Central London

Published on May 17th, 2017 | by Ben Southwood

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Crab Tavern, Broadgate Circle

Every city is going to have restaurants that while not in any way bad are also not in any way good. Not everywhere can be good. Even in Japan and the Basque country there are probably bad restaurants, although I’ve never heard anyone mention any. What’s more, when your city has as many good restaurants as London, there’s always somewhere to bring the contrast home.

Crab Tavern, one of the few restaurants in Broadgate Circle’s circle that isn’t a chain, has a new Spring Menu, with dishes that can be roughly grouped into three categories: stuff you’d expect them to sell, stuff you’d be insane to try, and stuff you’re actually sort of impressed they did.

Category one included some pretty good calamari, whose 24h marinade in milk seemed to have done the job—they had tender give, and weren’t rubbery at all. But it also included a grilled whole lobster (£28) which had lost all its fresh firmness. It was grainy and tasted of seawater.

If I’m honest, I’d suggest they stuck to seafood. They have more than enough seafood dishes on the menu. But I couldn’t help trying the pan-seared pressed pig’s cheek. Now, it had a major flaw—it was almost completely flavourless, probably just due to under-seasoning—but it also had a major selling point—it was slow-cooked to lovely tenderness, then warmed up slightly by frying the edges to a bit of firm crisp. And it was presented with a very attractive (though also flavourless) foam. Its £6 would have been perfectly reasonable for what was a solid chunk of meat if it had been tasty.

Desserts varied. Mine, a strawberry tart, was a mess. It was sweet without having any particular taste, not even of strawberry. It was completely forgettable and I didn’t finish it. But I have to say that my companion ate an eton mess that he really enjoyed: extremely light, just the right ending for a meal.

I went away full, and by no means unhappy, but then I was invited to eat. Crab Tavern has good service, it’s a perfectly decent room, and it’s in a convenient location—there’s a really good chance you’ll be drinking in Broadgate Circle wondering where to have dinner. But I cannot recommend it.

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