Thursday, 28 October 2010

Degò, Fitzrovia


Annoyingly, given the events that were to follow, Degò took quite a bit of finding. Although the address was given as 4 Great Portland Street on the website and on Google, it was only after systematically counting all the buildings up from Oxford Circus that we eventually noticed it tucked down a side street on Market Place. From the outside it looked smart enough, busy and with attractive high ceilings, although you'd be doing well to find a wine bar a few steps away from Oxford Circus that wasn't rammed on a Thursday night. Popularity, as anyone who's ever eaten at Aberdeen Angus will tell you, is no reliable sign of quality, and the meal we endured at this restaurant last night is as fine an example of this rule as almost anywhere else in the capital.



The first and only sensible thing we did last night was order a bottle of prosecco. This was all anyone else seemed to be doing, and very happy they all looked as a result, despite the slightly cheap and uncomfortable red and black décor that was probably aiming for L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon but felt rather more like a provincial nightclub. Anyway, our prosecco (a 2006 Franciacorta Brut if anyone cares) was very nice, and although it's a bit naff the geek in me liked the hole in the table they'd hollowed out for an ice bucket. It's just a shame that before too long I was thinking of less sanitary ways of using it.


"Our bread is homemade and baked daily," the waitress announced unprompted as she placed the tray in front of us. If it is, they either have an unearthly attitude to what constitutes a "day", or they consider "baking at some indeterminate point in the past and then reheating" technically the same thing. It was all horribly stale - the buns were chewy and tasteless, the breadsticks as fragile as thousand year old bones, and worst of all was the Foccacia, which was so dry and crumbly it pretty much collapsed into dust in my hands as I tried to pick it up. They were all so bad in fact that, breaking with my usual tradition, at the end of the meal I mentioned it to the same waitress, who while looking genuinely surprised didn't offer much more than a muttered apology in way of compensation.


I'm not sure how "Italian Style" these Tramezzini are, although I should say in fairness that my companion last night, who spent many years in part of the world, tells me that even back in Italy they are generally just straightforward thin-white-slices with ham and mayonnaise inside, and to that end, they were probably not far off. That's not to say I particularly enjoyed them, though. A heavy hand with the mayo meant they all just tasted like something from the shelves at Pret, and bizarrely, every other slice of bread seemed to be stale. Why every other? Had they been made a while ago and stored one side up, uncovered? Perhaps I'd rather not know.


You could have constructed a better cheese course, and for less money, by "sourcing" from ASDA. A blue goats was bitter and unpleasant, something claiming to be Robiola was cold and bland, and a lump of something that I missed the name of tasted like supermarket cheddar. A jam-like substance on a spoon was just formless, sugary gloop, and a separate tray of sliced meats was better but still deeply unadventurous - mortadella, Parma ham, and something more fatty which would have been nicer had they trimmed the inedibly solid skin off it. One of them was also ever so slightly fizzy in the mouth which was a bit worrying - I'm still here this morning though so it was just unpleasant, not actually physically damaging. Phew, right?


If all that wasn't bad enough, two items from the restaurant menu downstairs appeared that, earlier in the meal, we had ordered with the kind of mindless optimism only possessed of those who have not yet eaten at Dego. The first called itself a burrata, but this was as far from the heavenly, creamy version at Polpetto as you could possibly imagine. A rubbery prophylactic of cheap mozzarella contained semi-skimmed ejaculate which squirted out belligerently as I prodded it with my fork. It sat on a bed of tasteless chunks of tomato and was garnished with some soggy, fatty deep-fried vegetables of unknown origin and some ludicrously elephantine ears of stale crispbread. And yet, unbelievably, worse was yet to come.


It's difficult to describe just how rancid this dish of braised octopus smelled, but try and imagine a tin of tuna in brine, opened, left for a week, then eaten and expelled by a cat with Crohn's disease. It was revolting, and I was convinced it was off, but startlingly my companion claimed it was "fine" and to stop being such a pansy. I couldn't help noticing, though, that while I refused to touch it at all, she barely took more than a couple of mouthfuls before queasily declaring herself "full". Talking of pansies, you will have noticed the restaurant's entry to next year's Chelsea Flower Show in the picture above. I don't mind the odd teeny edible flower but I draw the line at being asked to eat a herbaceous border.


