Don’t! The Mitre

This one is an absolute DON’T, which is such a shame. The Mitre is in an easy location, large enough to accommodate big groups, and even has outside space. It would be a fantastic go-to if it had redeeming qualities beyond the building.

Holland Park’s The Mitre

Everyone knows The Mitre is horrible. I was warned not to try it by four different people in completely separate social circles. I still had to, of course. What kind of restaurant reviewer would I be if I didn’t aim to check every London spot off my own blog-purposed checklist?

So, on a weekend night we went, and just as all the hopefuls before me, I gave it a fair shot, but it turned out to be a true disappointment.

Ah, where to start. I guess we didn’t get off on the right foot from the beginning. We had a reservation, but it took almost twenty minutes to seat us. One of our friends had a baby with them, so you would think they would try to speed things along for the sake of the child. Nope. We had to remind the staff we were waiting multiple times.

Once seated, we were faced with an extremely high-priced menu for English pub fare. This restaurant was not nice enough for prices like these. A £30 steak at a basic pub had to be fantastic (right?), so three of us took the challenge to find out. The rest of the dishes also sounded appealing, so we opted for an assortment of apps and entrees, including some oysters to start. 

Let me start with the oysters. One of them was bad. Not just bad. Rancid. The smell coming of the plate was putrid. For the cook or server not to notice this is downright criminal. The worst part, when we let the server know, he just took the single, bad oyster off the plate, with his bare hands and carried it away. So tacky. Again, prices too high for tacky service and spoiled food.

After that we actually enjoyed some ox cheek mac n’ cheese before being thoroughly disappointed in our meals. 

Our six entrees came to us ICE-COLD. And we waited a longggg time for those entrees. They must have been sitting on the line, far from a heat lamp for way too long. It was disgusting. This was a roast, three steaks, and a couple of fish & chips. So disappointing. And, since we try to be good people, and the idea of wasting all that food seemed horrible (and waiting forever to remake it sounded just as bad) we sucked it up and ate our cold, dry, sad meals. 

Dinner at London’s The Mitre

The Mitre’s Fish & Chips, London

The management did take our complaints seriously, I have to say. Well, they weren’t all that apologetic, but they did heavily discount the bill and offer us dessert. They made it right, but, unfortunately, nothing was good enough to warrant a return visit. 

After the meal, the incompetent server had us reviewing an outdated dessert menu, so when we ordered, everything was from the previous week and we had to then do the whole song and dance over again. When the desserts finally came, I had to get up myself to get silverware for the table, and then again to find someone to give us or check.

If I had to pick one word to describe the experience, it would be painful. Horrible service, rookie mistakes, cold and overpriced meals. It pains me just to think back on it all. And, to top it all off, I was recounting this experience to a friend and she told me a SHOCKING Mitre story. This place never ceases to amaze and disappoint. My friend was given £100.00 gift certificate as a gift (from an out-of-towner that had no idea being sentenced to The Mitre was no gift at all). When she tried to use a portion, The Mitre DEMANDED it was to be used all in one go. How in the world is a girl supposed to spend £100.00 in one sitting by herself? Is she forced to use her gift on other people. Their prices are high but not £100.00 per person high unless you order the shitty steak, an appetizer, sides, dessert and drink a lot. Still, I’ve never heard of a restaurant doing this to a patron. PATHETIC!

In conclusion, I went to The Mitre after hearing horrible reviews, but I had to see (and review) for myself. Do not make the same mistake I did. Trust pretty much everyone in West London and avoid this horrible place. 
The Mitre
40 Holland Park Avenue
London W11 3QY

Don’t! Shoryu Ramen-Carnaby

The London Checklist was due for a “don’t”, so here’s one that’s short, but not so sweet. 

Located in the bustling Kingly Court is where you will find Shoryu Ramen. It has a prime location, and in an area that is often packed, you may find yourself eating there by default. That’s what happened to us. After an amazing experience at Cahoots, we found ourselves starving in an area that was fully booked. We bellied up to the community table at Shoryu simply because it was the only place that would take us.

