We've been away for a few weeks and the first thing to do on a rainy and typically gloomy London morning was to dig in to some brunch and get back into the groove of things... To go back to all things British and leave our Asian sojourn behind. Time to move from pancit and tocino, to eggs and bacon. But we were lazy... we didn't want to venture far, so we picked a joint that was convenient. And so, we opted for The Summerhouse in London's Maida Vale neighborhood. From the outside it seemed cosy, well maintained and a place that more than likely served good food.
The rainy morning made for a beautiful setting at this picturesque little restaurant located alongside the canals. We were early enough that we were also lucky to be seated at a table by the window that gave us a peek at the boats as they sailed up and down the tiny little strip of water. Sadly, if only everything else had been as picture perfect as that setting. Despite all the reviews we read and all the positive comments The Summerhouse has received online, we were rather underwhelmed by our meal there.
Maybe London had spoilt us for choice. Maybe our expectations have been raised (but then, is it such a bad thing to expect good quality food at a restaurant?)... Maybe the chef had not yet awoken from his slumber... I can't pinpoint what it was, but our first meal back in London after a couple of weeks away was not how we had planned to resume our culinary tour of the city.
The staff were friendly and all smiles, but seemed to lack a bit of training or understanding. Instructions had to be repeated a couple of times and even then they didn't seem to get it right. Oddly, they seemed confused as well, as if like the chef, they too had just been woken up from their sleep and asked to put on an apron and smile at the patrons (or maybe it was the hangover from a late Saturday night that was still carrying over). On sitting down, my wife and I were asked if we wanted any coffee or tea... I opted for a coffee. The server asked for confirmation as to what type I wanted - a cappuccino or an espresso - it seemed like there were no other options, despite the menu indicating otherwise. So, a cappuccino it would be for me.... He walked off and a moment later came back confirming if it was indeed a cappuccino. Yup, it is... Wake up buddy!
We were then presented with two menus - a traditional breakfast menu that had all the basics of a hearty breakfast including eggs, bacon, juices and smoothies, and another menu that was a Sunday special menu with three items on it. The Specials menu had the option of a beef, a lamb or a chicken each cooked in their own special way. Unfortunately, we were told that it wouldn't be available until about noon. So then, why were we given this menu now?
"Oh sorry; I am not sure why my colleagues brought this out now!"
"Ok, it's almost noon. Is it possible that we can order this now and just wait to get it?", we asked.
"Let me check with my manager." A minute later, another server came up to the table and the routine followed... The exact same conversation was enacted and he too went back to check with the manager.
A few minutes later, the second server came back to our table looking rather apologetic. "Sorry, but the items on the Specials menu are not available yet. We haven't started preparing them yet. Maybe you can order from the brunch menu and then follow up with the specials at noon if you really want something from there."
We are now trending into the bizarre. Are you really expecting us to eat a full breakfast and then order a rack of lamb or a beef fillet after that, we wonder... Never mind the fuss anymore, we just decided to go with what was available and order off the breakfast menu.
So, eggs florentine it would be for my wife and eggs royale for me... We also thought we'd get a bit more adventurous and order a mushroom on flatbread (which by the way turned out to be nothing like what the server attempted to describe to us). Of the three dishes, the mushroom toast surprisingly turned out to be the best. The hollandaise sauce for the eggs was bland; it was flavorless and possibly even lacked salt, which made the eggs a poor choice at the Summerhouse. My wife also ordered a side of bacon which had to be turned back because it was burnt. The second set that was presented to the table was better, but only marginally. Rather than send it back again, we reluctantly accepted what we were given under the assumption that it might be the chef's version of a 'crispy' bacon... Or continue to believe that he was still not fully awake.
The bill when presented was not surprising. The meal, thankfully, was not overpriced and we gladly paid for what we got. Even a few pounds more and we would have probably been a lot more disappointed with our meal. It was an average sized bill for a very average meal.
Would I go back to The Summerhouse again? Probably... But it would have to be for a drink and the view on a gorgeous summer day in London.. It could also possibly be for that 12 O'Clock Special Menu... But it would take a lot more to drag us back there for brunch again. After all, London does offer a lot more variety in terms of cuisine... And it isn't short on gorgeous views and settings either. So with a choice so broad and a palette that now obviously demands better , why we should return to the average, I am not quite certain.