Friday, 21 May 2010

Fishworks once Worked; Sadly no Longer

It was back in 2008 when I visited Fishworks Chelsea, fishmonger and restaurant in one. Despite its franchise around numerous locations in London, the reviews were ghastly across the board. Complaints ranging from lemon sole swimming in butter to snobby waitress who refused to serve tap water.

Yet given the 50% offer, we brushed aside the critics and booked a table. After being seated, our waiter brought over a plate of fresh catches of the day and introduced us to the specials.

½ Dozen of Rock Oysters & Fins de Claires
These were in season around September. I wish they were rounder, but their intense flavours made up for their size.

Fish soup & Glazed Shellfish Pot

I didn’t try the fish soup in the back; apparently it was just an okay. The shellfish pot, however, was stunning. The 3 glazed oysters were warm, topped with a layer of cheesy hollandaise sauce; half a meaty crab packed with roe; plump and juicy mussels; the odd clams and a few king prawns. The sauce, infused with all the goodness from the shellfish, was mopped up by bread.

It didn’t say the pot was substantial for two.

Thankfully this mix grill was more manageable in size, I have never been a seabass lover, it’s quite an uninspiring fish. The king prawn and scallop were lightly seasoned and seared to highlight their freshness. The squid took things to a new level. It was gently chargrilled on the outside, overall texture resembled raw sashimi squid, yet less chewy, and the squid was so succulent that each chew was leaking with sweetness. It was the most memorable squid.

I honestly couldn’t work out where those appalling reviews were coming from. It was an evening of high-quality seafood overload at half price!

Shortly after our visit, Fishwork Chelsea closed down.

Fishworks Piccadilly withstood the financial crisis and was still offering a 50% discount to date. Reminiscing the 2008 meal, we booked a table for lunch. Décor was smarter here in Central, brighter with half-length shutter windows that open to the outdoor tables. Unfortunately this is where the fairytale ends.

Seafood platter
The top tier consisted of grilled seabass, monkfish, squid, sliced scallops, 2 king prawns and new potatoes. The lower deck was ice-bedded with oysters, mussels and crevettes. Oysters were quite diluted in taste; mussels were crumpled and pathetic looking. The grilled fish were over-cooked, rubbery and over-seasoned.  We began downing water from our third bite.

King prawns cooked in garlic and parsley
This extended our consumption of water. It tasted good at the first few bites, then we were dehydrated. Two out of the 6 prawns was mushy, which reflects the poor seafood quality. Frankly I gave up half way through the meal.

Was it because it was a lunch service, and so we were served leftovers from the night before? Piccadilly and tourists are excuses for poor quality? Or is this standing establishment is serving the purpose of reminding us why the others in the franchise have closed down? I wouldn’t go back even if they offered a 95% discount. We all know how excessive sodium is bad for our health.

7-9 Swallow Street
Tel: 0207 734 5813

Fishworks on Urbanspoon

Monday, 10 May 2010

Quo Vadis? Not here anymore.

Quo vadis literally translates to ‘Where are you going?’

Sitting in the heart of Soho, the stained glass windows and revolving door somewhat stand out as an oddity among the hip bars and cafes. I did, however, like the idea of a peaceful dinner in the midst of chaos. The fact it belongs to the same group as the reputable Fino and Barrafina transpires much confidence. Indeed our first encounter was sweet. Both scallops, braised oxtail & cauliflower puree and pan-fried spotted ray were spot on. Though mister’s oysters were quite lean, he approved the roast lamb.

On Mother’s Day, I booked a table for 3 as Mother is a seafood enthusiast. Like mother like daughter right?

Queen Scallops, Vinaigrette
It looks so pretty…wait, where are the scallops? I knew they were supposed to be small, but thought they would at least be visible. The vinaigrette was lip-biting, fist-clenchingly sour, which has probably inflicted irreversible damage to my taste buds. Crunching away on the peppers and onion on the shells, the miniscule scallops went down undetected.

Crab Mayonnaise
This could do with a bit of styling, but otherwise a good start to the meal. The crab roe had a distinctive sweetness that lingered, and it served as a great toast spread.

Razor Clams with Garlic and Parsley
I’m still convinced I am allergic to razor clams, so I only tried a teeny bit. The bite was well-seasoned and bouncy not rubbery. Mister thought it was slightly too heavy on the seasoning, which masked the natural sweetness of the shellfish.

John Dory with Roast Fennel & Pernot Velouté
This was my first john dory, so I didn’t know what to expect. The dish looked nice enough, the skin brown and crispy. Unfortunately it was a tough fish. Could it be the way it was sliced? It wasn’t dissimilar to a piece of overly overdone swordfish, but worse. Towards the end, it felt like chomping on a piece of sturdy wet paper towel. Not exactly my idea of dinner.

Pan-fried Spotted Ray with Haricots & Peppers
Mother safely went with my previous selection, which was again beautifully cooked. Despite the long fish bones protruding throughout the fin, it was relatively easy to manipulate as the flesh dissociated from the bones with a slight push of the fork.

The bill came to £170 for 3 with 2 glasses of Sauvignon blanc. I felt like the only loser in the group, paying the bill and enduring two terrible courses. I did blame myself for making the wrong choice, but surely no items on the menu are supposed to be bad, right? Despite a sweet first date, our second encounter left a scar. With so many restaurants offering a similar menu, nothing is luring me back to Quo Vadis.

26-29 Dean Street
0207 437 9585

Quo Vadis on Urbanspoon