Now the experience wasn’t horrible, but there was not one aspect of this ramen chain that warranted a repeat visit. The decor was all right, I’ll give it that, but the actual atmosphere was all wrong. The community table was very awkward and impossible to move in and out of when you are pushed against the window on a high bench with multiple people on either side of you. The air was filled with kitchen smoke due to horrible ventilation. And it was way too noisy. Clearly, I wasn’t super comfortable. 

Once I got past the environment, I recognized how incompetent the service was. Our primary server seemed to have no idea about the menu. Even something as simple as decaf tea. She said they didn’t carry it, but halfway through our experience I noticed it clearly on their menu. Little things like that. Our food came so staggered that all three of us were never eating at the same time, not even two of us managed to dine together, actually, which was just annoying. And when it came to the end of our Shoryu journey, in true London fashion, it seemed impossible to flag down a server and get out of dodge. 

An eventual decaf tea at Shoryu Ramen, Carnaby
The food was not impressive at all. The ramen was pretty bland.  The edamame was awful with a bizarre powder on top. And the milk buns were just okay (which was unfortunate since their two-for-one milk bun special forced more on us than we wanted.)

Basic ramen at Kingly Court’s Shoryu

Overall, nothing about Shoryu left us wanting to go back for more. Steer clear of a mediocre restaurant experience in an area with so many better options! So check out the rest of the London Checklist to learn about Soho must-dos instead! 

Shoryu Ramen-Carnaby
G3-5, Kingly Court
Tension Ct 
London W1B 5PJ

Don’t! Farmacy

Westbourne Grove’s Farmacy is one of the latest hot spots to arrive in Notting Hill. While the concept is great (and much needed), the all natural eatery missed the mark in too many areas that I do not see myself heading back for a second visit.

Farmacy is part of the clean-eating train that is making its way through London, which, honestly, is long overdue. I find it SO HARD to eat continuously healthy in a city that believes in day-drinking, minimal exercise, and puddings after each meal. To have more options for vegan/vegetarian, chemical-free, and refined sugar-free eating is a huge positive, but, unfortunately, a lot of these concepts come along with a heavy price tag and are considered “on trend.” Farmacy is the definition of this problem.

Dog friendly at Westbourne Grove’s Farmacy
First, they do not take reservations, which is just annoying. It’s bad enough that Granger (down the street) has a forever queue we all suffer through, but, to make Westbourne Grove queuing “a thing” is really unnecessary. Once inside, however, the place is quite spacious and very pretty. It feels very clean and botanical. Almost like a relaxed version of a fancy hotel’s Palm Court. The restaurant is animal friendly which is always nice to see. But, this is where the positives switch to negatives…
After the relief of getting inside and into a table, and taking in the refreshing decor, you immediately run into the first problem with Farmacy. The service. It is beyond slow at certain points, and extremely rushed at others. It took an eternity for someone to come over, greet our table, bring us water, and ask us about drinks or questions. Once we had placed our coffee order, the server came back and hurried us for a food order almost immediately, and then a few seconds later after we asked for more time. Once the food arrived, no one ever checked back on us, and at the end of the meal, I had to physically get up to get the bill after being neglected for about 20 minutes.  I was especially surprised by this ending since we wanted to leave, and they had guests waiting to be seated. The staff is not properly trained, there is not an even flow to the dining experience, and there must be a serious lack of management to not be able to float around the dining room and recognize such problems and distressed faces on customers.

