Nahm Thai

Perhaps Perthís closest equivalent to the fine dining Thai restaurants of Sydney. Nahm Thai is one of the few places that tries to take style and atmosphere seriously in it’s quest to elevate the understanding of Thai food away from Pad Thai and Green Chicken Curry. Chef Kevin Pham takes influence from the likes of David Thompson in his recreation of classic Thai dishes.

Firstly I should point out that I like the place. The food is rich and vibrant, there is clear cheffyness to the presentation, and the produce is a world apart from your average Thai place. It’s also nice not to eat Thai food off a plastic tablecloth occasionally, and having 3 different curries that have been made ahead of time and had the <insert meat here> treatment is not something I’ll ever miss either.

Service is a bit of a let down though. The wait staff are dressed in uniforms vaguely reminiscent of bell boys, and usher you to tables in hushed tones, but most give off a clumsy backpacker-waiters-on-holiday feel. Very eager young types struggling in vain for descriptions of dishes and wine, and then sending the food to the wrong table. The menu is barely readable in the dim lighting, and I really wish someone would clean the large overhead lights of dead bugs on a more regular basis.

The food ultimately shines however. Red duck curry with lychees, crispy pork hock with chilli, and crispy egg net with shredded duck are all fantastic, so are the galloping horses (pineapple, duck, scallop) and the sticky rice dessert with mango and sago pudding give me hope that a decent dessert is able to be had in an Asian restaurant that doesn’t involve frying ice cream.

Nahm Thai
223 Bulwer St
Perth
Phone: (08) 9328 7500

Nahm Thai: Sago puddingNahm Thai: sticky rice with bananaNahm Thai: red duck curryNahm thai menuNahm Thai: Crispy pork hockNahm Thai: Salmon with green curryNahm Thai: cuttlefish ?Nahm Thai: Crispy egg nets with shredded duckNahm Thai: galloping horsesNahm Thai: lightingNahm Thai: glasswareNahm Thai

The Prophet

The Prophet is a Victoria Park institution and one of the few notable Lebanese restaurants in the city that do something other than kebabs. Jihad Moussallem has been serving up free bread with his own secret recipe garlic sauce and pickled vegetables for longer than Iíve been around, and one day I’m going to find out how and make millions.

The only thing that changes on the menu are the prices, which are still stubbornly set in the 90s. Their hummus is some of the freshest and most beautifully presented I’ve seen, and what the menu lacks in excitement it makes up for in consistency. The shish tawook (garlic chicken skewer) is a staple and the loubiah beans rich and hearty. Traditional kibbeh (raw minced lamb and bulgur) may be an acquired taste, but the baklava and Lebanese coffee to finish will win anyone over.

Every time I drive past The Prophet I feel a little bad about not frequenting it more often, and then I get a glimpse inside and see the place heaving on a Tuesday night with happy diners making the most of the delicious and cheap food and those three all important letter B-Y-O. There’s always a buzz about the place, to the point where you can never guarantee you’re going to get a seat on any given night of the week.

If you haven’t been yet, go say hi soon.

The Prophet
907 Albany Highway
East Victoria Park, 6101
Tel: (08) 9361 1101

The Prophet menuGarlic dip and pickled veges @ The ProphetThe ProphetSchmear @ The ProphetHommus @ The ProphetFool beans @ The Prophetgrilled fish @ The ProphetShish Kebab @ The Prophet2004 Witchmount ShirazLebanese breadThe ProphetLebanese Coffee pot @The ProphetLebanese Coffee Pour @The ProphetLebanese Coffee @ The Prophet

Lowdown Espresso

Lowdown Espresso Checked

I’ve been meaning to write a post about Lowdown Espresso for a long time now. They’ve recently captured my “Must visit cafe’s when in the CBD” vote, and I think the coffee they are making is some of the best in the city.

Lowdown is run by Mark and Adam Lowes, and two nicer gents you couldn’t meet, who take the flannel clad / bearded look and make it their own.

They took over the diminutive cafe in Cloisters Arcade from the previous owners and set about making it their own. Their Dad got involved used his carpentry skills to put the benches together and help get the place fitted out, and it is perfect in it’s simplicity. The guys use a customised Fiori blend for their espresso, and often have a single original filter available to try out as well. They’ve graduated from a 2 group Wega to a 3 group La Marzocco in the relatively short time they’ve been open and are pumping out more coffee’s than ever before.

I like it because they’re both down to earth guys who are obviously loving what they do and really seem to enjoy giving you a great coffee. The little chocolate button handed out with each coffee may go some way to explaining the chocolate notes I find in their espresso, but other than that it’s a rich and intense brew with a lot of body that a discerning coffee lover will appreciate.

The cafe is really too small to do any serious cooking, but there’s a few tasty sandwiches on offer every day, and on a recent visit some extremely commendable macarons.

If you love your coffee without pretense or attitude then pay these guys a visit. Be warned, it does get very popular during the morning “need caffeine before I can face the office” rush hour, but it’s worth the wait.

Lowdown Espresso FlatwhiteLowdown Espresso cupLowdown Espresso CheckedLowdown Espresso David BrentLowdown Espresso latteLowdown Espresso cardsLowdown Espresso menuLowdown Espresso AdamLowdown Espresso double shotLowdown EspressoLowdown Espresso Adam grindingLowdown Espresso MarkLowdown Espresso flat whiteLowdown Espresso Adam tampingLowdown Espresso reflectedLowdown Espresso sugarLowdown Espresso lemons

Lowdown Espresso
Inside Cloisters Arcade
16a/865 Hay St
Perth WA 6000
(08) 9226 3041

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Low Down Espresso Bar on Urbanspoon

Greenhouse Perth

Tasting plate @ Greenhouse

So if you’ve just finding out about Greenhouse for the first time via my website, you can consider yourself a little slow to the party.
Not that that’s a bad thing of course. I’ve always considered myself 80% tortoise and 20% hare. That you get there in the end is all the really matters, and any restaurant owner will tell you it’s the long term regulars that make the business worth being in, not us fly by nighters who swagger in on opening night, never to be seen again.

So Greenhouse is/was the most interesting place to hit Perth in quite a while. The concept first started in Melbourne as a temporary installation in Federation Square, constructed in 14 days primarily from recyclable materials. I could warble on about the idea of the place for a while, but I’d really only be restating what’s already been said, so here is something directly from the Greenhouse Perth website (which has lots of background info) about what they’re trying to achieve.

The Greenhouse is about designing and operating better places for people. Places that let us touch natural materials, understand where everyday things come from and taste fresh food straight from the garden

All the features of the Greenhouse are carefully considered first for their practicality, recyclability, life cycle and embodied energy and then for their aesthetics and cost. By putting each decision through this rigorous process, it is hoped that the Greenhouse can provide information and examples to builders, designers, restaurateurs and the public, regarding their daily choices of materials, ingredients, and practices.

*Jar SaladThe tasting plateEmilyGreenStrawberry fields forever**Menu @ Greenhouse Perth***Pour @ GreenhouseAndy Mac with the gun show99 bottles of booze on a string...Man loveMatt Stone plates up at GreenhouseEscabeche of Fremantle SardinesSkirt steak, green papaya saladSlow cooked lamb neck, chickpeasWood oven @ GreenhouseFrehs limes at GreenhouseMatt surveys the passMullet on flatbread with avocadoHouse baked breadWinelist @ GreenhouseInterior @ GreenhouseQuealy Pobblebonk

What this means practically is that the insulation is straw, the flooring in places is former milk crates, the tables and chairs are recycled timber, and smart little touches have been made around the place to make the construction simpler, and the overall sustainability of the place high.

Now all of that is nice and interesting, and I think a great approach to take to designing spaces that are environmentally efficient and use less resources. But no matter the concept, if the food is bad, I’ll be leaving it to the hippies to enjoy on their own.

Fortunately for Greenhouse, the food is not bad. In fact it’s very good. The kitchen is headed up by Matt Stone, former sous chef at Star Anise, and briefly at Pata Negra before irreconcilable differences meant he looked elsewhere. The boy knows how to cook. The food at Greenhouse is considered without being pretentious and the back to basics produce driven approach is a lovely natural way to eat that definitely fits the Greenhouse agenda.

