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

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


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 ?

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Anonymous Harters said...

My friendly local farmers market has a Scotch egg stall. And, before I go, let me point out this is "up north" - where for seven quid,I'd expect the egg to be delivered by scantily dressed dancing girls who would feed it to me, piece by piece. .

I anticipate said stall sells them to make a profit. They have a new one - duck egg, encased with Palma ham, then the sausage meat and very peppery breadcrumbs. It's fantastic. It's £2.

Thursday, December 10, 2009 4:04:00 pm  
Anonymous Monty O'Birr said...

Just got back from the canteen to my desk with a hand-made, freshly fried Scotch egg. Nowt fancy, just egg covered in sausage meat and breadcrumbs. The yolk's a bit hard, but hey ho, it was a quid.

Excuse me while I add to my already substantial cholesterol count.

Friday, December 11, 2009 9:45:00 am  
Anonymous F.G. said...

If you don't want to be bored by the food,maybe you shd stop ordering scotch egg,followed by steak and chips,everywhere you go?At least you didn't have the usual ice cream for dessert.Why run a blog of restaurant eating if you always eat the same thing.Make it a blog on steak and chips instead.

Friday, December 11, 2009 11:01:00 am  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Dear FG,

It's clear from your comments that you're don't actually read our blog so why you should want to post a comment is a bit odd (something missing in you life maybe like, er, a life ?). No problem we'll just file you with the other loony tunes under internet stalker (harmless).

Happy Trails !


Friday, December 11, 2009 4:24:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The steak and fries look amazing. Steak et frits is my favorite meal!
Check out my blog!

Friday, December 11, 2009 4:30:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

prices are definitely a bit on the crazy side but i went twice this week, once for dinner and then some drinks/snacks at the bar.

as an american i tend to be overly critical of service (or lack of) here in london and it seems one of the few places that actually have it spot on...and i loved the food too. not thinking it was an afterthought at all.

and looking at the crazy rents/rates for soho properties...£7 absurd but track it backwards as to why.


Sunday, December 13, 2009 3:48:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Just because they can pass on all the overheads there's no reason they should, especially on a bar snack.

How about taking a small hit on those Scotch Eggs - it's hardly going to impact their bottom line and might get people to spend more ? Instead it just looks like they're screwing the punter for as much as they can.

Re the food it's as good as it needs to be for this part of town. There's no feeling that technique or ingredients are anything more than adequate. Sorry, just not good enough.


Sunday, December 13, 2009 6:20:00 pm  
Anonymous Silva said...

We went during the soft opening to take advantage of the half price offer - we saw 2 mice!!! We were sitting in the far right Those armchairs are ridiculous to eat in but very comfy to relax and drink in. Alas, we only made it halfway through our meal before we decided to leave because of (as the manager put it) "our little friends" - quite inappropriate way to describe a rodent problem...

Monday, December 21, 2009 5:45:00 pm  

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