Apsleys at the Lanesborough – Where Taste Fails

ONE day and ONE meal into the New Year and we already have a strong contender for the Worst Meal and Most Disappointing Meal of 2011.

We had done a fair bit of research before booking Apsleys (A Heinz Beck restaurant located in The Lanesborough Hotel).  The reviews were mixed, but on the whole quite positive.  Some food critics and bloggers that we would normally rely on (you know who you are), actually rated this place as a future two star Michelin restaurant.

The room is extremely opulent, very much old world styling, which is in keeping with the hotel, however the canned music is a bit jarring.

We also found that the rather irritating, variable lighting levels created the ideal environment to stop bloggers taking decent photographs and certainly did nothing to enhance the presentation of the food.

We chose the 5 course Tasting menu with matching wines.  Normally we have found that Tasting menus while often presenting dishes as small portions still manage to get the balance right, so that at the end of the meal you are comfortably full.  However after 3 of our 5 courses we were pretty sure this would not be the case here.

The first course was Wild red sea bream carpaccio which bizarrely had a tropical theme, tasting as it did of Pina Colada.  In our view this was hardly a suitable dish for the depths of winter.  The next course was a very ordinary Pumpkin tortellini with castelmagno cheese, which was followed by 5 wafer thin slivers of Scallop.

Basically the dishes fell into the category of just okay or downright bad.  The main course of Lamb with quinoa and sugar snaps in particular was actually unpleasant with a harsh astringent sauce and fatty lamb.

The dessert which was obviously designed to introduce some kind of WOW factor, fell flat.  It consisted of a ice cream and honey comb biscuit filled chocolate orb.  The waiter theatrically poured hot chocolate sauce over it to expose the ice cream.   A nice idea, but the overall effect was to produce what seemed to us like a plate of cheap tasting chocolate sludge.

We had such a good run of restaurants leading up to and over Christmas, that we take no pleasure in reviewing this one. It brought back memories of the late and unlamented La Rotonde Restaurant at the Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne and the La Dama Tourist Trap in Barcelona.  Something is badly wrong when you have a strong desire to leave half way through a tasting menu.

The consensus was that far from deserving a second Michelin Star this restaurant really does not merit even the one star it already has. It is frustrating to go to these elitist high end restaurants that look the part and deliver service by numbers while failing to deliver on the food. Indeed it almost prompted us to make a new New Year’s Resolution to focus on just the restaurants in the Nigel Platts-Martin’s stable where food quality and flavour rule.

In conclusion one word sums up our experience of Apsleys – AVOID!

Marks out of 10

Food 3.5 (1.5 for the Lamb, as this was a “get me out of here” moment)

Service 5

Ambience 5

UPDATE: June 2012. Chef Change – Heros de Agostinis is now the new chef at Apsleys following Massimiliano Blasone resignation.  Hopefully he will be more generous with the Scallops!

 

 

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Dog & Fox – less is more

The Dog & Fox is a well known and long standing Youngs Pub in the heart of Wimbledon Village, with a separate restaurant.  Their web site highlights the chefs Pacific Rim influences (interesting), but shows a very British Pub style food menu (not so interesting).

The entrance via the Pub, past the bouncer, is off-putting, but fortunately there is also a side entrance that takes you directly to the restaurant. The room is warm and nicely decorated.

On our visit, I found there were more negatives than positives here:-

1. All the prices on the menu had been tippexed out (an indication of  a recent and unjustified price increase in my opinion  – £19.30 for a lamb chop!  – see review for Coq d’Argent, where my excellent  3 course lunch in a vastly superior venue cost less).

2. The Salsa and Relishes provided with some of the dishes were really OTT.  The Salsa I had with my Thai Chicken cakes (Chicken Rissoles) for example consisted of a small bowl containing huge chunks of tomatoes with red onion and chilli – I could not eat it, it just killed my taste buds. One of my companions had the burger which was nicely cooked, but accompanied by another completely OTT Relish containing way too much garlic or horseradish. It was so strong you could not tell what it was. The Smoked Haddock was cooked ok as well, but would have been better if the accompanying egg had not been hard boiled.

