Brumus: Great venue; pity about the food (May 2017)

The Haymarket Hotel (part of the Firmdale Group) has a lovely vibe to it. Post a relatively recent refurbishment, it feels distinctly cool. There is a boldness to the place in terms of its bright colours, quirky décor and statement modern art adorning the walls. As an aside, it also has one of the coolest swimming pools in London, located in the basement. Sadly, it is only available for hotel guests or private hire. So far, so good. Logically enough, therefore, you would expect the hotel’s restaurant also to be pretty decent. Three of us visited on a recent weekday evening and came away generally underwhelmed. In summary, it was lot of money (c£70/head – with just one bottle of wine consumed) spent on a mostly forgettable culinary experience. It wasn’t that the food was actively bad; rather that it epitomised bland mediocrity. I am not quite sure where it went wrong, since the menu’s descriptions all sounded exciting enough. Somewhere, however, something got lost between the creativity of the compiler of the food options at Brumus and the execution in the kitchen. Take my starter. On paper, a combination of octopus, fennel, celery, pink fir potato, lemon and smoked paprika sounds mouth-wateringly enticing. When it came, the octopus was among the most tasteless sampled in recent memory; there was no evidence of any spice at all (and certainly not smoked paprika); and, the dish seemed largely bulked out with fennel. One of my comrades also noted that his crab cakes lacked the chilli promised and that consuming it seemed something of a chore. We hoped the mains might improve. Sadly, they didn’t really. Again, my choice of braised pork cheeks with roasted onion purée, heritage carrots and star anise suggested much promise. On arrival though, I couldn’t help feeling let-down: no star anise, three tiny heritage carrots and a purée that was half-cold and could have been made of anything. Quote of the evening goes to my comrade who, when asked his opinion of his steak, responded that it reminded him of “something eaten in a Berni Inn.” For those unfamiliar, Berni Inn was a British chain of steakhouses that died its death in the mid-1990s and was lamented by few. Overall, it was such a pity. Get a good chef in – someone who can cook with passion – and the place might well be packed with diners keen to return.