Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen is a great-looking restaurant. The style is industrial, yet with clever lighting and enough quirky detail to break up the cavernous space and imbue it with a degree of personality.
I’m just not sure I want to eat there.
It’s a big, bold establishment with a menu to match, or indeed several menus. The food is divided into five sections -- raw bar, salads, hot kitchen, wood stone, puddings -- with three sets of starters and two lots of mains. It’s a bit confusing, although that wouldn’t matter if the food was all good.
It’s not. Some dishes are commendable, most are OK and at least one -- the salmon ceviche -- was a stinker when I tried it: chewy and unpleasant and barely recognizable even as fish.
The king crab and apple cocktail with pink peppercorns was better, as it should be with a 15 pound ($23) price tag, the most expensive starter unless you’re in white-truffle mode.
The wood-stone menu is a safer bet. Tamarind chicken wings with spring onions and coriander are a sticky pleasure if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty and paying 8 pounds for the pleasure. It’s hard to go wrong with meatballs in tomato sauce or heritage tomato and onion tart with burrata cheese. Crispy pig’s head with green chili mayonnaise was unappetizing.
The mains are generally uncomplicated, which is a positive, and the kitchen has to keep the dishes moving out swiftly.
A dish of venison with a sour-cherry sauce stands out from the opening days because the sauce was an unexpected and pleasant surprise. The short-rib burger, by contrast, lacks the depth of flavor you can get at nearby Goodman.
Poussin with chimichurri and burnt lemon is good: the tangy sauce distinctive enough to be interesting without drowning the flavor of the kitchen. The desserts are generally fine.
There are many positive things about Bread Street Kitchen in addition to Russell Sage’s designs. I particularly like the wide range of wines by the glass, including fine wines at as much as 27.50 pounds a time. It’s a handy place to drop by if you fancy a drink and a plate of food after work. I’m just surprised that it isn’t better.
I’d say there’s too much ambition in the prices and not enough in the food if it weren’t for the crowds of contented-looking diners I’ve seen there.
Ramsay played a central role in raising London restaurant standards in the late 1990s and has struggled to replicate that fine-dining success in casual establishments.
The opening was a bit of a mess. The low point for me was when my guest pointed out to a sommelier that the red wine was heated. He replied that there was a fault with the storage and he was “aware of it.” The food came out so slowly that I had to leave before dessert. The wine was still on the bill.
I’ve been back twice since and the teething problems have been sorted out. What’s left is a restaurant whose casual style isn’t reflected in the prices. Starters from the raw bar are mostly in the 10 pounds to 15 pounds range, while most hot mains cost between 15 and 20 pounds. Puddings are 7 pounds to 8 pounds.
For lunch, you might eat much better for less at Ramsay’s Petrus, where the menu du jour is 30 pounds for three courses.
The Bloomberg Questions
Cost? More than 30 pounds, plus drinks, for three courses.
Sound level? Loud music + hard surfaces = 80 decibels plus.
Inside tip? Try the street-level bar.
Special feature? Famous owner.
Will I be back? Not in a hurry.
Date place? Other options spring to mind.
Bread Street Kitchen is at 10 Bread Street, One New Change, London, EC4M 9AF. Information: +44-20-7592-1616; http://www.breadstreetkitchen.com/home.
What the Stars Mean: **** Incomparable food, service, ambience *** First-class of its kind. ** Good, reliable. * Fair. (No stars) Poor.
Sound-Level Chart (in decibels): 65-70: Office noise. 70-75: Starbucks. 75-80: London street. 80-85: Alarm clock at closest range. 85-90: Passing bus. 85-95: Tube train.
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.)