I’ve recently come out to my friends as a “blogger”. I’ve been surprised at how interested and supportive they have been (to my face, at least). But it’s clearly going to be difficult to ensure that people don’t think the object of every meal out, is for me to write something opinionated on the internet. I don’t want every occasion to be about me and my blog. I’d rather have a good time with friends. If that leads to a review, then ace. But this digital journal is a by-product of my interest in food, not the focus of it.
Though I’ve just said that I don’t want the object of every meal to be a review, I am going to ask people what they thought about the experience if I think it’s worth a post. I actually think that will make things easier: eating out stops being about my views; and friends can read posts without assuming I think I’m an expert, or that my views are final. Hopefully the effect will be that they continue to want to eat out with me.
I’m not going to sit with a note book asking for comments whilst we’re eating; that would be a bore and obviously doesn’t fit with my aim of ignoring the whole review thing during the meal itself. Instead, I will let people sleep on it and then drop them a quick email.
Here’s the natty little template I used for the first time the other day:
Hello [good start, I thought]
Can I get your brief views on [breakfast/brunch/lunch/tea/dinner] at [insert restaurant name] yesterday [morning/afternoon/evening]?
1. What was the highlight?
2. What was the low point?
3. Can you give me three words which sum up the experience?
I’ll use responses to the first two questions to inform what I write. Ideally, people will mention particular dishes they loved/hated and also factors other than the food itself (service, ambience etc).
Responses to the third question will be used in a three word summary at the bottom of each restaurant review from now on. I may mix and match suggestions from my fellow diners; I may use a mate’s quote in its entirety; or I may just ignore everything and use my own thoughts.
Lengthy intro over, review of the Waterway in Maida Vale begins…
[I should note at the belated outset that the three word summary of the Waterway (see below), is a quote from the only female in the dining party…though, if I’m honest, it’s what I and the other guys were thinking.]
The Waterway is situated on the edge of the canal in Little Venice. It’s definitely a great location and we all agreed that the outside terrace is a good spot; I bet it’s quite a pretty nice place to eat lunch on a sunny day and it was packed both with eaters and drinkers on the pleasant Saturday evening that we were there.
Inside is a bar/pub and a separate restaurant section. It’s a mixture of brown leather and wood. Nice enough, though dare I say a little too suburban/provincial try-hard for my liking. I also think they’ve crammed in too many tables; we were sat overly close to a couple on a date.
Service was mixed. Young staff had clearly been told to do one job each (“you’re bread; you’re wine; you’re polishing plates and looking vacant; oh, and you can actually be the waitress”) which meant that often when we wanted service, no one was able to help, despite a cast of thousands standing around not doing much. That said, the waitress was lovely. Really nice. Spanish. Maybe the best thing about the restaurant. Did I mention lovely?
The wine was fine.
Without wanting to seem like a Harden’s review, comments on the food included “acceptable”, “reasonable value” and “not very memorable”.
A couple of friends had a squid ink papperdelle and crab starter and were slightly disappointed by small quantities of crab and cold/tepid avocado in an otherwise warm dish. I had an arbroath smokies salad with capers and quails eggs. It was quite nice, but again not much fish and I wasn’t fond of the very small deep fried capers – plump tangy fresh ones would have been better. The final starter in our group was chargrilled squid with mixed leaf salad. “Rubbery”, apparently.
Mains were better. I enjoyed my sea bass fillet with saffron fennel puree, spinach and salsa rosso. The pan fried pork fillet with roast peach jus looked good and sesame green beans on the side were nice. Two of the party had the rib eye steak. This looked (and apparently tasted) very good. One friend complained, though, that he had had to go against principle and order steak because he wasn’t otherwise inspired by the menu (it’s a case of too many choices – 10 starters and 11 mains). The other, rightly I think, mentioned that it’s wrong to serve steak with anything other than chips (this one came with a parsley mash and roasted carrot).
We didn’t have a dessert, though did share a cheese platter. Maybe the smallest pieces of Westcombe Chedder, Kidderton Ash goats cheese, Dorset blue vinny, Cornish yarg and Oxford Isis you ever did see. For me, only the blue vinny was much fun.
I haven’t made it sound great have I? It was actually fine – this is a decent place for a sociable evening and we certainly had a good time. The mains were well cooked, tasty and a decent price for what they were. But the large menu was generic and uninspiring and none of the starters won praise. The service was an odd mix of frustrating and exceptional…
The Waterway in 3 words
Hot. Spanish. Waitress.
Starters were generally in the £6.50-£7.50 range; mains were around £11.50 for pastas and salads, £15 for meats and fish and £16.50 for steak; sides were mostly £3.50 (£4.00 for rocket and parmesan, hmm); desserts £5.50 (£7.00 for the Lilliputian portions of cheese).
The upshot of the above was that the four of us managed to rack up £50 per head once 2 courses each, a plate of cheese, 3 bottles of wine, a g&t, an accidental bottle of still water and service were totted up.
www.thewaterway.co.uk – 54 Formosa St, W9 2JU