Every so often, it falls to someone to inform the Emperor that he’s not wearing any clothes. This time, unfortunately, that someone is us.
Bush Hall Dining Rooms certainly looks the part – all handsome Brit diner, with boards on the walls so distressed they belong in rehab, and leather seating spread across a mix of booths and banquettes. In among the Uxbridge Road’s seemingly endless stretch of ethnic supermarkets, phone-unlocking units and cut-price barbers, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d arrived at an oasis. The soundtrack was relaxed and folksy, the clientele young and fashionable. There was only one problem – on our visit, the cooking was well below par. In the weeks prior to our visit, a number of bloggers and one newspaper critic had sung Bush Hall’s praises, which boded well; but our own meal was a catalogue of disasters.
What should have been a failsafe combination of watermelon, halloumi and mint was lifeless and underwhelming: the cheese should have been warm and char-grilled, not cold and chewy; the melon needed to be ripe and sweet, not insipid. We avoided the out-of-season asparagus on offer and instead went for a shrimp cocktail. Again, the dressing was lacklustre, but worse still, the large, shell-on prawn on top was well past its best. Having sent this back (to profuse apologies from the charming staff), we instead tried a plate of lemony croquetas that turned out to be dry, not creamy, with little jamón to redeem them.
The main courses were slightly better. There was a well-cooked rib-eye (though if you can’t get a rib-eye right, you’ve really got problems) and a rack of lamb (again fine, though the accompanying gravy was more Bisto than bistro); some correctly-cooked sprouting broccoli. Last up came chocolate doughnuts – more like nuggets of dry bread with a bizarrely Christmassy rum cream sauce – and a ‘knickerbocker glory’ that, though served in the correct glass and perfectly edible, was much more like a trifle than a ‘glory’ (complete with jelly base and lots of cream).
While wondering if the amateurish cooking could be compensated for by the attractive décor and equally attractive, genial staff, we got our answer: the bill still included that uneaten, off-colour shrimp cocktail.
To some, the Emperor's new clothes may be quite beautiful. But we just don't see it.