If you`re craving Italian near Marble Arch, walk past this place and turn left and go to Spaghetti House instead. It has great reviews.
This location of the national chain is tucked into Great Cumberland Place just a block south of Oxford Street. This is handy to the west end and steps from Marble Arch tube station.
Walked in. Caught the eye of the bartender. Caught the eye of the hostess. Caught the eye of a server. Then stood and stood waiting for a table. On sitting,we are told the quinoa and the steak specials are unavailable. There is no bread offered. What kind of Italian place doesn`t have breadÉ
The menu is a bit on the big side but I went with calamari to start. It comes out fast. Too fast. Seriously. How long ago was this cooked?`It`s simply not possible to bread and fry and plate calamari that fast. I`m guessing it was made in April. The rings are like desiccated elastic bands rolled in sawdust and fried. It is served with a strange pesto thing that tastes like pesto from a jar mucked up with mayonnaise. But not nice mayo, the diet kind.
By not eating the elastic bands, you`ll have time to look around. The room is bright and modern with seats for about 40. The kitchen is serviced by a dumb waiter. Possibly from Brussels.
Spaghetti with lobster, at least has pasta that is perfectly cooked. There are about six pieces of lobster, but they are watery and salty and taste canned or at least frozen. There are other bits that are either the worst lobster ever or pollock that has been tortured into confessing it is lobster.
Midway through wondering about the provenance of the alleged lobster, there is a to-do by the dumb waiter. It seems the staff have been startled by a spider. All of them squeal. The hostess tells the table next to me that there is a scary spider. The table next to me tells the hostess that spiders are good luck and they`d really like the rest of their meal to go.
Back to the spaghetti: the sauce seems to be the same odd pesto thing we saw next to the calamari. But now there is more of it and there is oil floating on top. Somehow, though, it is tasteless. Well, at least there are the grilled veg. Let`s see: two slivers of onion, five rocket leaves and four cherry tomatoes cut in half. Where are the courgettes? The menu says there are courgettes. Maybe if we call them zucchinis they will appear. Nope. Not here.
The arachnophobic server turns up with cheese. She grates. It does not come out like you might hope Parmesan or Romano might come out. It looks like supermarket mozzarella. Please stop. She is never seen again. Perhaps the spider got her.
No manager or hostess checks on the food. Our next encounter with anyone on the payroll is the removal of the dish but not until it has sat for 20 congealing minutes .
The next table has a calzone the size of New Hampshire. The poor dear is gamely sawing into it without much progress. Near by, server stares at a guest waiting to be seated. The guest stares back. How rude. That guest should know it's the hostess' job to be polite.
Portions are large, which is unfortunate, and there is a "light option that substitutes a salad with Italian dressing for half of the main for most of the price.
Interestingly, about one third of the tables are single diners. This, after all, is a hotel district, so it follows that there are plenty of solo travelers. Why, then, is there no effort to speak to them? Hint: engagement = tip and referral.
Don`t eat here. It`s bad.
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