WATERLOO & CITY: DERAILED EN ROUTE
We had already eaten quite a few of them when a busboy returned and whisked away a plate of very decent roasted Brussel sprouts with bacon with the words “sorry, these were meant for another table”
It was not just the fact that we had actually ordered this side dish (although we never did get our own) that surprised us, more that although the dish was now less the requisite number of sprouts by about four, it was plonked on a neighbouring table without a word. They tucked in none the wiser as everyone at our table sat, mouths agape as our germs were shared around by the helpful staff member.
It was the low point of a meal that had started out rather well.
The oddly named Waterloo & City (for those who don’t know, it is named after one of the more unpleasant sections of the London Tube System- also known as The Drain) is a new restaurant in Culver City, whose kitchen headed up by British chef, Brendan Collins. It styles itself as a British style gastropub. It is nothing of the sort of course, but the tag works to describe a lively, attractive dining room offering hearty food in a noisy but fun atmosphere. We had chosen the location as a venue for Sybil’s birthday celebrations and the eight of us were soon seated and drinking on a well-priced wine from Puglia while we looked at the menu.
The starters were terrific. My own choice was an outstanding combination of grilled quail, topped with a perfectly fried Quail egg and sitting on a mound of chopped livers on toast. Other dishes included a passable cheese plate, a ceviche of yellowtail, courgette flowers stuffed with shrimp and, best of all, a large platter of excellent house made terrines and pates served with chutneys and pickled vegetables. Sybil’s dish of Tuna Tartare never made it to the table and we asked for it to be knocked off the bill, which our server did without a murmur.
So far, so good, but it was when the main courses arrived that the meal began to hurtle downhill at an alarming rate. A take on Nobu’s Black Cod with a Miso crust was undercooked to the point of rawness on the bottom, a dish of short rib ravioli was tough and flavourless and most alarmingly of all, my own choice of honey glazed pork shank was inedible.
I am not sure if our very helpful young server understood my joke when I said “I wanted Old Spot, not cold spot” but he took the dish away with a look to suggest that it was not the first time it had happened that night. I knew that it would not be the last, as my friend, Brent was busy raising an eyebrow over his own portion of the same dish as I made my complaint. The shanks had obviously been pre-prepared in advance to allow them to be finished to order during service. That’s fine, however, I suspect that they had just popped them in the microwave and given them a quick glaze before bringing them to the table. The accompanying fries too shrieked of pre-prep and tasted as if they had been left too long at the pass. They were stale and tough and left almost untouched by a table that would normally have been battling over them to the last one.
Neither Brent nor I particularly fancied a second stab at the pork shank so switched, in his case to a main course sized portion of that lovely quail dish and in my case to an admirable attempt at a Shepherd’s Pie.
It was at this point that the great Brussel sprout debacle occurred. We pondered on warning the other table that they were eating other people’s brassica, but decided in the end that they were probably happier in their ignorance. We did tell our main server and he rolled his eyes once more. I am guessing this was not the first time that a plate of vegetables had done the rounds in Waterloo & City’s opening weeks.
By way of recompense, our two shared desserts were on the house. A plate of cold doughnuts was not much to write home about, but the Sticky Toffee Pudding was spot on, dense, gooey and almost enough to take away the horror of the example served to me a few weeks ago at Gorbals.
The final bill, with all its deductions, came to about $60 a head and included a well deserved tip for our server who kept up a remarkable level of good humour despite having to field problems all night.
That good humour, along with the lively atmosphere and the quality of our starters is enough to make me think I might return again. Perhaps this time to sit at the bar for one of the beers on their extensive list and definitely some more of those superb terrines and pates. They need to iron out the major flaws soon however or I fear that their name could become even more relevant as all their considerable investment goes down The Drain.