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Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Phoenix - not so mythic

Phoenix on Urbanspoon
The Phoenix, a gastropub, located right off Kings Rd in a picturesque residential street, is one of the 28 pubs owned by Geronimo Inns (others including the Northcote, the Kings Head, The Prince Albert). Just like the company philosophy says, Geronimo invest in their pubs and tailor the interior/exterior to their locality, and the Phoenix is no exception. Walking into the pub one is immediately immersed in the wood, warm colours, leather couches and bright earthly paintings on the walls. Warmth and welcome oozes from the walls. The clientele, however, do not let you forget that you are in the middle of Chelsea, adding a glamorous element to the atmosphere.

Though this was not the first visit to Phoenix for some in our group, the mistake on behalf of the pub of having our table of 10 reserved for the night before (and therefore resulting in us having to squeeze-in and hunt on unsuspecting diners for extra tables and chairs throughout the night), proved to be a disappointment in the service for the repeat customers. Never mind, we were in for a cozy night.
The menu looked promising and to the point, and I could not wait to experience the gastropub flare of this establishment. Opting for a shared starter, we ordered ‘Steamed muscles with cider, cream, butter, salt and lemon’ (£7.50), deep fried squid, and fresh bread with olives and hummus (£3.95). My excitement was quickly dulled as the muscles arrived carrying with them a distinct fishy smell of doubt (OhMyGodWillIGetSickOfPotentiallyDodgySeafood).

The sauce did not entice me to mop it up with bread. