[London, Brentford] Some places
I usually stay in Brentford once or twice a year, when I'm doing some research at the National Archives in nearby Kew (well, the hotels are cheaper than in Richmond). I've got my "usual" eating places around the area, which I've written about in the past but, this trip, there were four new restaurants - new to me, that is.
To my mind, there’s a line somewhere that divides the gastropub from the pub that does decent food (known in my part of the world as a dining pub). I’m not sure how to describe where that line is, but I’m always sure I know which side of the line I’m eating on. And the Weir is definitely a dining pub (and, in better weather, would have some very nice outdoor drinking space). There’s absolutely no criticism intended here – most pubs I happily eat in are dining pubs.
There was a starter of grilled halloumi salad which was, unsurprisingly, salad and halloumi, grilled. A nice bit of peppery rocket, a few other bits and pieces including olives, and some nice squeaky halloumi. Good dressing, with a hint of sweetness, probably from balsamic.
There was also a hint of sweetness in the main course. It came from a little apple that was in the mashed spud. On top of it, a very tasty organic pork chop – nice thick layer of fat confirming to me that this wasn’t factory raised pig. Alongside, some mixed greens – cabbage, sugar snaps and peas. Decent savoury sauce spiked with a little grain mustard.
Then I got the bill. And it was at this point, I wondered if Brentford really is really London. I mean, I know it is London, but is it really London. What made me wonder was the service charge. It was 10% - just like we have everywhere else in the UK – not the 12.5% we’re used to seeing in touristy central London.
The Watermans is also almost literally next door to the Premier Inn. I've never been in - it gives the impression of being a bit of a manky boozer type place. I can recall boards outside advertising food but I'd always assumed that this was going to be of the pie, chips and gravy variety. Can't recall any mention on them of Japanese food - I now see from the website mention of Japanese dishes in amongst the banger & mash, scampi & chips and the burger.
There's never time on these trips for more than quick sandwich from the National Archives caff at lunch. Hedone is on our list for dinner, hopefully on the next trip to London.
Nope, none worth an hours drive. An hour is our outer limit for dinner and it needs to be really good for that - say, Good Food Guide entry at least t a 3. As I've mentioned before, I sent reviews to the GFG years before the existance of discussion boards like this and still send them when appropriate. None of these four places are at GFG level, although they all have some merits, as mentioned.
Actually, if you were going to come to Brentford to eat just one meal, then I would recommend Pappadums, over any of these four. It's 2011 since I last wrote about it for this board, but have been a couple of times since and it's still very good - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8209...
In the years I’ve stayed in Brentford, the Old Fire Station has gone through a number of guises. Now it houses, under what I believe to be the same management, a Cuban bar (eh?) on the ground floor and a Persian restaurant up a narrow spiral staircase on the first floor.
I’m always disappointed when I eat in a Middle Eastern place on my own – you don’t get the full experience of sharing several mezze dishes. So, a single starter dish of kashk-e badanjan – aubergine, walnuts, whey and mint. It wasn’t a dip as such, more a chunky puree. You couldn’t dip your bread, but you could very happily dollop big spoonfuls onto the bread. And it was good bread as well. Described as naan, it was more like the Indian tandoori roti – thin and very crisp, with a nice bit of charring round the edges. I’d also ordered a dish of torshi – mixed vegetables, nicely vinegared.
For a main course, makhsoos brought a very well flavoured koobideh kebab and a thin slice of still pink lamb loin . The meat and the accompanying salad sat on another crisp flatbread. It was all rather good......
.....which is more than can be said for the service. Considering that I represented 25% of the diners, service was slow and indifferent where more interest was being shown to straightening up the salt and peppers pots than in seeing if customers needed something. There was nothing of the hospitality that you expect from restaurants originating from that part of the world. Now, OK, Brentford isn’t that well endowed with good places but, you know, I don’t think I’ll be in rush to be back. In spite of the very decent food and the very decent bottom line of the bill. Well, as it's literally next door to the Premier Inn so maybe next time if it's absolutely pissing down and I don’t want to go further.
