Review #2: Fino

23 September 2014

I headed back to London after a few days of fantastic eating in Bergen and the Faroes. Even the hiccup in Copenhagen didn’t dampen my spirits as I planned to relax a few days in London with many friends.

However, I have become increasingly weary of the London restaurant scene, much like my feelings about New York. Too little attention is paid to the ingredients, the chefs are “over-chef’ing” the food. Instead of bringout out the best of the ingredients, it’s now trying to adulterate it to show off. This is when cooking is no fun for me anymore, especially having just come from places with pristine ingredients like Norway and Faroes.

In London I had a few okay meals and a few poor meals, and maybe 2 good meals. But even some of my favourite haunts like Opera Tavern was not quite as good as it used to be. For my sole free evening, I decided to go somewhere that has not let me down in the past, the excellent Spanish eatery Fino.

I know people love their sister restaurant Barrafina (old and new), but the original Fino I’ve always had a soft spot for. I had a wonderful meal there nearly a year to the day (see my review), so I hoped to have a similarly good experience this evening.

The restaurant wasn’t busy and I chose to sit at the counter like last time. Big mistake. The service was extremely shaky all night, extremely confused and inattentive — even on a not-very-busy evening. Little did I know things would go straight downhill from that moment…

I noticed many of my favourites were off the menu, so I ordered several items and hoped for a solid dinner. The wine was slow in coming and it was rather annoying… The first dish arrived in a little while, the simple padron pepper plate.

padron

Well, how do you mess up this simple dish? Throwing a few large chunks of sea salt isn’t my idea of seasoning, especially with one giant clump that nearly cracked my tooth. Not impressed so far. And when my second dish arrived my heart just sank.

john_dory

Believe it or not, this is a John Dory. It was prepared rather poorly. First, it was cleaned badly, there were bones and fins haphazardly chopped making it hard to eat. Cooked badly too. And seasoned badly. This was a rather small fish too that I jokingly called the Johnny Dory. Awful. Compare this to the beauty I had at Bocca di Lupo in Soho last year…now that’s a serious John Dory.

Poor food, compounded by crap service, I was pretty unhappy by now. Thank goodness I ordered a small flask of wine or else I’d never get a refill… Then the next dish arrived, the duck.

acorn_duck

This was supposedly duck that was feeding on acorns. Now this was pretty good, cooked well, but didn’t have the impact I thought it would have. Perhaps I was just too jaded by the experience so far. This was the best dish of the night for sure, but that’s not saying much… Then finally the last dish…

ox_tongue

I shook my head when this showed up. It was ox tongue, but so heavily breaded? As I bit into it, I would have preferred to bite my own tongue. The thick, flavourless breading was utterly unnecessary. Frankly it made the tongue inside inedible, as it clung to it like glue. I tried my hardest to extract the tongue from the breading but after awhile I gave up. The tongue had absolutely no flavour — like it was boiled in water with no seasoning. The breading was supposed to cover that, but it was beyond disastrous.

I abandoned most of this dish and asked for the bill. Forget it.

To their credit they took it off the bill, but this was a total wasted evening. Shockingly poor cooking, terrible execution. I left unhappily, knowing one of the “safe” restaurants in London just let me down — not by a little, but catastrophically. I have never been so down on the London dining scene…

What a sad end to what has been an amazing food trip…sigh. I know I’m never coming back here again. Sigh…

Fino
33 Charlotte Street
London, England

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