Restaurant Review: Applebee's FISH
5 Stoney St, Borough Market, SE1 9AA
020 7407 5777
We all do it. We think we’re granting ourselves a treat when we spend more than we normally would on something, regardless of whether it is of extraordinary quality or not. So when my friend and I went to Borough Market’s Applebee’s, and found that it was offering a special fish of the day for £19.99, we thought we would treat ourselves. Once in a while, we decided, one has to invest in the comfort and wellbeing of one’s taste buds, even if it is way out of one’s budget.
The place looked classy, welcoming and inviting; the waitress who showed us to our table less so. Looking impatiently into space and at the floor, she slapped a couple of menus on the table and left.
To start with, we ordered the olives and anchovies served with toasted bread, which the waiter – now a friendlier but more awkward male – served promptly.
My stomach had been growling for the best part of an hour, so I was excited to tuck in. I was, therefore, disappointed when I realised the bread was so stale that I had trouble breaking it. It was the kind of bread you stick in the toaster, then forget about it but eat anyway an hour later because you don’t want it to go to waste.
I waved over the first staff member who caught my eye. It was the grumpy waitress. I asked if we could have fresh bread instead of this stale type. She looked at me bewildered, baffled and offended. “It’s toasted,” she said, offering a somewhat patronising explanation. I said: “Yes, but you obviously toasted it quite a while ago.”
She shook her head and agreed to replace the bread, only to return with another portion of stale bread – this time “untoasted”, as she called it. Some butter could have made it more edible, but I didn’t want to cause any more grief. So I munched away on the olives, which were very nice. I tried the anchovies but couldn’t eat many, as they tasted as if they’d been soaked in lime juice for days.
The mains were okay. My grilled fish platter tasted like, well, fish, and my side salad of rocket and tomatoes appeared to have been garnished with five drops of balsamic vinegar and a third of a teaspoon of olive oil. My friend had gone for the monkfish (pictured above), which could have done with about half as much paprika as the chef had decided to rub on the fish’s poor skin.
We couldn’t help but notice how much a lady at the neighbouring table was enjoying her dessert – a crème brulee – and soon started talking to her. She told us she liked coming here because these people “really know how to cook fish”. I smiled politely and quietly disagreed, thinking she was probably fooled into this belief because of the sheer amount of money she was about to spend.