Restaurants: That sinking feeling

Tracey MacLeod To enjoy Titanic, you need to be young, groovy and loud - and to firmly believe that the Eighties never ended. Photographs by Morley von Sternberg

My attempts to have a meal at Titanic, Marco Pierre White's fate- flouting new mega-restaurant, met a series of small disasters. First a Sunday lunch, planned for the opening week, was called off the night before, when a panicked functionary phoned at midnight to say that the restaurant's power supply had failed, and it would be closed the next day. A later dinner was jeopardised when my companion cried off, with just hours to spare, pleading illness. So it was with a noble, all-hands-on-deck manliness that my friend Geoff Dyer stepped in to save the day.

Titanic is a cavernous place just off Piccadilly Circus, carved out of the old Regent Palace Hotel, and designed to attract the young and groovy late-night crowd who flock to the Atlantic Bar and Grill beneath it. The Atlantic has never appealed to me, because of its vast size and scary door policy. But I have fond memories of the hotel, whose Carvery was the first London restaurant I ever visited (not very groovy, but plenty of gravy, as I recall).

A phalanx of gelled and overcoated security men guards the Titanic's revolving doors, but once you've persuaded them that you're a bona fide young person with a reservation, and not a befuddled tourist in search of a good Carvery, you're allowed down a flight of shallow steps into a huge, noisy and rather dark version of an ocean liner's dining room.

On first impressions, Titanic is an Art-Deco approximation of Hades. Clamorous and impersonal, the enormous space is dominated by a central bar, packed with yelling drinkers, most of them in suits or little black dresses. Marooned incongruously in their midst, in colourful clubwear and On Golden Pond hat, sat a gloomy Geoff, like a steerage passenger reluctantly prodded up into first class.

Looking up from his paperback, he greeted me: "It's horrible here, isn't it?" And indeed it was, although we couldn't quite work out why. The restoration is sympathetic, the detail opulent, the atmosphere glamorous. But there's also something oppressive about the darkness, the techno-ish background music, the endlessly circulating cigarette-girls - the sheer scale and cynicism of a place designed for shouting and spending rather than talking and eating. It was, we agreed, the most Eighties place we'd ever been in, even during the Eighties.

After margaritas from a menu of gimmicky cocktails, many of which seemed to feature Kahlua, Baileys or Malibu, we moved to our table. Something struck me as familiar about the leather banquette seating, the etched glass screens and the elbow- jostling proximity of our neighbours; we were in Conranworld - just like the original, but bigger and louder.

The menu, too, is a distillation of contemporary brasserie orthodoxies. It borrows particularly freely from The Ivy, both in its layout and the inclusion of several of that restaurant's specialities, such as corned beef hash. Seafood and fish are well represented, but there isn't much of Marco in it, apart from upmarket reworkings of declasse favourites such as chicken Kiev. Prices are surprisingly reasonable, given the surroundings and location, with starters at about pounds 6.50, main courses at pounds 10.

Geoff is a Caesar salad connoisseur, and found the Titanic's satisfactory, mainly because the lettuce was very fresh. It was a Little Gem, not the traditional Romaine, but worked just as well, though it contained some unadvertised pieces of bacon.

I too went for an American starter, a clam chowder, after checking whether it was Boston or Manhattan style (one is creamy and thick; the other all tomato skins and brine). Happily, it was the Boston, but the thin, wine- flavoured liquid that arrived bore little relation to the stand-your-spoon- up heartiness of any chowder I'd ever had. Crunchy little vegetable morsels bobbed about in it, rather than soothing chunks of potato and bacon and, unforgivably, the fragments of potato it did contain tasted reheated.

My main course, smoked haddock, was much better - an undyed slab of firm, fresh fish, its saltiness offset by the soothing ooze of a poached egg and a buttery, chive-flecked bearnaise. Underneath, a patty of bubble and squeak was pleasingly rough-hewn. Less successful was the "steak hache a la McDonald's", Titanic's jokey take on the hamburger. Served with home- made tomato ketchup and US-style fixings, it was a towering thing, its scale mirrored by huge chips, each as thick as a sailor's thumb. But the meat was dry and flavourless, and the chips too big to pack any kind of crunch.

One thing we couldn't complain about was the service. Waiters arrived before we expected them, and our wine waiter - respectful, friendly and DiCaprio-cute - served up our maddeningly delicious Cloudy Bay as though we were the most honoured guests at the captain's table.

Titanic's desserts are reliable nursery favourites. You'd think it would be hard to go wrong with a sticky toffee pudding, but mine was neither sticky enough nor toffeeish enough. Geoff's bread and butter pudding slipped down more easily. "It's the best thing I've eaten all evening - which is a major indictment of the establishment," was his verdict.

Marco has promised that a three-course meal at Titanic should cost around pounds 20 a head for food, and ours did, but with all the extras, including pre-dinner drinks and a service charge, the total topped pounds 90. "It feels like we're really on the Titanic," Geoff concluded, as we surveyed the ranks of shiny-faced revellers. "Don't these people know there's a recession coming?" I suspect Titanic will do very nicely. I just don't think either of us will be making a return voyage

Titanic, 81 Brewer Street, London W1 (0171-437 1912). Lunch noon-2.30pm; dinner 5.30pm-11.30pm; breakfast 11.30pm-2.30am. Limited disabled access. All major cards.

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
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 General

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    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