Tuesday, 10 July 2012
10 Greek Street, Soho
There are some people, amongst both bloggers and professional critics, who like playing the role of contrarian. They'll be the first to call out any given foodie trend as having jumped the shark (usually before most of the rest of us have even heard of it), will delight in posting the first negative review of a universally adored restaurant just to see what kind of reaction they can provoke, and will huff and puff and roll their eyes at any indication that anything so utterly tedious as a consensus is forming about where to eat or drink.
Which is all fine, of course - it wouldn't do if we were all the same. And perhaps there is something rather depressingly sheep-like about watching the same group of people falling over each other to lavish praise on the latest burger joint or trendy Dalston roof-top popup; one of the side-effects of there being so many food blogs knocking around these days is that if you are trying to follow them (or, God help you, if you have a professional interest in doing so) you will see the same names and personalities being frothed over again and again. I can see how that might be annoying, even if as one of the people most likely to be doing the frothing (as it were), I'm in no position to judge.
But love it or loathe it, consensus exists for a reason. There may not be any such thing as an objectively perfect place that literally anyone would love, but if somewhere gets a good review in the Metro, or your favourite food blog, or even from your best friend, chances are you're going to like it too. There would be no food blogs or food critics or restaurant guides of any kind if our preferences weren't shared to some degree with other fellow humans; after all, essentially we all want the same things from wherever we decide to spend our dinner money - good food, good value and somewhere nice to enjoy it. Consensus may be boring, it may occasionally be quite irritating, but there's no better way of choosing somewhere to eat.
With all that in mind, then, I was thoroughly expecting to enjoy everything about 10 Greek Street. The consensus (there's that word again) was clear in its favour, from the short list of attractive and accessible dishes, to the bright room populated by obliging staff, to the apparently very reasonable wine list that those more knowledgeable than me about such things (that would be more or less everyone then) declared one of the best in town. So what went wrong?
There was certainly nothing wrong with the house bread, which was very good indeed, particularly a lovely crusty focaccia. This was presented with the glorious words "are you OK with tap water?", and for no supplementary cover charge either, so we were off to a cracking start. But I'm afraid once the food proper started arriving, things went downhill. The razor clams in my starter, for example, each came complete with a huge brown bladder of un-purged fish waste, which was pretty unpleasant. Why they'd gone to all the trouble of properly shelling broad beans but not bothering to remove the gritty sacs of clam guts was a bit of a mystery. I'm all for rustic presentations but I draw the line at being asked to eat shit.
I realise complaining of pork belly being "too fatty" is inviting criticism, but this was hard work to eat. Perhaps a stronger sauce would have made it more palatable, or longer slower cooking to render off more of the wobbly fat, but to be honest I'm not sure. All I know is, the pork was piggy jelly accompanied by half decent vegetables and cost a whacking £19. A friend's ricotta-filled courgette flower was mealy and unsatisfying; no better than the pork although it was £5 cheaper.
With no wine, the bill for two (two courses each) came to £49. Service wasn't included, so we quite happily added on £6; although the food was pretty uneven, we couldn't complain about the front of house. But it was a total that still asked too much for what was pretty sloppy cooking, and I can think of better ways of spending this kind of money on lunch, not least Duck Soup around the corner on Dean Street which has an altogether more skilful set of hands in the kitchen. So, for once on this usually consensus-happy blog, I find myself playing the part of the contrarian. 10 Greek Street has little but praise from anyone I've ever spoken to who's been there, and yet here I am having to leave it a rather mediocre review. Ah well, plenty more clams in the sea.