Saturday, 28 April 2007

Olive Magazine article on Spreadeagle

Back in December I emailed Olive Magazine to ask if I could write a review of a restaurant for their Pro vs Punter feature. Amazingly they got back to me saying they would like me to write 200 words on a restaurant I had been to recently and that they would then think about it...

So I wrote a review of our recent trip to Bacchus with Oli and Mariana:

Inspired by Marina O’Loughlin, we made decided to trek out to Shoreditch to sample boil in the bag cooking East End Style. At 8 the smart dining area seemed disturbingly empty but soon filled up with noisy locals and keen foodies, eager to see what all the fuss was about.

Service ranged from naïve to expert as the owner/head waiter taught his fresh staff on the job. The freshly baked bread was the best we had eaten all year even though we had to add our own salt to give it a bit of zing.

Starters were sublime; Scallops cooked sous vide with a subtle cauliflower puree were delicious if a little bit like a Foxton’s home – too beige and a bit homogenous; calamari gently warmed for a day or so were the most tender rings of squid any of us had ever had the pleasure to eat; and my duck cannelloni was beautifully textured if a little bit low on flavour. This was a theme with the meat throughout our meal – fish was brilliant sous vide, meat wasn’t… my rare steak was plain dull whereas the halibut was sensationally juicy with flesh that was firm but fell apart if you gave it an intense glare.

The highlight of the meal was the range of foamy deserts. Cinnamon pie with apple air and Malden was outrageously weird, assaulting my taste buds with such veracity that I could only laugh deliriously. Having eaten at the Fat Duck it’s safe to say that Heston is safe in Bray for the time being, however Bacchus was much more fun and I’d love to return.

And remarkably they replied to me asking if I would like to review the Speadeagle restaurant in Greenwich for the March edition. So on January 2nd Cowie and I trekked down to South East London...

First Impressions

Fresh from a refurbishment, this homely, high class French restaurant is housed in an enchanting art gallery full of 18 Century paintings of Greenwich at its highest ebb. A cosy fire and waitress kept us company in the stylish, but empty bar before we dined. Our fellow guests were a mix of locals drawn by the excellent reputation this establishment has. A restaurant in Greenwich is always going to rely on its fan base being locally rather than recruiting customers from further afield. Getting there was fine. Escaping Greenwich was far harder!

Our discussion of what to choose on the menu started in hushed tones owing to the lack of fellow diners – but as the evening progressed you could feel the restaurant collectively relax.

The Food


There’s not one thing we didn’t want to tuck into on the menu. Even the veggie options sounded delicious. I started with foie gras with poppy seeds, quince puree and caramelised girolles which was silky smooth and magnificently goosey. Whilst the sweetness of the quince balanced the depth and saltiness of the fois gras perfectly we were disappointed by the presentation and the homogeneity of the texture. Some crunch would have transformed this dish.

The fricassee of langoustine and squid with beef bresaola was a very interesting dish – a very sophisticated version of surf and turf! The beef was a slightly gamey slice of deep red carpaccio that complimented rather than contrasted with the langoustine and squid combination. Again the textures were a bit limp and would have been aided by a hint of citrus zing.


Roasted Lobster with rosemary, red pepper veloute and mushroom croquette arrived, much to my disappointment without its shell. Nevertheless it was plump, juicy and covered in the most deliciously sweet and scarlet pepper sauce which almost made up for the lobster’s lack of shell. The sorry looking mushroom croquettes were a waste of time. I adore mushrooms but can only think these were either meant for the children’s menu or were a flourish of experimentalism by a very talented and ambitious chef. The dish would have been better for their absence.

The seared fillet of beef arrived with an incredibly convincing Jerusalem artichoke sauce that reminded me of my grandmother’s famous fartichoke soup. I shouldn’t be rude though because this was arguably the highlight of a meal. The artichoke stole the show. Sweet, creamy, slippery and firm the artichoke made the advertised star of the show look like an extra. Whilst the brilliance of the artichoke is a good thing it did nothing for the balance of the plate. The steak was completely upstaged and not helped at all by being sliced up and a bit tough.

All the dishes had the same DNA. On the positive side the sauces were deep and smooth as you would expect from a top class French chef and the flavours were subtle and intelligent. Unfortunately we felt that all the dishes were under seasoned and the fish dishes would have benefited from a touch of lemon. We also felt that the textures lacked development – your teeth


Charming staff made you feel like you belong. The Albanian head waiter was in complete control making you feel that you are in very safe hands. The waitress who greeted us helped us select an excellent bottle of Vouvray which we felt like inviting her to share with us. Throughout our meal questions were answered quickly and with great pride although I would have liked a satisfactory answer to question about where the lobster and the beef had been sourced from.

The Verdict

Chez Bruce this isn’t quite. The food’s not as accomplished or as well rounded, but the ambiance and history mean that it could outdo its Wandsworth equivalent. It’s a charming, modern take on classic French cooking all situated in a place that’s almost impossible to get home from… unless you are lucky enough to have this cracking restaurant as your local. In which case it probably makes living in Greenwich a joy.

The Maths

Food 7
Atmosphere 6
Service 9

Total 22/30

Jonathan’s bill for two including 3 courses and a bottle of wine was £104 with service.

Olive edited the review a little bit but it didn't change much. I was really pleased to see that Gregg Wallace had written a really similar review. I think there was about 4 marks between us. I got lucky cos the month after, the review was of a fish and chip shop in Suffolk which got a combined total of 10 points with a spend of £20!

Here's the article in all its glory.


Sid Khullar said...

Thats neat. I wish I could get someone to publish *my* stuff!


Browners said...

Glad you like it Sid! Was really fun to appear in Olive...

Looking forward to the next one. Fingers crossed.


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