This was a reunion of the three amigos; myself, C and L, who all used to work together at one of the most fun women’s mags I’ve ever had the pleasure of being involved with. last year we had our festive get together at Salt Yard; this time, we did try a few places (we really wanted to go to Berners Tavern, but even trying to book six weeks ahead, it was totally full). Anyway, I suggested Hoi Polloi at the Ace Hotel, mainly out of curiosity about the place rather than having heard raving reviews of the food. So i wasn’t sure what to expect.
Apparently the building used to be a Travelodge, or similar, and they’ve obviously made a big effort with the decor. Well, I say ‘big effort’ – the lobby and bar area actually look quite minimalist; all poured concrete floors, zinc bar top and wooden benches. The restaurant is a vast space, with the lower two thirds of the walls panelled in wood. The lighting is ambient, with some nice graphic shaped copper lightshades, and there is an abundance of bearded, moustachioed and topknotted-men, wearing the regulation uniform of black and white striped breton style tops. It’s just a teensy bit w**ky.
Foodwise, we weren’t sure what to expect. The menu has a few starters priced around £6 – £9, including oysters, soup, and a baked Vacherin cheese with salad but we just went straight for mains (around £13 – £20). C went for pork belly served with lentils and black cabbage, I went for the battered hake with salt-and-vinegared chips, while L (who is currently pregnant) went for the roast chicken. It looked pretty good when it came to the table – we ordered a side of broccoli too – and having tasted everyone’s, I thought it was all of a pretty good standard; the pork was tender, the chicken was moist, and the hake was thick and flaky, with good mushy peas and a tangy tartare sauce.
But then came Chickengate, when L discovered that towards the part where the bone of her leg of chicken was, the meat was first, pink, then translucent. When she brought it to the waitress’s attention, she was told that ‘the chef likes to serve the chicken pink, as it’s free range and organic.’ Said no-one, ever. A lot of to-ing and fro-ing later, they brought out a new plateful, this time cooked through, which was perfectly nice, except by this time C and I had finished eating and L wasn’t actually that hungry.
In fairness, the manager was very polite and friendly when we asked to speak to him, and eventually took it off the bill. Then he asked if we wouldn’t mind moving to a smaller table as a bigger party had just arrived and they wanted to use our table. We got a free drink each for our trouble, and we also decided to share a dessert of poached pear in red wine with a hazelnut mousse and some weird flat flaky pastry. With one bottle of wine between us (how very restrained!) it came to £28 each, but I can see how the bill could add up. The food was perfectly fine, but nothing out of the ordinary. Still, it was good to try it out, and I would go back.
atmosphere: 7/10. mainly for the beards
food: 6.5/10
vfm: 6/10