Olympic Studios: Restaurant review - The shrimps had a mysterious taste nobody could explain

 

Now this is a place with real pedigree. I don't mean it used to be owned by Pierre Koffmann or helmed by Marco Pierre White or picked up a Michelin star under Raymond Blanc. Oh no. In Edwardian times it was a theatre-cum-dancehall-cum-bioscope (an early form of cinema, where punters could watch footage of King Edward VIII's funeral).

In 1919 it was the Byfield Hall Cinema with tea-house and posh orchestra. In the 1920s it was the howlingly fashionable Barnes Theatre, bringing Chekhov (starring John Gielgud and Charles Laughton) to the stunned suburbanites of SW13. In the Thirties, Forties and Fifties it was a cinema under various names – the Ranelagh, the Plaza, the Vandyke. But in 1966 it hit its most famous incarnation as a recording studio.

It was here that – roll of drums, show some respect at the back – the Rolling Stones recorded Sticky Fingers and Let it Bleed, and were filmed by Jean-Luc Godard laying down "Sympathy for the Devil". The Beatles recorded the original tracks of "All You Need is Love" here, The Who made their masterpiece Who's Next and Led Zeppelin their debut album. It's frankly awe-inspiring to think Jimi Hendrix used to strut around these premises in search of food, drink and less orthodox stimulants, and Madonna and the Spice Girls, though not, obviously, at the same time.

Recently it's been re-constituted as a cinema, bar and restaurant. From the outside it looks fantastic – they've kept the handsome frontage of the old cinema – and inside there's plush seating in the bar. Our maître d' proudly informed us that they've invested in a Dolby Atmos 3D sound system so, if you haven't yet seen the peril-in-space movie Gravity, you know where to come.

In restaurant terms, though, it leaves something to be desired. The décor is sparse-to-brutal, with plain walls done in Elephant's Breath grey, the furniture is canteen-ish, the lighting confined to Stasi-interrogation lamps over individual tables. It's dead cool but scarcely friendly. A gleaming cabinet of copper kettles is the only sop to old-style comfort. This is the place for Sight & Sound readers to discuss Alfonso Cuarón's light filters and gleaming backdrops – though they might be distracted by the chef's kitchen table, on which a maître pâtissier glumly constructs croissants and pains au chocolat for next morning's drop-in breakfast market.

The menu offers mostly familiar comfort food, from home-smoked mackerel to Old Spot pork belly, but includes a selection of made-before-your-eyes quiches and tarts that I haven't seen in a restaurant since the 1980s, and three monster main dishes to share: 'Sutton Hoo Roast Chicken', named after, and presumably resembling, the famous Anglo-Saxon burial ship, a seabass en papillote, baked in (hopefully not Anglo-Saxon) parchment, and the confusingly named 'O'Shea's Irish Angus Côte de Boeuf' which has been hung for 44 days, and will set you back £66. And for the hip young cine-swingers, there are some fabulous sandwiches: salt-beef with gruyère and pickled cabbage, Longhorn cheeseburger (how much classier that sounds than 'cheeseburger') and veal-loin with Stilton butter.

On a bitterly cold November night, my celeriac and rosemary soup was creamy and gratifyingly dense, with a sprinkling of parsley and breadcrumbs and a crunch of shallot rings. There's a sweetness at the heart of celeriac that can be off-putting in soup, but this was fine. Angie's deep-fried squid was exemplary, the batter light and crispy, the squid fat and tasty, the garlic mayonnaise not too assertive. I thought the portions were grudging, but that may be just greed talking.

When the roast duck with creamed leeks wasn't available, our friendly waiter offered an alternative confit of duck with butter beans and spinach. Inspecting the substitute, I formed the impression that it had been hanging around in an oven for too long, the surface parched and dry. The duck meat within was dark and a little over-intense, the beans were OK, and the combination, with a side-order of mash loaded with butter, was so filling I could hardly finish it.

Angie's roast cod with brown shrimp butter was frankly undercooked. Can there be a fashion for fish cooked rare-to-medium? If so I'm not joining it. "I like cod when it's white and flaky, not when it's grey and slimy," she told the waiter, who took it away. After 20 minutes a replacement arrived. It was an improvement, but the tiny shrimps had a mysteriously bitter taste that nobody could explain.

We couldn't face a pudding, so weren't able to check out the 'pear and cider soup' with butterscotch ice-cream. It was a rather underwhelming dinner in an establishment that offers a lot to those hungry for audio-visual spectacle and perhaps not enough to those just hungry for a good dinner.

Food **
Ambience **
Service ***

Olympic Studios, 117-123 Church Road, Barnes, London SW13 (020-8912 5161). About £90 for two, with wine

News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
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

    Recruitment Genius: Bid / Tender Writing Executive

    £24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executives / Marketing Communications Consultants

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a number of Marketi...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This well established business ...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own