Basically this was a missed opportunity. The Restaurant has a good room, it’s in an excellent location. It just needs to get it’s act together and be more like a restaurant and less like a bar food area. In it’s current incarnation I do not think it even qualifies as a gastropub!

Marks out of 10

Food 3

Service 3

Ambience 4

Dog & Fox on Urbanspoon

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Harveys Fish Market, Oyster Bar & Restaurant – still not the plaice to go!

Harveys of Ramsgate now has an AA Rosette and a change of chef (or so we were told).  We thought we would give it a second chance, and see if our opinion of it differs now from our last rather damming post.

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Harveys Fish Market, Oyster Bar & Restaurant
We ordered the fixed price ‘grazing menu’, (which had a very limited fish selection)  2 courses for £12 (this certainly sounded like a bargain),  and a couple of glasses of pretty good wine. We also ordered a portion of their own baked bread which was okay. The starters arrived. Things were looking up as the presentation appeared to be not too bad. My salmon and beetroot with micro greens actually had flavour. Unbalanced but flavour none the less. My companion went for the butternut squash risotto. It also looked good but turned out to be completely lacking in flavour, basically just stodge ….oh dear as we were ready to amend our opinion and eat humble pie.

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My main course arrived. Apparently this was a ‘belly of pork’. Well it was like no cut of meat I had ever seen. It looked more like a cross section of spinal column (more cartilage than belly!). Only one word came to mind during this course and that I’m afraid was ‘Repulsive’.

Belly of Pork!
Belly of Pork!

My companions Plaice looked like it had been bitten by a Shark!. It was also over cooked.

Plaice and Potato salad
Plaice and Potato salad

When asked if we wanted dessert or coffee we decided to pass and left the restaurant as hungry as we went in.

Instead we had pancakes at Miles Cafe Culture – a genuinely buzzy and quality establishment.

Pancakes at Miles
Pancakes at Miles Cafe Culture

Our visit to Harveys was on a Saturday at lunchtime, only two other tables were occupied, so for ambience we had some background music and a baby crying in the corner. We were also a bit surprised that the fish slab was not  in use, to let us see what fresh fish was on offer.

We passed by again in the evening, on the way to Age & Sons, and noticed that the restaurant was barely half full. Which was interesting when compared to the completely full Age & Sons, which attracts exactly the type of clientel that Harveys are trying to target.

How the AA could award Harveys with “The only AA Rosette in Thanet” is beyond me. There are more deserving restaurants in Thanet, such as Age & Sons. It was also disconcerting to read the description of Harveys in toptable, it used words like “steller seafood” and intimated that Celebrity Chef John Burton Race was involved in the cooking. I am pretty sure he is not.

After two visits now, our conclusion was that Harveys would be an ideal candidate for another Celebrity Chefs TV show – Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.

It’s great that so much money has been invested in Ramsgate, which does really need a good fish restaurant. We just don’t feel the investment has  been made in the kitchen where it really counts. It’s also good to know we are not alone in our views, as I have spotted a couple of reviews now that use words like “Dire” to describe the food in Harveys. So unless there are some major changes here, Harveys can relax as we won’t be reviewing them again.

UPDATE – November 2009 : Just read Jay Rayners recent review for the Observer, spot on. He was also brave enough to try the Oysters!

UPDATE – July 2010 : See picture below, this is amazing. It looks like they are actually using the negative review in The Observer to market the restaurant.

UPDATE – October 2010 : About time!  Harveys is finally closed – RIP please! For more information see post from Isle One.

Harvey's Fish Market & Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

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Not recommended – Candidates for the worst of the worst award

Here is a list of restaurants based on my experience that are worth avoiding:-

Restaurants in the “Worst of the worst category” that have their own posts:-

  1. Abode, Canterbury
  2. Alfies, London
  3. Craft, New York
  4. Omero, Florence
  5. Harveys, Ramsgate
  6. Hibiscus, London

Restaurants that do not have their own posts:-

Beau Rivage Palace (La Rotonde) , Lausanne snooty service and tasteless cooking in a very grand setting.

Marks out of 10

Food 3

Service 3

Ambience 7

Fortunately this place is now gone, replaced by Anne-Sophie Pics new Restaurant.

