Eating Out: The taste of tunnel vision: R K Stanley

It is not often I go to a restaurant without knowing anything whatsoever about it. When my editor suggested I reviewed a new place in Little Portland Street called RK Stanley I had neither read nor heard a word on the subject. "What is it?" I asked her. "Apparently it's a kind of..." "No, don't tell me," I stopped her. "It'll be a surprise".

First surprise was how big it was. Not far short of two hundred seats, we guessed, with a bar that runs almost the entire length of the restaurant. The style statement is strong: upholstered banquette seating in pillar box red leatherette, with fixed woo den tables; crenelated wooden walls painted khaki to look like aluminium siding, and along one side of the restaurant, a kind of tesselated 3-D tile design which, I eventually worked out, actually represented the eponymous (or should that be acronymous?) initials of the restaurant, RKS.

The whole thing feels like a giant Fifties American diner (or a Greyhound bus station, as my sister put it) and, along with the fresh bottle of ketchup on every table, and the steel salt and pepper shakers, sets up expectations that the food will besome kind of interpretation of this genre, with perhaps a British twist.

When you get the menu, this turns out to be only partly the case. A starter of smoked haddock, poached egg and mustard leaves, has the appropriate ring of glorified Cafe food (of the kind that the Quality Chophouse does so well). My friend Ivan ordered a nd enjoyed it: the fish undyed, in good nick, and only very lightly cooked, the poached egg nice and runny.

My "Plate of House savouries, cooked and cured meats, chutneys and pickles" sounded alluring, but turned out to be a rather confused platter. The meats were in short supply, whereas various vegetable items (lentils, beetroot, mushrooms) abounded. The one thing I liked was a little round of toast topped with a mixture of finely diced ham in a parsley and mustard mayonnaise. I would happily have traded the olives, roast peppers, and spicy aubergine, all of which felt both over-familar and innapropriate in the setting, for another couple of these.

Other starters on offer didn't feel quite right either: a base of "stilton cream" did not sound like a tempting way to serve up mussels - in as much as we all love mussels, and none of us was remotely tempted. And a wood pigeon salad, which I concede may well have been delicious, smacked of deja vu. My sister had Jerusalem artichoke soup, which was seasonal, British and appealing, tasted great for a couple of mouthfuls, but turned out to be so full of cream that even a Norman would have been conquered.

But it was the main course choices that we all agreed gave the restaurant something of an identity crisis. After a short list, rather slackly called Special Stanley, offering a choice of roast poussin, calves liver, or seared salmon, we come to a whole p age called "Sausages" followed by a list of seven sausage dishes, predictably subtitled "The Magnificent Seven". The presentation tempts one to conclude that RK Stanleys is, in fact, a sausage restaurant - that more or less the whole point of the enterpr ise is to celebrate the glorious possibilities of the banger. Just to hammer home the point, there is a note at the bottom of the sausage page of the menu: "All sausages made on the premises to exacting recipes using the highest quality ingredients.View ing of the production areas welcome by appointment". In the circumstances, it seems churlish to order anything other than a sausage. One is no more trustful of the seared salmon, or the roast poussin, than one would be of the ubiquitous steak optionin a seafood restaurant.

We all succumbed to this feeling, and it was sausages all round. And as sausages go, they were all pretty good. My sister had a game sausage, which to its credit smelled as high as any pheasant I have encountered: it was gamey and junipery and went down well. Ivan had a Bratwurst, in which sage and nutmeg are the main flavourings, and he liked his too. My sausage, which was RKS's regular banger, came as part of a dish called Desperate Stan, which included an enormous knuckle of bacon glazed with sugar a nd mustard, pease pudding (ie yellow split pea puree), choucroute and mash. This would have been a pretty fine trencherman's treat but for one thing: the complete absence of salt in the mash, the pease pudding, and the sausage. (The chef might counter th at the saltiness of the bacon will make amends: not sufficiently - you need a bit of salt to start with to make pease pudding and mash taste of anything at all).

Apart from the sausages, the two best things about RK Stanley's, incidentally, are the beer list, and the puddings. Over a dozen Keg ales, including a number of RKS's own, are complemented by a staggering range of bottled beers from all over the world. I 'm no expert, but dabbling with this list is great fun for both beer heads and the unitiated: try RKS's own weisbier for starters. Pud- wise, chocolate burnt cream is dark and silky enough to satisfy anyone's craving for cocoa, and Lavender rice pudding with creme fraiche sorbet and mint syrup is a surprisingly sucessful explosion of flavours and textures, with perfect, sloppy, creamy rice pudding at the centre of it all.

Over these super puds we talked about the sausage thing, and all agreed it was a big mistake - not least because these kind of fancy sausages are now so widely available, and so easily cooked at home. It all seems a bit of a shame; RKS has been thoughtfu lly designed, looks smart and ready for action, and is simply begging to be filled with a noisy and appreciative crowd. If it succeeds in finding its constituency, and consequently its buzz, it could become a reliably fun place to go. The beer list alone may do it for some, but the menu certainly doesn't do it for me. There is a great opportunity here to offer a fun, original and good value menu that fits the feel of the place, and some of the dishes currently on the menu (including the smoked haddock, and even the odd banger) could be a part of that. But at the moment that opportunity is being squandered by somebody's tunnel vision, which has a large sausage stuck in the end where the light should be.

R K STANLEY 6 Little Portland Street, London, W1N 5AG Tel: 0171 462 0099. Open Mon-Sat noon to 3.30pm and 6-11.30. Average dinner price per person, pounds 15. Major credit cards accepted.

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?

An enlightening finale for Don Draper

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Serious player: Aussie Guy Sebastian rehearses for the big show in Vienna

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
    Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

    The end of an era across the continent

    It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
    Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

    'Focus on killing American people'

    Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
    Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

    Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

    The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
    Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

    Same-sex marriage

    As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
    The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

    The Mafia is going freelance

    Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable