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

Thursday, February 18, 2010


I received a few harsh e-mails and twitter comments after yesterday’s post about a dispiriting meal at Guerilla Burgers. The reason? I had the temerity to suggest that, if a restaurant was open and charging punters full price, they should be judged no differently than if they had been open for weeks.

Words like “bedding in” “teething problems” and “find their feet” were used suggesting that the restaurant would need time to find their natural rhythm and flow before it would be right to judge them. That might all sound reasonable enough, but seems less than fair to the punters, like my companion and I, who came in expecting that, as we were paying full whack and the doors are open, the restaurant is suggesting it is operating at full capacity.

For a restaurant to know that they are not offering the best of themselves but still to take the same amount of money borders, to my mind, on the fraudulent. To be fair Guerilla Burgers them selves did not offer up this as an excuse and posted a constructive response on Twitter. Good for them, but it is still leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

Which brings us to today’s post, another lunch at a newly opened place, Colony. So new, in fact, that they were still painting the outside when I arrived to meet my companion, Nikki. My choice today was more driven by location than a desire to try somewhere new, so while I am sure I will receive the same shrieks and squawks from the restaurant sympathisers club, the fact that they were not offering a soft opening discount means that they too should come under the same scrutiny as they will receive from the critics in a few weeks time.

The menu at Colony is overseen by Atul Kochar, Michelin starred Chef of the recently refurbished Benares and is predicated on that all too familiar and scary concept “small plates to share” which normally allows you and your companions to construct a bill of dazzling proportions while still remaining hungry. Our server asked if we “understood the concept of the menu” to which if I had not been in polite company I might have replied “we order, you bring, we eat, you clear, we pay, we leave, right?”

Instead, I nodded that we did and he left us to our own devices as we chose. Just as well as I heard the menu being described to the next table by him as “Anglo-Indian inspired tapas”, which assumes that The Colony Club assumes most of their guests will never have experienced the Nashtas, or snacks on which the menu is supposedly based.

They also assume that most of their guests will be frightened off by any native descriptions on the menu, deeming only a few instantly recogniseable curry house words like “Tikka Masala” (not Indian anyway, guys) “Vindaloo” and “Biryani” as safe to include, the rest being given the full Anglo treatment. Not that it mattered as we were told that nearly 50% of the main dishes were not available for this opening day because, and here are those words again, there were “teething problems”

Teething problems, really? Was the opening date a surprise to you? We’ve known about it for ages. The odd dish here and there because of a missed delivery is acceptable. Half the menu is not. Particularly not when you are charging full price and a hefty price per dish at that. If only I had the gumption at the end of the meal I would have said “Sorry, my credit card is only working at 50%, so just charge me half”

That too left a nasty taste in the mouth, which is a shame, because as soon as I took my first bite of a small amuse of “chaat”, it was apparent that there is patently some ability in the kitchen. This was confirmed when the rest of our meal was brought out and we both agreed that some of the dishes were packed with far more flavour than their apologetic and polite descriptions on the menu gave credit for.

There were misfires of course. Two pieces of monkfish were mushy and overcooked, but rescued by fresh and excellent crab vermicelli. Proper Biryani should come with goat, but if Indian names are too scary for the punters I am guessing using Billy meat is right out of the window. Instead it came with lamb and rice that did not taste as if they had been cooked together the latter being spongy and the former slightly chewy.

Spiced Tiger prawns were excellent, for £15.50 for two they damn well should have been, but the cooking and ingredients were spot on. That Glaswegian classic, Chicken Tikka Masala was not bad at all, if totally alien to any Indian street vendor who has ever drawn breath and a side dish of aubergine was deliciously smokey.

Without dessert, all this lot brought the bill to £81 including a service charge, which was well deserved by the young staff who were, here it comes, finding their feet. It is a whacking amount to pay especially when you consider that they were offering such a limited menu. But, my main criticism has nothing to do with how new the restaurant is handling its early stages, but with the concept itself, which shoehorns this potentially glorious cuisine into an unsympathetic format by sucking all the spirit from it and making it as inoffensive as possible. That is not to say that you cannot serve Indian cuisine in a smart and attractive way (see below for the recent meal at Indian Zing, for a perfect example of how it can be done) but few restaurants achieve it and Colony on this showing is not going to be one of them.

I don’t think that will change, however long they are open.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great resource!

Friday, February 19, 2010 7:37:00 am  
Blogger Kalyan Karmakar said...

Loved reading the post. I have occasionally gone to new places, not liked them, never returned. People ask me, "why don't you give them a second chance?"

Why should I when there are so many options and when my money has the same value everywhere?

Friday, February 19, 2010 8:56:00 am  
Anonymous Mr Teaspoon said...

We ate at Benares shortly after it reopened. The food was fantastic but the occasion was ruined by, you guessed it, "teething problems in the kitchen". This meant we were left waiting for nearly an hour between courses, not once but twice; and yet a nearby table eating the same tasting menu seemed unaffected. The second time, while waiting for dessert, we were sat there without even a drink to console us but nobody seemed to give a shit. Such a shame because the cooking really was great.

Friday, February 19, 2010 1:52:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was looking forward to the opening, given it's just round a corner from where I live. So I booked a table for couple friends in the Lounge.

It seems that we were greeted by the owner Carlo Spetale, only unfortunately his all attention and charm was directed to only one person in our group who was a blond girl in a red dress. Even she found it rather unpleasant. But later it got worse as it was very hard to get any attention for orders.

The mini-tapas dishes were very nice. But very tiny. Beef carpaccio was particularly impressive in size - the pieces could be measured in milligrams if lucky. After ordering almost all the dishes on menu and still and endlessly waiting for the attention we have decided to leave. The experience cost as 50£ each, and we had to listen a lot about their teething problems... A bit steep for what we have experienced.

Monday, February 22, 2010 9:48:00 am  
Anonymous Andy said...

A great post with many gems-I love the putative response to the restaurant "concept" ,and will use it !
Is chicken tikka masala really Glaswegian?I know it's not Indian,but Glasgow????

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 10:25:00 am  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

Yep, Glasgow. I met the owner of the Sheesh Mahal who invented it

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 10:27:00 am  
Anonymous restaurants covent garden review said...

Okay I got that the staff is well deserving, who were, here it comes, finding their feet. But the amount is not so whacking to pay .

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 7:03:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A very interesting review of Colony. I disagree with some comments from your review that seem somewhat biased due to the fact that you had to pay for your food. Now you must get some friends and chill out a bit to enjoy the ambience that Colony offers. I met up with a few friends at Colony over the weekend and we had a fantastic time. The cocktails served at the bar were excellent, the menu was simple and the meal was delightful and outflanked expectations! There vegetarian options were great. I really have no negative comments. I would certainly return to Colony soon.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 2:36:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

I always pay for my food.

This is the most shameless shill for some time. Well done


Wednesday, February 24, 2010 4:40:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shill, I am not. Sympathetic to the cause of new businesses, I am. I agree there are some areas where a little improvement would make a big change. There is great potential in the place. We certainly had a fantastic time.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010 3:00:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"all this lot brought the bill to £81 including a service charge, which was well deserved by the young staff who were, here it comes, finding their feet"..well,the staff will most probably continue to try and find their feet if the fact that they get paid around £7/hr and never get to see a penny of the service charge is taken into consideration..

Friday, March 05, 2010 1:44:00 am  
Blogger roym said...

"Proper Biryani should come with goat"

who says?

maybe you should eliminate new openings as a variable and wait three or four weeks?
though that might be at odds with keeping the blog appearing to be a trend setter

Friday, March 05, 2010 11:47:00 am  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

That's why we recently rushed into Wiltons giving it only 211 years to find its feet. Cutting edge, that's us.

Friday, March 05, 2010 12:53:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Hi roym,

Thanks for your input but to be fair we've been doing this for over twenty years (not the blogging bit obviously!) and it's always worked for us.


Friday, March 05, 2010 2:03:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure if we're speaking of the same Carlo. I’ve now been to Colony 4 times in the 3 weeks that it's been open and on every occasion I found Carlo (the owner I believe) to be utterly accommodating and charming. By the way, I'm a 33 year old blond.

I understand that Dos Hermanos aspire to be taken as credible 'critics' of the London restaurant scene and as such MUST attempt controversy, and dare I say it, wit. But in my view Dos Hermanos continually over-egg it, often to the point of appearing gratuitous.

Not sure what I would rather read, honest, albeit occasionally bland, comments (you notice I avoid the term 'review') or the often transparent attempts at controversy and humor. Definitely the former on reflection!!!!

Monday, March 15, 2010 9:41:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

Cool, so we wont need to read any of your anonymous 33 year old blonde chatter from now on and we both come out happy


Monday, March 15, 2010 10:08:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

I am also wondering why, if you are so dismissive of DH, you spent nearly an hour on the site searching for "Colony reviews" before posting your comment. I sniff a blonde 33 year old shill.

Monday, March 15, 2010 10:17:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Simple, because I live on the same street, am interested in what's happening in my area, love Colony and all who work in it.

Not that it really matters but why "shill"? Because I disagree with you????

More arrogance from Dos Hermanos I fear!!!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 4:33:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

No, lots of people disagree with us. Your post was, shall we say, just a little suspect.

Love all the extra ??? and !!! At least now we wont have to put up with any more of them.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010 5:21:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Matthew Norman in the Independent on Sunday gave Colony a good kicking this weekend. A score of 0.04 out of 10 is pretty dire - as was the food and service that he describes. I imagine that the blood on the kitchen floor must have been ankle-deep on Monday morning.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 10:07:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Argh, my mistake, it was in the Guardian on Saturday. Apologies.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 10:14:00 am  
Anonymous SD said...

I ate here last night, and had a wonderful meal. The menu was split by main ingredient: mutton, mallard, veal, prawns etc rather than by the indian name for the manner in which they were cooked. I actually liked this, and having spent a lot of time in India I am perfectly capable of picking through a more "authentic menu" but quite enjoy not having to do so.

The monkfish was superb- not overcooked as yours was, thank god, and the veal was deliciously succulent. The breads were light but got cold very quickly. This is one plae where the small sharing plates work really well as it forms a posh sort of thali at the table.
Cocktails were great, and service was very very slick. I have had better food at Amaya and Rasoi but also at a higher price. Colony definitely put a smile on my face. GOod work.

Friday, May 14, 2010 10:18:00 am  

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