Reputation and hype combined often breed excess expectation. At Hide, take a highly talented chef, an alleged £20m investment, a wine joint venture with nearby Hedonism and anticipation levels can quickly become stratospheric. Gain a Michelin star within a year of opening and you’re in a whole different galaxy. Reviewers need to be sceptical by nature, but not since Sexy Fish have I been so underwhelmed by a London venue.
There is no doubting Hide’s ambition: three floors, from fine dining at the top to a cocktail bar at the bottom separated by a beautifully carved wooden staircase (which apparently cost a mere £1m) and more staff than covers (200 versus 180) on hand to take care of your every need. This, however, is where the problems begin. Clearly wine is part of the angle here, so no surprise to have a server offer us an iPad with the 4,000-bin list. Yet, does this device offer details on wines by the glass? No; you need a separate list for that. And, what about a beer (as requested by one of my comrades)? No; yet another list. So, before even getting onto the food, our table was covered in different menus and we had had to interact with around half a dozen different staff members just to get a pre-dinner drink. Having staff on hand is better than not having them at all, but when you get asked every three minutes by a different person whether you’ve decided on your food choices, this is not relaxing; it’s not even good service, it’s intrusive and over-bearing. Even if Hide does have to turn tables every two hours, no diner ever wants to feel under pressure.
Onto the food, and the story here is style over substance. No doubt, Ollie Dabbous has deserved pedigree, but the menu conception struck us as more about delivering easily Instagram-able dishes at prices pitched for wealthy Mayfair hedge funders and visiting out of towners whose currencies are markedly stronger than the British Pound – the sort of people who don’t mind paying over £40 for, say, a pigeon. Portion sizes also border on the stingy – again perhaps a deliberate nod to many of the actively Instagramming waif-like diners we witnessed. It’s hard to get a starter and a main in the ground floor restaurant for less than £60, so the least you should expect is to be properly fed at this price point. The food we did eat was by no means flawless either, a sentiment shared by all three in our group. While a wonderfully creamy chicken liver parfait paired with an out-of-this-world fig and hibiscus chutney (pictured) stood out as a marked highlight from our shared starters, my much-discussed pigeon main underwhelmed. It certainly looked beautiful, presented on a bed of festive pine and already sliced, but the whole experience was over in little more than a half-a-dozen mouthfuls – so the equivalent of a mere £7 a bite. Value for money? No. An experience? Yes, and especially the people-watching. Worth repeating? Only if someone else were paying.