Hiding behind The Old Lady Of Threadneedle Street's skirts, new bar The Arbitrager is considerably smaller than I imagine the averag...
Tuesday, 25 June 2013
The Windsor Castle, Kensington
An old lady friend of mine has undergone cosmetic surgery. Tonight, I'm visiting The Windsor Castle again now the bandages are off. A listed atmospheric charmer, in its current guise, it has been serving genteel Kensington folk since 1835 - but there's been a tavern on the site since Shakespeare was a boy. Had the new dining room been around in his day, dinner within might have been the inspiration for the bard's work. The Merry Wives of Windsor? A Comedy Of Errors, more like, performed by waiters whose roustabout routine lapses into farce at times. "Does anyone have a torch? I've dropped a £1 coin on the floor," pleads one. Having taken it barely seconds before, another waiter is back to ask what we ordered as "the ticket got lost between here and the kitchen." "You wantedrosé. This is red wine," beams same bright spark later, before exiting stage left. Behind us, a table of angry 'regulars' pointedly deducts the 'service' charge. Another exasperated patron reckons Basil Fawlty must be in charge and, on and on it goes, like Hamlet, a tragedy in five acts. On a balmy evening, with a warm breeze blowing in from the busy, NOISY garden, our food is no Midsummer Night's Dream either. On an ambitiously priced menu, quality ales are suggested to match each of 8 starters and six mains - Curious Brew an apposite choice for a most curious over-sweet/ under-seasoned pea soup that's poured from its serving jug, carelessly sloshed over (courtesy of that waiter again) a pointless 'soft-boiled' egg placed at its centre. The eye-bothering result is green gloop that brings back childhood memories of my father clearing frog spawn from his garden's unappetising soupy pond. My date's ham hock terrine is bland, its piccalilli insipid, seasonal leaves savagely a-salted by a thuggish dressing. Better, as it ought to be at £19, is attractively presented individual rabbit and crayfish puff pastry pie. Decent mash and al dente green beans, too. Pedestrian chips and astringent house relish accompany a ribeye bone marrow, Celtic Promise cheese and bacon burger. How would you like it cooked?" "Medium rare please," says date, only to be informed several minutes later that the burger can only be cooked the way chef - "he's French, I think, and very particular", offers our waiter, sunnily - likes it (i.e medium to well). So not As You Like It, dear diner. Either way, it would be a disappointing, sloppy assembly at half its £18 cost. My date is getting tetchy... and we all know what happened to Romeo when Juliet went off the rails. We pass on English puds (from £6 ) and coffee so as toAll's Well That Ends Well, who knows? 114 Campden Hill Road W8 7AR 7243 8797 http://www.thewindsorcastlekensington.co.uk