Restaurant: Hush Brasserie, Holborn
Our visit to the new Hush Brasserie didn’t begin well. Ignored on arrival, we spotted our lunch companions sitting at a round table the size of a large dinner plate. The four of us were clearly set for an intimate experience; though this was no bad thing, given that the restaurant’s rotten acoustics treat diners to the aural experience of being shelled in a cutlery factory. Then an overweight waiter barged past my chair, followed by a procession of podgy businessmen. My first impressions were not great.
By the time the waiter eventually arrived to take our drinks order, I was on to 10th impressions – and glimmers of light were appearing. This Holborn brasserie is Hush’s second, and the noisy crowd of diners around us testified to the reputation of its flagship Mayfair outlet. The menu also showed promise, offering relatively simple but interesting dishes at prices that were good for a restaurant with pretensions to fine dining. And though the waiter’s weak English and the powerful decibel levels combined to make ordering difficult – he plaintively asked me to point to items on the menu – I was pleased to secure myself a decent Meantime ale.
My globe artichoke starter won’t have challenged the chef, though it was pleasant enough: the vinaigrette added interest to a dish that is often more tactile than flavoursome. But then we moved onto main courses, and things went downhill again.
One of my dining companions tried the ‘Hush hamburger’, so thick that it resembles a meat pillar. As an American, he knows a thing or two about burgers, and he proclaimed it “just alright”; they had, he whispered, gone for “quantity over quality.”
Meanwhile, my second companion was having a Fawlty Towers-style debate with the waiter: she’d asked him to leave the beans out of her goat’s cheese, broccoli and French bean salad, but it arrived bristling with the offending vegetable. “There are no beans!” the waiter protested, until his boss intervened to explain that the waiter’s language skills had let him down again. The replacement salad was prepared in such a rush that the broccoli was “really undercooked,” my companion reported. “And I like my broccoli lightly cooked. This is almost raw!”
Two inches to her right, my third companion was better off: his crispy duck salad with honey and mustard dressing, he said, “bridged the gap between the sticky toffee pudding effect of bad duck, and the true, tacky Hong Kong experience.” By this time, though, he was struggling to keep a straight face, as my risotto arrived in a bowl the size of Jodrell Bank.
Why Hush gave me such a ridiculous plate (pictured), I have no idea. Perhaps they were trying to distract me from the contents: while the rice avoided clagginess, it was over-salted and set rather firm. More probably, the dish was just another manifestation of Hush’s belief that showy equals impressive, that stuck-up equals classy, and that good ingredients equals nice food. They’re wrong on every count; expect the decibel level to decline.