Taking over the Crowne Plaza spot on Shoreditch Highstreet, the very trendy Ace Hotel from New York blended in with the East London scene instantly. Since I haven't got round to hitting the much talked about Bistrotheque or Shrimpy's, so I was genuinely excited about checking out Hoi-Polloi to see what the fuss is about.
The ambience was great - gentle mellow lighting oozes the chillax vibe, with a touch of Scandinavian simplicity and spaciousness. Love the setting - Ana was very proud of her choice of restaurant too. We started with some average bread and a carafe of Bordeaux Superieur, something easy.
Thousand layer potatoes, anchovy cream
The way our server sold this to me, was that it was like deep fried mini dauphinoise potatoes. So I was expecting thin slices of grainy potatoes sandwiched with layers of cream and maybe a touch of stretchy cheese. Dauphinoise my foot. These were rectangular hash browns. At least the outer case was super duper crispy and the potato was ultra soft and fluffy. Anchovy cream could have been stronger to make this dish a tad more exciting though.
Braised celeriac, celery, cobnuts
As soon as we were seated, Ana announced she was having the steak tartare, which was the main reason she chose the restaurant in the first place. Well, lo and behold - our server told us the steak tartare was removed from the menu on the day. I mean, really? I think it's personal.
This really distressed Ana, despite best efforts from our server... he recommended the delicious "leek & liver", to which Ana winced; the very moreish "puffy scratching", at which she frowned; finally the unique horseradish soup, and Ana was simply uninterested. Finally she settled for this braised celeriac dish, purely by the process of elimination.
And boy this was a poor dish. It looks like an accident, and certainly tasted like one. It's rabbits' food - raw strips of celery and cubes and unseasoned celeriac... like it's still being prepped.
And really they could have done a bit more. When asked how our starters were, we clearly pointed out it was a very disappointing dish, bland and awkward as if it was unwanted bits of leftover garnish piled together. Our server nodded and mumbled a "really? Sorry..." and scurried off. If you're not interested in the answer, don't ask.
Pressed lamb, jerusalem artichoke, radish, Madeira
I had very little confidence left after our starters. I haven't been too impressed so far. Luckily my main turned out well - almost like a cooked version of the much desired tartare. The lamb was slow-cooked to delicate tenderness with subtle bits of fat to give it more tang. I can't say it was the most exciting lamb dish, but it was a good ensemble.
Wild mushroom, artichoke, potato dumplings
Ana got drawn to the artichoke and decided to go vegetarian this evening. The fungi fragrance and flavours were very pronounced, though nothing particularly interesting worth writing home about. I thought the gnocchi were slightly overcooked to my liking, but Ana found it okay. Again, a bit dull.
Lemon curd, meringue, blackcurrant sorbet
Something was very odd about the meringue - it was chewy and stuck to the roof of my mouth. Apart from that, the plate delivered what it said in the description. Nothing more, nothing less.
It's safe to say that I didn't enjoy my meal as much as I anticipated. Maybe the steak tartare would have helped, but who knows? Just in general, the food wasn't exciting enough. It would have been okay if the menu was simple but the kitchen was delivering perfection, but that's not the case either.
That said, I wouldn't rule it off just yet, it's still in its early days. Plus I still think it's a great place to sit around for a few drinks with some munchies. But the restaurant definitely needs to work on the recipes and tighten up on the execution. After all, a pretty face doesn't last forever.
100 Shoreditch Highstreet
Tel: 0208 880 6100