the bias (no one’s fooled by this anymore, guys) and covered in a grainy sauce of mustard and honey.

The waiter delegated responsibility to a young chef with the words “show him the meat” and he nervously approached HP with the tiniest pork chop I have ever seen with the slightly redundant explanation “they are not very big” to which HP replied “for £17.50 you should bring some bigger ones in from outside the M25”

They offered to cook him an extra one, and when it arrived, it just about brought the portion up to acceptable level, but again any benefit was lost in poor execution used in the cooking that rendered using decent ingredients pointless.

With desserts priced as aggressively as the rest of the meal, we decided to split a Summer pudding at £8, which turned out to be the highlight of the meal. Filled with sharp berries and served with a lovely house made yoghurt, it showed that the kitchen could knock out passable food if they turned their minds to it. Unfortunately, at £85 for two including a bottle of wine, they chances of us ever going back to find out lean towards the highly unlikely.

Konstam’s declaration of the provenance of its ingredients means nothing if it is served with such lack of skill and absence of generosity. The sourcing of ingredients from within the M25 may be a laudable concept, but if you don’t carry it through to the simple ending of providing a good meal it becomes mere schtick and makes Konstam no more than a theme restaurant for the foodie set, where people can console themselves about a bad meal by discussing the low levels of their carbon footprint.

It is the green equivalent of Planet Hollywood and I wont be eating there again anytime soon, either.

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16 Comments:

Blogger theundergroundrestaurant said...

Ouch!
Have you tried Acorn House?

Monday, July 13, 2009 9:51:00 am  
Blogger Chris said...

Sounds a bit like the Palmerston! Haha

Monday, July 13, 2009 9:59:00 am  
Anonymous Tony said...

Konstam is on a 50% off offer at toptable so you could have paid less if HP had done his usual extensive internet research.
Perhaps this is how Konstam justify the high prices i.e. by then giving 50% off through toptable and thus bringing the prices back into a more realistsic zone.May also be why the portions are so smalthey don't expect anyone to be paying full whack???

Monday, July 13, 2009 10:12:00 am  
Anonymous Dan said...

Konstam annoys me, as does the whole "food miles" thing. The carbon cost of transporting food is often many times less than the carbon cost of producing it.

There was that famous paper comparing the carbon cost of New Zealand lamb with local British lamb. It turns out that after you take account of the heated sheds, fertilizer and other inputs required in the UK, New Zealand lamb turns out to be significantly less harmful to the environment than locally produced lamb.

This will, of course, not always be the case, but the idea that local is always to be preferred from an environmental standpoint is plain wrong.

Monday, July 13, 2009 11:01:00 am  
Blogger Dan said...

Pity, never eaten Dinner in there, but always fancied it.

But, I must say they do cracking lunchtime sandwiches, although I have no idea how they make any money from it. I arrived one lunchtime recently, ordered my sandwich in an empty restaurant - I was offered a table whilst waiting, they cooked and made my sandwich to order (It took 15 mins to prepare) cost £4.50

Monday, July 13, 2009 11:53:00 am  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

It was a walk-in. Still poor at half the price though.

Monday, July 13, 2009 12:31:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Monday, July 13, 2009 12:37:00 pm  
Blogger Kavey said...

What a shame you had such a disappointing meal... I went to Konstam a few months back. I had made a reservation but not on any half price offer.

During my visit service was friendly once we got someone to acknowledge us but that was the challenge, we were often left turning in our chairs and desperately trying to get attention.

However, in our case the food was enjoyable and the portions didn't strike me as particularly small given that I classified it as a restaurant that just happened to be opened in an ex pub, rather than expecting pub food prices.

Monday, July 13, 2009 1:07:00 pm  
Anonymous Alix said...

Anyone know why it is called "Konstam-at the Prince Albert"? Is Konstam something/someone ?

Monday, July 13, 2009 3:30:00 pm  
Anonymous Simon said...

Is this the place that there was a TV series based around? I remember a guy jumping on the tube to far flung 'London' areas like Uxbridge in search of ingredients.

On another topic.. DH - you may want to consider being slightly more, well, parsimonious, in your use of said word!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009 3:36:00 am  
Anonymous Helen said...

I ate at The Palmerston a couple of months ago - 4 tiny slices of monkfish on top of some crushed peas - £17. I wrote it up and posted the result on a local forum. The Palmerston came on and basically said they don't care what I think because I'm not a professional critic. Er, I'm a paying customer? Idiots.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009 8:26:00 am  
Blogger Gourmet Chick said...

What a pity as I actually really like the philosophy behind the restaurant although perhaps the problem is too much philosophy and not enough restaurant?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009 9:27:00 am  
Blogger Douglas Blyde said...

What an absolutely foul name that restaurant has.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009 2:36:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Been there a couple of times, appalling service both times. And a friend who ate there had to wait an hour and a half for any food - even bread!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 2:44:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

now closed....it's all your fault!!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010 11:14:00 am  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Even Dos Hermanos can't close a place - no I suspect the crap food and the grim service did that.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010 8:47:00 pm  

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