Casa Calvert, Barcelona– dull, with bad service. My main course arrived with the jus dripping off the side of the plate, the waiter did not even notice. The modernista decor was not enough to justify the visit.

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Marks out of 10

Food 3

Service 3

Ambience  3

La Dama, Barcelona – beautiful building, very disappointing food, check out the prices on the La Dama website too,  this is most definitely a tourist trap.

The wine list however is first class.

Marks out of 10

Food 2

Service 3

Ambience 5

Restaurant Terrassa, Barcelona – when lit up with fairy lights at night this place looks stunning (from the outside), then you go inside and it looks very dodgy. Eating here was a big mistake.

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Marks out of 10

Food 1

Service 1

Ambience 1

At the end of the year I will nominate the Restaurant that qualifies as the worst of the worst for 2009.

For the other end of the spectrum, see the Best of the best.

Alfie’s – what’s it all about!

Didn’t like the name before I visited, didn’t like the food when I visited.  Then came the bill!, I certainly didn’t like that.

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Alfies at the Bermondsey Square Hotel is not cheap, we went shortly after it opened when they were doing an introductory 50% discount, even with the discount I felt completely ripped off.

For starters I had asparagus with egg (expecting a nice runny egg to dip the asparagus in – got a hard boiled egg and some horrid mushroom sauce).  Then it just got worse, more of the disgusting gravy with my next course, it wasn’t the mushroom sauce but something rather close in taste and consistency.

We ordered a bottle of Chablis for about £26, and like the food it was decidedly inferior, basically I can only describe it as plonk.

This place is way below the standards of the other restaurants in the area.  How it can be described as “a significant addition to Bermondsey’s burgeoning foodie scene”  or as “a place that champions fresh English dishes” is a joke.  I rather wonder if the people who wrote this “advertising copy” actually ate there!

Marks out of 10

Food 2

Service 4

Ambience 2

Alfie's Bar & Kitchen (at Bermondsey Square Hotel) on Urbanspoon

UPDATE December 2010 – Alfie’s now have a new chef;  not sure I can bring myself to go back though.

UPDATE January 2011 – In a few weeks time Masterchef Judge Gregg Wallace is opening a new restaurant in the Hotel, replacing Alfies, see Big Hospitality Artical for details.

UPDATE April 2012 – Have yet to read a positive review of the restaurant (Greggs Table).

UPDATE September 2012 – The Hotel and restaurant are currently being used for the reality show Hotel GB – have to say that the place seems to be more about PR than food.

 

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Harveys Fish Market, Oyster Bar & Restaurant – not the plaice to go!

Harveys of Ramsgate, part of Kent Inns of Distinction, is marketed as a dedicated seafood restaurant  using locally landed fish. A fabulous idea, in theory.

Celebrity TV chef John Burton-Race of the Michelin-starred New Angel in Dartmouth is connected with it, loosely I hope, based on the standards achieved here, both in terms off food and service.

I can not see this place, surviving  the winter. I certainly will not be returning or recommending this unjustifiably overpriced venue. Neither the food quality or the level of service matched the look of the venue. Bland Fish, and one of the worst deserts I have ever had (hard meringue!). Plates passed across my companion at the table, come on – anywhere that typically charges £20 for mains, needs to deliver something a bit special. Then there is the ambience issue,  sitting next to a large noisy table of 10 in a half empty restaurant is far from ideal. This is most definitely not my idea of “fine dining”.

Its pretension without the quality, delivering expensive badly cooked food. Just another “Faux Gourmet” experience.

They could have done so much more in this prime location overlooking Ramsgate Royal Harbour.

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UPDATE October 2009 : Made a return visit to Harveys after all, in light of comments and the award of an AA Rosette. For details see Harveys Fish Market, Oyster Bar & Restaurant – still not the plaice to go!.

UPDATE April 2010 – Back in Ramsgate, this time to try Eddie Gilberts. For details see Eddie Gilberts – reasons to leave London? (Eddie Gilberts 7, Harveys 2)

UPDATE October 2010 – About time!  Harveys is finally closed – RIP please! For more information see post from Isle One.

 

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