We booked for a pre-theatre supper at Cafe Des Amis, an old haunt of mine in a back street of Covent Garden. Although it was a warm evening and we had pre-booked, we were ushered to the back of the restaurant, close to the service area, without any option (there were tables outside and along the window that would perhaps have been a little comfier). The result was that at time it felt as if the restaurant manager was talking to his staff over our table.
Service was fast and efficient for the most part. We were quickly brought water, offered bread and olives and our food order was taken quickly. The tables were nicely laid out with white table linen. We were given a set menu as well as the a la carte, £16.50 for two courses £18.50 for three, which had a reasonable variety of food, although seemed to suffer from rather a lot of supplements.
We both chose the Gravlax as a starter (£2 supplement) which was very pleasant although just a little strange. I would guess the chef had made some kind of salsa verde with dill and coated a pre-smoked salmon piece, because the dill coating on was really very oily and the fish didn’t have the ‘tang’ that is normal with authentic gravlax. It was served with a dollop of creme fraiche and 2 cocktail blinis that were very similar to the ones I buy from waitrose. Nothing was unpleasant, but there was nothing remarkably good there either!
My friend chose oven roasted black chicken leg with mash potato, which arrived looking a little palid. A large chicken leg and thigh on a heap of mashed potato with a lettuce leaf on top! As she said, a few vegetables might have been nice, or a sauce or gravy. I chose the market special, ‘fillet with market vegetables’. I pressed the waitress for what the fillet was and was informed ‘fillet of beef’. What appeared was a very poor excuse for ‘fillet of beef’ (which I must admit I thought was a suprise on the menu without a supplement). I got 2 small thin slices of meat which looked as if they had been beaten out. The meat was well cooked (the waitress didn’t ask how I would like it) and served with a strong peppercorn sauce. It was definately beef, but the strangest fillet I’ve ever come across…more likely to be Onglet, and the well cooked, thin slices were really not that appetising for someone like me who prefers a steak cooked a point . Unlike my friend, 80% of my plate was taken up by a mixture of vegetables (broccoli and carrots) – and I didn’t get any potatoes at all.
For all that, the service was fast and efficient, the bill was brought quickly and the restaurant itself was clean and pleasantly decorated. Although it was 75% full, it didn’t feel crowded or overly noisy and we didn’t feel pressured to leave at the end.
Would I go back?…well, not for a while. While I thought it was reasonable value for money (we got £2 discount per head by booking through top table), there was nothing exceptional about the food and some things that really annoyed me.
11-14 Hanover Pl
London, WC2E 9JP