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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

LES DEUX SALONS: NO OIL PAINTING





























We've had a few (scrub that, thousands) of mails asking us why no updates to the blog. I can't speak for HS but in my case it's mainly down to the fact I’ve been on holiday but it’s also because I have a certain ennui with the current dining scene in this city.

While I'd like to believe that the many new Burrito joints (it's a flipping wrap - get over it), Bahn Mi shops (it's a sandwich pal, not Babette’s Feast) and grim chains (oh goody, yet another Eat, you are spoiling us, City of London) are raising the foodie bar in London I tend to see them as no more than exercises in seeing how much dosh can be squeezed from gullible Londoners for the least outlay.

Ditto most restaurants which rather than attempting to provide something so wonderful that you’d never want to go anywhere else again work on the “What can we get away with” principle based on the premise there’s always another mug punter around the corner.

Ok. Now I’ve got that little lot out of my system I can tell you about my visit to Les Deux Salons, a pretty major restaurant opening and as good a way as any to get the blog rolling again (albeit creakily).

First a confession: I've never had a satisfying meal at any of Anthony Demetre's restaurants. First at Putney Bridge - even after he had gained a Michelin star - then at Arbutus and Wild Honey. The latter two restaurants have always been extremely popular, due in part to keen pricing and perceived value for money (=cheap, something us Brits are very keen on) but I’m afraid I just didn't get it.

Les Deux Salons is a big step up from the more modest gaffs in the collection. It occupies what was previously a barn-like Pitcher and Piano located just South-West of Covent Garden. It’s now been converted by Martin Brudzinski from pissy lager-selling, pickup joint into, well, I guess it’s supposed to be an evocation of grand European brasserie. I think Mr Brudzinski must have knocked this one out on a Friday afternoon after a few stiffeners at the Dog and Duck.

I’m afraid I didn’t like it. It all felt a bit insubstantial to me. HS said it all sounded a bit Trompe l'oeil but he’s a smartarse and nobody likes them do they? The other tables were too spread out as well (limiting numbers?) – the seating in a brasserie needs a certain density. To cap it all my table was wobbly. Not a great crime against humanity, but, still.

Unfortunately, the food failed to compensate for the dodgy décor and the wobbly service – although the latter did improve as the evening progressed.

Once I’d got over the shock of not getting a slice of orange in my Lillet Rouge and the shock to my choppers of some tough bread – why are the simple things so hard – there was the triple whammy of not seeing any sort of Bivalves or Shellfish on a Brasserie Menu. Odd seeing as big trays of Fruits de Mer going out does add a certain glamour to proceedings. And who doesn’t like a dozen on the half shell with a glass of fizz?

Instead, and more prosaically, I went for the Brawn. A little bit of me died when a plate with a small glass jar turned up. This affectation has been done to death by now and isn't an improvement over a slab of terrine. The Brawn itself was underseasoned and tasted mostly of fat without any porkiness to compensate.

The small Beetroot and apple salad was strewn with some microgreens but was a bit apologetic. What was wrong with some piccalilli - this was English Brawn after all?

The Salt Cod Brandade dish was an improvement but had a built in entertainment factor. They omitted to tell me the Parsley Cromesqui would, when speared by my fork, spurt out dark green parsley puree like some sort of alien ejaculate. Well, the waiters probably had a chuckle.

The offending Cromesqui would have been a bit better (and less dangerous) if it hadn’t been so tough. I was pleasantly surprised by the baby squid which were properly cooked and having ate my bodyweight’s worth of them in Spain recently I know from baby squid. The brandade wasn’t too shoddy either although it was quite salty. Somehow though the dish was less than the sum of its parts.

Roast Halibut with razor clams was one of the most expensive dishes on the menu so what the dish lacked in embellishments should have been made up by good ingredients and precise cooking. The quality of the Halibut was fine but it was flabby and overcooked especially surprising as they’d not managed to get any colour on it. I suspect it may have been cooked properly then left on a hot plate to cook some more.

I quite like the idea of chopping up the clam and serving it in the shell but it was tasteless and a bit rubbery. It really could have done with a a squeeze of lemon to liven it up a bit.

The accompanying veg was beyond help.