Skirt steak, papaya & herb salad

On previous visits I’ve tried the “bits and pieces” board featured cheeses, meat balls, salami, salads, and pickled vegetables, as well as an outstanding skirt steak with green papaya salad, and slow cooked lamb necks. The food is not overworked, it’s simply but beautifully plated and tastes great. Bread is house made using Eden Valley Biodynamic flour from Dumbleyung in the Wheatbelt (who are also members and supporters of Slow Food Perth. I love the focus they have on seasonal ingredients and I think it’s the kind of food more people should be cooking.

Greenhouse Perth is split into two levels, with a restaurant and bar downstairs and a separate bar overlooking St Georges Tce upstairs, surrounded by a fairly extensive garden growing all manner of herbs and vegetables, and the whole place trapped inside walls of strawberry plants. According to Matt, not all the herbs they use come from the garden (simply due to the quantity needed and timing) but where possible as much produce as they can grow themselves is used in the food they serve.

Greenhouse is part owned and managed by Paul Aron. He’s had a background in cocktail making and the wine trade, and that shows when you take a look at the booze selection and the wine list. It’s extensive, interesting, and whilst it’s not parochially West Australian, all the best we have to offer are represented.

For me, Greenhouse is a little view into the future of restaurants and the way things could go. The compromise to comfort and style is minimal and the food, service, and atmosphere are great. I hope it’s not just seen as a novelty venue, because the thing I like the most is that thought has gone into all levels of the design. Where conventional choices of bulding material and design are involved, much of the decisions are made already, but in places like Greenhouse, right down to how the toilets work, there is a considerable amount of time spent thinking about how the right balance of function and efficiency can be achieved.

If this considered approach to design and food can be continued in other venues then you can wrap me up in chicken wire and roll me on down to the next one.

Greenhouse Perth
100 St Georges Terrace, Perth
Phone: (08) 9481 8333
www.greenhouseperth.com

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Pata Negra

Jamon serrano from Pata Negra restaurant Spanish red wine from Pata Negra

David Coomer is about as close as Perth gets to food royalty. His Star Anise restaurant in Shenton Park has been a mainstay at the top end of the dining scene for many years, and his reputation for sourcing great quality produce and making beautiful dishes out of them has placed him at the top of his game.

Which is why there’s been such interest in his latest venture, Pata Negra. When the announcement was made that David Coomer was going to be opening a Spanish restaurant in Nedlands, a great thrill ran through the collective stomachs of the greater dining community of Perth, hoping perhaps, that someone would come and pull us up from the quagmire of mediocre tapas restaurants.

Imagine my surprise then, to run into David at my favourite Spanish providore (article coming), buying much of the same ingredients as I do for said new restaurants launch party (though perhaps in slightly larger quantities than I ever have). I took some delight in the fact that he had to put up with as much, if not more hassle dealing with Rosa the feisty Spanish providore as I ever have. Who’s opinion on food and all things Spanish is undeniably parochial, and ultimately final. Regardless of whether she’s talking to a novice or an award winning chef.

After chatting for a while David kindly invited me along to the media launch the coming Sunday evening, a chance to explain the concept and demo some dishes before a full restaurant opening the following Tuesday. I wandered around chatting to wait staff and chefs Matt Stone (former sous chef from Star Anise) and Kurt Samson (previously of the Builders Arms and Momo in Melbourne), who will be heading up Pata Negra while David controls the reigns at Star Anise. It was a great night and a chance to sample some of the menu in it’s infancy, which had the immediate effect of whetting my appetite for the real deal.

Now I’m not prone to rhetoric as much as other writers in the food game in our fair city, but I will say that despite the build up, and all the hype, my first meal at Pata Negra was fantastic. So forgive me if I leave out details of the rustic mismatched furniture and glassware, and the warmly arcane lighting fixtures. I’ll also also brush over the unexpectedly icy dash to the bathrooms via the outdoors, and the unexplained mineral water that was poured into the next door tables glasses. Which are not all superfluous, but didn’t detract from the experience.

The review starts here

It was Friday night and the place was packed. Open since Tuesday, this was their 4th night of service. I’d booked for 8:30pm, ringing the day before to make sure I could get a seat, but was reassuringly told by the manager that tables would be set aside every night for walk in traffic. Lazy diners of Perth unite ! You should be able to stroll into Pata Negra at any given time with no forewarning and land yourself a table. The tables in question are a series of small communal spots at the front. The rest of the restaurant seems to run with two sittings, one at 6:30pm (the early bird special) and the later at 8:30pm.

