Food and the city..the hags are here to eat and then tell you about it!

Friday, March 17, 2006

DITTO

55-57 East Hill, Wandsworth. SW18 2QE

Telephone: 020 88770110

Nearest Rail: Wandsworth BR

Website: Ditto

Average price: 32 pounds

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Hurley surveyed the dining room nervously. All eyes seemed to be upon him. Staring. Penetrating. Accusing. He shifted uncomfortably in his ill-fitting buy one-get-one-free leather shoes. “Oh god, help me through this,” he muttered, hastily crossing himself. He crossed the wooden floors to the kitchen, trying to ignore the death-rays, the silent curses. “Tiny steps. Tiny steps. I just need to get to the kitchen,” he thought desperately.

“Excuse me. We’ve finished our entrees over 40 minutes ago and our mains have still not been served!” demanded a handsome Ted Baker clad gentleman intersecting Hurley’s path to the kitchen.

Hurley felt perspiration dripping down his forehead. Despite the heat in the restaurant and the tell-tale dark circles under his armpits, he felt damn right chilly.

He cleared his throat aiming for something between deep and authoritarian, yet polite and courteous. What came out was a squeak. He cleared his throat again. “I’m very sorry. Chef and his staff are doing the best they can. Tonight has been unexpectantly busy. I will see that you will get your mains very soon.” After repeating this mantra for what seemed like the twentieth time, Hurley backed away from the dashing gentleman taking small geisha-like steps, almost tripping over himself.

For a moment he almost felt faint. The room began to spin deliriously. His vision was filled with packed tables, all devoid of food all looking at him. Exasperated. Hungry. Wanting to know – what was the deal?

The deal was Toptable. Damn it. We have screwed ourselves over! What were we thinking? 25% off all food, INCLUDING Fridays and Saturdays. Who knew it would be this popular?

Hurley lunged towards the kitchen doors frantically with the desperation of a business man rushing home to see if his wife was cheating with the gardener. Lee, the Head Chief was crimson with perspiration and energy. His brow was furiously creased with concentration and a tinge of despair. He was delicately and lovingly dripping coriander infused oil onto the just seared tuna.

“We’re going down! You have to cook faster! No one has their food and they’re all getting really agitated!” bellowed Hurley waving his arms at Lee like an air traffic controller.

Lee barely glanced at the frantic waiter. He was used to working under pressure. He KNEW how many orders were in goddamit. He KNEW they were running way behind schedule. He just didn’t need this punk ass waiter to tell him how to run things. Lee snarled and continued to garnish the plate with the feather-light touch of a master painter. Hurley almost in tears, stared helplessly at the head chef, not knowing what to do. He picked up the few plates of food that were ready and meekly headed out into the main restaurant.


Ditto has a lot of potential. I can feel it. Enter through the doors and you’re in the bar. A very relaxed, cool vibe. Warm earthy tones. Inviting brown leather couches you soak into. Cocktails are quite good and reasonably priced.

We have been to Ditto before and have found the food actually quite good. Nothing ground-breaking, mind you. But good modern European food.

Until this occasion. The scenario above was probably written with a bit of extrapolating imagination (I don’t know what goes on in the kitchen, much less the quality of the waiters’ shoes) but I can probably guess what was going on. I felt sorry for them in a way. Collaborating with Toptable brings a lot of business their way, but ultimately if they’re not prepared for the onslaught – they can actually turn away customers. I’ve been to a lot of Toptable specials and have witnessed the bloodied downfall of many a restaurant.

The menu is impressive and at first it is quite difficult to decide on what to eat. There is just too many delectably described dishes. You can check them out on their website. I don’t know whether it was because the kitchen was under pressure but we all found the food to be well-presented, but very flat in taste and texture. Lacked pizzaz. Lacked oomph. Lacked innovation in taste. They had the concept. Could have worked, but somehow fell apart in the making.

For example the Crayfish Tempura with sweet chilli dipping sauce sounds delightful and tantilising on paper. When it actually came, my poor heart sunk and tastebuds drooped in weary anticipation. Tiny encrusted nuggets of fish lay in front of me. I could visually see that the tempura didn’t look light or crispy. A grand fan-fare for a poor line-up. Much like gits in glitzy sport-cars. Another story.

Crayfish Tempura w/ a sweet chilli dipping sauce  £3.75

For mains I had Baked Filet of Black Bream on braised chicory with orange & tomato. A crushing disappointment. My dining companion seated 80 cm away said to me, “I can smell your fish.” I leaned closed to my plate, almost inhaling the tomato – she was right,it didn’t smell right. I was reluctant to send it back. God knew how long it would take for the kitchen to come up with another plate. I took a bite. Yup – it wasn’t fresh. Very fishy. Yeech!

Baked Filet of Black Bream on braised chicory w/ orange & tomato  £12.95

I can’t speak for the dishes of my other dining companions. Needless to say they weren’t very impressed. Sigh….at least we could cling onto the knowledge we had 25% off the food. It would REALLY hurt to pay full price for what we had suffered.

Baked Puff Pastry Tart w/ leeks a la grecque, slow roasted tomatoes & crottin goats cheese  £5.50

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Salad of Fritto Misto w/ parmesan, sweet cherry tomato dressing  £5.50

Rib Eye Steak w/ field mushroom & blue cheese gratin  £15.95

Pan Fried Skate Wing w/ roasted salsify, capers, parsley & beurre noisette  £12.95

Chips


We declined desserts. God, we needed to get home before dawn.

All joking aside. I don’t think this place is bad. I do think it tends to be inconsistent. If it wasn’t for the 25 % off I probably would’ve been more pissed off. But maybe the 2 bottles of red consumed whilst waiting for the meal mellowed us sufficiently.

Please do check out their website. It is packed full features. Did you know that every Tuesday night is Ladies Night and if pre-booked, you get 25% off (for female only tables)? What a weird but wonderful offer!

Not only do they have their own bar but they have their own deli as well at a separate location – Barmouth Rd SW18. Having a dinner party and can’t be arsed to cook? No probs.You can drop off your own casserole dish and they will fill it for you with such delights like coq au vin, Thai chicken curry, wild mushroom stroganoff. Rules are minimum 8 people and if you use their dish it’s 15 pounds refundable deposit. Fair enough.

I can tell that Will Oakely the brains behind the operation is THINKING BIG and creatively. The ambience and mood created in the bar and restaurant is so spot on. All thumbs up there.

Despite this review, well worth a check out, maybe when it’s not so busy and cursed with pressure.

(Incidentally, "ditto" means "same as before". Same as before what?)
HRH

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Ducky said...

When do I get to gatecrash a tasting session?

3:36 pm

 
Anonymous The Man...apparently said...

man, someone was trippin' when they wrote this obviously!

11:56 am

 

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