Restaurants & Bars 3

London: A Corn House

mmwwah | Mar 12, 200804:03 PM

Friends had recommended Acorn House, on Gray's Inn Road, and I read the somewhat mixed reviews here as well before heading over there tonight after work. I concur with the gist of previous reports: food excellent, service anything but.

I had the purple sprouting broccoli/ carmelized red onion/ endive/ kalamata olive starter, which was tasty. I've been pretty hungry for green veg lately, and I dithered about whether to get the starter at £7 or the broccoli-only side for £4. Although the salad was delightful, the table next to me order the side order, and it looked like more broc in the same light dressing, just without the onion, olive, and endive. Oh well.

For my main, I had another starter, the duck confit with apple, prune, and spring leaf. I would have appreciated being warned that it came in the same dressing as my starter, frankly. Good thing I liked it. The confit was very good, and the prunes were absolutely stunning. What does "stunning" mean? Stunning is when the first bite makes me start scheming about how I can reproduce the effect at home, to the exclusion of all other thought processes. In this case, I think the prunes had gone as far as a polite kiss with some Armagnac, but absolutely NO further. You have to concentrate to taste the Armagnac; it's not strong enough to detect immediately.

With a glass of the cheapest red and a capuccino to finish, it came to £26 -- the most expensive meal I've eaten alone this trip. It was almost worth it, and it would definitely have been worth it if the service had been good. With the exception of one besuited fellow who seemed to be both running the pass and seating the customers (huh?), none of the floor employees seemed to give a damn. Food sat at the pass until the Suit grabbed it; glasses were left empty until the Suit caught sight of them; dessert possibilities went unoffered, full stop. I had to fight to get a coffee, and the couple next to me only managed to pay by pretending to dine and dash (at which point the Suit ran to the rescue).

Basically, it's all about the management of expectations. If you plan for bad service, you can get a great meal, but if you plan for a great meal, you'll have a bad surprise.

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