hibiscus, london

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strangely mediocre british-european near picadilly circus. I know there are rave reviews out there about the strength of cooking at hibiscus, but we had a mediocre meal here and kept wishing we had visited a ramsay establishment instead – which no matter how orchestrated, knows how to churn out a decent and satisfying meal.

the meal started with a small dish of pork crackling – which went tasted (and confirmed my dislike for it) and ignored at a table of three girls. the bread was very good and the waitress made the rounds quite a few times, and this I really enjoyed with the cube of light and salty butter. I think the butter must have been whipped then cubed, but however it was done it was very good. we were then served an amuse bouche which was an apple soda beneath a carrot emulsion, and that was fun.

our starters came: tortellini with pike, sweetcorn and chorizo; picked (but still had some shell) dorset crab with radish that had a japanese vibe; and a pumpkin velouté poured around a round of blue cheese. I don’t like blue cheese, but the little garden on top was very attractive. the starters were alright, but couldn’t beat those at medlar.

the mains were ox cheek, pheasant and pollock; yes we ordered all the choices off the set lunch so we could have greater variety. the ox was tender if bland, the pheasant very good but the seasoning reminded us of fast food. the pollock was fantastic though, very smooth and firm and silky, and was hands-down the best main. at this point we were already disappointed: the food was alright, but we could have eaten at many other place for this price, and I’m not sure we could have fared worst more mediocrely at another restaurant.

the dessert (only 2 choices) came, a frothy strong espresso ice cream and two chocolate madeleines, and a persimmon-chestnut concoction. I don’t know what to say about the persimmon dish except that perhaps it is a relatively exotic fruit perhaps to the locals – but not really to us – and the frozen bits of chestnuts seemed like partially-uncooked nibblets of rice.

the madeleines were the best thing to come on our tables this lunch, and we wished it were possible to just order platters of these dense-but-fluffy-and-cakey, deeply chocolate cakes. I’d still recommend a ramsay – or medlar or trullo – at this price point, highly scripted but also reliable.

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