DEAN STREET TOWNHOUSE: PLEASE CAN I HAVE THE ONE NOT LAID BY THE QUEEN ?
I think it was HS who recently observed how once-cheap cuts of meat had now been hijacked by butchers and restaurants with the consequence that they were now not-very-cheap cuts. The humble Pork Belly, Ox Cheek and Lamb Shank now cost several multiples of what they used to. Similarly, once-humble dishes have been poshed up and pushed out at prices that would stun most people over 40.
So I shouldn’t have really been as gobsmacked as I was to come across something, that is ostensibly a bar snack, that cost £6.75 + 12.5% service. Yes, that’s correct, for just over seven and a half of your English pounds, you too can be the proud owner of an example of that apogee of pub cuisine, the Scotch Egg.
I just had to ask what made this Scotch Egg so extra-extra-special ? A rather nervous looking waiter had a little think.
“Well, it’s a Burford Brown Egg” he said . Yes, like the ones that cost a couple of quid for six in Waitrose.
“And it’s surrounded in Pork sausage meat”. Uh-huh.
“And it’s cooked to order and the yolk is soft”. A bare minimum I’d posit.
I contemplated another dish but curiosity got the better of me. Well, he was right about everything except the bit about the yolk being soft. A shame really as though a bit on the small side – must be those Burford Browns – it was cooked well. But, still, you know, £7 for a friggin’ Scotch Egg ? And when did loss leader become such a dirty phrase ?
Very unsurprisingly the home of El Huevo de Oro a la Escocesa is the newly opened Dean Street Townhouse. Two weeks earlier I’d wondered in awe at the mark-ups on simple combinations of dough and cheese at sister restaurant Pizza East. Now, here I was, mouth agape, wondering all over again.
But in these straightened times the popular credo seems to be deliver less, charge more. Counterintuitive, certainly, but one that seems to be enthusiastically embraced by the creative drones with asymmetric haircuts and thick-rimmed spectacles that infest this part of London. Dress any old slop up with enough visual candy and they’ll lap it up.
Actually, the food here is better than that. Not a great deal, but a bit. Scallops were decent: big and meaty specimens. At least two of them were – one was the runt with no roe and a bit stunted. They were supposed to have been seared but any recent contact with high heat wasn’t apparent. Instead they had the tang of slightly stale oil. The bacon bits scattered on top had hardened to unpleasant nuggets and I’m still musing upon the three cornered garlic.
Bannockburn Steak (last seen on a Mark Hix menu) lacked a decent char but was cooked rare as requested. It was however, a pretty dull piece of meat and after a few mouthfuls there were no more surprises. Béarnaise tasted ok but was pre-prepped, served too thick and cool. Not fit for chip dippage. Speaking of which, these were the standard ones you get in Scott’s, J Sheekey’s etc. Not surprising as Caprice Holdings owner Richard Caring has a majority stake in the Soho House Group.
They do great room though. Whilst candles aren’t the most efficient of lighting systems they add a touch of glamour to a room where you could happily relax and kick-back in for several hours. And therein lies the problem - like a lot of visually impressive gaffs the food is a bit of an afterthought. Things get worse over time once restaurateurs realise the average punter has pretty low standards and that the food has to be just good enough. Unfortunately, this seems to be the model for many of the restaurants that have opened this year, one of poorest of the decade in terms of quality, in the Capital at least.
I have pretty simple needs. World peace and an end to famine, obviously. After that, when I visit a restaurant I want to feel welcome. I want the staff to be attentive to my needs without being annoying. I want to feel that the Chef is cooking a dish just for me. I want to feel that they’ve put their all into it and that they’re proud of what they’re producing even if it’s a bowl of chips. And most of all, I want them to lose the seven quid Scotch Egg. Is that too much to ask ?