Onto the food. My friend and I both opted for the House Pancakes–buckwheat pancakes, with coconut yogurt, and fresh fruit. This is a very common dish served at a lot of clean-eating establishments, but I have to say, Farmacy’s version was the worst. Primarily because it was ice cold. There is nothing appropriate about cold pancakes. Maybe that is an English vs. American thing, I don’t know, but neither my English friend or American me enjoyed our breakfast. The staff wouldn’t know how we were feeling because they never bothered to check back on us. Had they, we may have been able to get something we could enjoy, or tell them they brought our table the incorrect “Farmacuetical Syringe Shot.” My girlfriend ordered the Beautify shot, and was brought the Fire Starter incorrectly. After waiting awhile for a server to walk by, to no avail, she just drank the one she had received. And, boy, was that a production. These shots actually come in a medical syringe, on a plate, next to a shot glass. It is silly and contrived–completely lame, in my opinion. I guess this place is trying way too hard to justify its high prices and poor service.

A buckwheat breakfast at London’s Farmacy

After finally finishing our mediocre meals and the incorrect shot and hunting down a server to close our tab, we walked out of there feeling liberated to be away from their dining room.  That is not the feeling you want to give to your patrons upon exiting your new neighborhood restaurant.

So, Farmacy, please get it together. We could all stand to be a little healthier, and in theory, restaurants like you are just what the doctor ordered…

A Syringe Shot at London’s Farmacy

74 Westbourne Grove
London W2 5SH

Don’t! The Potting Shed

So this Marylebone restaurant isn’t going to get a horrible review, but it’s not getting a rave one either. The Potting Shed is just the type of restaurant that exists. It’s not wowing anyone, nor being visually offensive. It’s just there, with so-so service, food, decor and prices. I’ve been a couple times due to its convenient location for business meetings when meeting with colleagues off the train, but other than that, I see no point in being a recurring patron. 

The Potting Shed in Marylebone’s Dorset Square Hotel

Let me break it down for you. The Potting Shed is set underground, in the basement level of the Dorset Square Hotel. This would be a disadvantage for many restaurants, but they actually make use of the light they do have, and use a lot of white accents to keep the place airy and not feeing dingy. Their decor, though, is not quite right. The cluttered walls are packed with all white ceramic decorations. Whether it’s the wall of white small pots (how fitting),  the one of ornate garden plaques and gargoyles, or the area of white clay leaves, it’s all really boring. And, right in between the boredom of the repetitive white against the actually pretty mint-colored backdrop, you have the ugliest piece of “art” I have ever seen. Black and white bold, oversized number surrounded by rustic wood paddles of some sort. Might be a British thing. Regardless, it doesn’t match and adds to the clutter. The restaurant is full of these little mismatched oddities, like with an outdated lamp in a window between the upper dining room and the lower bar. 

Dining at The Potting Shed, London

Once you get past the decor and focus on the food, the selection is quite nice. An upscale British mix of meat, fish and pasta classics, lunch specials, and an Afternoon Tea. It just never tastes quite as good as it sounds. My mint pea and mint soup was delicious, and looked lovely in the bowl. Bright green against the white bowl and mint surroundings. But the pumpkin gnocchi special was bland and the entire dish was missing some contrasting colors and textures. 

And I have to point out my tea. While The Potting Shed aimed for a grand presentation, the whole tea service was a little contrived. The teapot was presented with a strainer (as is common for loose leaves) but the pot was actually filled with just tea bags! What was the point?! So close, but so far.

An unusual tea time at The Potting Shed, London

Even with all these little grievances, I did, however, book a table for a business meeting coming up, due to lack of options in that area. So, either Marylebone or The Potting Shed…one of you needs to tighten up. Either get new restaurants in your area or revamp the existing ones! There’s still hope Potting Shed! There’s still hope.

The Potting Shed, Marylebone

The Potting Shed
Dorset Square Hotel
39-40 Dorset Square
London NW1 6QN

Don’t! West Thirty Six

Don’t. Do not. Do not under any circumstance get roped in to going to West Thirty Six.  After numerous bad meals, I kept getting sucked back in to such a poor establishment due to birthday parties, a few “it’s been awhiles” and “maybe it’s changed,” and some “it’s way better now, I swear” from different acquaintances. It’s not better. It’s never better. A restaurant with horrible ventilation, stock issues, inedible food, and awful ventilation, lighting and prices, has earned nothing more than this review.

