The Showroom Bar and Cafe

by nofrillsfood

Hi people (always have to stop myself from saying guys, very bad habit!)

As I previously stated in my last blog, I ddn’t realise how time consuming this writing malarkey actually is. Respect and kudos to you pro writers/journos out there! I try and write as much and as often as possible but can’t promise a fixed date.

Day off plans can change depending on how much you’ve been rammed with work, as can your plans to do something after work. Often these last two weeks I’ve planned to sit and write after work only for, after the quitest night of the century, a table of two walk in with ten minutes left on a Tuesday night service, and then order dessert at 11:30pm! Good for doing paperwork and actioning staff to clean but shite for staff costing and gp’s, shite for the kitchen brigade and, even worse, shocking for my after work alloted writing time.

Anyway, this week’s review is about The Showroom Bar & Cafe. (Not the cinema, I ain’t no Barry bleeding Norman)
As I previously stated, I try and review a place only having tried it out a few times to give as balanced a view as is possible. So I’ve been three times now for lunch, dinner and the evening. And, in a way, I am dreading writing this as, well, basically it was piss-poor. ALL. 3. TIMES.

As I understand it the chef, who has taken over at the showroom, has obviously got talent but you wouldn’t think it to try the food that is currently being served under his name.

The service is varied; both floor and bar depending on who serves you, what time of day it is and what mood they are in. To be fair that is not totally accurate, the black shirts, (waiters/waitresses and bar staff) are all very good. Honest, friendly and into the job. Those who wear the shirts of management I have found to be disintrested, borderline lazy and obviously not that into the job. I could be wrong, and If I am, genuinely I am sorry.

Well how do I come to these seemingly rather harsh critiscims? The first time I dined here back in February was a quiet evening and the wait for the rather unimpressive steak was ridiculous, 45 minutes for a rare steak! The food really doesn’t merit much more discussion than that I’m afraid.

The second time I dined here was a few months ago and the place was admittedly busy, it had been a hot day and the staff had possibly been at it all day. That is never an excuse but I get it, I really do. You have to order at the bar here, no real waiter service at all, and I’m not really sure why.

So when you spend an amount of time figuring out from the menu what you want to order, place your order then pay for it only to be told “I’m sorry guys, I think thats the chef shouting at me to tell me something is missing off the menu.” Why!? Now, I know only too well that things run out or even worse still they have been prepped badly so cannot be served so why-oh-bloody-why are the front of house staff not already informed of this? It makes them look bloody stupid and amateurish. And it’s very annoying to boot.

So, I went simple and ordered the Showroom burger. Simple is often the hardest thing to get right and in this case that was true. The brioche it was meant to come out on had turned into a soggy granary bap, the salad inside was soggy to the point of death and worse of all the burger, the showpiece, tasted like a frozen Tesco student BBQ special, so bad I left half of it. Now this sounds bad but the very worse is yet to come! The fine sounding fries came served in a small chauffant/frying basket which is a nice touch, however, they were pushed down hard which created a soggy chip like pomme puree! What was worse than this was the taste, yes they were soggy etc but the oil in which they were cooked was obviously old and dirty and hadnt been changed for a while. Every aspect of the dish was more or less inedible.

Now you would think it couldnt get any worse but what happened next really took the biscuit. Admittedly the bar was a little busy so the standard check back never materialised. But when you take into account the same member of management walked past our table 5/6 times during our meal then about the same amount of times after we had finished before clearing, you might get my gripe with the service (or thereof!) Now I dont ever like complaining but I will say if something isn’t right. Never rudely, never for gain, just to say my point. It’s the same if it’s been great, offer thanks and what I liked. So I informed the guy that I didnt really like the burger, as it was barely touched and I mentioned that I thought the chips werent to clever and that maybe the chef should try one to see if he agrees. Now the door into the kitchen at the Showroom has a little round, glass window which guests can see into. As I was making my way out and putting my jacket on I saw the server showing the chef my plate, obviously passing on my feedback, and the chef was pulling the universal hand sign for a man that is masturbating! Now if I had been a civilian I probably would have reacted badly, but I didn’t, I just laughed it off as something I had seen a thousand times before. However and on reflection later I was a little angry and shocked and swore I wouldnt return.