So not a great success, then. I should have known, when in that busy room on a Thursday night I noticed that we were the only people ordering food, that perhaps Degò's strengths lay in a different field, but quite how low the standards dropped was a constant source of morbid fascination throughout the evening. By the time I held aloft that sad, grey sack of mozzarella on the end of my fork and watched it drip thin fluid into the bowl, I was merely nauseous. After the arrival of the Fishy Pansy, I was hysterical. "At least," I remember thinking, as our pleasant waitress took back the barely-touched food, "the service has been nice", but Degò couldn't even leave me that scrap of comfort. The bill arrived, £80 for two bad enough, but with 12.5% service added and a space to add an extra tip. And with that left any last scrap of goodwill I ever had towards the place.

2/10 (for the Prosecco)

Dego on Urbanspoon

39 comments:

Going With My Gut said...

I've seen better sandwiches at M&S. Good grief. And I didn't realise till now the pansy was not on a dessert, which was the only half-explanation for the vomit-pink sauce!

So, dego a nogo then.

PS very amused that you have a "shit" category

Wen

nietzschesorphan said...

Delicious review.

Mark

Julianna Barnaby said...

Looks awful, awful, awful...

The Grubworm said...

Good grief, this sounds like a rancid place in so many different ways. Methinks I'll staying well clear if the best they can manage is dribbly rubbers and a whole series of stale/over/off foods.

An American in London said...

Highly entertaining (esp the Robuchon/provincial nightclub line), but what drew you to set foot in Dego in the first place?

I've never heard of Dego, and it doesn't sound like anything I'd ever be tempted to visit, so why does it matter that the place is sh*t?

Grumbling Gourmet said...

It's just across the road from my office and I've been in for reasonable wine and very disappointing beer since it opened. The food just hasn't looked good at all (the lumps of ham oddly appear built into a hermetically sealed display bar) and so I'm glad that you've stepped up and saved me the bother!

Rich

Chris said...

AAiL: Why does it matter? Because it's sat there, being shit, taking people's money that's why! Consider this a Public Service Announcement. I didn't know it was going to be shit before I went inside, and neither will anyone else.

An American in London said...

Chris, is your plan to write up each and every establishment in London? Just because they take customers?

I guess I'm saying I understand why some unknown place is worth reviewing when it's really good - "discoveries" are always, for lack of a better word, newsworthy (from a food/resto point of view). But I don't get the reverse - i.e., is it newsworthy when someplace anonymous is unremarkable or bad?

Chris said...

AAiL: I think it definitely is, yes. Just going to trendy or popular places is going to make for a very dull blog.

There's no Grand Plan, honestly. I just end up in places and I write them up, whatever happens.

tori said...

Highly amused at both your'shit' category and the description of the 'elephantine ears of stale crispbread'....

Douglas Blyde said...

Sorry to be pernickety, but Franciacorta is far better than Prosecco - more akin to Champagne in fact, with nothing to do with the Prosecco grape variety.

Chris said...

Douglas: This is why I never talk about wine :) Thanks for the correction, appreciated

Gin and Crumpets said...

All of that food, and I do mean all of it, looks extraordinarily unappetising. It shouldn't be possible to make simple bread and sandwiches look grim, but they have managed it. Well done them.

. said...

Great Review, There need to be more of us naming a shaming these types of pretentious establishments. It looks proper shit!

Jonathan said...

Love the shit category. And also the twitpic you sent out with the service issue highlighted.

But more importantly, what's going on with those sandwiches? Seriously. They look like something out of an service station packet in 1976. Made me shiver.

Lizzie said...

I'm glad you've written it up because being near my office and also being a 'Venetian wine bar' I was likely to visit. Now I won't.

Alex C said...

Another one to avoid then - ta.
I have to agree with you on the service charge added with room for an additional gratuity trick though. I imagine it works sufficiently often that it's worth it for the owners, but I always see red when confronted with that sort of bill.

federilli said...

Oh Dear Chris, this is awful. and WHY in the name of gosh, would a restaurant serve tramezzini! I havent had one of these for decades, and last time I did, it was probably from the Central Station cafeteria, before a train journey to other parts of Italy.

jp said...