A quick peruse of the wine list while we waited for the table to be ready showed an interesting mix of Spanish and Portuguese wines, and Australian wines in the same vein. New world Tempranillo blends mixing alongside Douro and Rioja. It was nice to see some decent cheaper options amongst the mix too. The cheapest bottle of wine being $35, which is not bad for a restaurant of this nature. Though it’s immediately apparent that the style of this place is meant to be warm, fun, and casually intimate. We settled on a bottle of Portuguese Douro that I know virtually nothing about. It was medium bodied and fruit driven and was a wonderful match to many of the dishes.

So the food.

The menu is split into sections. Tapas at the top, which are all small dishes. Working down through different sections based on the type of dish. If I recall correctly it was Sea (seafood things), Earth (vegetable dishes), Land (meats), Queso (cheeses). I know I’m forgetting or mislabeling them, but will clarify at some point when I go back. All the dishes are designed to share, thought not necessarily as individual pieces. But the concept of the shared table seems to be a central theme. The dishes are predominantly Spanish in feel, though there’s a strong Moorish / Middle Eastern influence coming from Kurt Samson’s background in running Momo with Greg Malouf and his own personal style of hearty tagines.

We started with some of the pork crackle. To call it pork crackle though is almost a misnomer. It’s essentially lighter than air pork rind fried to puffy crunchy perfection, served with a yoghurt dipping sauce and paprika. The joy of crunching into them is a must for any true lover of the pig.

Pata Negra: Pork crackle Pata Negra: Kingfish Ceviche

Next up was some Jamon Serrano. At half the price of the restaurants namesake Jamon Iberico, it makes for a deliciously rich, salty indulgence. The fat is lovely and supple (though not as melt in your mouth as the pata negra), and it’s a generous portion of 40 grams for $15. A massive ham slicer sits atop the stairs in the entrance to the kitchen, which will no doubt get a considerable workout over the years as this place shaves many a leg of ham to it’s salty end.

A small anchovy fillet laid across a rich tomato salsa on a thin wafer was next. A wonderful combination of textures and flavours as it all came together in a satisfying bite.

Now a brief respite and a chance to collect thoughts, enjoy the wine, schmooze with other local food illumenati and choose some more dishes. The only problem so far is that there are far too many to choose from, that all look good.

So after some wrangling we settle on some wood roasted portobello mushrooms and the one dish it seems most food writers can’t go past… fabada. Fabada is a rich stew with confit duck, chorizo, ham hock, and beans (in this case lentils), quite similar to cassoulet… a lovingly rich rustic dish of epic proportions.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. The wood oven at Pata Negra is a legacy of the pizza shop that used to be there a while ago. As a lazy university student I fondly remember walking past Sol Pizza on the way to somewhere else other than university. Hopefully my lack of patronage wasn’t why it closed in the first place… but regardless the wood oven works well, and is used to great effect by Pata Negra to create a number of their dishes.

The wood roasted mushrooms then, were an explosion of earthy joy. Juicy, dense, perfectly cooked… I could have had just that one dish and been completely satisfied. Shavings of parmesan over the top only enhanced the depth of flavour. How good they were, yet how simple, was quite simply astounding.

The Fabada came served in a cazuela. The confit duck consisted of one large maryland piece split in half, that fell apart at the mere thought of a fork. The lentils mingled with Rosa’s intensely spicy chorizo and smokey ham hock. It was exactly what I was hoping for. Homely, hearty, soul restoring.

For dessert, we couldn’t go past some of the house made Pedro Ximenez ice cream. Served with a sweet doughnut made from brioche and deep fried, then rolled in cinnamon and sugar. All I can say is thank God for a complete absence of churros, I miss you not. I also tried the poached persimmon, with yoghurt ice cream, sadly reaffirming the fact that I really don’t enjoy persimmon. The yoghurt ice cream rich and creamy, although I’ve been told I need to include in this review that my initial reaction was: “Wow, this yoghurt is really yoghurty”. Such is the brilliance of my observatory powers.