So, here we go. Now most of my “don’ts” were one or two time experiences, but not West Thirty Six. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve been there at least 15 times. Not because I’m a masochist, but at one time they had one good dish that was reasonably priced and worth ignoring how basically every other part of the establishment was crumbling around me, and it’s close. 

But, let me start with the actual building. I love the look of the downstairs. It has a pretty bar and a warm yellow-green glow.  The problem with the downstairs, however, is that you can’t actually sit down there and breathe. The ventilation is so poor that one steak left on the grill is enough to smoke out the entire floor leaving throats dry, eyes burning, patrons coughing, and hair and clothing smelling like a 4th of July campfire. It’s disgusting. 

Dining in the dark at West Thirty Six, London

If you try to dine a floor up, be prepared for West Thirty Six’s take on “Dining in the Dark.” I felt much older than my age when I could not read a menu or cut my food well in the darkness of their upper level. About an hour into our meal, the staff decided to turn the lights on, which did not really rectify the lighting situation, but actually made it worse, shining one ceiling spotlight right in my face. It was like a dark auditorium and I was beginning a performance. So, no matter what level you are on, the place is a fail. Not to mention very quiet…

Word must be spreading about the terrible experiences being had at West Thirty Six because every time I’m in there the turnout is more and more depressing. We were the only table upstairs in the dark for a good hour, and the time before that, even though OpenTable showed the restaurant as 99% full, we were one of two tables our entire evening downstairs! They are selectively releasing seats to look much more exclusive than they actually are. It’s really such a shame because the location is easy and the place has the looks and potential of being a cool go-to. But nope. I also have to note that West Thirty Six marked my last OpenTable reservation as me being a no-show and I had to contact the website because that was certainly not the case. Just another little West Thirty Six annoyance.

Notting Hill’s West Thirty Six menu, a definite Don’t

So, how ’bout the food? Well, it’s just gross. At one time they had a delicious pulled pork sandwich that threw some rose-colored glasses on me, but once they took that off the menu (over a year ago), nothing has hit the spot. My entire party was dissatisfied last visit, trying a mix of chicken wings, beef tartare, ribs, chips, mixed greens, and a steak. Everything was either too bland, tough, or chewy. Ribs should fall of the bone and melt into a delicious barbecue sauce. These were stiff and dry, clinging to the bone with dear life. A huge disappointment. 

Disappointing ribs at London’s West Thirty Six

And, the menu was very incomplete. The restaurant was out of the first five drink and food items we tried to order. I wondered if it was all in preparation to officially close their doors, but no, just another hint of a poorly managed establishment. The server also waited until we decided on and ordered each item before letting us know what was missing, which is also annoying. But, it fits the theme of the place I guess.

Poor service, lighting, ventilation, and food. If that’s your idea of a good time, head to West Thirty Six on London’s Golborne Road. If not, head to any other restaurant in West London!!!

West Thirty Six
36 Golborne Road
London, W105PR

Don’t! The Mall Tavern

The Mall Tavern is a pretty happening spot. The Notting Hill corner pub is always booming and has a pretty loyal following. Many friends had told me about their local pub, so I went for dinner to see for myself, but honestly, I didn’t get what all the fuss was about. The food was mediocre and the menu didn’t even have a lot to get excited about, and the space itself was too dark, too loud, too average. The only bright light was the service, in my opinion. Friendly and accommodating, the staff was good, just not great enough to make it all worth it.

The building itself on the outside is pretty cool. It wraps with a sharply curved one-way street. The somewhat hidden area has an old English vibe, which is a nice change from the busy area of Notting Hill Gate, just one street away. Inside, however, I feel the pub has a bit of an identity crisis. Half pub–minimalist with a walk up bar, pushed together bare tables, cozy eats and casual fare–and half hipster joint with unfinished walls, subway tiles, and bathrooms so dark you don’t know if the bathroom stall itself is a club.  The menu tried to be colorful and quirky, like an adult comic book, but I just kept rereading it not really soaking anything in. This was probably because nothing jumped out at me. The one item we all wanted to order, the ribs, was no longer available that evening, so we ordered some basics and hoped for the best.

