I believe I’m tough but fair. Coming to the end of 2016 I sat down and assessed the highs and lows of Dining in London and while there were many a good dining experiences to be had, I would say that up to two-thirds of the meals came it at ok to just downright ‘who allowed this place to stay open’. Lowlights include Cha Chaan Teng, a Hong Kong teahouse in London mashup and the new gaff from the guys behind The Clove Club – Luca.
I promised myself to make smarter decisions on where I would spend my money in 2017. Only good to excellent meals from here on out. But then I visited Bala Baya for their soft opening. I didn’t write a post as it was their soft opening but coming off the Luca review I didn’t want a succession of negative reviews on the site. I made my thoughts known over on our Instagram feed. Everything felt like Bala Baya opened about 3 months too early – while the service from our waitress was good, it was shambolic around us with waiters carrying hot dishes up and down stairs after delivering food to incorrect tables, having the drinks list written incorrectly – especially the beers which were listed by their hops and not the brewery. Don’t get me started on the food, which felt ripped off from a line of more successful Israeli inspired restaurants around the capital. This was food that should have been served to family and friends to further develop – not to customers and potential critics who might be looking to get an early review out.
After reading a number of good reviews of The Laughing Heart in Hackney from Grace Dent and Fay Maschler I was enticed to book in a meal with a couple of good friends who are into their wine – the same friends who joined me at Luca (their pick, not mine).
The problem is pretty much the same all round issues that we encountered at Luca. After ordering the ‘whole menu’ as advised plus a couple of glasses of wine we once again left another ‘raved-about restaurant’ around £55 lighter and hungrier than when we left Luca. I feel I may steer clear of the new restaurant – XU London by the team behind Bao – who are willing to relieve me of £55 without taking into account drinks and service.
All these restaurants have opened literally weeks before some major players have shut up shop. So far in 2017 we’ve seen Foxlow in Stoke Newington, Hill and Szrok Public House, Little Pitt by Pitt Cue and Co has been opening and closing for certain dates and the one closest to my heart – Shotgun BBQ announced it’s closure recently while Brad MacDonald was/is in the USA.
Suffice to say that the meal and experience at The Laughing Heart was below par. The food was small, mainly quite tasteless and much of the time we were left sitting in our places after each dish wondering what made this so good to make it onto the menu.
I will leave you with some photos and a final thought.
I have really fallen out of love with eating like this. I just feel like it’s all about the chef’s ego, cooking for their mates and letting you marvel at all the whey butter and burnt things on the menu, and not about really satisfying experiences for the customer.
Contact: The Laughing Heart – 277 Hackney Road, Bethnal Green, London E2 8NA