Back one wet, January evening, N and I met for a spot of mid week supper and a catch up. It was a truly miserable night, not made any better by our inability to find Roma,her restaurant of choice for the evening. When we finally found it, right beside Fenchurch Station, we were cold and wet. I have no idea what this was before but I’ve definitely been here.
The space is vast and made up of high tables in the bar, cosy looking booths and then some tables on a platform at the back, finally there are some fixed stools at the end of the bar, oh and some empty space. It feels like no one could quite decide if it was a bar or restaurant or what type of seating worked so they’ve thrown in a bit of everything.
What is also immediately noticeable is that it’s empty, apart from five girls in a booth and a couple of city types still there from lunch. And it’s cold.
We sit at the end with a view over the room and the open kitchen at the very end.
We check out the menu which has a great value lunch option at two courses for £17. The main dinner menu is not cheap, with mains coming in at £18-£25. The food is based on that of Ancient Rome, which means everything is huge. It is good to know this in advance, as we had way too much food.
We both opt for starters, not knowing how big the plates are. I have the hare and pistachio terrine with fig jam and N tries the mussels and clams ‘de re coquinaria’ with lovage dipping sauce.
My plate has two huge slices of terrine with bread and jam. This would be a good sized main or a sharing starter. It is meaty and packed with flavour. The fig jam is sweet and sticky, I’d buy a jar if they sold it.
The clams are beautiful, laced with blooms , swimming in a rich tomato broth with bread to soak it up. The lovage dip, creamy and slightly bitter.
Almost as soon as our starters are cleared, our mains appear. We have gone on recommendations, all, it has to be said, are from the top end of the menu.
My honey & mustard pork ‘stincotto’ is not what I am expecting. After many attempts to explain the menu, we had settled on it being a pork chop, it is not, it’s a pork shank. Firstly, the portion is caveman like, the meat is soft, it falls off the bone at the touch of your fork, it’s sweet and really lovely. The same cannot be said of the celeriac mash which tastes entirely of raw garlic, making it inedible.
There are no desserts on the menu, they say they are working on these.
Service was lovely, but the staff didn’t know the menu. Alec, the manager (?) came over to check everything was OK and took on board the feedback about the portion sizes and inedible mash. He didn’t, however, take anything of the bill because of it despite agreeing it was about the mash.
The bill, with one glass of wine, was just shy of £100 and while elements were very good, there is too much choice in London to pay this to sit in a cold, empty room.
Much better would be to offer these huge dishes for lunch service when they are doing city lunches and offer a set menu in the evenings, it feels like it’s the wrong way round. For me, it lacked atmosphere and heating, it really lacked heating.
With so many new places to try, it’s unlikely I’ll be back.