The Fat of the Land (August 2012)

My dining comrade and I were mostly impressed by this low-key eating venue. It was refreshing to go somewhere lacking in pretention that focuses on not trying too hard to do anything other than prepare good quality food and serve it without formality. The food is indeed hard to fault. The preparation of ‘pa amb tomaquet’ constituted a good indicator for how the rest of the experience would turn out. Very few restaurants outside of Spain seem able to prepare well what ought to be a very simple dish, namely lightly toasted bread smeared with garlic and tomato. The flavours here were pronounced with the garlic and tomato well balanced and the bread neither too hard nor soft. All the other dishes we had were similarly hard to fault and stand-outs included chipirones with black ink and manchego cheese soaked in red wine. Priced at around £5 each, the cost is fairly reasonable too. Criticisms, however, would be: portions were perhaps too small (we had to order a second round of food), the menu was too extensive (30+ options), inducing an element of Durkheim's ‘tyranny of choice’. And, they failed on a very basic principle: if you do decide to have a range this wide, then do make sure that everything is available. Two of the dishes we were keen to order (one of which comprised highly uncontroversial and easily obtainable ingredients – grilled aubergine with feta) were not available. Of course, it also goes without saying that if the portions are not quite large enough then even if dishes do only cost an average of £5 each, the bill can soon add up. Finally, perhaps because the venue is new and was not trying too self-consciously to be ‘cool’, or perhaps because it was Friday lunch before the summer bank holiday weekend, but the place did feel curiously lacking in atmosphere. By the time we left, it had begun to fill up and the ratio of staff to diners seemed more balanced. The Fat of the Land does have potential and once it gets into its stride, some of the issues flagged may resolve themselves. Would return, if just for the tomato bread.