Eating out: In the nick of time
7a College Approach, Greenwich, London SE10, 0181 305 9767. Lunch Tues-Fri noon-2.30pm, Sun noon-3.30pm. Dinner Tues-Sat 7-10.30pm, Sun 7-9.30pm. Three-course dinner about pounds 22.50. Credit cards accepted, except Diners
Sunday 05 September 1999
But then I went to Time and my eyes were opened. If Greenwich really is as cool, sexy and wonderful as this mindblowingly good restaurant suggests it is, then I'm going to be moving there like a shot. I originally booked my table there for a Sunday lunchtime en famille, but it was lucky I changed my mind: a) because the menu's longer and more interesting in the evening b) because the food's far too fine to be wasted on brats, and c) because only at night do you get to experience Time's true vibe in all its gorgeous loucheness.
It's the sort of place where you feel really glad you decided to give your new black Agnes B suede trousers their first outing. That's what I thought, anyway, as I walked up a staircase lined with Gered Mankowitz portraits of the early Stones, the young Eric Clapton et al and into a huge, airy and awesomely trendy bar area where groovily dishevelled twenty- somethings were sprawled chain-smoking and drinking round designer tables in Eames chairs.
The atmosphere is definitely more Ladbroke Grove or Clerkenwell than leafy Greenwich. But though it sounds a rather daunting experience it isn't, because the staff are so friendly, relaxed and welcoming that it feels more like your favourite members-only club.
The dining area is much smaller and more sedate than the bar zone. But because it's perched on an upstairs gallery, with a big window overlooking the vampirish punters below, you can kid yourself that you're still hanging out with the trendy drinking crowd even though you're actually sitting in a pukka restaurant supping snootily on ham, foie gras and sweetbread terrine with chickpea puree and truffle dressing.
As a rule, I think cold food in restaurants is a huge waste of life and my instincts told me to start with the seared scallops on a tower of marinated peppers with dressed crab. But when I told the maitre d' this, he insisted that chef Adrian McLeod's terrine was the best anywhere in London.
"Even though it's cold?" I asked.
"Even though it's cold," he replied.
I love it when maitre d's make my decisions for me, especially when they're the right ones. I later discovered that, like the chef, he'd trained at Le Gavroche. You'd never have guessed this from his stubble and tattoos, but true class will out.
What's so clever and unusual about the food at Time is that it's far more exciting on the palate than it looks on the menu. Looking down the list - roast rump of lamb, gourmet sausages, roast duck breast, fillet of beef - it's hard to find anything that makes you go "Wow! How novel and exotic and scrumptious! I've just got to try it." The Sugar Club it ain't. But maybe that's part of the restaurant's cunning plan: by deliberately lowering your expectations, it makes it all the more delightful when the boring dish you ordered turns out to be one of the finest you've ever eaten.
Take my peppered monkfish: you can't get much duller than that, can you? Yet thanks to McLeod's genius - gosh this boy is going to go far - it was transformed into something so ravishingly delicious that I almost wept for joy. The fish and the accompanying asparagus were cooked with quite gob-smacking precision, and they were perfectly offset by shards of good chorizo and a truly ambrosial truffled olive oil mash.
X and Jonathan the financial journalist seemed to be similarly impressed by their dishes, though they snaffled them up so quickly, I didn't get much of a chance to test them myself. X had a minor quibble about the dryness of her pan-fried John Dory with potato tartare and char-grilled Mediterranean vegetables, and Jonathan said he would have liked to have tasted more gin in his gin- marinated salmon with bitter leaves and lemon dressing. But X was blown away by her leek and potato soup flavoured with lemongrass and coriander, and Jonathan by his gourmet sausages with black pudding mash and creamed leeks.
Under the circumstances, it seemed a crime not to stuff our faces with the puddings as well. We liked the fig, peach and mascarpone tarte with honey and ginger, and we worshipped the chocolate and banana pudding with banana ice-cream and chocolate sauce.
Yep, the food at Time rules. In a few months, Greenwich is going to become so congested and horrible you won't want to go there and Time's fame will have spread so far that you won't be able to get a table. Get in there quick, I should.
WHAT'S ON THE WINE LIST
Richard Ehrlich's selection
Time has sharpened its wine-act after some harsh criticisms, but a further dose of improvement would not go amiss. There isn't enough sparkle in the choice, and there is too much vagueness as to vintages - watch out when they present the bottle. And marvel at the wildly expensive oddballs on the list, including Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 1978 at pounds 325 - just pounds 37 less than it costs at Le Gavroche.
Pewsey Vale, Eden Valley Riesling, pounds 17
One of the many excellent Rieslings from South Australia's Riesling paradise. These dry wines are especially good with fish and light chicken dishes
Errzuriz Merlot Reserva, pounds 26
The king of Aconcagua makes some of Chile's best Merlots, and this one is reasonably marked up. For all red meats
Taittinger Brut NV, pounds 30
I don't know how they can sell this excellent NV Champagne at a premium of just pounds 5 to pounds 6 over retail; I suspect it won't last long. Snap it up while you can
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