Is there anything as rustically beautiful as an Oyster?

A review of the Oyster and Steak Bar in Waitrose Canary Wharf.

I know you don’t come here for reviews of supermarkets, but even if you find them very boring you will be in them very often. It’s not reasonable to expect me not to have an opinion no them when I eat from them so frequently.

I think we were shopping in John Lewis, which was why we ended up in Waitrose Steak and Oyster Bar. We were entangled in a rather expensive affair about the wrong type of wine glasses in the right boxes at a till on the upper levels that made us want to sit down and relax relatively soon.

To be honest, the view when coming to sit down was a little grubby. This was a late lunch, but it seemed that no one had cleaned up before the visitors preceding us. The menus were also a little wrinkled. The other disappointing thing about the menus, was the lack of a steak and oyster combination. I mean, maybe steak and oyster isn’t ‘a thing’, but it becomes ‘a thing’ in your head when you go to a bar that is called a steak and oyster bar. There was a degree of surf and turf, but it featured lobster rather than oysters.

So we ordered 6 oysters to share. Followed by steak. This seemed the only appropriate response to the crisis.

Is there anything as rustically beautiful as an Oyster? If I tried to paint one with photographic perfection, it would still look like I had messed up the paints.  And these oysters were pure seaside. I always put the proffered lemon or chilli on them, and then decide that really they are best eaten just alone.

There was a veerrry long wait for the steak. Perhaps the chef had read my review of Cau and thought that he should charcoal my steak to be sure not to receive the same verdict. We could see the chef breaking open packets of Waitrose steaks to cook. I had thought that there was a good range of sauces, and went for chilli and garlic butter, with just a little regret that I did not choose tarragon butter as my husband did. However these arrived as discs of butter (yes, they had said butter) and I think that sauces would have been vastly superior. But both steaks were excellent.      Who can account for the amount of daytime champagne drinking that occurs at a steak and oyster bar? Is it the oysters have a knee-jerk relationship with champagne. (Oysters don’t have knees, so this doesn’t make a lot of sense). I really wanted champagne myself, but I have learned that day time drinking is not for me and on this occasion my sensible side won out.  

  Just so you know, the wine glass debacle has resulted in me having white glasses and red glasses. This feels a little too snobby for me, really and I am still trying to come to terms with it.

He reads OTHER reviews. A review of Cau in Blackheath SE3

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For all of Cau’s stainless steel interior, (I never liked this sort of interior even in the 80s when it became so popular. I’ve given up trying to give it the benefit of the doubt; hindsight has been given the full length of the rope) it is actually remarkably cosy when you’ve found yourself a nice corner. You’d never know you were in a tin can.

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The menu is a little bit patronising: with insightful suggestions like ‘have a small salad on the side, or a larger one as a starter.’ Don’t bother looking at anything other than the steak here. (so to be honest, don’t bother even turning up unless you are feeling rather flush at circa £39 per dish). I recommend the brazen, very unEnglish approach of ordering one steak to share with your table… or take most of it home for tomorrow. After all, a 500kilo steak is rather generous portion for me, even on greedy days.

We went for two rather interesting sounding sharing items and one steak with the intention of sharing all ‘as mains’ and skipping the starter. This was a strategy to pacify the 3/4’s Englishness that makes up me and my husband.

Empanadas (Classic Argentinian street food. Served with a fresh tomato sauce.) of Spanish chorizo and cream cheese Spinach, ricotta and date were lovely. But the deep fried pork belly, that sounded like a wonderfully unhealthy sort of a step up from a deep fried mars bar, fat with extra fat, was kind of slimy.

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We ordered our steak medium. And the staff recommended a nice matching Argentinian wine.
Here is a picture of the inside of our medium steak

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The charming staff admitted the mistake. (Please note, mistake admitting goes A. Very. Long. Way. in reparation and they went so far as to remove the entire meal, to return it to the table. I was impressed by this entirely proper way of fixing a mistake which (along with mistake-admission) you don’t often see. The staff registered we didn’t want a replacement of the deep fried pork belly, but replaced the finished empanadas. I think they must have known about the pork belly.

