Thursday 6 October 2011

Bread Street Kitchen, St Pauls

I think people have every right to be suspicious of the motives of a man who, already very wealthy from a string of restaurants around the world (not to mention television shows, book deals and product endorsements), decides to open yet another vast, multi-million-pound site. When is enough, enough? Will Gordon Ramsay ever sit down and think "you know what, I think I'm OK for money now. Once we get through this last batch of Gordon Ramsay Milk Frothers (RRP £40) I'm packing it all in and retiring to the Seychelles."

Maybe I'm being cynical in assuming it's even that much about the money anyway. Perhaps Bread Street Kitchen isn't intended to be a cash cow, just the kind of classy, New York meatpacking district restaurant, with its "raw bar" and classic cocktail list, that he himself enjoys eating in and wants to put his name to. You have to say this for Gordon Ramsay - he's never tried to start a Jamie's Italian-style chain of Ramsay Lites, and all his places, successful (Royal Hospital Road) or not (various defunct gastropubs), certain boil-in-the-bag fiascos aside, have at least looked like serious places to eat. As, in fact, does Bread Street Kitchen.

This monumentally huge room, very deliberately expensively decked out, is, even before you get as far as ordering so much as a glass of tap water, a fantastic place to spend an evening. I particularly enjoyed the way a mezzanine level had been built above the bar for rows of backlit wine cabinets, and everything from the furniture to the humorous bric-a-brac lighting was bold and beautiful. As I'm sure I've mentioned before, I only ever notice décor if it's either really bad or really good, and this was definitely the latter.

It's interesting though isn't it, that when restaurants throw huge wads of cash at décor it more often than not shows, whilst doing the same thing for food just produces... expensive food, with no guarantee of quality. Don't get me wrong, the meal we had at Bread Street Kitchen was "nice", "good" even but it seems all too easy to spend way over your budget here and end up with a succession of solid, competent dishes that never quite seem like value. Take the starters:

Stone bass carpaccio with avocado, horseradish and ginger was fine. Rather muted in flavour and we could have done with something more citrusy than horseradish to cut through the blobs of avocado mayonnaise, but still perfectly edible. It was £11 though, and whilst I'm sure that price point has been studied and sculpted by the Ramsay top brass so as to very carefully just fall on the right side of "taking the piss", it's still slightly unnerving. And my tamarind chicken wings certainly lived up to their name, drowning in seemingly nothing but a rather one-note sharp tamarind sauce; they were cooked well with a nice crispy skin though.

Mains were better, but maybe it only seems like that because I went for the cheaper option - an £11 burger - while my friend had a stonking £24 veal chop. Readying myself for yet another "I'm a celebrity please don't sue me" cooked-through greyfest a la Barbecoa, I was delighted to find that the Bread St Kitchen burger is cooked medium rare, and contains a generous (if a bit cricket-ball-shaped) portion of good beef. Topped only with sliced pickles, a gooey layer of remarkably Ogleshield-like Bermondsey Frier cheese ("inspired" rather than "ripped off" from Hawksmoor, perhaps) and with a silky, solid brioche bun, I particularly liked the fact there was no tomato or huge chunks of iceberg in it, just a very thin layer of shredded lettuce underneath. Whilst not perfect, it was still one of the better "gourmet" burgers I've had recently and I was genuinely impressed. The aforementioned veal chop, too, was fantastic - moist inside with thick ribbons of creamy fat, seared to crispy loveliness on the outside and served on the bone.

It seems a bit mean to point a finger at service when the place has hardly been open a month, but while it was never unpleasant or annoying, it was occasionally hilariously scatty. I ordered a daiquiri, it arrived on the rocks but just as I was taking my first sip a waitress appeared next to my table with another one, this time in a martini glass. I looked up, mid-slurp, and before I had a chance to say anything she turned heels and scooted off. At one point during the meal champagne glasses were placed on our table, then following a furtive "not that table" from a more senior front of house, were silently whisked away. Less endearing was the fact that a cocktail I had ordered and they couldn't produce (they'd run out of dry ice - yes it was that kind of cocktail) still appeared on the bill, but it was easily and quickly corrected. I'm sure these kinds of things will settle down so it should never be a reason in of itself not to visit.

So, there's nothing drastically wrong with the place, it's beautifully decked out, the food is fine, the cocktails (based on my daiquiri and what some of my blogger friends have told me about the launch night) are well made and the staff were always charming if not always on the same planet. But, as ever, it all comes down to that question of value. For £42 a head with just one alcoholic drink and two courses each (plus a side), it's expensive. And hand on heart I can't see myself making a special journey to St Pauls (which is not very near to where I work or where I live) when there are places doing this kind of thing better elsewhere, for less. But if you find yourself in the area, desperate for a burger and a cocktail, have £40 burning a hole in your pocket and quite fancy a meal endorsed by an internationally famous celebrity chef, you can certainly do much worse. Jamie Oliver must be seething.


Bread Street Kitchen on Urbanspoon


The Perfect Trough said...


good shout on the cricket ball shaped burger, I like the meat to match the bun in size.

I'll probably go (sucker for chicken wings) but it all just seems so City meathead - excuse the pun.

And GR is a bit of a greedy sellout.

Gavin said...

It is a fantastic space. I was a bit surprised by the 'pre-distressed' church hall stylee stacking chairs 'tho. Didn't look too comfortable either. As you say, OK for a drink & a burger (but not better than Goodman or Hawksmoor).

Anonymous said...

dude who won the book from last week?

Chris Pople said...

anon: Sorry! Just sorting that out now.

Katy Salter @ Pinch of Salt said...

Thought this place was never going to open! Doesn't look half bad and I do work nearby would have to be a special occasion. Out of interest, have you been back to Barbecoa lately? Haven't been since it opened but heard they've ironed out a lot of the opening problems. Having Ramsay and Olive franchises next door to each other could keep the competition healthy!

Anonymous said...

Chris Pople said...

Katy: I have been back to Barbecoa yes, they asked me back to try the burger, and it was rubbish. I believe they've upped their game on the steaks though, and the butcher has always been good (as far as I've been told).

Katy Salter @ Pinch of Salt said...

Interesting! I'm going back there soon, will report back. Might not order the burger though!

ChrisBarker said...

Good review, but why are people "suspicious of the motives" of Gordon Ramsey just because he's rich? He's worked hard to build his restaurant empire and he's still making good food. Not everyone who appears on TV is a sellout.
Having said that, I don't think I'll be going to the restaurant except out of curiosity. £84 is a lot to throw at a couple of meals (and I doubt I'll get to eat there free for now...)

Anonymous said...

I eat in Gordon Ramsays restraunts when I visit London. I am not rich, no where near. He and his team have never let me down. Maze, Petrus, The Narrow, all superb meals and atmosphere.
All of them serving whats on the menu. Many places elswhere can not seem to do this.
I also read and use his books. His briliant knowledge, makes for ,superb results.
Just desserts and Great escape India are clasics. Playing with Fire and Humble Pie are an ispiration to us all.
A truly Great Britain! Lets give him our support!
GR is no sell out,he offers some great value and does it well.
Lets face it you dont see many of the other chefs going sub zero underwater for King Crab in to the jungle, for ant chutney. Except for maybe 'I was a celeb get me out of here'.

Anonymous said...

Great review by the way, will be in the Smoke soon, so this is very helpfull.
I am on the RocknRoll , so money is tight.

ferdiesfoodlab said...

Heard a lot about Bread Street Kitchen what you've written seems to be about right. You should come along to mine with some friends and see what you make of it! I''d be bricking it but you'd be welcome! :) Simon