Spring really has come to London. The weather has been fantastic for the last few days and, being British, it's pretty much all that everyone can talk about. The leaves on the trees seem to have come out almost overnight and, most excitingly, we had our first al fresco meal last night!
Whilst pop up restaurants are slightly passée now, a traditional fixture of the enclave of West London where I live is The Summerhouse, a seasonal fish restaurant on the banks of the Grand Union Canal. The restaurant opened at the beginning of the month and when we visited, on a Friday night, it was pretty much fully booked and they seemed to be doing at least two sittings on most tables.
When we arrived at 8.30pm, the sky was that wonderful navy colour that you get for a split second before it gets dark.
Our table wasn't ready when we arrived so we sat in the small bar area for a while which, like the main restaurant, was decorated in a nautical style.
The dining room has a covered terrace that was open to the evening. We sat here and were able to spot all the scum floating on the canal which was nice. Having said that it would be nice if we'd come earlier when it was still light, we soon realised that the view was much better in darkness. The curse of a waterside restaurant in central London.
Now, at this point, I should say that I don't eat fish and therefore have to rely on my boyfriend for a critical view of the seafood. His comments were 'yeah, it's nice' so make of that what you will. The fish looked fresh and the chips I tried from his haddock and chips were really quite good, crispy on the outside and soft in the middle with just the right amount of salt although it was somewhat unevenly distributed. He had the calamari to start and they were also 'very nice' with a suitably crunchy batter. Often I think calamari looks a bit anaemic but even I had to admit that his rather sweet little buckets of deep fried squid looked quite appetising.
I went for the vegetarian option (there was also a steak for non-fish eaters) of slow roasted tomato and mozzarella risotto cakes with wilted spinach and pesto and red pepper sauce. Although the flavours were nice, the risotto was over cooked and it all turned a bit mushy.
For dessert, we shared a pimm's jelly with vanilla ice cream. It is summer after all and 'pimms' was trending on twitter when I left the office. It was, however, really quite unpleasant. The ice cream was nice enough (although I don't think it was homemade) but the jelly was awful; too strong to be pleasant and very solid. Not 'it's been chilled too long' solid but 'this jelly hasn't been properly made' solid. We didn't finish it.
The main problem, though, was the service. It was very slow. There were lots of people buzzing around looking busy but managing, at the same time, to avoid making any eye contact. It took 15 minutes for our drinks to arrive and a further 20 minutes for any sign of the food. Between the two of us we had a bottle of wine, one starter, two mains and one pudding and it cost just over £75 (including service) which seemed a lot although nothing seemed too expensive in itself.
I'm sure The Summerhouse will be a great success and will be fully booked every night but I don't think I'll bother going back. There are far nicer places where I can spend my hard earned cash.