You know that feeling when you suggest something and are not quite 100% behind your choice because somehow, innately you know it’s not going to be all that. Well, that happened this week when some friends and I were meeting for a long overdue dinner and with Waterloo as central meeting ground for us, I suggested Skylon Grill as our dining venue.
I don’t quite know what it is about D&D (the owners of Skylon and a dozen other London restaurants) and me. I can only describe our relationship as that between two lovelorn teenagers; sickeningly in love one minute, bored the next, then engulfed in bitter ‘I hate you arguments’. They have this unique ability to offset the impressive flair, ambience and refinement in venues like Le Pont De La Tour, with bland food and slapdash service, as experienced this week at Skylon. Were it not for such great company and the reasonably priced, easily quaffable Sauvignon Blanc, our dinner would have been a rather forgettable affair.
As it was an informal catch up we chose the grill section, instead of the formal dining room. At first glance, the stunning view of the Thames with flecks of gold flowing through as the sun sets, is breathtaking and all consuming. Slowly your eyes take in the room itself which is…not as breathtaking. In fact it’s as close to the other end of the spectrum as you can get; beige. No really, the room is stripped back and bare so that all you have left are the beige lined seats strewn across the room, with walnut tables cleverly placed so as to maximise covers. I get understated but this seemed a little more 1970’s drab.
On to the menu, a simplistic affair, which I have no qualms with as long as it is damn good and at these prices, I expect pretty damn good. So then, it was a disappointment to see a smoked haddock fishcake, promisingly described with an accompaniment of lemon mayo and English asparagus, arrive with such lacklustre presentation. Here are the basic points of my fishcake rant:
-There was more white than food visible on the plate , something I find only acceptable on tasting menu plates (of which I have gobbled up many)
-There must have been rations on the lemon mayo as I was only afforded a spoonful when the dry texture of the cake was crying out for lashings of the stuff (or better yet, some hollandaise)
– A forkful of the fishcake confirmed my worst fear; the potato/fish ratio was unfairly skewed towards potato. This is forgivable in a school canteen or even your local chippy but not in a venue charging £17.50 for a plate of what was effectively a hash brown.
-The only saving grace were the emerald jewels on the plate, the juicy in-season English asparagus.
-Believe me, I don’t like pointing out this many flaws in one dish (especially not when I still have to pay for it) but it just struck me as basic, food for the sake of feeding rather than enjoying. Like a child’s meal. Interestingly I noticed, perusing the menu for this write up, that the same dish is actually available on the kids menu! I’m all for kids eating grown up food but adults eating a ‘happy meal’ at 100% mark up is plain bloody daylight robbery!
Anyway onwards but not necessarily upwards, a caramelised red onion tart sat on a base of hardly risen puff pastry, though thankfully golden in colour. It managed to achieve the principle flavour expectations; sweet, tangy and creamy but didn’t quite justify itself as a restaurant dish. I say this because I make a lot of tarts that have frankly looked a lot happier and well, the whole point of dining out is that you eat something you wouldn’t normally recreate at home. Is it not? Or maybe that concept is lost at Skylon Grill.
Thankfully there were some moments of glory, and by this I mean there were some edible items on our table. A lamb hot pot went down a treat and without complaint, and our chips were cooked.
Desserts showed some promise of ending the night on a sweet note with a velvety smooth Cambridge cream creme brûlée and a well pulled off earl grey sorbet. The sumptuous pear tart also delivered a happy smile but my chocolate mousse and pistachio ice cream came as a sloppy puddle with a barely noticeable hint of pistachio.
This chocolate slop sat on top of a sticky florentine, that became more impossible to chew than a dreaded curly wurly. I gave up on this halfway through, in order to be able to converse coherently with my pals. It was the kind of dish even Gregg Wallace with his sweeter than sweet tooth would shake his head at.
Ugh, I don’t know. I tried to like it, after all I chose it and it let me down, as I feared it would. The experience was just a bit beige like the room itself. Perhaps it’s the prime location and the stunning view that have made Skylon complacent because the only thing reaching sky high is the price tag and not the food.