At the forecourt of dining

BLUEBIRD; 350 King's Road, London SW3 5UU. Tel: 0171 559 1000. Open Mon-Fri 12-3.30pm, Mon-Sat 6-11pm, Sat and Sun for brunch 11am-3.30pm, and Sun 6-10pm. Average price per person, pounds 35, without wine. Credit cards accepted

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Why not combine a restaurant review with a night's entertainment for the Aged P, up in London on a visit? (The Parent in question, my boyfriend's mother, is not really Aged at all, but we've both just finished Great Expectations, and it's the current Dickensian joke in our household). She's arriving on Wednesday, so I ring up Terence Conran's latest venture, Bluebird, to arrange a table. Uh-oh. The only sittings available are 6pm and 10.30pm (the restaurant seats 240). It's not really practical for two working people to get up to the arse end of Chelsea by 6pm, never mind have an appetite, and by 10.30pm the Aged P will be dead on her feet. Still, I book a table for 6pm, feeling grimly that I am having to fit my social life around the needs of Sir Terence, rather than the other way about.

But as Tel pointed out on our Letters Page, two weeks ago, we shouldn't expect it to be any dif-ferent. Restaurant staff are rude? Well, so are customers. Remember that "a smile and a compliment works wonders", says Tel. "Courtesy," he reminds us, "is a two-way street." Which is odd, really, as money isn't. Not only do we have to pay them, they'll be really hurt and offended unless we smile at them and compliment them too.

I regretfully decide that the Aged P will have to go without, and phone up to change the booking to a different day and a more congenial time for the two of us. This, too, proves to be fantastically complicated. "So it's a table for three on Monday at 6pm ..." No, I say through clenched teeth, it's a table for TWO on Monday at EIGHT-THIRTY pm. My spontaneity is in tatters. Is this what it takes to dine fashionably in London these days?

Bluebird is the white elephant at the end of the King's Road, a vast Twenties garage with a forlorn recent history as a hippy-shit emporium full of lava lamps and incense, and latterly as the poor raver's answer to Kensington Market. I have to rub my eyes in amazement at the transformation. The forecourt is dotted with tables, the ground floor is a glistening, fetishised food store; to the left there's a cafe, on the right a shop where you can pick up Conraniana: your demitasses and your ashtrays and what-not.

We go up the utilitarian concrete steps - there's no grand entrance - to the first floor where we are hailed with almost manic glee by five greeters. Now, my idea of the perfect restaurant is one where the loudest noise is the ticking of the grandfather clock, and you don't have to remove your mud-encrusted walking boots. This is yet another huge aircraft-hangar restaurant, painted clinical white, the only patches of colour being the ubiquitous bluebird motif and strange, kite-like structures suspended from the glass roof.

It's a slight downer to be shoe-horned between an already-chomping couple, and a table with a dramatically stained cloth (the six o'clock sitting must have been wild). At first I assume boisterous customers are responsible for the roars which echo, until I realise they emanate from the bright hell of the kitchen, visible through glass along one wall. The last time I saw expressions of such anguish was in a fresco of the Last Judgment. The noise has a curious insulating effect: although you're sitting cheek- by-jowl with your neighbours, you can't hear a word they're saying. We regret this when the stained cloth is whisked away and Posh Tart sits down with Crusty Old Git.

The long blue menu is utilitarian, brisk, and eschews restaurant-speak for plus signs. For some reason, we both agree it is imperative for him to have the cracked crab (pounds 9.95) as a starter, and I have the grilled scallops + lime and coriander. His half-crab arrives, neatly bisected by a single cleaver blow. It's served with a bowl of what looks and tastes like single cream, and is, quite simply, intensely crabby. I don't know what we expected, really. The scallop trio poses more of a challenge, being topped with unidentifi- able, slightly fibrous yellow slivers. Very fresh blanched ginger? That's my best guess.

We order one glass of New World Sauvignon Blanc and one of Chardonnay, and I'm a bit taken aback to see that for pounds 3.70 you only get half a (big) glass. The waiter (we've had three different ones in the first half-hour) is punctilious about making sure we have the right glasses, but I can't help wondering why his Sauv B looks so buttercup yellow while my Chardonnay is atypically pale. One sip and we silently swap glasses.

The woodroasted squab + pommes dauphinoises (pounds 18.50) looks like the sort of plaster miniature roast chicken which comes with a toy oven. It's crisp on the outside, correctly under-done inside, with blackcurrant-dark flesh and a thin gravy. I grieve insincerely over the tiny girth of the roast suckling pig, served with, I mean +, bean cassoulet; it's like eating a baby. The flesh is tender and flavoured with fennel seeds, the breadcrumb-topped butter-beans are slightly tough, the crackling resembles hard, golden toffee.

Perhaps because I haven't nutted anyone, clicked my fingers, or said "Oi, Garson!" once, service is almost passionately keen. Squads of functionaries stop by the table to drop things off or fiddle with the cutlery while enquiring solicitously whether we're enjoying ourselves. The waiter I like best has a shaven-head and what looks like a tattooed scalp, though I decide after discreet inspection that some kind of uneven natural pigmentation is responsible for the Rorschach effect. He is so lovely and charming that I get quite upset when I see him across the other side of the room, serving SOMEONE ELSE.

In the line of duty we have puddings: a small tower of roast peach + marscarpone, and chocolate semi-freddo + honey and turron. The latter is presumably the curlicue of hard, golden toffee resembling pork crackling. With coffees, mineral water and a side salad, the bill comes to a fairly startling pounds 95.51, which made me rather glad about the Aged P. And the Conran experience even extends to the loos, where an attendant dispenses liquid soap and works the taps for you. Hot and cold with embarrassment, you might say.

! Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall returns on 31 August

Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam