Friday, March 07, 2008

Beach Blanket Babylon

The reviews weren't exactly complimentary.
But the place looked stunning through the fancily decorated windows, and we had an hour and a half to kill until the live music kicked off at Loungelover around the corner, so we decided to give Beach Blanket Babylon a go.
If nothing else, we thought, we could spend the time sipping on cocktails while admiring the OTT decor and pondering as to the reasons for the bizarre name (on the latter, I am none the wiser after a visit to their website - anyone any ideas?).
While Loungelover and Les Trois Garcons (Did I really forget to review that place? Well, in a word, it was stunning.) are of the old-school grandeur, filled with things you might find in your granny's attic, the OTT-ness in BBB is all shiny, new and fake.

Still, it's quite something to look at and we had a good view from a rounded banquette table facing the room. We had time to spare, so decided to take it slowly with some cocktail aperitifs. The place wasn't exactly full but it took the waiter about 10 minutes to bring our tumblers of tap water. He re-appeared after about 5minutes later to take our food order, and brought some slices of dry, butterless bread after a further 5 minutes. We were still decidedly cocktail-less though, and starting to feel a bit miffed.
On his next visit, the waiter surprised us by bringing our main courses. But we'd ordered aperitifs, I protested. We wanted to have those first, then order some wine to go with the food. The waiter seemed to entirely miss the point, plonking the food on the table and saying that the cocktails won't be long.
It took several attempts on our part to persuade him that, no, we really did not want to be served the food just yet. Throughout there was no hint of an apology. Eventually he took it away, and brought the cocktails – a Purple Blanket and a Redcurrant and Thyme Martini (both at a not-too-unreasobale 7.90).

They were very pretty and tasted quite nice, I especially liked the red currants in my one even if I couldn't really taste the thyme. As soon as we'd taken the last sip the waiter re-appeared with the food which had clearly been sat under the hot lamp all this time. We asked for a couple of glasses of wine (from 5.50), and he disappeared again. We were in danger of finishing the mains before the wine made an appearance, but luckily managed to flag down another, more obliging waiter who brought it immediately.

As for the food, despite being a bit cold, my foie gras burger was luscious. There was a generous topping of the pate, which melted into the rare burger. I've never tried this combination before, but it seems to be flavour du jour in London at the moment and I have to admit it beats the hell out of monterry cheese. The chips were nicely crispy too. For 16.50, it was not exactly cheap (though a pound cheaper than in their Notting Hill branch according to the website!), but with the inclusion of the foie gras did not feel too much like a rip off - unlike the husband's 15.50 sea bream. It was a small slice, overly crispy and underwhelming. The accompanying pile of fennel salad was quite unusual and refreshing though.
At the end, we asked Fabio the waiter to deduct the service charge, which he duly did, but were then surprised to be offered a second opportunity to tip by the credit card machine. (We declined.)
So would I recommend it? Well, it's an opulent setting for cocktails if you like that sort of thing. And the burger was damn good, but not good enough to over-ride the service.

Beach Blanket Babylon Shoreditch, 19-23 Bethnal Green Road, E1 6LA; Tel. 020 7749 3540;; Tube: Old Street

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