Wednesday, May 16, 2012

England: Meh

Eating all these G cuisines brought Great Britain to mind. It's officially listed as the United Kingdom, so I had forgotten about England during the E's. Still, in the interest of thoroughness, why not break this down into the four countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and North Ireland (though I can't guarantee I'll be able to find something for each one). So with that decided, we set off for dinner at East London. If I weren't being so thorough, I might skip this review because it was really pretty meh. Nothing was horrible, but nothing was really great either. It's walking distance from my apartment (on an ugly stretch of Mehringdamm), but I'm fairly certain I'll never go again. The worst part was probably the service, which was, in a word, indifferent. East London is a casual place and nobody's expecting tuxedoed waitstaff or an amuse, but it's irritating at McDonald's and at the Four Seasons to sit at your table forever, waiting for someone to bring you a menu or even look in your direction. There were a few other tables of diners, but the place was not so full that neither waitress should have been struggling. When I finally got one's attention and asked for menus (should I really have to ask for them?) she went off on a search (should she have to search for something as elementary as menus?) and finally came back mentioning that they only have three (should they really only have three menus?). In all fairness, the menu is printed on the wall, but should I really have to turn around in my chair and lean over to read the wall? And how is a first-time diner to know that it's the full menu? Also most of the condiments on our table and the table next to us were empty ... that just doesn't way well-run restaurant to me. The state of service put me on alert and I decided we had to order safe things. There isn't really anything too complicated on the menu, but you really shouldn't be able to mess up bangers (sausage) and mash, right? Right - the sausages were not life changing, but they were good. The "mash" had nice flavor (onions and mustard), but it was a little stiff and the texture somewhat grainy. This is better than the overly smooth instant stuff, but it had definitely been sitting around for a while. We also shared a spring salad, which while not particularly springy was very good, much better and more interesting the Putenstreifen-overly sweet balsamic vinaigrette fiascos you get in most German places. Broccoli (the menu says it's chili-roasted, but I'm not so sure) featured prominently, which was better than it sounds. The vinaigrette was aggressive in a good way and did not taste like something you might serve on ice cream, and the goat cheese crumbles gave it all a little heft. Still, I think 8 Euros is more than a little steep for a bowl of non-organic vegetables with just a little cheese for protein. Mein Mann was also less than thrilled with the beer prices, which, with the exception of Carlsberg (Danish) range between 4.50 and 5.80 Euros. I know this is because they're imported from the UK and I guess for British expats, it might be really nice to have a source of London Pride Ale, and maybe if everything else had been top-notch, I wouldn't have cared, but to me it's a hard sell in a country full of good 3 Euro beers. So, in sum East London was fine, though I have no idea what is East London about the place -- the food seemed generically British to me. The service needs major work, but the food is decent. You could certainly do worse, but it's a far ways off from great and I probably won't be back. Meh. East London Mehringdamm 33

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