Wednesday, 29 August 2012
28-50 occupies a triangular glass fronted site in a not so busy but fashionable street in Marylebone. As we sat amongst the other diners who numbered precisely four I did a Mrs Merton and questioned " What was it that first attracted you to Agnar Sverrisson's 28-50"?
Of course you may recall Mrs Merton asking a similar question to Debbie McGee. "What first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels. Ha ha.
Of course the answer to both is in the question.
28-50 is actually the second Wine workshop opened jointly between dream team business partners Agnar Sverrisson (chef) and highly respected sommelier Xavier Rousset.
I have followed their rise to fame since they left Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir to there move to their restaurant Texture which belatedly and deservedly (after 2 years) won a Michelin star. I like Sverrisson's style of cooking but Texture has not been on my revisit list for some while. I was very eager to see what food was on offer here and who actually influenced it.
Now then I am not into wine. I have tried. I have followed the advice of countless sommeliers, and paid a hefty price for it, but mostly I can live without those expensive bottles. My focus has and always will be the food that is on offer. Which of course brings me back to Sverrisson.
I think that it is fair to say that a Sunday lunch visit to a wine bar in Marylebone is going to be a quiet affair and having said that, most of the time that we were there, there were more staff than diners. Still, no problem we don't crave the buzz, the food is more important.
The menu is as you may expect for a "Wine workshop" is short, and in my opinion a bit too short. Five starters, five soups or salads, five mains, a couple of specials, some sharing platters and what read like six quite boring desserts.
So clearly the focus is not on the food. Its the wine which is top dog here. In fact the only nod to Sverrisson on the whole menu is the Icelandic fish stew. I had to ask the question as to who devised the menus and it is not Sverrisson at all but executive chef Paul Walsh, a highly experienced chap who was Clare Smythe's sous chef at Gordon Ramsay's Royal Hospital Road.
So we have a French influenced menu not an Icelandic one.
The interior is rather attractive with its horseshoe shaped bar dominating the place. Plenty of light floods the area. The tables are well spaced and wood is to the fore, not only the tables, chairs, and floor but the scores of empty wine boxes cleverly used as decoration. Down the stairs is a further much smaller dining area featuring a semi open kitchen.
None of the Salads or soups appealed. So on to the Starters, which are both available in small or large versions.
I love bread, and this was decent enough but it was to reach overkill proportions by the time we had finished the meal, as virtually every dish we ate had some on it.
First up was a tasty Aubergine, courgette, peppers combo. (£6.75). No hint of Iceland here , ( the country not the store) This is the South of France on a plate. The courgettes had been char grilled, rolled up and inserted into the aubergine. Texture or crunch to be precise was courtesy of the toasted bread and a smattering of pine nuts. Not bad, not bad at all.
Foie Gras terrine (£7.50) was a bit of a stingy portion. Nothing wrong with the flavour. It was creamy, rich and bold tasting and certainly needed the most welcome rhubarb chutney to cut through the richness. Again bread made an appearance on the plate, as it did with all of the starters.
Originally we had planned to try a couple of Rock Oysters (£1.85) each, but decided instead to try another starter, some Salt Beef brisket (£6.50)
Again the ubiquitous bread made an appearance. The beef had been cut into batons and dressed in a sauce of ? It was fine but we could not get to excited about it. The cournichons were just that cournichons nothing special there.
I was desperate to try the Icelandic fish stew (£14.95) and hoped to see perhaps a bit of flair. What arrived at the table was more of a potato stew, not a fish stew. Where was the salt cod? There was precious little of it. It was a good job too that I like curry, because the unannounced dusting on top could put a few people off. Having said that the bearnaise sauce was good and overall it had decent depth of flavour.
Yet again we have more bread, this time rye, which was very heavy and most certainly not to my taste. The dish was screaming out for greens which I had thankfully ordered as a side dish. So Spring greens and green beans (£3.25) just what the dish needed.
My wife's dish was billed simply as Lamb shoulder grilled (£15.50). I liked the look and smell of this. The lamb had been braised and then crisped in the oven. It sat on a bed of Borlotti beans, and a vibrant Chantenay carrot, peas, and broad bean mixture. Again really simple food but tasty. The lamb in particular we both enjoyed.
None of the desserts interested us. Ice cream selection, Fresh fruit salad, Creme brulee, Lemon tart, Chocolate tart. Come on you can do better than that. In fact you need to do, on desserts especially, if you want customers to be tempted to part with their hard earned cash.
Its fair to say 28-50 did not really do it for us. Truth be told I was expecting more. Everything is just so safe and predictable and quite frankly a bit boring. You will certainly get a big taste of Rousset's input here, and Walsh's, but certainly not Sverrisson's. You will have to go to Texture for that, and that did disappoint because that was the main reason that I wanted to dine here.
So that just about sums it up for us. Been there, seen it, done it. A good neighbourhood wine bar with decent food but certainly not worth a special trip from across town.