Pata Negra: ice cream churn Pata Negra: pedro ximenez ice cream, spanish doughnut

I finish the night with a glass of Pedro Ximenez and a smug expression on my face at a fantastic first meal in a new restaurant destined for great things. Is this Perth’s answer to Movida ? Only time will tell. But with what I’ve seen so far the sky is the limit. The team behind Pata Negra is committed to bringing great food to Perth. The service was quick and attentive, and you can tell they care about giving people the right kind of experience.

Get there soon and tell me what you think.

Pata Negra
26 Stirling Hwy, Nedlands
Phone: 08 9389 5517
Fax: 08 9389 5519
http://www.patanegra.com.au

Pata Negra on Urbanspoon

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Jessie’s Curry Kitchen

Satisfaction

Finally back to the business of eating in Perth. I have long been missing the love of a good honest curry. Since the fateful closing of Suraj last year, there’s been a curry shaped void in my life that no amount of franchised Indian restaurants could fill.

Enter the charming Jessie and her curry kitchen.

Situated in a barely recognisable corner of Inglewood on the Beaufort St strip that holds so much potential for both greatness and disaster for potential dinner goers, you probably wouldn’t know it was there. If you did happen to walk past it, you’d more than likely assume it was just a dull little suburban Indian takeaway store and continue on your way to get a dodgy kebab… but then you’d be wrong.

What Jessie’s Curry Kitchen lacks in style, it makes up for abundantly in substance. Jessie works the kitchen, and her husband Jeya works the floor. Everything is made from scratch in the kitchen and the curries have a special quality to them that can only be construed as “love”.

The menu is a mixture of Indian and Malaysian dishes. There’s dosai, chapati, roti paratha, and selection of basic curries described succinctly as “chicken butter curry”, “chicken curry”, “fish curry”, “lamb curry”. No need for superfluous explanations or derivations as the flavours stand for themselves. The fish curry we had consisted of mackeral and had a texture so meaty I could have sworn it was chicken if I closed my eyes. I’m not sure if that’s a great compliment but for something so unassuming to completely surprise me is a rare and special thing. The lamb curry brims with clove and star anise, but doesn’t attack the senses. In fact all the dishes are quite reserved in the Johnny Cash (Ring of fire) sense.

Being from Sri Lanka originally before moving to Malaysia, there is also the added bonus of String Hoppers served up on weekends. They’re little bundles of rice noodles woven together into flat circles, and make a fantastic way to mop up dahl and curry.

Jessies Curry Kitchen : MenusCharles Melton : Rose of Virginia2007 Chalk Hill BarberaEye level BarberaJessies Curry Kitchen: Fish CurryJessies Curry Kitchen : Lamb CurryJessies Curry Kitchen : Chicken BiryaniJessies Curry Kitchen : Minimal ChicJessie in her kitchenDahlJessies Curry Kitchen : String HoppersJessies Curry Kitchen : ChapatiSatisfactionJessies Curry Kitchen : DoneJessies Curry KitchenJessies Curry Kitchen

On my most recent visit to Jessies with my dining entourage the meal started off with samosas, then moved on to every different type of curry, dahl, chicken biryani, hoppers, and roti. There was 6 of us, and I think the total bill came to around $114. Which was plainly ridiculous given the amount of gorging we’d all just done. Add to the fact that I don’t think Jeya charges anything for corkage, so the 3 or 4 bottles of wine consumed over the course of an hour or two were well and truly worth it. On a side note, I’m still to find a great wine to pair with curry, although a glass of Charles Melton “Rose of Virginia” donated by Mr Wino-sapien & family was perhaps a better choice than my Chalk Hill Barbera, which on it’s own is quite stunning, but with curry just seems to confuse things.

All romanticism aside, the place is small, pokey, hard to find if you aren’t looking, and has about as much atmosphere as a dentists waiting room, but once the food arrives it all just makes sense. Each time I’ve been there I’ve had strange moments where I catch the eyes of other diners and we share a look that somehow indicates we’re in the know. It’s a nod of the head and a sly smile (which could just indicate I’m about to get lucky) that says somehow we’re onto something here that no one else recognises, somehow we’ve come to find something quite special. And I completely agree.

Jessie’s Curry Kitchen & Cafe
869 Beaufort Street
Inglewood

Opening hours:
Wed to Sun: 11:00am to 2:30pm
5:30pm to 8:30pm
Mon: 11am to 2:30pm
Ph: 9271 8528

Jessie's Curry Kitchen and Cafe on Urbanspoon

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The Eagle, Farringdon

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Sometimes things don’t always go as planned. Actually no, that’s not entirely fair. Sometimes there is no plan, but somewhere deep down you have a feeling that everything is going to work out exactly the way you want it to because the universe just likes you… and then it doesn’t.

It had been a long day. Walking the streets of London, popping up at tube stops all over the map all day and taking a great many photos that will never see the light of day for all of your sakes.

After meeting up with my good friend Sam, he and Amanda and I had then slowly meandered our way back through Soho, down over the Thames past the Eye, and then on towards a road called “The Cut” near Southwark. We had tried to get into two restaurants that looked very promising, the Anchor & Hope, and Mason Don Filipe. Sadly both were completed packed and had 2 hour waits for tables… which at 8:30pm wasn’t really cutting it for my exercise ravaged hunger.

We then made a daring attempt to swing a no notice table at St Johns. Black Cabbing it over to Smithfield, however it was all to no avail. The dining Gods were not smiling on us that night.

So the next place down my list was The Eagle on Farringdon Road. Another short walk down the road though, so we figured we’d chance it there before trying Moro in Exmouth Markets and at last ditch, any kebab shop that still happened to be open.

As luck would have it though, the Eagle was indeed open, and although we couldn’t get a table inside, we did manage to squeeze our way onto someone elses table outside while they weren’t looking… and did a tricky little “oh, you didn’t need all these seats did you ? No ?.. cheers” routine.

Thinking back though, I’m not sure how fortunate we were to get that spot. After Amanda almost had a drink spilled over her, and a few cheery patrons who were a tad more interested in the pub than the gastro had a short but charming conversation with her, it wasn’t looking like the most welcoming of venues for our weary legs.

The Eagle is often referred to as the original gastropub, as it’s first owners David Eyre and Mike Belben coined the term in 1991 when they opened it. The concept of the gastropub is simple. Good food, good beers, good wines, in a pub environment. Sadly, what we found at The Eagle wasn’t quite any of those things.

Walking in you’re greeted with the kind of shabby chic mismatched furniture, things thrown everywhere kind of layout that can be cool when the vibe is right. But what it felt like was a pub, well and truly sans gastro.

I hung about watching the chefs in the open kitchen throwing pots and pans around for a bit and then got depressed at how the food was looking, so lingered down the end of the bar in amongst pissed patrons waiting to be able to order.

I ended up going with a tomato, basil, and bread soup with chunks of parmesan through it, which I have to say was actually very tasty, thick and rustic and full of homely flavours. It almost made the stale basket of bread we were given palatable. Amanda also had the soup and Sam ordered the clam chowder, which looked the part as well.

For mains Amanada ordered a chilli pasta with crab, Sam went for lentils with pork, and I went for a Hereford rump with horseradish and roast potatoes. To say I was underwhelmed by the rump would be the understatement of the century. I ordered it rare, it came out dehydrated. Resembling something more like beef jerky than any steak I’ve ever been served and eaten before.

* *

I should have just sent it back straight away, but the service was virtually non-existent at that point of the night, and I knew if I did I would seriously be risking not eating at all, which wasn’t an option. So I bravely ventured forth into a land of sorrow, and mouthfuls of gray tasteless meat. I actually think I became a vegetarian for a minute halfway through that steak, wondering what that poor cow could have done to deserve such a dismal send off.

Sam’s and Amanda’s meals did look and taste better than mine, so perhaps it was just a case of sour grapes and poor menu choice, but the overall feeling coming away from The Eagle was that they just really couldn’t give a crap. They seemed to be doing a roaring trade over the bar, if the amount of people stumbling out the doors in a near paralytic stupor was anything to go by, so perhaps the food has taken a bit of back seat.

One positive thing that came out of it all though, was that after verifying for me just how bad my steak was, one of the drunken patrons nearby our table also mentioned that there had been a fire in the Eurotunnel. The very tunnel that my Eurostar train was due to drive through in the morning on my journey to Paris. Alerted, alarmed, and disappointed with my first London dining experience, I headed home and confirmed that it indeed was all true. There would be no trains to Paris the next day.

Which just goes to show that you should never ignore the ramblings of drunk pub patrons, and that you should always send back bad food.