A sweet of Rum Baba – fast becoming my number one dessert choice (sorry Ice Cream, you’re so dumped) – rescued things somewhat. It was light with a decent texture and a good measure of navy rum (other brands are not available) which was poured over it at table. I was a bit wary about the thin slices of pineapple served but they worked well providing a fresh, sweet counterpoint to the rum-sodden pudding. That’s not me BTW.

I wish it wasn’t so but at the end of the meal I was thinking that I've still never had a truly satisfying meal in an Anthony Demetre restaurant. But, hey, what do I know? The other places have been enough of a success to open a 250 seater restaurant in the heart of London’s famous West End which was filled and buzzing with (apparently) happy people. Call me an old, misery-guts naysayer but for me this says more about the low expectations of London’s restaurant-going public than it does about our burgeoning London restaurant scene.

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10 Comments:

Blogger Catalan Cooking said...

So you had a nicer time eating in Madrid then?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 12:51:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm calling you an old misery guts naysayer.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 8:56:00 am  
Anonymous Paul said...

Welcome back.
I haven't gone to the 2 salons, but
I agree with you about the other 2Demetre restaurants .
The food was average at best, heavily salted always, and, frankly, expensive for what it was.But, they get amazingly good press, and always seemed full of media/arty types. The atmoshpere was very smug, and self-pleased.
It seems from yr review that the latest place has the same DNA.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 9:51:00 am  
Blogger Douglas Blyde said...

I feel I've got to the truth here. Never been a fan of AD myself either.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 4:57:00 pm  
Anonymous Gastro1 said...

Robin

I have not been yet but totally agree about the dinning scene in London.

Think about it you can eat out less here and save up and fly or rail it off to the likes of :Parma,Bologna,Milan , Rome , Naples , Catania , Palermo , Bari , Seville , Madrid, Barcelona , Valencia , San Sebastian , Nice , Marseille , Toulouse , Lyon , Paris ,Copenhagen , Stockholm , Brusels , Antwerp , Cork , Dublin ,Edinburgh , York and Faversham AND STILL BE QUIDS IN !

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 5:14:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your article begs two questions to which I would like to respond "Hey what do I know" - answer- clearly very little and "call me an old misery guts" well yes you are !!
I always thought the purpose of a restaurant review was to be open minded and constructively critical? I suggest you look up both these definitions in a dictionary as you clearly went with a pre conceived dislike of AD and were never going to be balanced in your review. Michelin clearly do know what they are talking about as AD has two Michelin stars - perhaps readers should rely on their expert view??

Friday, October 29, 2010 7:08:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Hey Dipshit,

You obviously haven't read my post properly so I'll explain it in words that even a moron like you can understand.

First I said "I've never had a satisfying meal at any of Anthony Demetre's restaurants", I didn't say I disliked him. I don't even fucking know the man.

Secondly, who said it was a restaurant review? Oh yes, you did, shit-for-brains. Well it's not. As far as I'm concerned, I just went along for a meal and wrote about my experience. And for the record I don't visit places so I can pan them afterwards. I can't afford to.

Thirdly, and lastly (because trying to explain something to a simpleton is so tiresome) readers shouldn't rely on Michelin - who let's face it only exist to push their crappy tyres - they should get off their fat arses go to the restaurant themselves.

Got that, thicko? Good, now fuck off.

Best

HP

Saturday, October 30, 2010 9:45:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the unpleasant tone of the anonymous comment leaves one to think that the person who wrote it either knows AD or is involved with his restaurants. Otherwise, they would have merely disagreed with the opinion of the review, which is fine, Instead, they attacked Hermano 1's integrity and quite frankly got what they deserved by way of response.

Does anyone else notice a slightly circular argument in their response?

Michelin CLEARLY is good. Michelin likes AD. Therefore AD is good.

Saturday, October 30, 2010 12:24:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Madam/Sir you are obviously a person of intelligence and integrity and DH salute you.

HP

PS The Cheque's in the post

Saturday, October 30, 2010 4:39:00 pm  
Blogger Foodycat said...

Oh is that what was going on behind the scaffolding on William IV St? Sounds like it wasn't really worth the time it took. It's a pity the meal wasn't really great. Hopefully they are just hitting their stride and will iron out the shortcomings.

Sunday, October 31, 2010 2:50:00 pm  

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