One friend said the place used to be really good until they “Americanized” the menu. I had no idea what he was referring to because nothing jumped out at me as American, but I looked again at the wings, artichoke dip, mac & cheese offerings and tried to see his point. Once the meals actually came, I decided there was nothing American about the dishes.

A cold artichoke dip at The Mall Tavern, London

I started with the artichoke dip and ordered the burger.  I was so disappointed with the artichoke dip, perhaps because I was hoping it would be American-style like my Irish friend had claimed. It wasn’t. Mainly because it was served cold. Not hot, creamy, cheesy and gooey. Just cold and really salty. The mac & cheese was a much better starter so I spent half the time eating my husband’s dish instead. The wings were very unusual. Not my style, a little too soggy, tossed in an all over blue cheese sauce. I prefer a traditional spicy, crispy wing with a nice dip. But they were still tasty. 

An appetizer at London’s Mall Tavern

The burger for my entree was just so-so, but I find that’s London burgers in general. So, after finishing our apps and entrees and starting to understand what my friend meant my missing the mark on American food, we decided to give the place a chance to redeem itself and ordered dessert.

I tried to bring it back to Britain with the sticky toffee pudding and another friend got the “Rolos.” Sticky toffee pudding is amazing and there are plenty of great versions around London. The Mall Tavern, however, does not have one of them. Their take on the classic is a little too spiced and a little too dry. Despite being coated in the sauce, the inside was too dry to be able to mix well when eating. The “Rolos” were just bizarre. Absolutely nothing in common with a Rolo other than the ingredients of chocolate and caramel. Totally different flavors, textures, and consistencies. That one was a misrepresentation and we were all kind of disappointed. 

Sticky Toffee Pudding at The Mall Tavern, London

At the end of the night, I took stock of my friend’s experiences. None of us had an outstanding meal, or were all that impressed with our surroundings. It was hard to hear each other in the loud, echoing room, despite how closely we were huddled together. And the desserts totally fell flat. Again, we all thought the servers were nice dudes, but that cannot carry a whole establishment. For this, The Mall Tavern is an unfortunate Don’t.

The Mall Tavern
71-73 Palace Gardens Terrace
London W8 4RU

Don’t! The Common Restaurant & Bar

The other day, my husband and I found ourselves on a nice long afternoon walk headed west on the Grand Union Canal. It was a beautiful weekend and the escape from the noises of the busy city and diesel-filled air was just what we needed. After about 5k, we stumbled upon a large restaurant and community center known as The Common. We decided it looked like a safe place to rehydrate and refuel with an afternoon snack.

Pretty table decor at The Common, London

An afternoon snack for my husband means a full meal, but I just literally wanted a snack. The menu looked like it had something for both of our needs, so we sat down at a table in the modern, industrial space that held a bar, cafe, dining area, and open kitchen all in one oversized room.

The decor was okay. It reminded me of the Home Goods version of Tom Dixon’s Dock Kitchen. A little budget, a little trying too hard. The booths in the dining area were very country to me in comparison to the globe lighting and open duct work. The full view of the kitchen was nice, and well decorated with copper lights, stainless appliances, and a nicely uniformed staff, but the scene was totally interrupted by the service station in front of the cooking area.

The service station was a sloppy mess. The small refrigerator that held oversized jugs of half-used condiments was completely tacky. Not only did it look like something you would see on the counter at the end of the night at a greasy spoon diner, but the staff never managed to consistently close the doors to the damn thing. This was a total violation of the health code, I’m sure, with an irregular temperature, but also a waste of electricity and the cause for me to get very cold.

