A Near Miss
The small portion sizes highlights the inconsistency of the food at Frenchie Covent Garden
Review by Oscar Udeshi
The plating was nice, and the bread was good, but not at an extra £3.50.
That sums up our experience at Frenchie Covent Garden’s – or rather the good bits. It has been a while since I walked out of a restaurant hungry, and a longer time that I have felt exploited, politely put did not get fair value. Value is thankfully subjective but more on that later.
We arrived on time for our 8pm reservation on a Friday night as that was the first slot they had available. We had to wait a while and were told to stand at the bar where we were presented with a drinks list. Feeling more in the mood for a bottle of wine we declined the cocktails, but were asked a few times if we didn’t want any. I don’t like being pushed drinks. The couple sat at what we were to learn was our future table were ejected and we were seated. The menu is comprised of four snacks, four first courses and four mains, or a tasting menu from the dishes on the menu, so a package deal of sorts.
We ordered a £3 pork cracking snack that would be a small amuse bouche at most places and my dining partner turned to me and said you will probably be hungry at the end of this meal – she was right. We both opted for the a la carte and had the Duck foie gras with Yorkshire rhubarb and salsify tagliatelle. The foie gras was the size of a pinkie finger bordered by rhubarb jelly that was a nice idea but so overpowering and there was that much of it, the foie gras would not be the standout feature or even the third thing that would come to mind from that dish. The salsify tagliatelle was a thing of beauty with shaved black truffle and was delicious – the problem was that it was gone in three bites. There was a nice balance of flavours and textures and I felt I could see the essence of what they were trying to achieve, I just wished there was more of it.
The bottle of wine for the table is kept at the counter which is not in reach from the table, and our glasses were frequently empty. There just wasn’t that much food to eat, so one drank instead.
For mains we had the Ibaiama pork cooked in salt crust and the lamb. When they arrived, my dinner companion and I both looked at each other and wondered where the rest was. Would one get a second serving like at L’entrecote? This remark is all the more surprising as my companion that night was not a big eater. What I had of the pork was passable, but two slivers of meat the size of one’s index fingers does not a main course make, especially not if one of the slivers is half fat, so make that one and a half index fingers of meat. The lamb was no leaner. Yes, fat is flavor, but this was just the nasty fat, the one where the effort to eat it does not equate to pleasure. The salt content was also off the charts, and I like salt.
At this point my stomach was grumbling and tried to salvage the evening with dessert. I had the cheese, organic laguiole which was nice enough but three wafer thin slices which may have amounted to 35 grams of cheese, if not less for £10, my breaking point had been reached. The chocolate mousse was quite good in fact, and almost as an apology was a decent size, for £9 it better be – those are Annabel’s prices.
To add further injury, we saw the tables to the left and right being marched off for overstaying their allocated time and being relocated elsewhere or being asked to leave. The tables are so close that one has to hear the other table’s conversation if one likes it or not. A rather loud slightly inebriated pair were sat next to us during a round of the musical chairs and sitting on their laps would not have improved upon the audio stream gushing forth.
With wine coming to just under £60, a bill totalling £190 came to our table finally, after having asked a few times for it. For that amount of money, I can think of a dozen places within a nano second that would cook better food, with bigger portions, served more professionally. I will not be rushing back there any time soon. On the way home we passed a shake shack, and I was sorely tempted to stop and have a real meal.
Oscar is the founder and owner of Udeshi tailors, 8 Davies Street, Mayfair
Enquiries: Frenchie, 16 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8QH / 0207 8364422 / www.frenchiecoventgarden.com/