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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Disappointing flavours from John Torode

I was very impressed with Australian chef John Torode and his expertise on the recent Masterchef series so I decided to hot foot it round to his restaurant, Smiths of Smithfield, in London's Faringdon.

As a judge on the programme, Torode frequently made comments about dishes not having the right flavours or being seasoned properly, so I reasoned that my taste buds were in for a gastronomic treat. I must say, I get a bit irritated when he constantly berates contestants for not putting enough salt in their food. Isn't he aware of the guidelines regarding salt? Personally I never add salt to my food and I don't like the taste when restaurants have overdone it. Anyway - back to the review.

Smiths of Smithfield is opposite the famous meat market and has four floors all with a different dining experience. We went for the top floor which is the serious restaurant. Offering wonderful views over London it had a great vibe and was packed out (as were all the other floors).

The menu is refreshingly non-pretentious; none of those ridiculous trios, timbales or anything else plagiarised from French menus. Torode specialises in sourcing the best in ingredients and the menu faithfully records the provenance of the fish and beef.

Dorset crab on toast was a disappointing starter. The crab had very little flavour; it didn't even taste very strongly of crab, and the toast was so hard that slicing into it made a piece ping across the table. An inauspicious start. My companion had smoked eel which had a good texture and subtle flavour.

Next up was Hereford sirloin which came with the vegetable of the day, courgettes (a strange choice, as this is the one vegetable that can be counted on to be dull dull dull) and large square shaped chips.

The chips were divine, the courgettes were, well, dull, and the steak was erring towards medium rather than the rare I asked for. For £28 I expected a melting texture and a most memorable steak, but it was very similar to the old cow "aged 21 days" sold in Sainsbury's. It wasn't the best steak I've ever had - that was in an obscure pub in Dublin.

Finally, rum and raison bruelee had a pleasingly crunchy top and a crisp, light shortbread biscuit, but the rum flavour was non existent. What was left was a pleasant enough rich gloop, but disappointing when you were expecting some wonderful flavours which weren't delivered.

So in summary I'd say that Smiths at Smithfield has a great vibe but on the top floor it doesn't deliver the fine dining experience that it promises. More work needed on the flavours and the seasonings, Mr Torode.


Beni Bevly said...

Hi Gail,
Who can resist from talking about food. You brought up the right topic.

I like Asian food. In Mountain House, Far East Bay Area, California, the place where I live will not give many choices. If there is, it is already americanized. To get the real one, I have to drive about 1 hour to San Francisco.

It is worth to drive. At the end, you say oh ... I am full with satisfaction expression ...

Thank you for dropping by, Gail.

Beni Bevly

Anonymous said...

Hi Gail

It is probably that some people are so proud of what they know that if something doesn't fit into their taste buds then it is not right. Not the right flavour, not the right taste, not the right texture, etc etc.

He would know a lot about food from one culture and may be an expert in that but not a very good judge of food from other ethnic backgrounds.

He definitely does not have a taste for other foods, so it seems to me. And, his comments are very general and vague at times.