Pre lunch venue: Clissold Park, Stoke Newington
Verdict: Revamped play area excellent – however rain stopped play
“We’re going to have lunch with the Gruffalo!” shouted daughts as we left a rain-soaked park and headed for a neighbourhood restaurant with friend Neil and his daughter. Alas there’s no roasted fox or owl ice cream on Garufa’s menu, as the main theme is steak and chips. These two words appear on hundreds of menus in London but are done well in only a handful of establishments in my opinion.
Lunch: We were there for the set lunch, which is steak, chips, mash or salad, and a glass of wine or beer for £12.50. The kids opted for mini Milanesa, a mini breaded rump steak and chips (£5.00). Now, given that a pint of Estrella or glass of red on its own in most places must cost near to a fiver, that doesn’t leave a lot of coin for the rest of the ingredients, and so it was no surprise when the food arrived that it was a touch spartan on the (oblong) plate. Indeed there was little difference in portion size between the dads’ lunch and the daughts’. ‘One of us should have ordered a salad’ said Neil. ‘Yeah, and it’ll be broccoli for their tea’ I replied mindful of the lack of greens.
It would be easy here to exhume the old Woody Allen cliche about portion size, but in truth that would be a cheap shot. The food wasn’t that bad. The meat – though oddly in two separate bits on my plate, had some flavour, and the chips were particularly good. I can’t really comment of the chimichurri as I’ve not enjoyed enough to gauge it. It was pitched at just the right level for my wimpy chilli-phobic tum tum. I could have done with a sprig of garnish though.
Verdict: I’ve had MUCH worse steak and chips, and nearly all those have cost a lot more too, and with a drink thrown in this lunch deal is pretty good for a sit-down restaurant. Lunch is often a bit of a ‘loss leader’ for restaurants, and of course the booze sales are nothing like the evening ones. But then the menu’s often smaller which means less effort for the chef, and there’s the hope that one’s so enamoured you’ll return in the evening sometime. I’m not sure I’ll be returning to Garufa in the evening though; their 400 g rib eye is actually 50p more expensive that Hawksmoor’s 400 g version (£28). Neighbourhood restaurants tend to thrive on the ‘hey, let’s not bother cooking, let’s go out!’ passing trade, and that’s got to be keenly priced, which is why ‘Britalian’ pasta does so well. I’m just not sure it’s easy to do that with a premium product like steak.