Given the choice between hitting myself repeatedly over the head with a large frozen haddock and returning to eat at the ludicrously-named Mr White’s English Chophouse, I think the fish would win.
Quite simply this was one of the culinary low points of my year – a meal marred by dull food and poor service in surroundings so corporate they’d probably be regarded as pleasant by the pea-brained muppets who compete in The Apprentice.
This place is the latest expansion of Marco Pierre White’s culinary empire and is situated in Hotel La Tour.
Despite the blurb on the website, I found the food neither ‘mouth-watering’ nor especially ‘affordable’. What we ate seemed to be overpriced mediocre fodder, playing to a faux nostalgia.
The battered soft roes with which I began were globes of unpleasantness – far too much batter enclosing far too few fish eggs which, in any case, were a bit squishy for my palate.
The tartar sauce that accompanied it was fine, but came in an oyster shell – an unnecessary flourish that made it difficult to extract the stuff from the wobbly vessel in which it wallowed.
The smokiness of the bacon suggested that the beast from which it came smoked 40 Woodbines a day.
Alas, this dish was perhaps the highlight of the meal for the main courses to which we progressed were ghastly.
The ham and duck eggs, with triple-cooked chips and buttered peas, seemed a solid choice.
Alarm bells sounded in my critic’s noggin when the plate arrived at my table with one of the fried eggs already burst and oozing its yolk.
Oddly, the burst egg was brightly golden and overcooked whilst its neighbour was drastically paler that a Victorian spinster and so undercooked that parts of the albumen were unset.
The meat itself was so tediously dull it may well have come from a hog called Horace who lived in Tunbridge Wells and spent his nights constructing models of great 20th century battleships from matchsticks. The chips and peas were no more than adequate.
My guest was by now growing grumpy…and small wonder for the chicken and leek pie she struggled to eat was a poor thing.
Hard to say whether the pastry was puff, rough puff or simple shortcrust for it was so undefined.
It sat atop a filling of poultry and undercooked leeks in a thin sauce that had an unlikeable sharpness.
Her creamed spuds were, she said, ‘school dinner stuff’.
Neither of us progressed to desserts.
How I hate carping about the shortcomings of the staff for they were a generally a friendly bunch who were trying hard.
But two glasses white wine arrived under-chilled and mine contained in the bottom sediment.
A burst fried egg really shouldn’t have been brought to the table and there was a long delay between the arrive of my guest’s pie and her potatoes.
This is a modern and inoffensive space that’s functional rather than welcoming. The lighting is so dull that a waiter suggested I open the oddly illuminated wine list better to help me read the menu.
On the early evening I ate there, the restaurant was full of business types dining alone. Poor souls.
Need to know
Expect to pay around £40 a head for two courses and drink.
You’ll spend more if you ht the steaks and order sides.
Vegetarian dishes are available.
Mr White’s English Chophouse
Hotel La Tour, Albert St, Birmingham B5 5JE. 0121 718 8000.