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.