Kaspar’s Seafood Bar & Grill (May 2013)

My dining comrades and I had been excited about a visit to Kaspar’s given its location in the beautifully refurbished Savoy hotel. Week-old restaurants inevitably have their teething problems and one should always read reviews (mine included) with a metaphorical pinch of salt, but the only one I had seen (Fay Maschler’s – a critic whom I generally respect) had lowered my expectations, given its relatively damning assessment. We found the atmosphere superb and the service highly attentive, but the food mostly unmemorable and the pricing inconsistent. There is no doubt that the Savoy’s dining room is a gem, large windows looking out onto the river, a high ceiling, sumptuous furnishing and an art deco finish. The tables were well-spaced and the chairs comfortable. It was also pleasing to hear the tinkle of the piano’s keys from the adjoining room. And, most people seemed to be enjoying themselves. However, it would be hard to say exactly what Kaspar’s is intending to achieve with its menu. Make no mistake, the restaurant positions itself as a “seafood bar and grill,” but if so, then why offer such pedestrian 1970’s-style mittel-Europa dishes such as Wiener schnitzel too? I struggle to imagine many of the same target dining market wanting to spend £80 on 30g of caviar, say, to start, and then £19 on a beef stew (‘Bourguignon’) and mash to follow. Two of our party began with the yellow fin tuna tartare. It was presented in a curiously shaped dish where it was impossible to place one’s cutlery conveniently, and the tartare itself was somewhat overwhelmed by the cream sauce. That my other comrade left half his Caesar salad spoke for itself. In terms of the mains, my monkfish kebab was ridiculously overpriced at £24 for just four small pieces of fish in a somewhat anaemic sauce. By contrast, its side of salad for just £3 (the price of all the sides) was a relative bargain, but scant compensation for the fish. My comrade’s Thai green seafood curry seemed a somewhat incongruous menu option in an ostensibly fine dining location, but was executed competently enough, although the waiter initially failed to bring the accompanying rice with it. The third member of our group bravely went for the schnitzel, commenting that he could not recall the last time he had eaten such a dish. The potato side looked, to my mind, tangibly more edible than the overly bread-crumbed veal main. At least our bottle of Gavi from Italy was a success, well-balanced and refreshing. It was not bad value either, at £45 for a bottle, but a note to more credit-constrained diners: the list starts at £32/bottle, so hardly what one could call good value in general. If you want a similar style of food, but executed much better, then go to the Wolseley or Scott’s. If you want a fun but none too consequential experience, then it is worth going here.