Readers of the diatribes I pass off for reviews will be aware that I’m not a fan of hotel bars, and I tend to be similarly underwhelmed by their restaurant counterparts.
The caveat, of course, is that when the Northerner and I travel, we often eat in these restaurants, with the Malmaison in Edinburgh and the W Hotel in Istanbul being two examples of how well these places can work.
Closer to home, Catch Restaurant in the Andaz Hotel has a new chef in the house - Martin Scholz - and a new take on their seafood offering. Well, that‘s what the PR says anyway. Aesthetically, Catch certainly looks the part. Located in a not-entirely-desirable-but-very-convenient location just next to Liverpool Street Station, Catch features Grade II listed interiors (including some seriously bling chandeliers), seating for 70 diners, a Champagne bar, and an interesting crustacean on display.
The food in keeping with its nautical theme is based around all things seafood, with shellfish that includes three types of oysters, British-sourced river and sea fish, and for those not on a budget, Russian caviar. Signature dishes on the menu include smoked and cured Cornwall sea trout, barley crumble and saffron pear, and steamed 'Gigha Island' halibut, accompanied by coppa ham, truffle jus and Jerusalem artichoke.
My companion, the Hockey Playeress, started with the steamed mussels, while I went for clam chowder with foam. Despite four mussels being unopened and thus cast aside, she declared the rest of them delicious. My chowder was flavoursome, creamy in texture, and generously rich with clam, giving them that bite which other restaurants often fail to deliver.
For mains she went for the aforementioned steamed halibut, which was perfectly flavoured and seasoned with just the right texture. I unwittingly went for the chef’s recommendation of the crispy fried zander (apparently similar to the perch) done with pumpkin puree and a black pudding grissini. The fish was pan-fried to perfection, and complemented the puree very well. Black pudding grissini - which I subsequently discovered is like a breadstick - was delicious in its own right, but possibly a little bit overpowering for the accompanying fish.
We washed it down with a bottle of Gavi di Gavi which was crisp, dry, and full of flavours. It was the perfect accompaniment to our meals. We decided to pass on desserts and settle for coffees - not because we weren’t tempted, but because we were well fed and satisfied.
The atmosphere of Catch is warm but subdued, veering more toward formal than social. The clientele is mostly suited and booted City workers, which is hardly surprising given its location, with the odd hotel guest thrown in for good measure. The service is charming, measured and knowledgeable, a combination that I hadn’t encountered in a London restaurant for a while.
Catch works because it serves great food, in a convenient location and is underpinned by great service. It’s not the world’s liveliest restaurant, and I’m not sure if you would describe it as romantic, but to its credit it manages to avoid the feeling like a hotel restaurant.
Which is a good thing.
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