Factory fodder

The disembodied spirits of former workers haunt the latest addition to the west London restaurant scene
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Indy Lifestyle Online

What the rest of the country feels on visiting the Smoke - the noise! the dirt! the horrible people! - the Londoner experiences on visiting an unfamiliar borough. I have an animus against west London in particular. I think it's the way that despite the clogged roads, bog-standard terraced houses going for half a million, rubbish public transport and overcrowding of teeming-maggot proportions, its inhabitants persist in their delusion that they inhabit some sort of trend-setters' paradise.

What the rest of the country feels on visiting the Smoke - the noise! the dirt! the horrible people! - the Londoner experiences on visiting an unfamiliar borough. I have an animus against west London in particular. I think it's the way that despite the clogged roads, bog-standard terraced houses going for half a million, rubbish public transport and overcrowding of teeming-maggot proportions, its inhabitants persist in their delusion that they inhabit some sort of trend-setters' paradise.

Shepherd's Bush Green is a grimy wasteland of caffs and KFC. I almost miss the Bush Bar & Grill, mistaking the neon-lit white-painted tunnel between the computer shop and the minicab office for a drive-in car valeting service. Then I decide that this is after all where I should be and walk down the tunnel and pass into a glass-fronted white box: bar on the left, restaurant on the right.

The kitchen is on full view ahead, and there are squadrons of well-turned out waitresses - who clearly don't eat here or they wouldn't fit into their trousers. It's your basic recycled industrial unit, all white emulsion and ducting. I wanted a table for 7.30pm but was told "it's difficult" and encouraged to come earlier. At 7pm the restaurant is practically empty, and at 7.30pm, instead of the promised hordes, all that happens is the lighting goes down a notch.

"This is a bit sad," says my guest, looking forlornly round the echoing space, though beyond the screen of mini bushes the bar is lively. We turn our attention to the food; the menu is refreshingly brief, plain and reasonably priced. There are four hearty-sounding soups (£2.50-£3.50), salads (from £2.50), and starters of dressed crab (£6), grilled prawns (£7.50) and squid (£4.50). I go for pissaladiÿre (£4) which the waitress warns is substantial: "could make a starter or a main course". I like a bit of disinterested advice. Pissaladiÿre, not that substantial as it turns out, is a sort of cheeseless pizza with anchovy and onion on a thin crust like a water biscuit. It's odd but quite convincing. He has chicken liver mousse and red onion marmalade (£5), and we both admire the perfectly even charcoal stripes on the cake-like accompanying brioche.

By the time the main courses arrive, the restaurant is filling up: girls with sharp haircuts and discreet tattoos and their duller boyfriends; a few suits. Mains come from the grill and wood oven, and again, they don't go for lavish explanations or wacky accompaniments: there's pork chop (£8), calves' liver (£8) and, for two, roast whole poulet noir (£16) and grilled rib of beef (£27). He has seared scallops (£12.50) with a thin, parsley-flecked sauce which turns out to be pure oil. However, the scallops are pronounced divine and eaten too fast (all four of them) for me to grab one. I order salt grilled mackerel (£9), or so I think, but what arrives is lemon sole with capers and black butter (£12.75). "That's totally my fault, I thought you said sole. I can get you the mackerel but you'll have to wait a little." I can't be bothered to wait, and the sole is delicious, but it would have been nice to have been charged the lower price.

The mark-up on wine seems excessive - we have a bottle of Montagny 1er cru £22 - but at least they don't top you up every two minutes thereby forcing you to drink it all up before you've even got your starter. On the minus side, the fizzy mineral water (£3) comes in one of those no-logo reusable bottles that makes you think they just fill it at the tap and drop in some Alka-Seltzer.

We have unnecessary but delicious puddings (£3.50): warm pear and almond tart, more spongy than tarty, and crÿme caramel with Armagnac prunes. There is nothing gelatinous about this wonderful crÿme caramel, and nothing Armagnac-y about the prunes. Sadly, the coffee (£2.50) is river silt.

There is an apologetic notice on the door to the toilets explaining that they are to be refurbished and are "NOT a style statement". Someone has covered the factory graffitti with lurid pink paint, but the burns on the white plastic toilet-roll holder tell where the workers used to rest their fags. We've peaked too early: the place is buzzing with self-satisfied west Londoners at 9.30pm. The bill is a faintly stunning how-did-that-happen? £93.15 including 12.5 per cent service charge, which, as my guest explains, is fully justified by the waitresses' tight trousers.

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