The steak returned remarkably quickly. We should have been suspicious at this point. But we are optimists. To give the chef his due (and there is not a lot of ‘due’ left now to be given) the newly cooked steak looked positively charcoaled on the outside, but the cooked effect only went about half a centimetre into the 10cm thick steak. The rest was jelly.

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My husband remarked that he had read of this experience on other reviews before coming. I don’t know what to be most disappointed by, the fact that he hid this information from me, or the fact that he reads OTHER reviews.

We didn’t want to go through the return-rigmarole all over again. The steak was edible, although a long way from medium, or even medium rare for that matter and again reparations were offered.

But may I note two things. This was their signature dish. Had we paid the full menu, we would have paid £70, for effectively a three course meal and drinks for one.
Let’s move on.

To churros! ! You’ll know I love churros: fried carbs in sugar. What could be more delicious other than churros with dulce de leche? Which, guess what? Was on the menu. We ordered some to share.

They arrived crisp and oily and … What’s the polite word…? I think the right word might be rare. Now I do know that the ‘how rare is rare’ when it comes to steak can be up for debate, hence us playing it safe and ordering our steak medium. But who has ever heard of rare churros? Dough is either cooked, or not cooked. In this case, it was the latter. Within its crispy interior was liquidy goo. Oh, we turned really English now. When the staff asked how our dessert was, we said…. “Thank you”.

CAU BLACKHEATH
10-12 Royal Parade, Blackheath, London
SE3 0TL

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Those Very Round Glasses

A review of Buenos Aires the Restaurant in Blackheath London SE3
(I’ll come back to the coffee shop in Greenwich some other time).

I know you have looked in the large windows of this restaurant and seen those wine glasses. Those are what draw you in are they not..? Those wine glasses. Beautiful and round… so very round. By nature I belong to the very-small-wine-glass school of thought (because the glass runs empty at about the same time the taste has stopped being special); but those wine glasses are so very round I can forgive how large they are.

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Here is my advice if you are visiting Buenos Aires the Restaurant. Do not under any circumstances think that because you are in an Argentinean restaurant, you are compelled to eat only meat at the expense of the side dishes. This would mean that you would miss out on generous portions of French fries, fresh and exciting Panache de Vedura, and that other really good thing. You know THAT OTHER really good THING with a Spanish name (not Que Ota Cosa), made with corn and cheese and ISN’T ON THEIR ONLINE MENU for me to check the name of like a diligent little non-spanish speaking blogger. What can I say? – It was my husband what ordered it – good man. But it was amazing. And mix of all those flavours and colours and textures was what made my last visit to Buenos Aires so worthwhile.

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To accompany the side dishes we had steak served with Chimicurri sauce. This looks pretty inoccuous – but goes excellently with the chargrilledness of the steak. I do not write such a dull sentence lightly. The chilli/tomato (and so much more) sauce with charcoal was a perfect harmony of flavours. I had thought that steak sauces were just a little bit Whetherspoons. What is the point of garlic or peppercorn sauce? Steak is good meat that should not be cluttered with too much irrelevant flavour – right? On this visit, I discovered that all of these steak and sauce combinations are chargrill&chimicurri sauce wannabes.

Now you know.

We finished with the mixed dessert platter. Apparently Argentineans would do nothing so quaint as to do mini editions of the 5 desserts and cheese portions on the platter in a Parisian cafe gourmand sort of a way. Each dessert appeared to be pretty much full size.

There were 2 of us.

Everyone looked at us.

I considered moving serving places to our table to look like we were a five-strong party, but I wouldn’t be able to fit the seats to match. I didn’t order my planned Remy Martin after that. I was too embarrassed.

It is difficult for me to comment on the respective qualities of each dessert given that my feeling was, ‘please, not more food, no more food, please’ and I am not 100% sure that some were not compromised by the proximity of the others, (rhubarb bread pudding sounds like a selection of subtle flavours that does not match up to the punch of a chocolate cake, for example). However I can comment that despite being a bit of a chocolate cake cynic, they actually do a rather good chocolate cake: No gratuitous death by icing, or goo. A good crumbly cake with a strong sugary icing.

By the way , when I ordered a Cabernet Sauvignon, they removed the round, round wine glasses and I got a bog standard straightish glass. (That glass could have been prettier if it was smaller in my opinon).

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