Living in West London, working in the West End and moving on the fringe of food circles I've become very aware of the pitfalls of hype. A lot of new places are opening at the moment and fair portion of the cognoscenti seem to fall over themselves to praise them in their first week. On the other hand you have more established places that have either had a makeover or a change in the kitchen who garner a buzz that develops into a pervading hype over time. Antidote is such a place located on a pedestrianized alley off Carnaby St this wine bar/restaurant has been open for a while. About a year ago they entered into a tie up with the much loved Hedone resulting in a paired back, cheaper version of the Chiswick favourite. I'd heard much about the great value set menu, good wines and numerous twitter characters in praise of the bread. I'd considered going before but the ever reliable 28-50 on Maddox St covers the same bases. As it happened my lovely wife was up in town yesterday so we wandered into Soho for lunch with a vague aim of going to Rex & Mariano but on the walk there I spotted Antidote and suggested we give it a try.
We entered at the same time as some other diners who were led upstairs to the dining room first. I had thought of sitting downstairs in the bar but it didn't look that comfortable. The tables there are sort of faux industrial scaffold pole affairs with high stools much in vogue at the moment. It gives it a very casual look which is slightly at odds with the Georgian shop it is housed in. There were only 2 other couples downstairs, no staff and it smelt a bit fusty, also there seemed to be more buzz coming from upstairs so we decided to sit soft up there. Upstairs was busy, the dining room is actually set over two rooms, we were sat in the busier front room. As with downstairs the furniture was unconventional and in the case of the chairs positively uncomfortable. We nearly moved back downstairs because of it. To be fair they offered to swap chairs but does a beautiful period room like this need horrible metal patio effect chairs? The menu was simple with a short a la carte and a shorter set menu. We both had the same choice off the set menu, competitively priced at £19 for two courses. They bought out a nice little amuse bouche for us which certainly woke up my taste buds as did the excellent house Chablis.
They served us a pouch of their renowned bread which was good, crispy on the outside, lots of holes on the inside. The brown was definitely nicer than the white but I didn't care for the butter which tasted halfway between butter and cheese. First up we had Jerusalem artichokes which I think had been braised. These were very nice, sweet and starchy though why on earth they had been paired with apple batons and leaves was beyond me. Did nothing for the dish and only made me pity the poor chef who had had to prepare them. I would have been quite happy to have more artichoke on the plate and park the frippery. The main was a very very good piece of pan roasted cod. Perfectly cooked, buttery and the correct colour and texture. It was paired with a green emulsion type sauce that looked initially like tippex but was actually very tasty and went well with the fish. There was also a leaf of kale that had been crisped up. This had a great taste and fun texture. All in all a very nice dish and a big step up from the starter. We didn't fancy the dessert choices so finished off with some coffee. Service was professional though we did hear one table complain about tardy food. So this was definitely a nice meal and certain parts were very good indeed but certainly no show stopper.Though the set menu appeared good value add on a couple of glases of wine each, coffee & service and we were just shy of £90 which is a shade toppy. Not for the first time I'm wondering what all the fuss is about. I'd go back but I can't see much difference between Antidote and 28-50. At least at 28-50 the chairs are comfy!
Thursday, March 12, 2015
Food 8 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 6