BOND AND BROOK: STRANGE BREW
Bond & Brook – the name fair put a smile on my face, it really did. Shame it was wiped off an hour later after a couple of the more depressing plates of food I’ve eaten recently.
To be honest I shouldn't have been surprised, this new concession in the suburban housewife's favourite, Fenwick's on Bond Street is run by Rhubarb which despite its name and rhubarb-hued website (hey we're fun, we’re friendly) is just a smaller and seemingly less cynical version of the dreaded Compass group which is responsible for disseminating extreme blahness wherever and whenever they’re involved. Fine for dreary corporate events where people are more interested in getting lashed and trying to get into the pants of their co-workers but for a decent sit-down meal, not so good.
But hang on a second, it seems Rhubarb aren’t completely complicit in the creation of this place. Evening Standard restaurant reviewer Fay Maschler and her consultancy actually appear to be the brains behind this project. Which seems ok until one realises that the consultancy aspect suggests that existing places can use the services of the divine Ms M if they’re not doing so well or have received a less than glowing review (not from the ES of course). Hmmmm.
The menu at Brook Bond, sorry, Bond and Brook is a simple one of international dishes that are probably aimed at “ladies who lunch” although in truth I’ve never met anyone from this tribe and most of the women I know are more at home devouring kilos of steak and big pork chops and would laugh in the face of someone serving such puny portions.
On a warm day light and tasty was my aim which meant no Steak (boo). I may have been a bit Mr Effete for the day but I have to say my heart sank when my first course was placed before me. Crab Cakes were two kyliesque patties of what seemed to be mostly crab meat. For no apparent reason there was also a spoonful of cold black-eyed peas and a blob of salad cream.
Now I don’t mind simplicity, I’m even ok with small portions (although this was pushing it). The caveat is that the food has to be very well prepared and very tasty. The cooking – what there was of it – was ok but the taste, well, there wasn’t one really. The crab cakes didn’t taste of crab and cried out for something to lift them: the zing of some lemon zest, a little kick of chilli, a grind of the pepper mill. The flavour may just have been masked by the saltiness of the dish.
Similarly I was so underwhelmed by a bowl of Linguine alle Vongole that I prayed no Italian would ever get to taste the B&B version. It’s a deceptively simple dish that should be a combination of plenty of sweet, fresh clams and great pasta. If a kitchen had the recipe but had never actually tasted the real thing then they would come up with the one I had.
The clams were fine although there weren’t that many of them – certainly not enough to add their distinctive taste. Like my starter it needed better seasoning and not just loads of salt. The pasta wasn’t al dente – maybe their target demographic can’t chew – and there was just far too much broth in the bowl. A little drizzle of good olive oil might even have rescued things.
In a busy dining room I could conceivably put this down to an overstretched kitchen, in one with just a few tables occupied I can only think that the kitchen wasn’t up to the job or didn’t give a fig. To be honest I didn’t either so I never found out if they could serve me £6.50 worth of Ice Cream without screwing things up.
What Fay Maschler’s employers at the ES think of such an obvious conflict of interest (remember she could be reviewing potential competitors) I don’t really know and to be honest I could care less – all I ever want is a decent meal and on this showing Bond & Brook, in the parlance of the young folk, was a big Fail.