Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Crap restaurants

When we were in Cornwall on holiday in August we made a last minute booking at The Driftwood restaurant. I went with low expectations and was highly delighted. So much so that when we got back and discovered that our friends had booked to go, I built it up to such heights in my enthusiasm that they were inevitably disappointed. If they keep a list of crap restaurants The Driftwood is at the top. (Apparently the food is too wanky.)

And yet it was these self same friends who had enthused to us about 36 On The Quay and you can read about that unfortunate experience here.

We all know that the best dining experiences are the ones where you go along with poor to reasonable expectations, only to discover that the food is divine. And there is nothing more guaranteed to disappoint than having your expectations raised and dashed.

Choosing a restaurant might be a personal thing, but there are some things, like not being offered tap water as an option, or having the discretionary 15% service charge already added to your bill, or having to flag down inattentive waiters to place an order, that deserve a universal crapness accreditation.

Well last Friday we went to Nobu London (admittedly about 14 years too late) because I love Japanese food. I could bore you for hours about the virtues of Tosa (King Street, W6) or Mai Food (Kenway Rd, SW5), or Roka (Charlotte Street, W1), or Tokiya (Battersea Rise, SW11) or the fabulous Japan Centre (Regent Street, SW1). I’d never heard a bad word said about Nobu, so what could there possibly be to dislike?

As soon as we walked through the door we could have been anywhere in the world. When I’m in London I want Londonish places (or at least Japanese), but this was as unique as a Starbucks. We were squeezed onto a table far too close to a party of American business men, and it felt as if nearly everyone there was dining on expenses. I presume this was probably the case given the eye-watering prices (the infamous black cod in miso will set you back £50 by the time they’ve automatically added on 15% service). It was certainly not the place where you expect to see the fattest man you’ve ever seen in your life. How is such girth possible on a raw fish diet? At Nobu it would surely cost him somewhere in the region of £24,000 to maintain his day’s calorie intake.

Nobu is greatly proud of its fusion approach – Peruvian Japanese – so we had high expectations of piranha sashimi and the like. But in reality it means that everything just has a tiny bit of chilli in it and they can put chocolate on their pudding menu.

There is an upside though. Since very little is actually cooked, they can turn your table in just over an hour, so you can beat a hasty retreat.

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