Sunday, 20 May 2018

Hide: run, don't Hide Above

Hide exterior
I wish we were reacquainting under better circumstances dear reader, but I'm back with an important PSA. To call Hide the worst restaurant I've been to in a long time is an overly generous assessment of this temple to disappointment. What happened to Ollie’s cooking? It was elegant and light and flavour-forward, but no longer. It’s been replaced by a safe, corporate vision and a production line approach of largely quick-to serve-dishes, necessitated (I guess) by the vast number of covers in this expensive corner of Mayfair. In the move from Fitzrovia, the kitchen left behind all traces of flavour. I’ve never encountered inedible dishes in a £100-plus tasting menu. Hide gave us two: suspiciously mushy blue fin tuna and a king crab devoid of all flavour and texture. Elsewhere the famous Dabbous coddled egg has been revamped for the worse and the great bread has morphed into a tasteless variety basket. We were trapped in this tasting menu mediocrity and only marginally comforted by modest markups on the expansive wine list. I suspect the professional pundits will praise it and Michelin will anoint it with a star (for the staircase alone), but Hide is no Dabbous. That place (RIP) was a breath of fresh air when it opened 5 years ago, but Hide just leaves you gasping to get out.

I’ll take the shit sandwich approach to this blog post: you know, start with some positive observations, follow with the negative and finish on another positive. The staff, predominantly male and French, impressed. They were already pretty well drilled on the menu despite being officially open only a few days (post weeks of “soft opening”). But what’s with having a single female server in the dining room? And why would you dress her in faux French farm girl garb with Seinfeld-esque puffy sleeves. She looked ridiculous and uncomfortable next to the elegantly attired gents.
Hide Above: pickled / preserved vegetables
That's the positive (ish) side of things. Now the food. Vegetables / Flesh & Bone / Bread & Broth: The tasting menu at Hide Above, begins with pickled veg. Carrots, turnips, beets and friends with slightly different styles of pickling all artfully arranged. Very Nordic, a little nouvelle, but...snore, not very original.  Leave this style to the Danes, who do it better. The house made cured meats – goose and pork – were pleasant enough, but weirdly served wrapped around feathers and fake bones. I guess it distracts from the small sized serving. A small bowl of mushroom broth was also served along with the bread basket (I'll get to that later).
Hide Above: what's avocado doing on a modern British menu?
Celeriac, avocado and angelica: a dish that maintained the cold pickled theme. A thin shaving of celeriac encased chopped avocado, and then surrounded by a chilled broth. The presentation was reminiscent of dim sum "money bags", which would have been tastier than this. A fair dish, but unless it's on toast, avocado has no place on a British menu. Food miles and seasonality be damned apparently.
Hide Above: inedible tuna
Raw tuna with prickly ash and Exmoor caviar: I'm convinced this dish was prepared well before serving since the tuna had a mushy texture and I question the quality of the caviar too. After a mouthful, we all stopped eating this. To his credit the maƮtre d' asked why we did not finish, but suggested the tuna was from the same supplier as that to three-star Araki and delivered daily, so we must be wrong. I hate wasting food, but this was inedible.
Hide Above: nest egg with Campbell's Soup consistency
Nest egg: I was looking forward to reacquainting with the coddled egg, one of the signatures at Dabbous, but what once was luxurious and creamy has turned to stodge. Imagine the thickness of concentrated Campbell's cream of mushroom soup and you've reached the consistency of this serving. It left an unpleasant coating on the tongue.
Hide Above: snore-worthy sashimi
Two servings of Cornish fish (£16 supplement): After two really dud dishes in a row, our expectations went south. The sashimi, adorned with sea veg, wasn't particularly memorable. The  squid noodles were served with a warm broth. Fine, but again fairly ho hum.
Hide Above: strange-textured squid
Roast king crab, turnips, camomile honey and salted butter: How the kitchen managed to suck all the flavour and texture from the crab is mind boggling. What was served had the texture of a crab stick from a Chinese takeaway, but with less flavour. Where was the natural sweetness of the crab? That ridiculously luxurious texture? That a crab had to die for this dish is an absolute travesty.
Hide Above: that a crab was killed for this dish is a travesty
Barbecued organic Herdwick lamb, charred asparagus, savoury pine nut praline: uniformly cooked, probably sous vide, the lamb had no hint of the barbecue about it. Lamb fat is sweet and crispy when it touches a naked flame, but this was just soft and flabby. To an Aussie like me, serving lamb like this is sacrilegious. Ollie has kept the praline that was served with the Iberico pork dish at Dabbous (acorns then), but the pine nut flavours added little to this serving.
Hide Above: not-barbecued barbecued lamb
Garden ripple ice cream: when the pick of the dishes is the pre-dessert you know there's a problem. Fresh and bright and a little peppery, this was a clean, fresh break from the savoury courses thankfully.
Hide Above: When the pre-dessert is the best dish, something is really wrong.
Hide Jasmine & Wild Peaflower Religieuse; cold brew Jasmine Tea: You can salvage a meal with a killer dessert, but not at Hide. The cream filling of the choux was powdery, grainy and had separated - a sign that it was old.  As an aside, what happened to the baker? At Dabbous, the bread was served in dinky, date-stamped paper bags, still warm and moreish. At Hide, the approach to bread is more-is-more with various rolls, baguettes and slices in the basket, none of which had any flavour.
Hide Above: good choux, terrible split cream filling
So, that's a lot of filling for this sandwich, right? Time for something positive again. To its credit, Hide is a great place to drink. The wine list has the lightest mark ups over retail I've encountered. We drank a bottle of Jacquesson champagne at £75 a bottle, which is in my local bottle shop at £55. You would easily pay £150 elsewhere. The full Hedonism list is only 15 minutes away at £30 corkage.
The staircase is lovely
So how did Hide end up here? I'm assuming economics. There are 250 covers split over the three levels and it feels like at least 100 of them are Above. As a consequence, the tasting menu needs to set a pace, hence the prevalence of cold dishes. It feels more about co-ordination than cooking. Dabbous set a bar of expectation for Hide, and when it falls so far short - with inedible dishes and misjudged updates to classics - it's just so disappointing. As a great philosopher once wrote, ain't nobody got time for that.

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