£24.50 for a tablespoon of Risotto with few small chunks of King crab claw???? Somebody call the police, because i've been robbed!
Its not often that i leave a restaurant with the feeling that i have been ripped-off, but lunch today was nothing short of daylight robbery. L'Etranger in Gloucester Road, opened its doors in 2002 and despite it literally being a 10 minute walk from my house, i never felt obliged to make the short journey to eat there. However over the past year, the name L'Etranger has been cropping up on TV shows, in magazines and winning recognition and awards, so i felt it was time to pay them a visit with my good friend Stony in tow.
I vetted the menu online in advance and it really did look superb. French-Oriental fusion, boasting everything from your classic French beef tartare, using the finest Charolais beef to the more fusion Eastern dish of tuna tartare with a lightly spiced soya dressing. The list of starters (or Entrees if you're feeling French) were packed with delicious and exciting sounding dishes, that i couldn't wait to try. The main courses all sounded great, especially with a special section listing their house specialities and signature dishes, i was very much looking forward to sinking my teeth in to them.
I arrive at the restaurant, staff are curteous and seat me at my preferred corner table on the plush banquette, adjacent to a beautiful cellar room where a group are dining. We open the menu and to my great disappointment, the menu is just a fraction of its online listing and i fear we have fallen victim to the dreaded "Reduced A La Carte" menu, that literally gives you a few choices in each section. We chose the tuna tartare, crispy chilli squid and the oysters. All three dishes were as you'd expect... perfectly good, but not anything extraordinary. I was more than satisfied, but wished that we were able to choose from the full menu, to have perhaps had the chance to try something more exciting.
The main course is really where my disappointment came. My friend ordered 'Pyrenees Confit Shoulder of Lamb with Grilled Aubergine & Onion Chutney' and i chose the exotic sounding 'Roast King Crab, Yozu Kosho Butter with Crab & Chive Risotto'. I balked at the plate when it was placed in front of me... I couldn't believe how tiny the portion was, especially as my dish cost a hefty £8 more than my friends, so to see literally a few mouthfuls on my plate, disturbed me. £24.50 for 4 mouthfuls and not a dollop of Beluga caviar or white truffle in sight? Well its just wrong isnt it??!!! What i found quite hilarious was that the dipping sauce container, despite being just 2 inches squared, almost dwarfed the actual food entirely! Ok, so the risotto was good, there is no doubting that, but the crab was fiddly and i had to keep spitting shell and other inedible bits out, which really put me off and could have also been quite dangerous had i been less careful. For £24.50, you'd think they pay extra special attention to ensuring you don't choke on your food!
My friend said that his lamb dish was somewhat unspecial and that he had eaten better lamb in Morocco for just a couple of quid. I tried it for myself and whilst certainly more generous than my own portion, it was disappointing. The lamb lacked lustre and definitely needed some type of seasoning or marinade to uplift it. The aubergines consisted of two tiny baby aubergine halves that were each the size of your little finger. The onion marmalade (which had a bizarrely plastic neon yellow look about them) seemed to be the only thing that my friend actually thought special.
Overall a big disappointment, especially with the state of the economy, i think it is just wrong to charge people such astronomical prices, if only to offer food that is nothing more than mediocre at best. Even worse is when you pay a decent amount of money for your food and you leave the restaurant feeling hungry! Needless to say i skipped dessert and headed straight to my favourite ice cream parlour for some much needed creamy-dreamy-consoling of the chocolate and pistachio variety. I got home a couple of hours later and feeling hungry, i attacked some salami Felino and a pesto pasta salad i had in the fridge. "Damn you L'Etranger, for not feeding me properly the first time!"
Perhaps L'Entranger is best suited to the waif-like 'Yummy-Mummies' of the surrounding Kensington and Chelsea neighbourhood, but personally i'm not quite ready to be put forced to diet just yet! Especially not when i get a bill of £50 per head for the pleasure. I'm a real woman, curves and all... and my body is a temple. A temple constructed of indulgence (and OVER-indulgence) of plenty of good produce, exciting ingredients and fine food of the gourmet variety! Starvation is definitely not on the menu for a girl like me!!! Besides, Nouvelle Cuisine is sooooo 1980's and i don't see a revival on the cards in my lifetime. Not if i can help it!