KITCHEN W8: WOBBLY IN WEST LONDON
It’s very rare that Dos Hermanos revisit a restaurant that has previously served us up a duff meal. To be honest as much as people would like us to keep returning in order to confirm what we already knew after the first visit, we just don’t have the time, the money or the slightest inclination to do so. I was surprised, then, to find myself walking down Abingdon Road in Kensington .
Regular readers of the blog (“our stalkers” as we like to think of them) will remember I visited a restaurant called Bistrot Eleven back in March. Previously called 11 Abingdon Road – because that was its address – it had a new chef , it had a new menu. It was shit. Now in the long line of uninspiringly-named restaurants on this site comes Kitchen W8.
Normally, I wouldn’t have bothered but the involvement of Philip Howard in this new venture piqued my interest. Dos Hermanos have visited The Square – where Mr Howard has two stars from the fat tyre man – several times and to be honest we can’t remember a dish we’ve had there. As bland, risk-free, don’t-frighten-the-horses , high-end dining experiences go it’s right up there, but I had high hopes for Kitchen W8. The combination of good technique applied to more simple dishes sometimes yields excellent results as places like The Harwood Arms demonstrate.
I was actually getting quite excited by the prospect of my meal – and believe me, that doesn’t happen very often – as I was seated in the cosy dining room, got stuck into a glass of Billecart Salmon champagne and scanned a menu which I fancied eating most of. There were plenty of staff around too, giving the appearance of serious intent. Yes, it was all coming together. And then it began unravelling.
Now, I like the occasional visual gag in my food, especially if the end result is any good and the combo of Game Hotdog and Consommé certainly looked the part as a play on something you might have in a US diner. Unfortunately, where it scored highly in the looks department it failed equally poorly in terms of taste. What little flavour of game the sausage had was obliterated by the ‘ketchup’ artfully slathered over it and the little brioche bun it came in was on the dry side. The consommé didn’t taste particular gamey and lacked any depth of flavour – one note and boring was what I thought at the time – and serving it in a mug wasn’t an improvement on dishing it up in a bowl. It wasn’t a evry bad first course, just a bland and one that lowered my expectations for the others to come.
Squid Ink Linguine was a bit of a jumbled mess of pasta, shellfish meat and too much liquid. Given that it contained Crab, Cuttlefish and Octopus the only surprise was that it didn’t taste more of the sea. In fact it didn’t taste of anything much and was even more boring than the previous dish. Oh, and the pasta was overcooked.
Grilled Ox Tongue, Shallot Puree and Foie Gras Baked Potato ticks so many of my foodie boxes it really was a no-brainer to order. It should have been a magnificent dish: the beefy, offally taste of the Tongue and the rich Foie Gras, cut through with the purée. The reality: a thin slipper of Tongue, which was chewy and its taste masked by one of those all-purpose jus that is the stock-in-trade of the able kitchen and the Foie Gras Baked Potato, a small tuber stuffed with a tasteless mystery mixture. The small, meltingly soft lobe of Foie stood in stark contrast to the rest of the ingredients on the plate. It was as if it was saying (in the voice of Richard Pryor, hints provided for where to insert the rude words): I did my __ job, not my fault if those other __ screwed up the dish, trying to make me look bad. Yes, really, talking Foie Gras - bad food has finally driven me doolally.
An odd sort of momentum drove me on to try and eek out something from my meal. The kitchen didn’t have any problems putting together a selection for their ice creams for me but the familiar tameness of flavour elicited more stoicism on my part rather than the desired mmmms and aaaahhs. Odd then that the Chocolate Truffles that came with my Espresso were really rather good and made me wonder what was going on in the kitchen. I suppose I’ll never find out.
Interestingly, looking back at my post on Bistrot Eleven I posted the following:
Foodies beware, restaurateurs are on to us. They lure in the decent, honest gastronaut with interesting online menus and bigged-up Chef CVs (Worked with MPW = Chopped some carrots but got sacked the following week). You pitch up all expectant and excited and then realise, pretty quickly, that you’ve been sold a pup. It’s all the more galling when in these straightened times genuinely good and interesting places are suffering whilst the cruddy ones continue to divert valuable funds.
Plus ça change eh ?