A scene not meant for customers at London’s The Common

The waitstaff’s oblivious attitude towards the fridge actually turned out to be the theme of my entire experience at The Common Restaurant. After we were seated, the server came to take our drink order and then never came back. We just asked for a bottle of water, which we were desperate for after our long walk, but you would have thought we asked for the world’s most involved cocktail or coffee drink with the time it took the bottle to get over to us. I eventually had to get up and ask a staff member for it myself.  We immediately ordered once I had someone’s attention, out of fear of abandonment. I order the small portion of the BBQ ribs and my husband chose the Chicken & Chorizo Burger.

The food came out pretty quickly and looked pretty delicious sitting in front of me. However, I was very confused by my small little £5.00 rib portion’s massive size. It was a double rack with fries, which seemed to be the other option on the menu that I did not choose. I alerted the server right away and he told me that’s just how it comes and that it was not an error. Okay, I thought, setting a mental reminder for myself to check the bill at the end of the meal for accurate pricing. So we dug in.

My husband was working on his sandwich–which he thoroughly enjoyed–while I started in on the fries. Then, I heard a cook talking to the server about ribs (because we were basically seated on top of the kitchen) and how they had given me another table’s dish. After I had already pointed out the dish was wrong, the server now was back to take it away and replace my dish with a smaller fry-less portion–AFTER I HAD ALREADY STARTED EATING THE FRIES. In my opinion, this was way too late in the meal to take a dish back after they already had the customer point the error out to them that they chose to disregard. Not only did they take the meal away, tacky, but they proceeded to bring my same plate to the correct table AFTER I HAD ALREADY STARTED EATING THE FRIES. Completely inappropriate especially because I let the server know that I had already touched the food!

I was fine with the new dish put if front of me (though completely disgusted with the staff) as it was the size and item I had ordered originally. The ribs were okay. More of an Asian BBQ than the American BBQ I constantly crave, but the taste was fine. They could have slid off the bone a little easier, or at all, but what can you expect for £5.00.

When we were through with everything we waited and waited for service and apologies, which never seemed to come. We paid and left, and on our 5k walk home, discussed the problems with the service industry and standards in London. It was clear that The Common Restaurant was a Don’t and that the only saving grace for the place was that it was cheap. But is a cheap meal really worth it if the service is nonexistent and your meal may have already been in someone else’s mouth? Your call…

The Common Restaurant & Bar, London

The Common Restaurant & Bar
Old Oak Lane
Willesden Junction
London NW10 6FF

Don’t! Tuk Tuk Stick n’ Grill

Poor brand new Tuk Tuk! A simple place with a cute little name surely has a place on Portobello Road, no? Well, unfortunately, no. My husband and I tried the brand new satay place this weekend because it seemed easy and perfect for just what we needed. We needed a quick afternoon snack that also fit with my husband’s sometimes low-carb lifestyle. We slipped inside for what turned out to be an average experience with mediocre food.

Waiting at the Tuk Tuk counter, London

The idea is great. Satays are for everyone when you have choices of steak, shrimp, tofu and vegetables, and many different dips to choose from. That was the gist of the simple, mix-and-match menu. There were some rice, salad, seasoning, dessert, and drink choices, too, but really Tuk Tuk kept in nice and simple. 

Unfortunately, right when you walk into the place you’re confused. There’s a counter on the left and a place to order on the right, then additional seating downstairs. The menu takes a minute to read through and then you’re not sure where to stand or wait. You’re basically on top of people eating at the counter as you wait for your food, before you can retreat to additional seating. 

There just isn’t a real flow to the place. It’s a long hallway with a ton of congestion at the front, and then just dead space in the back. I would have people order and take a number to their seating area (Nando’s style), to prevent the awkward waiting period, then bring the food to them. After the meal you’re not really sure what to do with your tray. My husband fumbled around and eventually figured out their disposal area. (Which is also in the main congestion area.) 

