Tag Archives: restaurants

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.”

Wedding Breakfast

Last week I went to a wedding breakfast.  Literally.  The ceremony was a short registry office affair which Mr Harris and I witnessed at Chelsea Old Town Hall at 9.15 and by 9.45 we were seated in Chelsea Quarter Café, perusing the menu.

 I thought of saying to my husband, “see, we could have done it like that!” but then thought better of it.  When Mr Harris first proposed to me, I had suggested a registry office affair, followed by lunch with a few nearest and dearest.  I envisioned myself in a chic Italian Jackie O-style ivory cocktail dress ensemble with ¾ length jacket and a birdcage veil.  But that suggestion (the registry office ceremony, not the dress) went down like a cup of cold sick.  And so, we did it all.  The long ivory dress & morning suit.  The Church of England ceremony.  The silver Daimler.  The John Lewis gift list.  The ridiculously expensive floral arrangements.  The champagne reception with live jazz pianist.  The three course Livery Hall dinner, complete with speeches, specifically designed to induce stress to the bride and groom and halt digestion of the large meal just consumed.  We had day guests.  We had evening guests.  And we all danced the night away to the band before my husband whisked me away to a chic Clerkenwell hotel.

But back to the wedding breakfast.  The happy groom suggested ordering a bottle of champagne (perfectly reasonable, I thought) until his equally happy, but 5 months’ pregnant new wife gave him an incredulous glance and we all opted for freshly pressed juices instead.  Probably for the best, as Mr Harris was on a tight schedule – he had to get to Corrigan’s of Mayfair for a client’s retirement lunch by 12.45pm.  (A broker’s life is a difficult one, you see.)

The groom & I both ordered eggs Florentine, served with the thickest and yellowiest hollandaise I’ve ever seen in my life.  But not thick or yellow in a horrible, fake way.  It was delicious.  Mr Harris, ever the traditionalist, went for eggs Benedict.  And the bride went for a sausage & egg butty.  It was all excellent.  I downed the last of my ginger, apple and carrot juice as the groom took care of the bill, and by 11.30 we had all wended our way to Sloane Square tube station and said our goodbyes.

As I made my way home on the tube, I thought about how relaxed and pleasant the whole affair had been.  I wondered why more weddings weren’t like this.  I thought of the newlyweds, and I silently cheered “well done you two”.