@venue – lured by the Amex offer…

Lured by an Amex offer of £20 discount on over £100 spent at D&D restaurants, I made my way to @venue, a short walk from either Piccadilly Circus or Green Park station. Having read overall quite good reviews (though mostly about business lunches), I must conclude that I was disappointed. Even with a £20, this dinner wasn’t worth it (£154.21 after discount for 3 people, 2 dishes each and two glasses of wine).

Of all the choices, my game meat selections were definitely not to recommend…

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Venison carpaccio, celeriac remoulade and cranberries

While the venison carpaccio meat was acceptable, it did not amaze, neither in taste nor appearance. The meagre celeriac remoulade blobbed in the middle, tasted like a cheap KFC coleslaw (don’t get me wrong, I love KFC coleslaw, but only when I’m at KFC) spiced up with some celery. The cranberries added very little value with just a few big ones placed at random on the plate. Not sure what to do with them, I ate them anyway.

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Whole roasted Yorkshire grouse, braised red cabbage, chestnuts, bread sauce & parsnip crisps £30.00

Perhaps it’s my lack of experience in grouse but here again, I had little joy in this very caoutchouc –like piece of meat, which was extremely difficult to cut and more work than pleasure. The slightly dark room was not favorable for the food either, making the red cabbage appear like a sea of cut black tape under the bird (not much taste to convince you otherwise). The additional order of side spinach was worse than any microwaved frozen spinach experience I had at home, pretty much just boiled and tasteless, not even worth a picture.

My two friends did not seem to have much more luck with their dishes. It’s rare to find scallops that do not impress and yet @venue achieved just that.

The foie gras parfait and steak, ordered by my friend who joined a bit later, were acceptable though probably more so because our level of expectations had tumbled after tasting the first dishes.

Having taken the food apart and turning to the interior, I can understand that this sort of minimalist and contemporary design does appeal to some people. Personally, I found the space too big and barren with the few existing pieces of furniture, especially the chairs, just appearing cheap. Despite it being a Thursday night, just a few tables were filled, adding to the emptiness.

Focusing on the plus sides then… The food was fast and service overall was very efficient and polite. A different place, a different time? With better food, this waiting staff may have impressed.

If there is any scenario for which I should have to recommend this restaurant, it would be for a quick business lunch. No fuss, nothing to impress, but fast delivery through polite staff.

Price: £££

Food: **

Service: ****

Decor: **

Square Meal

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The Duke of Cambridge – A bit of conscience in Islington

Recently checking out one of my favourite London pubs online, I was surprised to see a whole lot of negative reviews on Tripadvisor. Given that it’s one of my neighbourhood pubs, I won’t deny there is some stronger degree of bias but I still feel compelled to come with a rebuttal…

In Islington, slightly off Angel station in a quieter residential corner, the Duke of Cambridge is “Britain’s first and only certified organic pub.”

Organic, so what? You might say… Yes, organic alone won’t help if the food isn’t truly good. But it goes a long way towards a more conscious way of eating. This gastropub prides itself in the environmentally friendly and sustainable sourcing of its ingredients: fruits and vegetables come from regional certified organic farmers; animals are bought whole, meaning everything gets used; there’s an explicit policy on fish as well, again emphasising sustainability and environmentally friendly procedures.

On the back of this policy, menus change daily depending on what’s available. Isn’t it a proof of true freshness, when the blackboard menu changes right in front of your eyes while you’re sitting there? I myself have missed out on a meal a few times as it disappeared, quickly wiped off by the eccentric but efficient bold-shaved waitress before I could order it. Yes, it’s a shame in that very moment, but hey, if that’s what it takes to have an environmentally conscious and guilt-free(er) meal, I’ll go with that.

The food is well presented and there’s always a diversity of dishes, meat, wild game or fish, with a good nutritious balance. The constant change in menu means you’ll never get bored.

Duke of Cambridge starter

Duke of Cambridge main

Attention to detail of course comes with a price and if you are really just going to a pub for quick & cheap, this is not the place for you. Starters may be on average somewhere around £8 and mains between £15 and £20.

Organic and sustainability is not everything, but if you do sometimes pick that Fairtrade banana, why not make a difference closer to home as well?

One advice, should you decide to go: book a table in advance in the restaurant area rather than the pub area. A very popular destinations, the pub area can be crowded by neighbourhood families, many with small children, which can cause quite a bit of “liveliness.” A few meters apart can make a big difference to the overall experience though.

 

Price: £££

Food: ****

Service: ***

Decor: ***

Square Meal