Tag Archives: city of london

Marco Pierre White Steak & Alehouse

Disappointing restaurants.

The world is full of them.  I’ve eaten at disappointing restaurants in Paris, Monaco, Lisbon, Prague, Toronto, New York, Boston, Mexico City, Miami and a myriad of other obscure towns and cities across the globe.  I am sorry to say that London is no exception and I have experienced rather a lot of disappointing meals here in the Big Smoke.  In some places, the food was mediocre; in some, the food was awful.  In others yet, the food was great but the service was awful.  Despite the variations, they all can be described as disappointing.

I feel an almost civic sense of duty to record these episodes, not only as a warning to my fellow gastronomes and gastronomists, but as also as a way of saying to these chefs & front of house managers:  Its just not good enough.

So, on the week we say a sad farewell to my favourite chef of all time, the late, great Charlie Trotter, and on a happier note, we also see Jamie Oliver accept his Honorary Fellowship from the RCGP for his work on childhood nutrition, I turn my eyes, stomach & pen to another celebrity chef:  Marco Pierre White.

So, first off, let me say, my husband loves steak.  I repeat, my husband LOVES steak.  So when I wanted to treat him to a special meal out, I thought “Marco Pierre White Steak & Alehouse – how could I go wrong?”

When we arrived in this basement eatery, I was a little underwhelmed by the interior.  I mean, it was ok.  It just looked a bit like a tired, worn out, MDF, stripmall chain version of a decent restaurant.


This is what they want you think it looks like inside…


…this is what it actually looks like inside

I can sum up the rest of the visit in a single paragraph.  The food was fine.  The kitchen was slow. The service was slow. The orders were wrong – twice.  The front of house were obviously not happy (or they made a jolly good effort to make themselves look pretty miserable) and the restaurant was severely understaffed – at many points there was not a single waiter to be found on the dining room floor.

Now – this bit is cruel – but being so close to Liverpool Street Station, the atmosphere reeked of train station pub – a bit Wetherspoons-esque.  Also, the clientele were, well, mostly a bit of an odd mix.  There were a lot of Essex couples (and by that I don’t mean people from Essex, I mean TOWIE wannabees), a few City secretaries on a night out, some oddly mismatched Internet first dates and a couple of wierd American tourists.

Three hours after entering the restaurant, we emerged, feeling both slightly poorer and in a vague state of shock.

So, I was thinking that Marco Pierre White might find my branding experience helpful and I offer him – free of charge – a new strapline which he is welcome to use on any promotional print or web-based material:

MPW Steak & Alehouse

Come for the adequate steak.  Stay because we’ll take an hour to get it to your table.”

Flour Art on Bread Street

I work in the City of London.

For those who don’t live in London, it doesn’t mean the city of London.  That includes places like Oxford Street, Knightsbridge and Covent Garden.  I’m talking about the City of London – with a capital ‘C’.  Its the old Roman square mile which is now one of the world’s major financial districts.  And to those who work there, it feels more like working in a small town.  On Cheapside, at the western edge of the City near St Paul’s Cathedral, the streets still are named for the goods which would have been sold there in Wren’s day.  (‘Cheap’ meaning ‘market’ in Medieval English.  Apparently in Medieval times, the conduits of Cheapside would flow with wine on state occasions.  Now its just filled with swish American-style champagne bars and celebrity chef restaurants.)

There’s Milk Street. Honey Lane. Poultry.  Old Fish Street (as opposed to Fish Street Hill leading up from Old Billingsgate Fish Market near London Bridge).  And Bread Street.

I work closest to the last of these, and having qualified as a baker many years ago, I was delighted to see an artist – I didn’t catch her name – setting up her temporary exhibit there.  Sound, texture, visuals, history, food, recipes and poetry – A charming mingling of baking, art and history stencilled in white flour on the street.  I found it shocking to see the other City workers walking through the display, scuffing the flour poetry under their Louboutins – too busy with their BlackBerries and urban stress to notice.

I asked if she minded if I took a few photographs.  She was more than happy for me to do so, and I thought I’d share them here.

What you won’t be able to appreciate from the photographs is the accompanying background soundtrack of 17th century bustling market sounds, echoeing off the walls of this small alleyway off Bread Street.