Monday 22 February 2010

Walnut Club Report - Must Try Harder!

Long time no blog, but life has just got in the way recently, however, a REALLY poor meal at the Walnut Club riled me enough to blog again.

8 of us went for our friends birthday meal on Friday, attracted by their caberet night. This was my first (and I have to say upfront it will also be my last) visit to the Walnut Club - the location, over a (now closed) plumbers merchants - never really appealed but for a group do, with post dinner entertainment it seemed like a good option. As they were advertising a 5 10 5 price for the 3 courses it also seemed "reasonable".

The first thing that struck me, is that without windows and the heavy handed use of frosted perspex by an ubertrendy designer - it felt like you were eating dinner inside an ice-cube. I found the decor and booths, claustrophobic and depressing. I also think it's a place with an identity crisis - is it a restaurant, a bar or a nightclub - I'm not sure and what's worse I don't think it is either! The "bar" takes up for too much space and disects the room making the individual booths feel even more isolated. The fixed frosted perspex tables in the booths are the wrong height and make getting in and out of the booths difficult and sitting there for 2 hours gave me back ache - a huge style over practicality mistake by the designer. Our booth was particularly poor as, stuck in a corner to maximise space the layout with 2 tables just didn't work and the gap inbetween the two was not large enough for chairs so we ended up a party of 8 split into 2 tables of 4 unable to converse as a group without the use of sign language.........

For a caberet night, I expected food, with soft background music, followed by a bit more volume and dancing to follow. Which is a concept I think would work. What doesn't, is a split set, starting the first while everyone is still eating with volume that would rival your average heavy metal gig, then a lull when everyone was ready to dance. Good idea, poorly executed.

Then we get to the food, the biggest disappointment of the night. The 5 10 5 menu online has 8 or more options for main and starter, there were only 3 of each on the night (it is worth noting too that the fish and chips, which were undoubtably the best offering are on the £10 online menu, but were actually only £9.50 from the á la carte....). Most of the girls opted for the parsnip soup - which was thick but tasty so I'm told but at £5 a bowl was overpriced, as was everything on their menu. Myself and a friend opted for an á la carte offering of cumin roasted buttersquash and swiss chard salad with goats cheese and toasted flat bread for a wopping £7.50, but I'd heard good reports of the food so expected something spectacular for that price. Needless to say I was very disappointed! The squash was neither cumin flavoured nor roasted - there were 3 slices of it.... The goats cheese was eventually discovered after much digging to be a little "smeer" of mouse plastered to the plate. There was no flat bread and when I questionned the waitress on this, she returned with a cold, stale half of a pitta bread. At this point, I saw no point in complaining - it was a friends special birthday party and I'm often told I'm over critical, so I let it slide and ate it (it was late, I was hungry!)

The first of the mains to arrive was the fish and chips, it looked good, so I was hopefully that my beef cheeks (one of the £10 main options) would be much improved on the starter course. It wasn't! I was already annoyed that all it came with was some roast veg and that I'd had to pay another £3 for chips (the only suitable side dish offered) to make it an actual "meal". I've had beef cheeks before, and properly cooked, long and slow, they are a delightful and very cheap cut of meat. When they are still as tough a boot leather still stock full with all the gelatinous fibers that should have been melted away by the proper cooking process - they are nothing but a chore - one girl who had them found the texture so unpleasant at one point she had to spit them out or be sick! The majority of the girls went for the sweet potato masala, which whilst very tasty was the smallest portion of curry, with an even smaller portion of rice - a HUGE rip off for a tenner.

Now, on a night out, I am NEVER one one turn down a dessert - I love to finish a meal with something sweet and delicious, but on this occassion I was dissappointed by the cooking standards and rip off prices that I passed. As did most of my friends. The only dessert that came, a chocolate creme brulee with strawberry was again astonishingly overpriced at £7 for a very tiny pot of chocolate custard with a single out of season stawberry....

As I said, this was my first and last visit to the Walnut Club - whilst I understand the need for restaurants to make a profit, particularly in this current climate, customers will not, and should not, be forced to accept corner cutting and lazy chefs palming off cheap ingredients if they are not prepared to transform them into something spectacular. I love the cheap cuts of meat - I made a great beef bourguignon for lunch yesterday with beef skirt and shin - mine was meltingly tender - perhaps I should give him my recipe???? End of term report - MUST TRY HARDER.


  1. Fair review Tara. I was there, and although it didn't detract from us having a great night (8/10 on the hangover scale next day!), I would have to say that I agree about the food. It's hard to believe this place was Michelin rated. I'm sure it's trading to a large extent on the reputation of the Hathersage version (about which I've only heard good things).

    Having said that, it is quite stylish inside so perhaps they should drop the food and concentrate on being a cool bar with live music, where people can have a bit of a dance. As a venue it's much more suited to that. The uncomfortable height difference between the tables and seating simply illustrates that this place wasn't designed with dining as a priority.

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