Gilgamesh (August 2013)

Dare I suggest it, but Gilgamesh is definitively not a place for ‘serious’ gastrophiles; put simply, it is somewhere where you go either to be seen or because you want to attempt to star-spot. Make no doubt, it is glitzy, it is bling and it is quite different to almost any other London dining experience, but the service was wildly inconsistent, the food somewhat less so (although there were just a small handful of stand-out dishes from the many our group of five ordered) and the price elevated. Begin with the service: I was the first of our group to arrive at just before 7pm (our dining reservation was for 7.30pm). I ordered a drink from the bar, which comprised fewer than a dozen other guests. After quite some considerable time, they brought me the wrong drink and then insinuated I had not been clear when making the order – hardly the welcome or the response one would expect. When my comrades arrived, surely four people ordering the same drink ought to mean four cocktails? Basic maths was not in order and only three arrived. Eventually, third time lucky, the order was correct. Moreover, when seated, I believe it to be a divisive and inefficient system whereby serving staff have ‘allotted’ and seemingly inflexible roles. We asked for water and the person who showed us to our table, rather than responding in the affirmative, said she would get another member of staff to take our water order. How complicated could that be? The said water was brought to us by someone who incongruously looked like a glorified bouncer, head-piece, black suit etc., not perhaps what one would expect at an allegedly celeb-studded restaurant. The staff also got our wine order wrong, did not bring the correct bill… I could continue. Now, onto the food: the concept of ‘pan-Asian’ always perturbs me. You don’t get pan-European or pan-American restaurants, so why the vogue for pan-Asian, is it not slightly patronising? And, I doubt a chef’s ability to prepare, say, Thai and Japanese food equally capably. Being a group of five, we tried dishes from across the region with the soft-shell crab and sea-bass both standing out, authentic, and amply flavoured. Others were less of a success and in particular, the chilli tasting menu was – and I struggle for the most appropriate word here – bizarre. Again, think fine dining and you don’t think of ‘the world’s hottest’ chilli dishes, which perhaps brings more to mind student curry-house competitions. Not only may this be a bold claim, but being forced to sign a disclaimer acknowledging that I knew what I might be letting myself in for was faintly risible. The dishes duly arrived, had some heat, but certainly were neither extreme palate experiences nor ground-breaking in their ingredient/ flavour composition. One final word, however, ‘cool’ Gilgamesh may be, it does sit in Camden: goods trains rattled by behind our table (somewhat impeding conversation) and although the entrance to the restaurant may be up an impressive-looking escalator, carrying one up effortlessly from ground level, exiting requires descending a stairwell, and being deposited in a semi-grotty part of the Stables Market. Overall, it was definitely an experience, the alcohol flowed and we had a good time, but I probably won’t be returning.