We (brother and I), learnt to have food any way it was served. From the humble fasoglia-butter beans- which remain some of our favourite food, to rabbit (yes I do know), fish, steak and almost everything else. From posh restaurant to the local kebab place. We would go everywhere and so I learnt to have food any way it came. These days I make my way through some of London’s finest restaurants to the most authentic street food found at the spectacular Jemaa El Fna square in Marrakesh.
Fast forward to last week and in it’s 3rd week of operation, I had a reservation at Jason Atherton's new 'social' venture: Social Eating House. This is in Soho. Forget Pollen Street Social or the like, this place is every little bit designed to suit the area. The bare brick walls, white washed to give just a tad of warmth and what I found to the beautiful portraits hanging off the walls just to add a touch of elegance, the 80's ceiling design and the tables whose tops were identical to a 70's criss cross parquet flooring. I know you won't admit it, but you all know what I'm talking about.
We sit ourselves down armed with the lovely and concise menu. Some jars at the start which we ignore. What are jars anyway? Why can’t I have a small portion of something in a bowl? Why does it have to be in a jar? It’s not like I’m at a farmers market choosing jam or preserve or whatever one would call it.
While deciding on food I ordered the wine. I tasted the wine. About 3 times. On the fourth time, the exceptionally observant waitress noticed that I was uncertain of something, takes it away and after a few minutes someone comes back-I have not said anything either before the wine was take away or after, in case you were wondering- and says that it's good just needs to be decanted. My friend steps in says that if we (including them) are not sure, we should have another bottle of something. Within 3 minutes we had a different bottle that we had chosen. Nice that she noticed that I was uncertain.
Another thing I had noticed in the meantime. The waitors were flying past with things on their trays that resembled bags used for steaming rice.
We soon found out. My friend's starter of mushroom and something was in fact mushrooms served in what I am still convinced was a microwaveable bag, on a cast iron plate. A pair of scissors was produced and this was cut open and left on the side, with a separate plate. Almost like a side to a starter but without the starter. If I could give a Michelin star, which of course I cannot do such a thing, I would give the first ever star to microwaveable mushrooms. This of course would be withdrawn as I am sure that the head chef, Paul Hood, does not microwave food and has used some brilliant method to cook the mushrooms in a microwaveable bag. So this leaves the mushrooms with no Michelin star, my reputation in tatters and most importantly a starter which despite initial appearances lacks any substance. A note to the creator, there can be such a thing as too much love as the smothered mushrooms would confess, if only they could talk!
|Mushrooms in a bag|
For mains, my friend had mac & cheese. This I thought was lovely, and our waitress didn’t lie when she said that this was not your usual mac & cheese. I had the bavette steak from the specials. For all of £18.50 this comes with sides of chips and salad and sauces. Excellent value for money.
However. HOWEVER. I got my side of chips. I got my side of salad. My side of two sauces. Lovely. And a big empty plate. Steak was then served on a wood slab on the side. This took me a few moments to figure out. Despite their best efforts when I was little, when it came to table manners, my parents failed to prepare me for this. I looked at my dinner and thought I must be the only person in the world who doesn't know what to do with steak on the side. After silent deliberation my cool self and I decided we would not be beaten. We took our fork and steak knife and in the most elegant manner we could muster picked up the piece of beef from the wood slab and placed it on the plate. I am still praying that this is what one should do when presented with such a conundrum and that I have not missed some method like when eating spaghetti with just a fork having ditched the spoon a decade or so ago.
|Steak on the side|
After all of that? The outside was overcooked. The inside was just as I had asked: medium rare. It was a case of rough around the edges, but go past the exterior and there was a delicate and sensitive inside.
The dessert however was a different story all together. We shared the honey almond sponge, goats curd ice cream, orange. I don't know what the intention was but this tasted of marmalade on toast. There was sponge. There was ice cream. There were orange blobs: marmalade on toast. I don't even like marmalade. The result was incredible, almost miraculous. I don't know if the desired effect of this dessert was different and my taste buds went off on a completely different tangent, this was incredible and I loved every spoonful of it.
I was impressed that the staff were happy to listen to criticism. They even offered us a tour of the kitchen, which is always lovely. The problem here is that food still doesn’t know if it wants to be in Mayfair, Shoreditch, Paris even or Soho. It is still on the road to self-discovery. I don’t know if it will get there, I would like to think that it will. Maybe it should follow the sign post that says back to basics. On that road it would rediscover simplicity. Even if it decided to stop before destination basic, I do believe the recipe would spell success.
Would I recommend that you go? The truth is no. Would I go back? Do you know, they were so eager to listen to my comments, which in itself deserves a second chance. So I will go back. I hope next time the food is a little more self-assured and with more straight-forward. Then I would be happy to recommend the Social Eating House.
Expect to pay around £55 pp for 3 courses incl wine and service.
020 7993 3251