Friday, 6 November 2009

St Germain - Farringdon

Restaurant Interior - St Germain, Farringdon

A good chinwag most definitely calls for a good few leisurely hours with plenty of food and drink - soul food for a girl’s sanity. Forget margaritas and cosmos on a Saturday evening and welcome to the world of discount Mondays! J, my partner in crime for the evening, and I were headed for St Germain, a French bistro in Farringdon that offers a very nice 50% discount.

Bread and Butter - St Germain, Farringdon
There's always room for bread

At ten to seven that Monday evening, the restaurant was eerily quiet and empty bar an elderly couple tucking into their mains in a corner. For a split second I was tempted to turn around and hightail it out of there, dragging J with me but the waiter spotted us (just in time?). Our welcoming Australian waiter exuded such enthusiasm, which was both refreshing and slightly suspicious at the same time. I kept expecting him to falter at some point over the course of the evening – to buckle as the restaurant began to fill up about 10 minutes after we arrived. But he never did … definitely a nice tip for him there. And as there was a nice big fat discount to be had (our pre-dinner cocktails were also discounted – 2 for 1 – courtesy of the 5-7PM happy hour), J and I decided it would be rude not to go all the way and order three courses.

Crispy Pork Belly - St Germain, Farringdon

For starters J went for the Crispy Pork Belly served with spiced carrot, honey and a star anise dressing (£5.50). Five pieces of five spiced roasted pork (over-spiced with overwhelming tones of star anise but otherwise nice meat) with carrot (the word that came to mind when I tasted it was … dehydrated) and a sweet sauce/dressing. J was a lot keener on this dish than I was for the simple reasons that I’m no fan of roast pork (especially crispy roast – argh!) nor am I overly fond of Chinese five spice.

Stuffed Baby Squid - St Germain, Farringdon

I started with the Stuffed Baby Squid served with chorizo, chick peas and sherry vinaigrette (£6.00). The squid was a little too charred but I was still pleased with my choice. The squid was still tender and the stuffing of chorizo, raisins and chickpeas complemented it nicely. I was little skeptical of the inclusion of raisins when I saw it mentioned on the menu (dried fruit in any savoury dish is a bit of a no-no for me) but I was pleasantly surprised. The tartness of the sherry vinaigrette cut through the dish and lent a sour element to the sweet raisins.

Coucous Baked Monkfish - St Germain, Farringdon

J had the Couscous Baked Monkfish with ras el hanout spiced haricot beans and toasted almonds (£16.00) for her main. The fish was well cooked but instead of being used as a coating, the couscous would probably have been better off as an accompaniment – in a nice mound on the side. Instead it was hard and gritty and just a bit disappointing. J wasn’t too keen on the beans but I quite liked them although the spicing did concentrate a little too much on cumin and turmeric.

Bavette Steak with Frites - St Germain, Farringdon

I wanted steak and with a little persuasion from our very cheery waiter, I decided to go for the Bavette Steak served with spinach and mushroom jus (£13.00), the Monday plat du jour. I should have perhaps a little more weary when the waiter said ‘flank’ when I asked him what bavette was. I’ve always associated flank with long hours of gentle cooking and I’m still inclined to think that way. The steak was cooked medium rare to ensure the meat didn’t get too tough but it still had too much a chew in it for my liking. The portion was of buttery spinach (underneath the meat) was incredibly generous and the earthy mushrooms were sautéed and served on top of the steak. My separate order of frites (£2.75) was served a little too oily and limp.

Tarte Au Citron - St Germain, Farringdon

It was a unanimous decision that J and I would order desserts to share. Well, actually we were supposed to share all the dishes ordered but there was such obvious preferences for certain dishes that both of us didn’t get any further than a few mouthfuls of the other’s dish, just as a little taster. Our first choice was the Tarte Au Citron served with crème fraiche (£5.50), which was deliciously tart and light. It was the obvious choice as the end to of a filling dinner. However, both of us didn’t think that the crème fraiche was necessary. It’s tartness wouldn’t have made a dent next to the lemon. If the idea behind it was to cut through the citrus tang, then perhaps some whipped cream or even clotted cream would have been a better choice.

Valrhona Chocolate Terrine - St Germain, Farringdon

At the other end of the dessert spectrum we decided on the Valrhona Chocolate Terrine served with crème anglaise and crushed pecans (£5.50). We were slightly disappointed when the chocolate terrine portion was so small but what a punch it packed! Bitter chocolate in a smooth mousse with crunchy little pecans nuggets. The crème anglaise was hardly worth mentioning. Thin custard and chocolate sauce squiggles across the plate – why mention the custard and not the chocolate sauce on the menu, especially when it was really quite insignificant on the plate? I am slightly baffled. A very nice dessert that contrasted nicely with the lemon tart but if I had to choose between the two … the Tarte Au Citron would win hands down.

The discount was certainly an incentive for venturing to Farringdon (let's just forget the fact that I work 10 minutes down the road in Holborn) but I'm not sure if I would go back. The food was nice but not great (not enough to entice me back anyway) and there's way too many other restaurants to try. At the end of the evening J and I (with a little shrug) agreed it was an OK meal so imagine my surprise when a week later I received an excited text from J informing me that St Germain had been awarded the Best Festival Menu (2-course lunch for £10) for London Restaurant Festival. Good but surely there's better?

St Germain
89-90 Turnmill Street, London, EC1M 5QU

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