When Smiths opened in 2000 under the direction of chef John Torode (better known today as a presenter of MasterChef), it had buzz and boldness. Four floors, four tiers of dining and drinking, from casual to fine dining. Mr Torode left the restaurant early in 2013, but it’s still very popular.
We ate on the Top Floor, the ‘fine dining’ area – which means higher prices, lots of well-fed City gents, and a humidor of pricey cigars. There were two outstanding dishes. A 32-day-aged rump steak of Dexter beef was wildly flavourful and accurately cooked. Fat chips arrived perfectly crisp without, meltingly soft within. Beef pudding was great, as were the accompanying truffled potatoes. Nothing else was memorable, and some dishes were a disgrace.Rubbery salt and pepper squid inside a pallid, stodgy batter was just dreadful. Wild garlic soup had nearly imperceptible flavour and was so tepid that a skin had formed on top. Middle White pork, a modishly deconstructed assemblage, included a Chinese-style dumpling with leathery pastry casing and dry, under-seasoned shreds in the filling.
The wine list makes little effort under £30. Staff tried hard, but our waiter’s creaky English made communication difficult. Downstairs, the noise level is ear-shattering. As we were leaving, a pair of minicab drivers were touting for business inside the front door. Somehow that says a lot about the current state of Smiths.