Tuesday, 16 October 2007
The Princess, Shoreditch
What's better than a lovely meal at a good gastropub? That's right, a lovely FREE meal at a good gastropub. My new employers yesterday kindly treated me to a boozy lunchtime at The Princess, just up the road from the Fox on Paul Street. We had a good meal and the service was excellent, but before I come to that, let me just go off on a little rant to explain why I hadn't been back to the Princess, good food notwithstanding, since a disastrous first visit some time in 2004.
It was mid-December, and had booked a table at the Princess with a group of fellow foodies. We turned up slightly early and after a couple of drinks downstairs to peruse what we thought was the food menu, we climbed the rickety spiral staircase to the dining room, where we were somewhat surprised to be presented with the same menu, only £5 more expensive and with "Special Christmas menu" printed on the top. Oh no, we said, we're not on an office party, we'll just have the normal menu please.
But apparently this wasn't possible. For the "privilege" of booking ahead and for guaranteeing the Princess a table for 6 on a Tuesday night, we would be charged £5 extra per head for exactly the same food as if we'd just wandered in off the street. It was completely bonkers. Even more incredibly, once we had called the manager over to complain, he didn't budge an inch, his argument being that there is a high demand for tables at the Princess for office parties and he was more or less doing us a favour letting us eat there at all!
It was a ridiculous situation. "Just suppose," I ventured, "that we all got up now and left, and immediately came in again and asked for a table for 6. Would you be able to serve us the normal menu?".
"Well, we'd have let your table go to a different group of diners."
"What, in the ten seconds we were stood outside waiting for you to clear the christmas crackers from our table? People are hardly queuing to get in."
But all we got out of our attempts to make the management see sense was a free bottle or two of house wine. It was a breathtaking example of opportunism by a restaurant blatantly attempting to squeeze seasonal expense account diners and by doing so forcing the rest of us to pay through our noses. So that is why I have not been back to the Princess until yesterday.
Which is a shame because the food at the Princess is really rather good. My starter of shredded pork belly was simple but tasty and came with pickled gerkins which I love. The main of breaded ox cheeks (again, that foodie instinct to order the oddest thing on the menu kicking in) were interesting but didn't really taste of a great deal, although the accompanying boiled cabbage was very nice, flavoured with cloves I think. Finally everyone enjoyed the raspberry pannacotta for dessert - not very seasonal I don't think but I suppose you're allowed to freeze raspberries if you're just going to make compote with them.
So out of the Christmas season I can really recommend the Princess. However I will be keeping a very close eye on the place this year to see if they try their "special Christmas menu" trick again - and I urge anyone reading this to fight the injustice of seasonal ripoff menus wherever you see them!