THE THAMES RESTAURANT
Sometimes I surprise myself. No, really, I do. Like when I come to a food discussion board and want to write, positively, about an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Yes, I know! And, yes, like you, I confess I have my prejudices against buffets – the food will be shite, cheap and nasty. And the hygiene will be questionable – yes, I’ve had my share of “buffet belly” the next morning.
But, once in a Preston Guild, you come across one that’s a real cut above the rest. Places like Nawaab in Manchester. And, in my mind, I’ll also be adding the Thames. There are similarities between the two – although Nawaab is south asian whilst the Thames is east asian – mainly Chinese and Thai (apparently they also have Malaysian dishes but not when I went). Both charge above the usual bargain basement buffet rates – dinner at the Thames was £14. They’re not stiffing you on drinks either – a litre of sparkling water was only £3.
There’s a good range of dishes and vegetarians won’t go hungry. The food area is spotless with a member of staff constantly tidying and cleaning.
And, like Nawaab, there are chefs who cook some dishes to order – three scallops were done for me in a teppanaki style, complete with a little knife banging showmanship. Food was generally good. I particularly liked the “Thai style roast pork”. Who cares (or knows) whether it was “authentic” or not? This was just a nice bit of piggy in a slightly sweet, slightly spicy sauce.
Needless to say, I was greedy. Well, of course I was. After I’d tried other dishes, I went back for seconds of the pork (or was it thirds). And there was nothing I didn’t like. So there!
I’m La Rosetta’s latest fan. It’s pretty much what you want from a “proper” family owned neighbourhood Italian place. Shortish menu, including several of the classics, staff who speak Italian amongst themselves (no pseudo Italians from eastern Europe with dodgy accents – like my local place), staff who are friendly and smiley to customers and then get on with the job of feeding you without any further farting about. And customers do come back – in the short time I was there, several were greeted with much hand shaking and cheek kissing.
It’s a bit of an odd layout, occupying two shop fronts. One side is set out quite formally – table clothes, proper napkins, etc. The other, more casual – just the wooden tables and paper napkins. Same menu and same staff though. I suppose one is more suited to a romantic dinner with your loved one, whilst the other is more suited to families and folk like me – Billy No-Mates eating on his own and reading the Guardian whilst waiting for food to arrive.
There’s bread, grissini and olives to get stuck into while you wait for your starter. As you’d expect antipasto misto was very much an assembly job of meats and salads but was fine for all that.
Now, I’m very partial to fegato alla veneziana, so I was immediately drawn to the mention of calves liver on the specials board. No veneziana, though, but it could come with butter and sage or, I suppose, an Italian version of our own liver, bacon and onion gravy. Here the liver is cut into thin chunks and quickly fried, the very savoury sauce incorporating pancetta and spring onions. I liked this a lot. I think it's the dish I most enjoyed eating on this trip “dahn sarf”. I’ll definitely be back next time.
Haven't eaten here for a little while, but The Glasshouse in Kew (next to Kew Gardens tube) is from the same stable as La Trompette - had a really GOOD meal along the same lines as the Trompette of old.
The great thing about Brentford is that it's really easy to go somewhere else - like Chiswick, on the bus. There are several pubs on the river on Strand on the Green which I wouldn't recommend for gastro or dining pub standards, but are very pleasant. Annie's on Thames Road is good, including for breakfast if you go before 11.30 at the weekend.
If you do go to Chiswick, of course, there's so much to choose from - Hedone, La Trompette, Charlotte's, The Swan, The Duke of Sussex, Michael Nadra. If you catch a bus in the opposite direction of course you will get to Southall and The Brilliant (not Madhu's, the one on Western Road.) I haven't tried The Weir but will based on your suggestion.
Are you a genealogist? I often go to the Archives myself.