Sunday, March 30, 2008

Smiths of Smithfield (SOS)

In terms of lifestyle, transport and dining, London probably fares best with the latter with so much to offer in terms of eating out. You get to taste some of the world's best culinary creation here, but more importantly to me, there is a general higher quality of eateries even for the less pompous/celebrity chefs loaded restaurants. No one could really afford those expensive dinners all the time, and even if you see them and wonder, they're probably on company's expenses for client meetings etc :)

Here's a continuation of my quest to search for non pretentious, interesting and of course delicious food across London. I usually give those big Michelin dudes a miss since they've already enough media attention and cash flow for the moment, time to search for underdogs worth supporting. However, this time I chose to try out John Torode's Smiths of Smithfield (SOS) in trendy Clerkenwell, a place famous for nice pubs, bars and good nightlife. Seems like a perfect place to bring a friend who loves meat or a good steak.

John Torode is a well known food writer and TV presenter, and more recently one of the judges of the chef spotting talent show in BBC Two called "Masterchef Goes Large". Born in Australia, he is acknowledged as one of the player who introduced Australasian food in the UK. I would say he marketed himself as a meat specialist, sourcing fresh quality produces from farmers all of UK.

SOS is located near London's Smithfield market, boasting a 4 floor restaurant with a different theme to each, with formality increasing the higher you go, interesting eh? So the ground floor has loads of comfy couches, a comprehensive bar and some DJ-ing, good for breakfast, lunch or a quick bite anytime of the day. 1st floor focuses on wine/champagne tasting and appreciation, accompanied with exquisite light bites to match the drinks. There is a floor dedicated to private parties too, where you can hire private rooms for those special occasions. 2nd floor is the place to be for a nice ambiance, solid oak tables and chairs with candlelights, with the ability to peep at the chefs doing their work at the semi-opened kitchen. The highest floor is for those who crave a fine dining experience with breathless rooftop view of the city, completed with an extensive wine list and broader fresh seafood/meat selection.

Talk about price discrimination eh? This guy is probably the first I've seen that applies this economic principle to restaurants! Anyways, its good to book in advance and they do online booking which is handy. Up to 2nd floor we went, and for starters we chose something true to the Australasian theme, which is Lucky Squid, Chilli Jam and Chinese Broccoli. With a hint of hot, salty yet sweet spiciness of sambal, fresh squid with lightly blanched crunchy leaves - done to perfection. Apologies for the bad lighting of the photo, ambiance was dark and I don't Photoshop them, its as original as it gets :)

For mains, P decided to forgo the steaks and try something different - Crisp Belly of Pork, Mash Potato and Green Sauce. Presentation wise a bit odd, mash potato was all right, and the belly pork was crispy and nice, but I would say the green sauce didn't really go that well with it. Missing something that plays down the good work done on the pork really. Nothing outstanding.

I had something memorable as well, but that is two-fold. I think it was Roast Cod on a bed of PuyLentils, taste wise unmemorable, bland tasting lentils and cod was safe, lightly salted and pan fried till crisp, nothing exciting. But what was MEMORABLE was the really bad tummy ache that it gave me on the way home on the tube. Imagine having to stifle the pain and persevere till you run (with a bad tummy ache) out of the tube to the nearest loo and pray to the toilet god in many ways.

But yes I shall digress from going into too much details into that, but it is just so disappointing with a place capable of offering so much more ends up failing in hypocrisy. This is why time and time again I feel that all these publicity sometimes has adverse effects on a good chef, breeding complacency and being too business-like, starting to lose the very key passion or role of an excellent chef - to prepare and share a good culinary creations. This is not a generalization however, there are some level headed chefs out there that maintain or even increase the level of their work with pride, upon the recognition for their work.

To end things with a less serious note, I saw the name of this random lane that made the dinner memorable for sure :P

Smiths of Smithfield
67-77 Charterhouse Street

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hahah talk about real price discrimination eh..but im pretty sure even the lowest cutoff in the restaurant is expensive ahhaha

the food doesnt look as bad as it sounds though..let me try to look around here and see if i can find any restaurant related to him!!