Another week and another rant! This time the at the mid spectrum restaurants of Covent Garden – I realise that from their point of view they know that they can always fill their covers with gullible tourists, but as someone who often finds myself meeting friends in that area for a simple mid-week dinner, I have just had enough of the mediocrity they serve up charging around £30 a head for the privilege.
I realise that I can’t tar every establishment with the same brush but I am constantly irritated by the lack of care that goes into the food and service in this part of town. This week’s particular disappointment was Boulevard Brasserie. I have been a couple of times before and found many of the dishes very acceptable if not truly authentic. They serve French bistro food and have a good reasonably priced wine list so I recommended it to some friends and we all went on Tuesday.
Perhaps at this point it is important to highlight that to Boulevard Brasserie’s detriment; I had only a few days previously been to another French restaurant called ‘La Buvette’ in Richmond. Some may consider it to be unfair to compare the two but they are both bistro style restaurants and surprisingly when you consider the difference in quality, service and ambience, extremely similarly priced. I think therefore the comparison merely serves to reinforce my point about how sloppy and lacklustre many of what I would describe as ‘mid range’ eateries in Covent Garden have become.
To continue the theme of fair comparison, I completely by chance ordered very similar dishes in each, starting with rustic fish soup. I adore Rouille – I could literally eat it from the tub – that rich garlic and cayenne pepper infused sauce that no fish soup can be without. At La Buvette I was not disappointed (other than the portion size but I realise that is my foible not theirs) – the flavour, colour and texture were exceptional. Boulevard’s rouille on the other hand could at best be described as like lumpy Philadelphia with a couple of splashes of yellow food dye – so disappointing and without even a hint of either garlic or mayonaise! The croutons were good, very crisp but clearly from a packet and the measly gruyere gratings were bland and tasted ‘fridgey’. Despite the difference in toppings both soups were good – full of flavour and thick without being stodgy although as a rouille fanatic the Boulevard one was ruined for me.
Other than their so called ‘pomme puree’ which was like being transported back to being served a tepid dollop of potato at the school canteen, I will now stop bashing poor Boulevard – my main of sea bass on green beans with pesto and black olives was pleasant but dull and I had lost the will by then to try pudding.
Back to the spirit of positive reviewing – my main course at La Buvette comprised of a really interesting combination of soft sea bream fillet with a crisp salt cod beignet on a haricot blanc purée – the contrasting textures of the fried and the grilled fish all came together in the mouth with the intensely tomatoey harissa which along with the bean puree, bound the elements of the dish together beautifully. Most importantly the pomme puree did exactly what it said on the tin – creamy buttery potato with the texture of velvet – superb!
The Buvette dinner was preceded with a really interesting Prosecco and Violet combination and was greedily rounded off with punchy, melty Vacherin served in large spoons and sadly there was no room for pudding – oh well it is the perfect excuse to go back for more …