Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Restaurant Review: 16" West Brasserie

Here's a restaurant review originally written for my South London Press column - hits, misses and a look that's pretty much a Jubilee line tube station...

Off the beaten track isn’t really a description that should be used to describe a restaurant adjoined to one of London’s most popular and world renowned attractions. But when visiting this new opening at the Old Royal Naval College in Maritime Greenwich (named as it’s apparently sixteen seconds west of the meridian line) of an evening, it certainly feels that way.

The fact that the website cites the address as being on the perimeter of the Naval College grounds (presumably the official address for the whole complex) when it’s actually smack bang in the middle of it is one problem, and leads to a fair bit of unwarranted circle walking before dinner. The time of my visit is another factor. Although the brasserie is open all day, come evening all the attractions around it are closed off and plunged into darkness, meaning it’s effectively marooned in the middle of a somewhat large and intimidating park.

Having walked up and down most of the streets in the area, talked to a security guard for help, harangued a local and done a bit of Google mapping, we finally reach our destination. It’s unsurprising that it’s not exactly bustling given the situation, but to be fair it’s a new restaurant on a Tuesday night and its busiest time is blatantly going to be lunch. Still, the staff know how to make a good first impression. Having been shown to a table, food and drinks menus, water and a basket of fresh, warm bread are brought around in what must be close to the namesake sixteen seconds, and some cocktails are recommended. A rum and lime based drink goes under the name of grog (£7), the first of a few good humoured hints at the naval pedigree of the location we’re in. It’s effectively a daiquiri – and a very good one at that. 

 For main courses, the menu is split into “coastline”, “farm” and “field” sections, offering fish, meat and vegetable dishes accordingly. With eleven options between them, plus plenty of starters and snacks, there’s plenty to take in. The same can’t really be said of the decor. A mix of concrete, grey and silver is probably termed as ‘minimalist modern’, but I’d affectionately name it ‘Jubilee line chic’ for its shocking resemblance to Tube stations such as Canary Wharf.

I’d better remember to touch out on leaving, but not yet as there’s food to be had. For starters we opt for a charcuterie platter (£9) and smoked haddock fishcakes (£8.50), the latter coming highly recommended by our waiter. They’re both good choices. The selection of chorizo, salsichon, Serrano ham and pork loin (lomo) on the platter is generous, and the fishcakes are moist, succulent and appropriately fishy. The slight sweetness of a creamy mustard and fennel sauce that accompanies them is a good contrast to the meaty, smoky fish.

A main of baby chicken roasted with turmeric, garlic and lemon and served with green beans (£14.95) again delivers. The chicken is only just cooked, with slight tinges of pink visible around the joints. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if they got the occasional complaint from an over-cautious diner at how lightly cooked it was, though for me it’s spot on: moist, tender, full-flavoured. A side of new potatoes served with a sprinkle of parmesan (£3.95) are a simple yet inventive side that works well.

A dish of gnocchi with a cherry tomato, basil and chilli sauce (£11.50) is something of a letdown in comparison. Perhaps this is the danger of deviating from the predominately ‘modern British’ styled menu and going for what is perhaps a crowd-pleasing after-thought. The gnocchi have the tacky consistency of having being re-heated (or perhaps bought in) and the sauce is equally lacking freshness. This would be absolutely fine in an office canteen or from a half-decent supermarket ready-meal, but the brasserie has already proven in its other dishes that it can do much, much better.

Puddings are back on form, with a mixed berry parfait (£5) oozing in bucket loads the freshness that was devoid from the aforementioned gnocchi and a lemon meringue pie (£5) benefiting from not being overly sweet as well as the clever addition of a slightly tart passion fruit sauce. A few final tweaks and this maritime brasserie will be well and truly ship shape. Let’s just hope people can find it.

Sixteen Seconds West Brasserie, National Maritime Museum, Park Row, Greenwich, SE10 9NF
Nearest stations: Cutty Sark DLR / Greenwich

>> originally published in South London Press

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