So the other day I was persuaded to try it again, “lets go for lunch, when its quiet.” I thought, and hoped, it might just be that they had ‘one of those days’.

So lunchtime, same labourious, tedious ordering and payment at the bar system. I ordered a starter and a couple of simple sounding mains, the ham hock terrine, poached duck eggs with asparagus and spinach cream sauce and the wild garlic gnochhi with purple sprouting broccoli and spring cabbage.

Within 1 minute of the order hitting the kitchen, the really pleasant server informed us “that’s the kitchen calling me to probably tell me we havent got some of your dishes.” WHY IS THIS HAPPENING AGAIN?

He came back, all apologetic, and informed us that the terrine was off the menu, so I opted for a simple, yet nice sounding salad of prawns with sesame bread sticks and lemon mayonnaise.

Now the wait for the food was 40 minutes, after half an hour the server came out and apologised, which is good but what he said really rather perplexed me; “I’m really sorry about your wait, it will only be another 5 minutes.” It wasn’t, it was ten, so if you know it’s going to be ten flipping well say so, “I don’t understand what chef is doing today.” I said that it was fine but was getting annoyed.

Then the food turned up.

The prawn salad was a really rather generous portion of frozen, unseasoned mass similar to what I imagine kerry Katona serves at her awful-looking Iceland tea parties! The prawns were pushed on top of of some mixed leaves with a dollop of mayonaise, which wasn’t even lemon mayonaise – the only lemon it had ever seen was the two slices next to the glass it got served in! As for the sesame breadsticks, well they hadnt seen a single sesame seed and where so hard they would break King Kong’s gnashers!

The gnocchi was dry and uninspiring. The purple sprouting broccoli wasnt purple sprouting broccoli at all just standard green. A very dry dish which wasn’t seasoned correctly at all.

The duck egg dish was again simplicity personified, 3 key ingredients which marry so well. The duck eggs were a lovely shape but the yolk was over-easy, bordering on hard. The asparagus still had the woody inedible end on and each piece was a mixture of being under and overcooked. It wasnt peeled either, which is sound for smaller asparagus but for big spears of the stuff it is criminal. The spinach cream sauce wasnt spinach cream sauce, it was a dollop of cooked spinach with a beurre blanc type split cream sauce again, dissapointing.

You will notice I haven’t mentioned the desserts/cakes. Well to be honest the food I had eaten really rather put me off and I had in mind to eat popcorn anyway. But they do look nice in the display at the end of the bar, but there is nothing on the menus to highlight or sell them which is very odd.

My final point is yes 2/3 times I tipped! ‘Why?’ I hear you ask. Well the food may have been poor but when the service is acceptable I always do. It is NOT the servers fault that the kitchen has let him/her down and most often they are working for minimum wage and almost rely on tips! That’s just me, but I think a lot of people forget that when they have a bad food experience they take their frustration out on the floor team who have, 9 times out 10, worked hard and are as embarrased as you are that things haven’t gone quite right.

I’ve actually taken no pleasure in writing this review, I didnt even want to write it. I was concerned I was being hyper-critical. On reflection, I’ve just been as honest as I can be. One of the reasons I wanted to write a sort of review/blog was to be honest and write what I dont think a lot of full time (pro) reviewers do and say its truly bad when it has been and then massage it up a little for fear of offending chefs/propretiors/owners. Yes, it can be damaging but I dont think my opinion, just one person, will do that much damage. I can already hear in my head what the chefs in the Showroom kitchen are calling me and to be honest I’m fine with that, I’ve done the same. The good thing about that is it shows that they care and I hope when I go back (not for a while though) it has improved.

It is with all this in mind that I am sorry to say I cannot recommend you waste your time and money eating here.

That said the cinema is absolutely brilliant, just eat before you come or snack out on popcorn, I will!