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Restaurants & Bars

Rex & Mariano, London

gembellina | Feb 4, 201502:16 AM

We thought 6pm on cold Monday night in Feb would be a good time to beat the queues in Barrafina. We were wrong. Similarly Burger&Lobster was already heaving. I had walked past R&M on my way and recalled the name from Jay Rayner's review at the weekend. Most importantly it had lots of empty tables!

The not-waitress very sweetly explained the iPad ordering system - it's pretty straightforward. Olives were fine, bread came in massive chunks with a weird tuna spread thing on the side.

For our first round, we had salmon carpaccio, tuna tartare and sea bass ceviche. I didn't care for the salmon at all because of the cut, it was just a bit slimy and insipid: not thick enough to have much texture or bite, and not thin enough to be anything special. My two companions loved the tuna with its guacamole and sesame oil, but I found the sesame overpowering. They found the sea bass ceviche too sour and cut too thick but I really liked both those qualities. It could have done with another ingredient, maybe a fruit or an avocado, to provide a bit of respite from the acidity but overall i thought it was ok.

Fritto misto was excellent. It had a heavier, more floury coating than I have had before but I didn't think that was a negative. Squid was thick and meaty, and there was a good and plentiful mix of other fish - salmon, a white fish, tentacles, prawns and whitebait. Triple cooked chips were not as golden and crunchy as one might expect from the name. Grilled red prawns were sweet and tender, grilled artichoke was fine. I read another review that said the prawns were frozen and were therefore better ordered raw. I still think made the right choice...

The food was good enough but I don't think I would seek it out again. I'm not sure how much difference the service concept makes. On a £25 bill, 5% or 15% service charge is only a couple of pounds, and there seemed to be sufficient staff there that they couldn't have been making much of a saving on wages. Maybe they don't pay them as much as a regular waiter? Anyway, it was nice to be able to pace the meal, but when it's small plates of raw fish there's no reason you couldn't order from a real person and have it just as quick. Is there?

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