In restaurants, as everywhere else in life, things will go wrong. The crux is how such incidents are handled. Some places are staunchly unapologetic, pretending nothing is wrong – in my experience these have included Flaneur and the now-defunct Abbaye where they didn't seem in the least bit bothered that we barely touched the two large bowls of mussels.
Others though realise that they can yet save the day – and your future custom.
On a recent visit to Rivington Grill, one of the party had another appointment to rush off to, so we asked whether an hour would be enough time for two courses, and received an affirmative answer. In the event, the main courses were nowhere to be seen by the time he had to leave, but the staff were apologetic and happily canceled his order. Don't feel to sorry for him though because I think he won with the starter – a large mount of tiny, meaty potted shrimps on toast for (an admitedly rather hefty) £8.75.
My wild mushrooms (£8.75) were nice, but had been dumped on the toast just before serving, meaning that, unlike in the Fox & Anchor, the bread hadn't had the opportunity to soak up all the lovely cooking juices.
The eel salad (£7.75) came with beetroot (seemingly a very trendy ingredient these days, but not everyone's cup of borscht) and a lovely sour-creamy, horseradishy sauce.
On the main courses, I think won with the scallops – three large beasts in their shells, teamed with some delicate mash and crispy bacon (£15.50). The suckling pig – served with some deliciously buttery green beans -- also got the thumbs up from its eater (£15.75).
But the grilled sea bream (£15.50) was hopelessly overcooked and left largely uneaten. The friendly waitress picked up on this immediately, agreed that it looked overdone and took it off the bill – although I suppose in an ideal world someone should have noticed before it left the kitchen.
That (together with a delicious dark chocolate mousse for desert, £5.75) ensured that we were left with a pleasant taste after the dinner.
There is a lot to like about the Rivington Grill. It is a stylish white room, with a few quirky touches, like some lights that spell out f*cking beautiful (my starts for fear of your internet propriety settings) backwards and a mirror on the next wall for easy decoding. The menu is the kind of modern British food that's becoming a bit of a cliché but still tastes damn good (however many times I see it, I can't help smiling at places which have an 'on toast' section). The staff are friendly. There's a big long bar where you can drink and snack to your heart's content. There's lots of beer on offer, from St Peter's to Grenwich Meantime breweries among others, and English wines.
I suppose my main quibble would be the fact that along with following all the other modern British restaurant trends, it's signed upto the aggressive pricing one too. Even with the deductions the bill came to £153.23 for what eventually was 4 starters, 2 mains, 1 desert, 2 bottles of wine and 3 beers, including service. Sure, it's miles (or pounds) away from the five quid egg, but it seems like quite a lot.
Then again may be I've just got them pre-pay-day blues!
Rivington Grill, 28-30 Rivington Street, EC2A 3DZ; Tel.020 7729 7053 www.rivingtongrill.co.uk; Tube: Old Street
PS Have just realised that they are owned by the same people as The Ivy and J. Sheeky – so perhaps I should be less surprised at the prices!