Archive | March, 2011

Review: Dover Street Restaurant

30 Mar

Getting to Mayfair’s Dover Street Restaurant, on Saturday, looked likely to be something of a challenge. At around the time we stepped into our taxi, angry protestors were reportedly smashing up Piccadilly Square, and our driver was despondent about our chances of getting the car onto Dover Street.

Said driver spent the greater duration of the journey gossiping excitedly on her hands-free set, ooh-ing and aah-ing and ‘oh my gawd-ing’ about the ‘hooligans’ running the streets. It was something of a surprise, then, to arrive at our destination unscathed; unaffected even, by anarchical protestors.

My mum and brother had chosen this restaurant not so much for its menu (not that there was anything wrong with it), but for its multi-entertainment purposes. The restaurant’s website brands itself as ‘the complete night out in Mayfair,’ replete with late opening hours, live band and dance floor. Fun for all the family.

The venue itself is nice, in a shiny sort of way. The walls are adorned with black and white photos of classy entertainers like Ella Fitzgerald, the staff are smart and attractive – but no more skilled or knowledgeable than your average casually-attired waitress in a small bistro – and the two bars, resplendent with glowing spirits and liquids of every imaginable type,  are lit up to high heaven in various hues.

Our pre-dinner drinks, which included an Apple Martini and a Mojito for the females of the group, were delicious and beautifully presented, but the wine chosen to accompany the meal – a Chilean Ochigavia Sauvignon Blanc, was a little disappointing; sharp and tangy, yes, but not fresh.

To start, I had crab au gratin, whilst my brother chose toasted goats cheese with roasted Mediterranean vegetables. Both were sizeable dishes with simple strong flavours, that were tasty if not particularly interesting. I was more excited about my main course. I’d picked the most expensive seafood option (£22.50), for its combination of sautéed king prawns, scallops and crab claw – surely a guaranteed winner. The seafood came in a green pepper and a (separate) champagne sauce, which was strangely and colourfully presented in rows beneath two lines of prawns and scallops, met at either end by a crab claw. Bringing the dish together – if only aesthetically – was a carefully piped line of mashed potato running through the centre of the square plate. I ate with an open mind, but still fail to see what the stodgy mash added to the plate, except for a heavy stomach. The fish, however – and most notably the king prawns – were perfectly cooked and delicious.

Shortly before ten, and we were given dessert menus that were, frankly, uninspiring. Crème caramel: check; chocolate gateaux: check; cheesecake: check. Boring, boring, boring. We were, however, shortly to enter the night’s entertainment phase. No sooner had the last table been cleared from the centre of the restaurant, than middle-aged women in inappropriately short dresses and impossibly high heels, began flooding onto the newly-revealed dance floor. And instead of the soul band, advertised to come on at ten, we were treated to hits by the likes of Wham, Take That and Spandau Ballet. A personal highlight was the moment when a James Caan (Dragons’ Den) lookalike, sporting a sleazy pinstriped suit, danced his way, elbows jutting and fingers clicking, onto the floor, in what I suppose he imagined to be a style reminiscent of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. He was presently joined by a squat blonde who’d spent the previous hour hanging from the arm of another suited and booted man at the bar. Both looked pretty pleased to have found dance partners to equal their own prowess.

We didn’t see the band, which was reportedly going to come on an hour later than advertised, but after the night’s antics so far, I wasn’t altogether assured that we wouldn’t have been treated to a wedding band- style re-hashing of Al Green and Lionel Richie.

The night as a whole was enjoyable: the food was nice, but nothing to write home about and the entertainment – though not what we’d expected – was certainly, well, entertaining. If you came here with work, you’d probably give Dover Street Restaurant ten out of ten, but for smaller groups it is somewhat lacking in intimacy.

 

 

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Spinning..? I think ‘hell’ would be more appropriate

27 Mar

On Thursday, buoyed up by Tuesday’s first Camden gym session, I positively bounced into my local sports centre, confidently announcing my name sans membership card, and entered into the cardiovascular world of treadmills and weights with none of the trepidation that had accompanied my initial foray into this previously abhorred fitness environment. So confident, was I, about my place in this body-beautiful, muscle-bound sphere that I even planned my trip so that I could enjoy forty minutes of individual workout before embarking upon my aero-biking class.

After some level nine running and moderate cross-training, I approached a scarily fit-looking woman who was warming up on one of the spin bikes. Was she doing the class? Yes, she was doing it, but not running it. Apparently, this lady in super-tight lycra was just so keen to get going that she turned up early for some extra ‘bum up, bum down’ repetitions on the bike. She was wildly enthusiastic about the class, telling me several times that I should take part, despite my protestations that I was already booked in.

This lycra-bound lady should have been the first sign. I would never generally trust that level of enthusiasm, especially not for exercise, but two visits in, and I was actively pushing negative thoughts to the back of my brain.

As more women arrived, I started to get nervous. How had I failed to realise that ‘aero biking’ was spinning under another name? I wasn’t mentally prepared for this much hardcore exercise.

When Tom, the trainer arrived, the lady adjacent to me, bemoaned the fact that Tom was replacing the usual Thursday class leader. ‘I thought we were in for a nice easy session’ she said. Shit.

The next thirty minutes were a blur of pain, embarrassment and occasional maniacal laughing. After around thirteen minutes, I genuinely didn’t think that I would be able to go on, but was saved – at least momentarily – by a faulty bike. I say momentarily, because Tom then moved me to the front-centre of the class, thus removing any possibility of cheating. I was nose to nose with the scary trainer, and next to the fitness freak. While I tried desperately to find a half-second where Tom’s vision was not focused on the class, so that I could turn down my dial, the ridiculously-toned spinner on my right, was going extra fast, and seemed to be genuinely enjoying it.

As we approached the half-hour mark, sheer desperation led me to disregard the knowledge that the class lasted three quarters of an hour, and as the minute hand moved closer to 12, I tried to imagine how brilliant it would be to no longer have my legs controlled by an unnaturally fast spin-cycle. After thirty-three minutes had passed, I reluctantly accepted that my ordeal was not yet over.

Strangely enough, after forty-five minutes of exercise more intense than anything with no actual life-saving value should ever be, I knew that I would come back. I think that spinning should be seriously considered as a means of teaching self-discipline to delinquents, and feel absolutely confident that it will make me a better person.