LONDON: Being a food critic isn’t always a laugh. Sometimes it gets grim. Grace Dent suffers belligerent service, half-hearted plates and ambience like a Heathrow bar on a bank holiday. Here is her record of worst London restaurants 2013 – along with far better comments on Trip Advisor.
Gay Hussar, 2 Greek St, W1D 4NB
“At one point, the Gay Hussar was derigueur, but now it is the opposite and, sadly, a restaurant can’t pay its bills with the love of folk who think it’s really charming that it hasn’t been turned into a Starbucks yet, but never want to eat cumbersome plates of veal goulash beside a dusty library of political biographies.”
At Trip Advisor you mostly find good critics, such as this one about Gay Hussar: “Great lunch had by all 9 of us. Food great, service great, a little more room would have helped and toilet facilities very basic. But a great experience”.
Who do you trust, the positive critics on Trip Advisor or Grace Dent, a professional food critic at London Evening Standard?
Gremio de Brixton, The Crypt, St Matthews Church, Effra Rd, SW2 1JF
Grace was unable to write a full review of Gremio de Brixton, as she was unwilling to re-live the trauma wrought by her visit. However she did send us this line: “Refused to pay for the food as none was served for hours and what appeared was still frozen. Began to think I was in a BBC3 hidden camera spoof to film my reaction.”
A. Wong, 70 Wilton Road, SW1V 1DE
“We were allotted six rather large flabby dim sum. ‘They taste like Marks & Spencer’s sausage meat,’ I mumbled sadly. Two of the Xiao long bao were covered in citrus foam. I do not have room in this column to fully vent my thoughts on foam. But, in brief… can you all stop it.”
Here is a contrary critic found in Trip Advisor: “Fantastic food, excellent service. We treated ourselves to the 8 course tasting menu. Each course was delicious and beautifully presented. A real treat”.
The Keeper’s House, BurlingtonHouse, W1J 0BD
“If a restaurant is like an orchestra with a lot of people doing very important, different things brilliantly to make something wonderful happen, then The Keeper’s House is like listening to Les Dawson clank through Roll Out the Barrel.”
Bo London, 4 Mill Street, W1S 2AZ
“All efforts to chat with your dining companion will consistently be scuppered by a waiter bearing two more spoons of Bushtucker-trial gloop representing the chef’s nervous breakdown. This is not dinner. Its edible immersive art catering to a no-repeat clientele of affluent tourists and bloggers on freebies.”
Galeto, 33 Dean St, W1D 4PW
“Off to the new Brazilian joint Galeto on Dean Street to sample ‘Rio’s famous sexy chicken’. A bold claim… There is nothing sexy about chicken. Not even the naughty ones on The Muppets who wore false eyelashes. Faced with a dead chicken, I tend to smear it in butter, shove a lemon up its bottom and stick it in an oven at 200C as quickly as possible. I do not feel an urge to rub its undercarriage on my décolletage moaning, ‘Oh, je t’aime… moi non plus’.”
Chotto Matte, 11-13 Frith Street, W1D 4RB
“It must be common for diners to have no idea what the concept of Nikkei-Japanese dining is, or what the menu, which divides into ‘chicharronia’, ‘cocine client’, ‘Nikkei’, ‘anticucheria’ and the more obvious ‘sushi’, is offering, so it will be a comfort for them to arrive and realise the waiting staff — of which there are approximately 789 — don’t either.”
Paesan, 2 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4PX
“It’s peasant food, you know, like peasants eat? Well, they do if they’re those lovely clever Continental kitchen-savvy peasants who Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein inevitably meet whenever they hop off a plane in Brindisi.”
Bird of Smithfield, 26 Smithfield StreetLondon EC1A 9LB
“The service was, by no slender meaning of the word, atrocious. It was a master class in things that should never happen during a £140 dinner. We begged each tiny step of the meal: to place orders, for forks to consume it with, through to viewing the dessert menu… Our table was booked for 9.15pm; pudding arrived at around 11.30pm. I attempted to pay the bill, but had now become invisible.”
The Pearson Room, 2nd Floor, 16-19 Canada Square, E14 5ER
“The perfectly pleasant Romney Marsh lamb chop appeared with a ‘salad’ of borlotti and broad beans that looked like two cans roughly mix together with a fork. Restaurant owners, my rule of thumb are that if even I can cook more imaginatively and with greater finesse than you, you’re in trouble.”