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Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Cow, Stratford

Root canal work; Ryanair; Jennifer Aniston films: some of life’s possibilities I’d rather avoid. Ditto indoor shopping centres like the teeming new Mother of them (m)all, Westfield Stratford. Brandroid heaven to many, to me it's the seventh circle of Hell. There's a Westfield within ten minutes of my home: number of times visited? Two, and only then because I was press-ganged into it. On a Saturday afternoon in Stratford, jostled into submission by JLS and Jordan clones, I concede defeat after just twenty minutes and seek sanctuary at The Cow. Was this pub and kitchen named after a fake baked female in Uggs outside who demands of her truculent toddler what ‘his ‘f***ing problem’ is? Erm, being dragged screaming round Westfield by a hatchet-faced horror  from an episode of Shameless? Like much else here, the Cow is part of a large chain: in this case, Geronimo Inns’ portfolio of nearly thirty. I quite like some of their venues - The Surprise in Chelsea,for example -  but this baby - Desperate Dan’s gaff as imagined by a Swedish flatpack merchant - surprises for all the wrong reasons. Geronimo’s usually watertight operation is skewered by inane service and an inept kitchen: some advertised items are missing; replaced, in the case of sourdough, by a stale toasted roll. Plates are delivered to the wrong tables;  my omelette reminds me of a charter flight to Alicante's rubbery breakfast offer: should I continue? Fortunately, sweetheart managers Lara and Leslie take charge, gamely attempting (but ultimately still failing)  to rectify their charges’ howlers. A substitute medium rare cheese burger is sent out overdone and with bacon but no cheese but by now I'm past caring and would eat a scabby dog, never mind charred cow. To be fair,  Lara does alter the bill to reflect our poor, protracted lunch experience - did I mention the 45 minute wait for a table? It’s early days and hopefully, The Cow will improve. As it stands, its draught  Redemption Pale Ale and Sharp’s Cornish Coaster  aren't enough to draw me back to Westfield East any time soon. If you - for some inexplicable reason - find yourself in this new retail nirvana, check out my idea of a good pub out E20 way, The King Edward VII on nearby Stratford Broadway.