Lost in a bizarre game of hide and seek

Almost impossible to locate on the outside and deep underground once you're in, Jemima Hunt finds decent cuisine just as elusive at this East End eatery
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Indy Lifestyle Online

It's hard to know when it all began to go wrong. Was it when it started to rain? When - despite having an A-Z - we couldn't find the street? Or when, once we were on the street, we couldn't find the restaurant?

It's hard to know when it all began to go wrong. Was it when it started to rain? When - despite having an A-Z - we couldn't find the street? Or when, once we were on the street, we couldn't find the restaurant?

The night had started out so promisingly. I'd arranged to meet Douglas, my best friend, in a bar. Friday night in Shoreditch, and the place was heaving. We had a drink and left on foot. Douglas had the map, according to which Blossom Street wasn't far away - so where was it? We took a left, then a right, and found ourselves in the rain on an empty street. Nothing but houses and an office block. We were about to turn back, but then we noticed that the office block had a sign outside it: 1 Blossom Street. We'd found what we were looking for.

The entrance was a walkway between two offices with their lights still on and computer terminals blinking - zero points for seduction. We arrived in a garden that was probably quite pretty by day, but quickly realised we were being lured underground.

We were met at the bottom of the stairs by an amicable American girl. "I bet you had the problem finding us," she laughed. "Blossom Street is on the crease in the A-Z." This I hadn't noticed, but it seemed to make sense.

"So, guys - where do you want to sit?"

Certainly a novel question to ask in a London restaurant on a Friday night. We picked a choice, cosy corner and surveyed our surroundings. We weren't completely alone - out of approximately 20 tables, four were occupied. A group of footballer types were drinking champagne behind us. Three frosted blondes were discussing handbags at another table. Through the kitchen hatch, we could see the bored faces of the staff. There was an electric piano playing. Splashy abstract paintings hung on the walls.

As you'd expect, the service was efficient and, fortunately, the menu - featuring mainly modern British/Asian fusion dishes - looked exciting, despite the florid language. Douglas ordered caramelised rosette of scallops with spring onions - poor man's asparagus - for starters. I went for smoked salmon-wrapped turbot ceviche with razorclam vinaigrette.

As an appetiser, we were presented with a bit of smoked salmon and a couple of - as it turned out - uncooked tortellini. This didn't bode well.

Our bottle of Sancerre came next. The wine list was surprisingly expensive - though comprehensive - but our wine disappointed. I'm not an expert, but for £30 it should have been better.

"It doesn't have legs," declared Douglas. I had to agree.

Then came the food. Douglas's scallops were tasty, but came lathered in a glue-like sauce. My ceviche was amply flavoured with lime and chilli, but it should have been fresh - not more smoked salmon from a packet.

Douglas began recounting his two days of hedonism at the Notting Hill Carnival, from which he was recovering four days later. The waitress came to take our plates and I asked her if the electric piano played itself - like they do on ferries - because we were beginning to feel as if we were travelling by ferry, what with the cavernous, windowless room, the sea-sick walls and - I hate to say it - the ferry-boat food.

She didn't get the joke.

The main courses were miserable. I'd been tempted by the dramatic-sounding "wreck-caught sea bass", but instead opted for pan-roasted red mullet with Puy lentil salad and bouillabaisse sauce. The fish was tasty, but the lentils weren't fresh and the sauce was cheesy - nothing bouillabaissey about it. Douglas's honey-roasted poussin with tarte Tatin turned out to be a precooked chicken leg served at room temperature in a treacly sauce. He said he didn't feel well.

This was unfortunate, as the pudding menu was awash with a sickly selection of trifles and "crÿme mouleés". We chose the cheese plate - a respectable selection of goat's cheeses and other cheeseboard staples. Douglas also insisted on peach melba. What landed on the table was an explosion of ice cream, cocoa powder and peach slices, splattered across a plate. We began to laugh and quickly ordered the bill - a staggering £95.

There was only one thing for it. We headed straight for the bar from which we'd come and drank vodka until we'd forgotten where we'd been.

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