Posted by: mikeydude | October 29, 2009

Hereford Road London Restaurant Review (5/10)

Very high expectations for this place after glowing reviews all over from the Times’ Giles Coren as well as various food guides. My father-in-law was over from Singapore and I wanted to show him some good old British cooking. I thought that this place would lift his views of our rather jaded cooking history in a city that is dominated by in my view by a French style of cuisine. A term many restaurants adopt these days is “Modern European”, but a true reflection of classic British cooking is rarely found in these establishments with their Michelin Stars.

Anyway… Hereford Road. I liked the website very much, with its daily changing menu depending on produce. They serve very interesting items such as calves brain and mains such as lamb neck. I hear the chef is previously from the critically-acclaimed St Johns which classically likes to serve literally head-to-tail cuts of meat. I walked into this restaurant thinking that I could not go wrong here.

Unfortunately things didn’t start off too well after I got a parking ticket for parking in residential areas. Sure… my fault. BUT £120?!?!? Isn’t that a bit excessive even for London standards? Oh… at the bottom of a slip there’s a note saying you only pay half if you pay within 14 days. Great discount guys….

Sorry I digress, but perhaps relevant to the general consensus of the whole evening, being in a slightly more grumpy mood than usual.

I like the layout of the restaurant. The kitchen was in plain view to see, and there was the option of sitting around the chefs and ordering food and watching it being prepared. At the end of the restaurant there’s the option of more classical seating. I particularly liked the circular ceiling glass window… .nice touch.

The waiting staff were generally very good. The waitress who served us had an adequate knowledge of all the dishes I asked her about and gave us an idea of what to expect. The menu was vast, but I was a little disappointed to not see those rarer types of cuts on the menu that evening. Nevertheless here is what we ordered.

herefordbread

Complimentary bread was homemade and tasted fresh along with some nice (room temperature) butter. No complaints here although nothing striking about the texture/tastes.

Starter #1: Smoked Eel with potato and horseradish salad

hereford eel1

Two very generous slates of smoked eel was very fragrant and tender. I’ve always loved the firm texture of eel although sometimes it’s tricky to eat at home due to the sheer number of bones. These pieces were filleted perfectly and classically complemented by a fiery horseradish salad. The potato was also nice done and gave the dish some starch. All in all a good starter. Not mind blowing by any means, but then that’s not what I came here for.

Starter #2: Jerusalem Artichoke, Mustard Leaf and Duck Egg

herefordduckegg2

Beautifully presented halves of duck egg with oozing yolk complimented by a warm-looking salad of grilled artichoke and green leaves. Having not eaten jerusalem artichoke for a while it was great to taste it with a mildly dressed salad and perfectly cooked eggs. This dish I liked for its novelty value.

Things took a turn for the worst in the main courses.

Main #1: Roast middlewhite shoulder of pork and fennel

herefordpork

Dad ordered this. It was quite a generous slice of presumably a pre-roasted shoulder of pork. As soon as it arrived on the table the dryness of the meat could not be masked by the generous serving of sauce. As he cut into the meat with some difficulty I knew the kitchen had pretty much destroyed the poor middlewhite joint. Crackling was crunchy, well textured, but tasted of nothing. Lacked seasoning. The meat tasted chewy and rather unpleasant. It takes a bit more cremation than usual to overcook a shoulder than loin due to its relatively fattier meat content. This overcooking is probably due to the reheating of cooked meat. Very poor technique demonstrated here. I did not taste the fennel but the sauce was also rather uninspiring.

Main #2: Roast Partridge with green lentils

herefordpartridge

I rarely cook partridge at home and the Mrs loves lentils, and so decided to try this. It was as whole bird served with ?sauteed green lentils and some grilled vegetables. It looked nice enough but once more I think the chef has been rather too generous with heat in preparing the dish. The bird was dry almost entirely throughout. The whole thing reminded me of a mini-version of those whole roasted chickens you buy in Tesco…. except much more expensive! The lentils were ok but could not hide the fault of the cooking of the meat. Disappointing again….

Main #3: Rump of lamb roasted with potatoes and spinach

herefordlamb

At least there was some consolation with this final dish of lamb rump. It may have been a different chef working on this one, as the rump meat was beautifully pink and the top layer of fat was seared to near-perfection. The lamb taste was very flavoursome demonstrating strength in produce and the meat was juicy and tender. The creamy slices of potato (?Dauphinnoise) were also rather good and combined well with the taste of the lamb. This dish was far better than the other 2.

Dessert #1: Apple and rhubarb crumble and custard

herefordcrumble

I liked the way this crumble came with a jug of custard as it means you ‘pour as you eat’ preventing the ‘crumbley’ texture being made soggy too quickly by the custard. I liked this dish as the custard was just about sweet enough to counteract the sour taste of the apple and rhubarb. The crumble on top also had a nice texture along with some fragrant almond flakes, and gave a very warming and satisfactory end to a far from satisfactory dinner.

Dessert #2: Rice Pudding and Blackcurrant Jam

herefordricepudding

I think this reminded the wife of an amazing rice pudding experience we had in Paris a few months ago in restaurant Chez L’ami Jean. Thankfully this portion was not as ginormous as that one was, and also the texture and flavour was not too far off either. The blackberry jam in the center of the bowl added a sour element which was warmly welcomed. Not bad….

Conclusion then. Perhaps my expectations were too high as I still think the prices are very reasonable for London standards. Nevertheless in this day and age overcooked pork is unacceptable, as is overcooked partridge (arguably worse). Why the lamb was cooked to such a higher degree of skill beats me. I don’t think it was an awful meal, but there was just no spark or outstanding feature that would draw me here ever again. I love classic British cooking, but have tasted much much superior execution elsewhere (try Magdalen or Great Queen Street). I think I’ll give St John a miss for the time being. The final bill came to approx £75 for 3 people (+ £60 fine!).

Contact:

Hereford Road Restaurant
3 Hereford Road
Westbourne Grove
London, W2 4AB
Phone: 020 7727 1144

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sun 12pm-3pm 6-10.30pm (Sun -10pm)

http://www.herefordroad.org/

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