one place that I went to the opening party, albeit three years ago, and followed up with a review – three weeks ago
I have a first world problem. Should I go to a restaurant’s opening party, or should I just go there for dinner and subject it to a formal review? While this might seem trivial to most (all?) of you, these are the things that keeps a food writer awake at night. Clearly we need to get out more. Or less.
I don’t often revisit places in a professional capacity. And my amateurish rule of thumb is that if the venue is a ‘bar that serves food’ I’ll do the party. That way you can stay as long or short as you like, and normally get a good feel for service, ambiance, and the vibe. However if it’s a ‘restaurant with a bar ‘the parties can leave you feeling short-changed. The best canapés will never do a restaurant service or budding chef justice. And after a few litres of champagne and wine, my memory of most places tends to blur.
Carom in Soho is one place that I went to the opening party, albeit three years ago, and followed up with a review – three weeks ago. My impression from the opening party was that it was a wannabe hip Indian restaurant in a very crowded Soho market. It seemed okay, but nothing spectacular. Several years on and when I dropped by on wet and windy Tuesday night Carom was busy. Not at capacity, as it’s a very big space. But with a work / agency drinks taking place at the bar, and at least 50% of the tables occupied it reserved it had great party atmosphere.
The waiting staff were charming, formal and very enthusiastic – sometimes overly so, but better than the other way around. We tried the set menu which at £19.50 is cheap by Soho standards. The Roe Deer Boti kebab was well marinated, and slow cooked soft. I’m not sure if I could discern that it was venison over the more traditional mutton, but I liked it. The Tawa grilled king prawns had the right balance of spice and heat, so as not to overpower the shellfish. The Quails egg wrapped lamb mystified me at first reading, and turned out to be an Indian scotched egg. It was meaty, with a perfectly cooked gamey egg at its centre and a hint of spice – delicious. The spiced cherry chocolate cake was served colder than I expected – at fridge temperature – which made it texturally feel a bit stale. The flavour was fine, although I think next time I’d prefer it warmed, or at least at room temperature. My friend tried the pistachio kulfi, which made me wish I’d chosen it instead.
Carom should be admired for both surviving, and by the looks things, thriving in a tough market. Clearly I need to get over my first world problem. After all if Carom’s anything to go by, I need to do both the launch parties AND the reviews.
From * to *****
Wining and dining ***
Serving and pouring ***
Partying and schmoozing ***1/2
100 Wardour Street, London, W1F 0TN
020 7314 4002020 7314 4002