Thursday, 2 July 2009
The Hat and Feathers, Clerkenwell
Never let it be said I don't give restaurants a fair hearing. I am open-minded, even of temperament and balanced of judgement. I will gather all available information, weigh up the pros and cons and deliver an objective verdict which meticulously details the relevant points, whether good or bad. Usually. It's just that some places don't deserve a fair hearing. They need abusing, locking up and shutting down. They need barricading, quarantining and fire-bombing. They need 100ft-high billboards with giant spot lit lettering, carried over London by a phalanx of helicopters, reading "NEVER EVER HAVE LUNCH AT THE HAT AND FEATHERS". Ahem.
It may seem like I'm over-reacting, but picture the scene. Beer garden at the aforementioned Hat and Feathers pub in Clerkenwell, on a blazing hot summer's day. "Chef", sweating profusely onto the gas grille, has just produced what looks like a large grey turd from a shelf behind the counter and is pressing it into the heat. On closer inspection, the turd turns out to be a pre-cooked beefburger, solid with cold, congealed fat. After about three minutes of this activity, long enough to turn the outside black but presumably to still have a nice dense heart of lukewarm grease within, he proudly places the meat into a cold burger bun and pops a nice cold slice of Kraft cheese on top. A side order of undressed salad completes the dish.
I watched this horror unfold open-mouthed. Fortunately - oh, so fortunately - I had not yet selected my own food, so was able to cross the turdburger off the mental list and opted instead for "beef skewers". Ordering was another exercise in the bizarre and unpleasant. Approaching the bar, I couldn't help noticing the waitress had something in her mouth, and was staring wide-eyed at me as I advanced. Just as I began to speak, she reeled over and spat whatever it was (I'd really rather not ever know) into the nearest bin, then bounced back upright, saliva dribbling down her chin like an eager basset hound. It was, to say the least, off-putting, but I mumbled my order and escaped back to the beer garden before she turned into a werewolf.
The beef skewers were tiny, chewy and accompanied by a desperately depressing unseasoned green salad and bought-in pitta bread. With no accompanying sauce or moisture of any kind, it was a chore to eat even this meagre amount of food. Even worse though was a side order of chips, anaemic and flabby and reeking of old oil, the nastiest I think I've ever been served in London. A friend's salmon steak was tasteless, tiny, shrivelled and dripping in oil, and even came with a sneering £2 supplement.
And there we have probably the most awful lunch I've had anywhere for a very long time. If I was feeling even slightly charitable I suppose I could point out that £10 is not very much to spend on lunch, and the option of a beer garden will be attractive to some. But if any restaurant cares so little about their customers that they're shamelessly serving REHEATED BURGERS under the pretext of a "credit crunch" menu, then I don't have to be in the least bit generous in return. The Hat and Feathers is a cynical, incompetent establishment serving - almost literally - shit food. Please do yourself and the world a favour, and never ever go.