Wednesday, 17 July 2013
Slabs is not a bad restaurant. I thought I'd get that out of the way before we go any further, because I have a feeling that once I get stuck into the details, it's going to seem like there are more problems with the place than there really are. But actually, in the grand scheme of things, Slabs is fine. Not great, not even particularly good, but certainly not bad. Just... fine.
Unfortunately for Slabs, though, we're at the stage where "just fine" just doesn't cut it. Maybe five or six years ago, before a strange, dingy little spot above an unreconstructed boozer in New Cross set the template for a burger empire, before Pitt Cue fired up their smoker, even before Hawksmoor had thrown the first inch-thick slab of Yorkshire longhorn onto the coals at Spitalfields, before all this perhaps Slabs would have felt like an adventure. Perhaps. But now, in 2013, with Patty & Bun to one side and MeatLiquor on the other, it all just seems a bit pointless.
Especially when you consider the prices. Sure, the basic beef burger is "only" £6.95, same as a MeatLiquor green chilli cheeseburger, but add cheese (£1.50), bacon (another £1.50) and a pot of blue cheese sauce (yet another £1.50) and you're staring down the barrel of the best part of £15 with service. Pictured above is the basic offering customised with two types of cheese and fried onions, and though pretty enough is not what you could call a bargain. The bland beef was overcooked to grey, and the blue cheese sauce tasted of little more than double cream.
The "Spanish burger", at a rather more punchy £13.95, was at least nice and pink inside, but had a strange, dense, bitty texture with no chorizo tang at all. And although the idea of topping a chorizo burger with manchego has a certain geographical appeal, the reality is that 30 seconds after arriving on the table, said cheese has turned into a thick, cold layer of plastic that was nothing more than an irritation. The crispy Serrano ham and aioli were both very welcome though, so it wasn't a complete disaster.
Chips came in two formats - 'Skinny French Fries' (decent if unspectacular French bistro-style frites, rather than the thinner American style) and 'Thick Hand Cut Triple Cooked Chips' which had a good taste and crunch but were let down by being floury and pappy inside. I believe a lot of restaurants are struggling with the quality of potatoes this year though, so I won't mark them down too harshly for that.
But you can see where this is going. Nothing to get too worked up about, nothing to write home about. I can't say I'm desperate to try the £20 lobster burger, because for a few quid more I think I'd rather have the one from Bob Bob Ricard, and offering just a tail and claw of North Devon lobster for a whacking £25 seems very mean with Burger & Lobster ten minutes away doing the whole beast for £20. There are chicken wings (of course), a steak (natch) and a token veggie option that steals Byron's idea of swapping beef for portobello mushroom. It's all very... familiar; the menu ticks off all the usual suspects of London/American comfort food dining without doing anything fresh or exciting enough to warrant even a second glance.
So... yeah. I can't honestly think of anything else to say. Staff were very friendly and brought what we ordered, the room had tables and chairs that we could sit on, and the food did not kill us. Slabs serves wholly unoriginal yet inoffensive American burgers etc. for slightly more money than you'd normally expect to pay for this kind of thing, stopping somewhat short of complete ripoff. I have no reason to return, and nobody else has any reason to go in the first place. Ho hum.