I was very surprised to read this review and, as I don’t agree with you at all, I put in my two cents’ worth.
I've lurked your blog for weeks and I’ve really enjoyed your reviews. However, when I read this one I was at odds. You wrote it as if you weren’t judging and describing Degò but just bitching about it.
For example, don't you know that ham with skin (speck) is usually served with its own skin? As for tramezzini...Yes, those ones are made according to Italian style, because I tried them a couple of weeks ago when I went to Degò with some friends, and they were delicious.
What’s more, I was really amazed at finding great Italian wines in London and, I'm sorry, but confusing Franciacorta with Prosecco is almost like confusing a truffle with a common mushroom.
In this restaurant I ate some delicious ravioli and a great t-bone steak.
I would also like to point out that I ate downstairs, and that's probably the reason why people were just sipping wine upstairs, because where you were it is more a wine bar than a restaurant.
Anyway, I suggest to your readers to pop round to this place at least for a glass of wine, it's worth it! Maybe, the “fishy pansy” isn't their best dish (fortunately I didn’t try it) but, at Degò there are a lot of other delicious dishes (and wines!) which deserve to be tried.

JP

Chris said...

jp: It sounds like English isn't your first language - are you Italian perhaps? Putting aside for a second my very strong suspicion you have something to do with Dego (and you have my sympathies if so)...

If speck is supposed to be served with inedibly solid rind (not just the fat beneath the skin) then that's a new one one me.

The tramezzini were overly mayonnaisy and used stale bread.

I know nothing about wines, but if I'm served fizz in an Italian restaurant I'm allowed to assume it's Prosecco I think. They certainly weren't a world apart in taste.

The two dishes we ordered from the downstairs menu were the worst things we ate.

All the bread on the night I was there was literally stale. This wasn't even a point of preference - it was objectively stale and should never have been served. And it was downhill from there.

Overall, it was such a bad meal that I can't imagine it ever improving enough to be worth anyone's money. And I definitely can't recommend it to anyone.

Liza C said...

Firstly, I don’t understand your lack of professionalism. Next time, if you are going to criticize a new venue you should be an expert in what you are going to criticize, for the comments you are lacking experience and knowledge of fine food and wine.

I must say that I agree with another comment: IF you haven’t got anything good to say is better not to say anything! And what about this comment: "opened, left for a week, then eaten and expelled by a cat with Crohn's disease”; It is offensive! And the only nauseating here is a person like you, who has a spiteful way of describing things.

I don’t know what is worst or even why people including me lost our time reading the counterproductive comments that you made about different restaurants. I’m not a professional critic but I have seen, that even bad reviews increased popularity. So you are losing your time putting your nasty mind to work and making people sick of reading your blog.

And to conclude, I have to add that I’ve been in that restaurant, and I tried the Burrata. If you are a professional critic with experience tasting other restaurants Burrata, you would agree with me that the ingredients and is great quality. It has definitely nothing to do with Tesco Mozzarella, if that’s your area of expertise.
Again, to compare Franciacorta with Prosecco is like to compare Prosecco with Champagne for the method used to produce it.
Read and learn:

http://www.franciacorta.us/

Probably you got this attitude cause they made you paid for it!!

Either way, I am not even writing to describe what a good experience I had, because everyone has to try it to have his or her own opinion. I specifically mean people that enjoy good taste, and to express my view of unfounded and despicable writing of a so-called “professional critic”.

Chris said...

Are there any other Dego staff members out there who'd like to have a go? Or is that everyone?

Matt said...

Just because something is "authentic" it doesn't automatically become "good".

Laurie said...

Liza, your accusation of unprofessionalism is slightly undermined by the fact that Chris is not a professional, and neither does he "so-call" himself one.

And even if he were, surely it would be his professional duty to inform everyone of what a rotten meal he had?

restaurant_guru said...

Well, for a website that calls itself Cheese & Biscuits it's quite worrying that you don't appear to know much about cheese at all - or about the must confit normally served with it (also known as cugna', but then probably you have not heard of that either I take it?) It would also be refreshing if you could spell words such as focaccia. And thank you Douglas Blyde who left a comment, Franciacorta is indeed different from Prosecco, but you wouldn't expect Cheese & Biscuits to appreciate this probably. Dego' deserves another go.

Chris said...

So I've had most of the staff and now some poor fool employed to do their PR.

restaurant_guru / Louisa: Good luck with this client, you're going to need it.

Just to reiterate, though, if I even needed to, the cheese was cheap, the bread stale and the rest of the food bloody awful. Dego, by anyone's standards, is an incredibly bad restaurant.

Jeremy Mercer-Deadman said...

Man, this is hilarious!

Chopstix2Steaknives said...

This is almost hilarious and bordering on pathetic!
To those who left negative comments, you seem to be making personal attacks which is not cool.

Paying customers have a right to their opinions and if a place is not good, I would want to know, thanks Cheese n Biscuits! That's the whole point of food blogs.

SP said...

I am amazed at some of the comments made on this blog... How can Chris get away with such attacks? I believe in freedom of speech, don't get me wrong, but was it really justified to 'accuse' JP of being Italian, to call Louisa a 'fool'?

And how can you be so narrow-minded and think only Dego staff enjoy this restaurant?

You offer a review of the restaurant - and yet only staqyed in the osteria, where wine degustations should be enjoyed...

You obviously had a bad experience but that is not enough to categorise a restaurant in such terms - every one has a bad day once in a while, you too I guess, and would it be really fair for others to judge you just on this?

I would encourage you to give Dego another try. I went with friends, and ended up spending the entire evening there. The waiters, the sommelier and the owner were simply charming, knowledgeable, but never boastful. I discovered some amazing wines, such as the Chardonnay Jale, and tasted a great Burrata - which is, by the way, supposed to be the way you described it. You don't have to like it, but you shouldn't write so spitefully. True, your cheese board does not look so appealing on your picture, but when I went, I was pleasantly surprised by the presentation and quality of the cheeses and meats. After all, the osteria/restaurant had only just opened when you went. You might want to be more indulgent. I, for one, would totally recommend this place - for wine degustation upstairs, or for a proper meal and cocktails downstairs. Try the Negroni - particularly delicious...

tehbus said...

I agree SP. Chris must be a despicable human being. He can't spell, he doesn't like stale bread and he clearly has a thing against flowers. I think if you haven't got anything nice to say about somewhere you spent good money on and which managed to violate your taste buds to such an extent, that you should just keep them to yourselves and let other people experience the octopus, potato, pink goo dish for themselves. Some of them might even LIKE the flower.

Anonymous said...

These reviews don't looks the same, even the pictures. Seems you are talking rubbish just because you have paid for the meal?????not really nice!

http://www.mostlyfood.co.uk/#Dego_restaurant_and_wine_bar

http://www.foodepedia.co.uk/restaurant-reviews/2010/nov/dego_portland_house.htm

Jeremy Mercer-Deadman said...

Right grab your pitchforks & burning torches and let's head to Chris's house!

How bloody dare you have an opinion Christopher!??! Not to mention the sheer audacity to post said opinion on a blog YOU edit (I suspect blogger bias to your own opinion)?! Despicable behaviour.

I agree with a previous comment, stick to telling us about the places that you enjoyed and maybe lie about the places that were just downright bad so to avoid hurting peoples feelings...

I think you should retire your keyboard and appetite and take a long look at yourself and your actions!

Or

Just continue writing an amusing and informative blog... Up to you sir!

Mark said...

Even if I were to go to Degos after this food review (not that I would!), I most certainly wouldn't after seeing the way their staff have reacted!
If you guys put this much effort into your actual job, maybe you wouldn't suck!

Sarah said...

Ha! I wonder if the staff and pr 'guru' know how much worse they make Dego look???

Krista said...

You know what cracked me up? The name. OK, it's spelled Dego and has an accent on it. But when I first saw it, I thought "dago" (excuse me if I offend anyone) and that is a very bad word. At least in American English.
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=dago

Fatty said...

This is unbelievable. Bad reviews are something you should learn from, and use to develop your menu. By being so defensive and aggressive you'll only serve to put even more people off.

Just say sorry Dego, and try a bit harder with the food maybe? It doesn't take a genius to work that out. And I don't even work in PR!

Adamvdb said...

This very entertaining spat must be providing some much neede publicity to both parties.

Anonymous said...

I must say you sound like an unpleasant bully. Anyone who disagrees with your opinion is either working for the restaurant or a fool. Look at other website reviews of this place and you will find plenty of people raving about how good it is. I have eaten there twice and had a fantastic experience both times. (And I have no connection to the restaurant - I stumbled on your review while looking for the restaurant website so I could recommend it to an Italian friend.) You visited once and had a bad experience. In fairness, if you are going to be so negative about someone's livelihood, you should be fair-minded enough to visit more than once, after giving a new opening time to bed in. I shudder to think how much it costs to open a place like this so close to Oxford Circus and any attempt to offer quality in this area should be encouraged. Your friends who agree with your review without judging the place for themselves are missing something special. IMHO. The wine list alone tells you these guys really care about what they are doing.

Howard said...

I see that Restaurant Guru also does PR for Spaghetti House, so this is probably a step (at least) sideways.