Despite being a food blogger with acute restaurant obsession disorder, my friends always pick better restaurants than me. I'll spend hours researching the perfect place, invite a gaggle of friends and brace myself for the imminent praise of my unbelievable, sleuth-like knowledge of all that is hot on the London restaurant scene. Without a doubt, said restaurant will serve up a mole that looks and tastes like a festering cow pat or the waiter will call someone's new girlfriend "sir" - and the dream goes crashing out the window.
Determined to bring this to an end, I booked a table for 4 at Les Deux Salons - a new French brasserie by the brains behind Arbutus and Wild Honey, which has been welcomed to the fold with near universal praise.
Sadly, it turned out to be amateur hour.
First of all, they lost our booking that I had made weeks before and confirmed a few days earlier. But they sat us up at the bar, where we swilled on martinis while overlooking the hubbub in the atmospheric dining room - so all was easily forgiven.
Then an unsmiling maitre d' led us to our table. And led us, and led us.... Until we found ourselves in the cheap seats in a slightly separate, empty room overlooking the good bit. Strike 2.
Fortunately, our partners in crime are always a party on legs, so the occassional passing of tumbleweed didn't matter nearly as much as it could have done. We moved on and ordered our wine.
Unfortunately, LDS no longer sells the 2005 Savigny-les-Beaunes advertised on the menu. Our waiter suggested swapping for the 2006 which, as he pulled the cork (I kid you not) he assured us was not nearly as good as the 2005 but was just about a pass...*trails off, shrugs*. The commentary had all the effect of adding vinegar to the glass - nothing like starting a bottle of wine with the feeling that you should be drinking something better.
The food was (overall) ok, but nothing more. Best of the bunch among our starters was a warm, sweet onion tart with crumbled goats cheese and beetroot (£6.95) - it was beautifully caramelised, with a fabulous goats cheese and just the right amount of softness and crunch.
We couldn't really see the point of the bland quinoa salad (which we'd only ordered on the back of an earlier review) - the mix of broccoli, preserved lemon, italian sweet and bitter leaves and grilled rapeseed oil (£6.95) made little impact.
The foie gras terrine (£13.95) was all a bit "meh", but redeemed by a gorgeous ravioli of tender rose veal, fresh goats curd and cavolo nero (£8.95).
Our USDA rib eye for 2 (at just under £48) - was an average piece of meat, with no sides. When it arrived looking rather lonely, we ordered a lovely creamy, gratin which was quickly delivered. But it would have made sense for the waiter to point out the need for greens or potatoes earlier. And while I don't object to spending a small fortune on a magnificent steak at Hawksmoor or Goodman, the only respect in which this one was in the same league was the price. Nice enough but not really good enough.
The burgers were much better, but even these were not without a hitch. The chef cooks them medium-rare (which would suit me), but our waiter declined to allow our friends to order theirs well done. They did ask, and I suppose they could have forced it if they really insisted, but should people really need to fight with a waiter for their preference? Over a burger?
Anyhoo, the burgers were excellent (juicy and flavourful) and came with thin fries and a generous green salad for £12.
We finished with an enjoyable Paris brest and a very vanilla-ey creme brulee which was a bit sloppy and ho hum.
My excitement about Les Deux Salons didn't match up to reality - what was all the hoo-haa was about? Perhaps they were having a bad night, but life is short - I'll take my chances elsewhere next time I'm picking the venue.
Les Deux Salons, 40-42 William IV Street, London, WCN2 4DD (Tel: 020 7420 2050)