Beach Blanket Babylon, 19-23 Bethnal Green Road, London

The burgers might be stone cold, but at least Beach Blanket Babylon serves a mean Porn Star Martini

I do so love a good wet/dry split. That's the ratio between sales of drink and food, according to those old romantics in the hospitality industry. At the new east London incarnation of Notting Hill's 18-year-old bar-restaurant Beach Blanket Babylon, the split is apparently 50/50, but I don't think anyone has told the punters, most of whom seem to think eating is cheating.

Two girls sit up at the bar sharing a plate of chips and a bottle of wine (90/10?), and six City boys at the long, bare wooden table next to me order steaks to go with the cocktails, wines and beers that surround them (70/30?).

I start with the princess of cocktails, an expertly tended Porn Star Martini (£7.50), a legendary mix of Cariel vanilla vodka, vanilla sugar, Passoá passion-fruit liqueur and passion-fruit pulp, first created by mixologist Douglas Ankrah, founder of the London Academy of Bartending. The punchy, zingy contents of the oversize Martini glass are Paris Hilton blonde while the vanilla gives it a touch of girl-next-door Kylie Minogue. It also comes with a shot glass of champagne that lifts it right up to Grace Kelly status. It is a gorgeous thing.

But then, isn't everyone? The lively City banker, post-office crowd is shown to its advantage in the seductively dark warehouse space with its boho/bordello lounge vibe. A 100-seat split-level dining-room wraps itself around a solid marble bar, with a darker, clubbier, cocktail lounge below. Upstairs, an art gallery, members' lounge, roof terrace and outdoor cinema are planned for those who didn't cut it for membership of the nearby Shoreditch House.

The menu reads like a corner pub that has won the Lottery, with fancy food such as foie gras and truffle oil squeezed in among the safe, club-friendly goat's cheese tart, calves' liver with bacon, roast chicken, grilled sea bass and Argentinean fillet steak with red-wine gravy.

A starter of onion soup with Welsh rarebit (£5.50) is just plain weird. A pale purée of onion soubise, it is cloyingly, tooth-achingly, puddingly sweet, topped with a couple of thin grilled, cheese-smeared croutons.

The "wild" mushrooms served with a poached egg (£8.50) seem more cultivated oriental than wild forest, but the flavours are acceptable, until more sweetness, in the form of brioche, overwhelms them.

At this point, about halfway through our first courses, a waiter approaches with the mains. He even attempts to put them on the table, but I won't let him. We have an impasse: the kitchen won't take them back, and I won't accept them. They are put under warming lights, until I strongly suggest they cook them again. But when my sirloin beef burger (£17.50) reappears 10 minutes later, it is cold. "That's really annoying," says my waitress, glaring at the kitchen. It wouldn't be any better hot, however. The dense, pappy meat tastes unseasoned, the chips are thick and oily, and the bun is a cheap fluff-puff. A little plug of foie gras on top is a good attempt at premiumisation, but is not enough to save the day.

Calves' liver with crispy bacon, mash and red onion (£16.50) is toyed with. The liver is mushy enough to be confused with the mash, the onion is dank, and the "crispy bacon" lurks in the very sticky, dark jus like nail clippings.

I seek refuge in blessed alcohol with a fruity, fresh 2005 Domaine Girault Sancerre Rouge, which puts my personal wet/dry consumption for the night at around 80/20. At the last moment, a wedge of cheesecake (£6) gives actual food value by being freshly made, well-balanced, and seasonally adjusted with tangy cumquats.

With such a strong drinking culture in place, the kitchen feels like a poor second to the bar. Which doesn't make this a great place to eat. It does, however, make it a good place to drink.

9/20

Scores: 1-9 stay home and cook, 10-11 needs help, 12 ok, 13 pleasant enough, 14 good, 15 very good, 16 capable of greatness 17 special, can't wait to go back, 18 highly honourable, 19 unique and memorable, 20 as good as it gets

Beach Blanket Babylon, 19-23 Bethnal Green Road, London E1, tel: 020 7749 3540. Lunch and dinner Wednesday to Sunday. Around £100 for two, including wine and service

More bar-restaurants

Bistrotheque

23-27 Wadeson Street, London E2, tel: 020 8983 7900

This vast warehouse space is pure Shoreditch with its bar, cabaret room and bistro, serving up solid French bistro fare from steak tartare to "crackled" pork belly

Room Liverpool

62 Castle Street, Liverpool, tel: 0151 258 1122

Liverpool's Room is dramatically situated in what was once a Midland Bank. Sit up at the bar and sip a London Calling, or dine on classic retro dishes with a twist

The Restaurant Bar & Grill

14 John Dalton Street, Manchester, tel: 0161 839 1999

Downstairs is Manchester's most frenetic cocktail bar, while upstairs the global culinary repertoire runs from Middle Eastern mezes to tandoori sea bass

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Travel
travelWhy Japan's love hotels are thriving through an economic downturn
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Sport
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

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

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    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
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week