MANSON: SNOOZING ON THE BEACH
It's been interesting reading HS's recent epistles from the US of Stateside. Although the portion sizes appear enormo to these European eyes and there sometimes seems to be a few more ingredients than is strictly necessary there's no doubting that the restaurants over there go that extra yard with the food and the service to make sure you have a great time and won't leave feeling hungry or shortchanged.
Only (recent) visits to places like Eddie Gilbert's and The Canton Arms have made me feel the same way about restaurants on this side of the great pond. Too often though it feels like the kitchen is just going through the motions and there's no actual enjoyment or enthusiasm for the job in hand. And to add insult to injury you have to pay through the nose for the privilege. A recent lunch at Manson's was a bit like this.
The restaurant's located on a dreary stretch of the Fulham Road where smug, twee shops are the order of the day. Anonymous in character from the outside, the interior decor at Manson's appears to have been done with the aim of bringing the least offence to the greatest number of diners, Yawn-inducing enough, but the menu and the cooking were unfortunately in perfect synchronicity with their surroundings.
Speaking of the menu, given a boisterous Saturday lunchtime crowd with plenty of kids in tow, the lack of any sort of brunch options seemed odd, but neither were there any more ambitious dishes (unless they appear on the evening menu). It was all rather ho-hum and lacked any personality. Having said that apart from a car crash of a dessert there was nothing hugely wrong with the food: the ingredients were ok if not great and the preparation of those ingredients was good enough. But there wasn't that something special to take the meal to a higher level - that spark that shows the kitchen's in full effect was MIA.
For the first of my starters two small Scallops were decently cooked but sans roe and came on top of a Crab Gratin. The latter tasted fine but needed a pepping up to make it more interesting - a little chili might have helped here. The gratin was in a scallop shell which sat inside yet another shell. On the side was a small, desultory pile of salad, a piece of lemon and for no apparent reason a scattering of rock salt. It was ambitiously priced at twelve quid and took about a minute to eat.
And so it went on. Good-tasting Denhay Ham came with a pile of nicely made Celeriac remoulade with Pommery mustard but the potato croquette added nothing. Veal Chop was ok meat, cooked competently with a pat of anchovy butter on top which resolutely refused to melt - probably because the chop wasn't hot. Chips shaped like small discs were very good though.
Things only got interesting at the dessert stage - but not in a good way. The components making up the Pomegranate Sangria would have been fine individually: nice ice cream; good poached pear etc. It's just that they shouldn't have been occupying the same plate. Nothing went with anything else - a confused mess. A few glasses of mediocre, overpriced wine tipped the bill into the "How Much???!!!" category. Normally, not a biggie when I've had a good time but in this case...well this time it hurt.
Almost daily we're told about how good, how vibrant the London restaurant scene is but just a few visits abroad will soon disabuse one of this notion. Although they're bloody hard to find (and consistency is sometimes a problem), there are some good places around. Manson isn't one of them.