Cattle Market, rumps on seats.
The single overriding impression here is the scale of the operation. Four wide and spacious floors of prime EC1 housing a lunchery / bar, a cocktailery, a standard class ressy and a celeb tagged top floor poshery. The blinding heat of the night of my visit was cooled slightly by a few cold beers in the packed bar area but up in the restaurant proper the temperature and the tempers were both rising. To say that the staff appeared harrassed is to do their predicament a disservice. And I'm afraid I must diss the service. They did try really hard, bless 'em, and they were all proper antipodean professionals but the odds were unscalable and accidents, like forgetting to tell the kitchen to start cooking our main courses, were bound to happen. The food, as and when it appeared, was variable in the extreme. Portugese salt cod fritters were tasteless and frankly rubbish. But, conversely, the duck noodle salad selected by one of my bretheren was carefully balanced and hit the 'really very good' mark. Same with the mains, the Welsh black rib steak was king of the cattle castle and probably the best steak I've snaffled in england this year. Unfortunatley everything else on the menu was a serious dissappointment and barely even worth mentioning. Even the wines were incioncistent with the list containing both duds and delights. A behemoth like Smiths is bound to feel a little impersonal bit here, the production line ethic pervades all so the food, the drinks, the customers, and I suspect, the staff, are all rolled in and rolled out with the maximum of profit andf the minimum of style. I'd like to be able to call it faceless but competent but all I can manage is 'poor' with a few saving graces. Go there for a fantastic steak lunch and you won't have gone far wrong, just give the evening shift a miss.
Top Floor -
addendum ad infinitum
If you want to save some time, skip to the end ...
OK, so Smiths might not have excelled at much in the brasserie apart from great Welsh beef and the highest concentration of South Africans in any single London location, but, ever fair and in the spirit of adventure we hastily decided to give the Top Floor serious restaurant a go. It's got a big name TV (telly not tranny) exec chef. It's got a soundproof door separating it from the mayhem downstairs. Most Importantly, it's got all the steaks with provenance in it's well balanced menu. All good then ? unfortunately not. Actually, the wine list wasn't bad, if pricey, at least it was long and interesting. So, that's the booze covered, leaving the holy trinity for a good ressy that is Food, Service, Atmosphere. Well, the food was average at best, the atmosphere was destroyed by the clientele who were the most obnoxious bunch of city bankers that has ever been my displeasure with whom to share oxygen. (one of the charmers was observed at one point to be clapping his hands in order to bring the attentions of the staff to his table...expletive deleted, only wish he could have been) Then again, I felt like banging the waiters' heads together at times. Uncoordinated, unprofessional and, at one point, positively offensive while also managing to leave us without anything to drink at one point after spending the preceding hour topping up our glasses with enthusiasm such that the minor details of who was drinking what out of which vessel became apparently irrelevant.
The Bill for this fiasco of a dining experience was pretty steep of course, even before the frankly laughable 12.5% service charge had been brazenly added.
Wise readers will have skipped to the short version of this review which appears below :
Two words; don't bother.