The ordering station at Tuk Tuk Stick n’ Grill, London

So, aside from the lack of flow and the uncomfortable design, the food is not very good. The rice was fine, but the satays weren’t all that flavorful. We chose the Oriental Herb seasoning which didn’t taste all that strong on our Tuk n’ Try platter, which included shrimp, veggies and chicken. It was a decent amount of food for only £13.00, but I guess you get what you pay for. Aside from lacking flavor, I thought the chicken lacked cooking! In between the chicken pieces was a questionable pink color that made me uncomfortable. I let my husband eat those and I stuck to the veggies. The veggies and the rice. The sauces also fell flat. The dish came with three and the only one I truly liked was the Ginger & Coriander sauce. The peanut sauce was like the worst I’ve ever had and there was something not quite right with the sweet chili sauce. So really, what we were left with for the £13.00 was some shrimp, veggies, rice and ginger sauce. 

Tuk Tuk Stick n’ Grill’s satay platter, London

The entire time we were there, a well-dressed man, who seemed to be the new owner, was running around making sure everything was up to his standards. If I try to picture him now I see him as a Frenchman wearing a cape. So now I see him flying with his cape everywhere to save the day and make sure his staff is filling each sauce to his imaginary line and facing all napkins parallel to the front. This man exuded micromanagement and his pride for this brand-new business. Unfortunately, while emphasis on detail is good, people just want an easy go and good food at a place like Tuk Tuk. If you miss the mark on that, nothing else matters.

They do get points for the little moist towelettes, though! But that’s about it right now. Hopefully they iron out these wrinkles before they’re as relevant as yesterday’s skewers.

Tuk Tuk Stick n’ Grill
233 Portobello Road
London W11 1LT

Don’t! Bodean’s BBQ

Okay, an American gal may be BBQ’s toughest critic, so plenty probably enjoy Bodean’s. I, however, decided that I won’t be heading back to the Soho spot, therefore, making Bodean’s BBQ an unfortunate Don’t.

Bodean’s BBQ menu, London

My husband and I stopped in for a weeknight meal. We took note of the upstairs cafeteria style setup, but headed down to the main restaurant. There was a short wait, but we had ourselves a table within fifteen minutes. The place had a retro, sports bar feel, complete with a wall-mounted TV showing the recent big game. I liked the atmosphere and was ready to indulge on sticky, sweet, tangy, sloppy BBQ.

The menu had lots of choices, but my sole purpose of the evening was to have a pulled pork sandwich, so all I needed to do was choose my sides. My husband was a little undecided and made the mistake of asking for another minute. Then we never saw our server again. My stomach was eating itself or some small organ next to it while I cursed him for not being able to decide between the combo or basic “Burnt Ends” platter fast enough. I eventually flagged down a completely different man and bombarded him with our order. This was the first red flag of service issues at Bodean’s, and unfortunately it was waved within fifteen minutes of being seated. 

After that, I sat and watched and salivated towards the platter the couple who arrived later than us received. Finally, our food came, and it was pretty good. My pulled pork was definitely the winner over my husband’s “Burnt Ends” (smoked brisket), but doesn’t it always? The sandwich needed a huge kick of flavor and moisture so I added a heavy dose of the table BBQ sauces. The sauces had good flavor, though, so I didn’t really mind having to add my own finishing touches. My sandwich also needed some cheese, so I added our side of macaroni and cheese right on top and eventually had some version of perfection. The mac and cheese solo was also good, as were the sweet potato fries. I really sorted my meal out to recreate the combinations and tastes I miss from home. 

A tasty plate at Bodean’s BBQ, London

Unfortunately, there’s one other hugely important component of great BBQ. Corn bread. And this, my friends, was the worst corn bread I have ever had in my life. Like so bad. To the point that I felt the establishment should be paying me to consume a tasteless brick, not the other way around. I wondered if it was a bad batch, but it seemed unlikely. This was just a bland, dense recipe that the owners probably have never tried. They entrusted their chef to google one and throw it on the menu. Or maybe it comes frozen. It’s that gross. I would like to bring in a few of my outstanding BEST ever cornbread recipes to Bodean’s BBQ and say “See?! This is what it’s supposed to taste like!!”

But, cornbread in itself isn’t enough to take down the whole restaurant and land it in the Don’t category. The service is what sunk this ship. That horrible glimpse we got at the beginning of the night carried through the entire evening. We sat with empty plates in front of us for far too long. I pulled a server, yet again, to clear/wrap/bring the check. We then sat with our wrapped leftovers in front of us for far too long. I pulled another server to bring the check/run the card. We then sat with our check and card in front of us for far too long. I pulled a server, for the last time, who ran the card and we were finally free. It felt like we were escaping a basement prison cell by that point. As we fled through the upstairs quick-dining area, I wondered if we would have had an easier go up there.  But, after the annoying lower-level experience, I don’t think I care to find out.

As I said earlier, I’m a tough critic on this one, so at your own risk. If you have a better experience, please share, and Bodean’s, let me know if you want to try some quality cornbread!!

Bodean’s BBQ
10 Poland Street
London W1F 8PZ

Don’t! The Hillgate Pub Quiz Night

Okay, so I now regret suggesting The Hillgate Pub as a destination for a casual night out. I am so disappointed with my last experience, and while it could be due to the large crowds a quiz night brings, I really think the problem is that The Hillgate Pub just doesn’t have their act together.

Chalkboard options at The Hillgate Pub, London

Quiz nights are huge in London. We have them in the States (usually referred to as Trivia Night), but not like this. Pretty much every single pub dedicates a night of the week to invite its patrons to participate in an evening of eating, drinking, and test-taking. I had been dying to see what it was all about, and finally got my wish on a Monday at The Hillgate Pub. I chose this pub for my first experience since I had previously had a lovely little evening with my husband there. The place was cute and quaint, the food delicious. I headed back expecting the same level of quality and service with my sister and a couple of friends. 

Quiz time at the Hillgate Pub, London

We got there early so we could order drinks and eat before the 8:00 trivia festivities began. The bartender said he would be right over to take orders. After looking at the menu, deciding, and waiting about 15 minutes, I got up to place the order directly with him at the bar, as he seemed tied up there and incredibly understaffed. Instead of taking my order, he told me he would be right over again, and we proceeded to wait another 10 minutes. I got up again, this time making it extremely clear that he needed to take my order, seeing as we still didn’t even have drinks yet, we were all starving, and trivia was about to begin. I placed the order and drinks eventually came over. The evening progressed with all four of us constantly trying to grab the bartender/server’s attention to refresh drinks, clear old glasses and dinner plates, and to ask for meals and sides that either never came, came out wrong, or were just plain disappointing. The entire service and dinner experience was lame, but the main focus of this night was the trivia, so let me tell you about that.

Once we were semi-drunk and full (but already irritated with the place) the trivia began. It was only £2 or something to enter, so the turnout was pretty decent. There were probably seven teams competing for a free bar tab and a little extra cash. In addition to these seven teams, there was ongoing chatter from the dining side and the bar that made it impossible to hear any of the questions. We had to stand up and ask our neighbors to repeat questions since the heavy-accented English lady had a lame microphone and spent her whole time at the opposite end of the restaurant. 

It wouldn’t have mattered if we heard the questions anyway. The game was extremely challenging for foreigners, but that aside, the place seemed full of cheaters. Most tables were using their phones and the lady in charge didn’t seem that concerned. My table was full of a bunch of rule-biding citizens, so this was extremely difficult for us to witness. The whole experience was loud, unfriendly, drawn out chaos. We obviously lost, not too bad because we had one English chap on our team, but bad enough. I still love trivia and would give it another go at a different establishment, but definitely not at The Hillgate. 

In summary, if you’re looking for weeknight fun, perhaps a silly, easygoing game of trivia with some drinks, friends , and food, London is the place to be. The Hillgate Pub is not.
The Hillgate Pub
24 Hillgate Street
London w8 7SR