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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
science
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
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

    Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

    £15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

    Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

    Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

    Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

    Day In a Page

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links