The ideas are great, the decor and the lighting are exceptional. A kitsch affair with secret rooms and a vintage cocktail feel. It’s in prime position on Hoxton Square and what they have accomplished in terms of innovation and ideas is formidable.
I therefore had high hopes when I signed up for their ‘Sunday Dinners’. I prepaid £25 for a four course set menu. They use a rotation system, so each Sunday a different meat is used. For the Sunday I attended, it was the beef menu. This particular pop-up is run by Checkon. A company managed by Terry Edwards & George Craig.
We started off with The Cheesy Fingers, described above. It arrived in a small paper box, three large fingers and a little pot of sweet chilli to dip. The bread-crumbed outer layer was well executed, it was light, crispy and not too oily. All in all, very well maintained. The inside was a welcome comfort, and tasted very cheesy. Unfortunately I couldn’t really taste the jalapeno, pale ale or beef dripping, although you could sense there was something more than just cheese inside. It was enjoyable, however there was nothing not to like. It was a simple dish, like cheese sticks, but a little fancier. Comfort food, done well, but not out of this world.
Onto the next course. This was the ‘Beef Leaves.’ Herefordshire beef, baby gem, chilli, ginger, coriander, cashew, spring onions and horseradish. The presentation was aesthetically pleasing. Filled with bright colours and a promise of an exotic taste, this was the bonus course, so my palate was expecting something of note. Unfortunately, a disappointment. The first thing was that the use of coriander was overbearing and all consuming, just too much to cope with, so much so that the diner to my left had to start picking it out, as it felt like a whole mouthful of coriander with each bite. The consistency of the beef wasn’t pleasant. It was chewy, slimy and if the other flavours were there, they were lost by the Goliath of coriander. My tongue was buzzing after this dish from the herb infusion. With expectations down, we were praying the third course could show signs of improvement.This was supposed to be the pièce de résistance, the main course, the big attraction. Roast sirloin of Herefordshire beef, yorkies, truffled roasties, greens, roast parsnips and gravy. I think I’m most disappointed by this dish as the beauty should have been in its simplicity. A roast is a wonder of comfort and simplicity, but done badly and it can be a mess of overcooked and under seasoned food. Here’s where I felt it went wrong. The beef was too thick, chewy, lacked taste and was presented badly. It felt precooked and reheated as it had a greyish hue to it, not evident with freshly roasted, browned beef. The parsnip (yes only one) was good, but not crispy on the outside. The Yorkshire pudding was a sorry attempt. It was flooded with oil at the bottom and as I took a bite I was essentially having a gulp of cooking oil. An oversight and a poor attempt. The greens, were chopped cabbage, ok but plain and a little bitter. The insult of the whole plate had to be the ‘truffled roasties’. This was worse than a school dinner. The potatoes tasted nothing short of stale. Overcooked, chewy, and for want of a better description, old. The gravy added to the school dinner effect and hammered home that little effort or thought had been put int the recipe, or cooking session and far more into the PR, as the description was far more appetising. A really awful attempt at a roast dinner. When you’re competing with every Tom, Dick and Harry of pubs, you need to pull off something better than that, or at least pull off something. The diners sharing our table had the same view as us, they were the ones that branded this as a haunting reminder of a bad school dinner.