Author Topic: Lunch for 2 in London GBP 300  (Read 1170 times)

Offline Taman Tun

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Lunch for 2 in London GBP 300
« on: September 07, 2014, 09:22:32 PM »
My last trip to the UK was about 8 years ago and sometimes I get the temptation to make another visit. I just read this article in the Observer by the delightfully sharp tongued Jay Rayner and I have changed my mind. 

Quattro Passi: restaurant review
Mayfair’s Quattro Passi thinks it’s gilded. But, says Jay, there are some things you just can’t polish…
Jay Rayner
The Observer, Sunday 7 September 2014

34 Dover Street, London W1 (020 3096 1444). Meal for two, including wine and service: £300

In the closing years of her life my late mother, who once loved restaurants, came to despair of them. Her hearing was failing and the spaces that were once ideal for banter and gossip became the enemies of such. Restaurants, it transpired, are mostly designed by young people with no understanding of acoustics; who think hard surfaces and polished concrete are easy on the eye, regardless of how cruel they are to the ear. The crash and clatter of self-regarding modern restaurant design managed what almost no one and nothing else could: they rendered my mother silent.

September 9 marks the start of Lipreading Awareness Week, and they asked that I consider the impact of design on those who are hard of hearing. I’m more than willing to oblige. What’s wrong with a bit of carpet? And maybe the odd curtain? A low ceiling and a bit of enclosed booth seating wouldn’t go amiss either. I hate the fact that some people are missing my wittiest lines over dinner simply because of crap design.

And so I decided to book a restaurant that I was sure would be acoustically sympathetic. Actually, I needed one, because the fates have a cruel sense of humour. I had returned from my summer holidays with both a glorious tan and a less-glorious ear infection. I was genuinely hard of hearing. And so I fell upon the newly opened Quattro Passi in Mayfair. The original on the Amalfi coast has two Michelin stars. Now chef Antonio Mellino has apparently moved it here to “introduce Londoners to real Italian fine dining”. Charmed, I’m sure. The website talked of leather wall finishes and French silk wallpaper and a chandelier made from thousands of tiny silk petals. It bellowed softness. Perfect.

Except it isn’t. It’s all hard floors and hard walls and high ceilings. Happily there was no sound system. Until we sat down. Then they cranked it up right over our heads. We were the only people there that lunchtime. I shouted to the waitress to please, in the name of all that is holy, turn it off.

She shouted back: “What?”

We drank one glass of sparkling wine each (not champagne) and one glass of white, and ran up a bill of £282. I could find no bottle of wine on the list for less than £40. After that you need oxygen to read the prices, which top out in five figures. Antipasti and pasta dishes are between £20 and £34. Main courses are almost all £40, with some more than that. I tried to imagine the meeting where they priced a bowl of poorly roasted new potatoes – oily, sweaty, soft-skinned, as though cooked a while before and then reheated to order – at £6. Did they urge each other ever higher, giggling as they calculated the enormous gross profit?

I’ve said it many times: I have no problem spending big money on meals out. I’ve paid more than £282 of my own dosh for lunch. It just needs to be utterly memorable, the stuff of recollections whispered breathily late at night. It can’t be a pallid fart of mediocrity, priced for some dodgy clientele that’s ripped off the gross national product of a small impoverished nation and is now domiciled in London for tax reasons. That’s what your money gets you at Quattro Passi: clumsy cooking, trying to make itself look grown up and clever, generally by the application of flaky precious metals, like King Midas has suffered psoriasis over your dinner. Yes, really. We’ll get there.

Of course, a kitchen at this level can do basic things. They can make good breads. They can grill a bit of fish. They can make a pistachio ice cream. But none of that is good enough, not for £282. An amuse bouche brings a stodgy croquette, the size and colour of a cat’s turd, on a thick tomato purée full of metallic tang. Apparently the brown item is made of aubergine; I’m grateful for the heads up or I wouldn’t have known. It is a dull vegetal thud. The seafood risotto costs £34. At that price it should be the best I have ever eaten, Neptune’s tears-made-lunch. This is a dense salty pond, with little in the way of the iodine tang seafood lovers crave. The shellfish has been diced up so finely that it is undiscoverable amid the soupy rice, because obviously rich people don’t like chewing. The fact that it is flecked with silver leaf does not make it better. Does it make it better for anybody? Who swoons over such things?

Ravioli of smoked cheese, costing £20, is an adequate plate of pasta of the sort you could get at any reasonable trattoria. Ditto the £48 grilled fish. Well done. You bought some fish and you grilled it. A plate of lamb medallions, ordered medium rare but served medium and dry, is a whole bunch of bad ideas. There are skid marks of bitter chocolate that have dried on to the plate. There is a bizarre dehydrated raspberry crumble. There are fresh raspberries. Lamb and raspberries have been introduced to each other. They never need meet again. This is a truly awful piece of cooking.

A strawberry tiramisu is not a tiramisu at all. It’s an odd, sickly, coffee-free cream affair with a jammy centre, in a collar of over thick, white chocolate. For £12 you’d think they’d remove the green foliage from the strawberries, but no. Still, there’s gold leaf; paging a dermatologist for Mr Midas. It’s a dessert as designed by an eight-year-old girl who’s been given a new pack of colouring pens.

I could bang on but, oh God, they’ve turned up the music again. I cannot hear my companion, but I can hear myself think. My thoughts are ugly. And so to the old gag. The best part about lunch at Quattro Passi? Leaving.

If the old only could, if the young only knew.

Offline Roger

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Re: Lunch for 2 in London GBP 300
« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2014, 08:36:08 AM »
I'll give Quattro Passi a miss then TT !
My youngest Son and his Girl have worked at Rick Stein's in Padstow, Cornwall during summer breaks from Uni. for the last few years.
Apparently RS has at least 5 separate Restaurants in Padstow including a large 'teaching' unit - he has residential properties available for the workers too.
They work hard and RS pays well enough. As for Customers - not infrequently a table for four 4 will spend GBP1000 or much more.
GBP100 tips not unknown.
Those UK spenders seem crazy but if you've got it - and so many have - you don't notice that sort of spending.
At Pittini last night, excellent green curry, rice and Leo total B200 - GBP4 - Different worlds.

Offline Taman Tun

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Re: Lunch for 2 in London GBP 300
« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2014, 10:47:47 AM »
Yes Roger, it is a different world here with excellent meals for 150-200 baht.  The main reason I posted the article was for the truly outstanding vitriolic quality of the language!  I did search to see if Jay Rayner has done any reviews of Rick Stein but I could not find anything. 
If the old only could, if the young only knew.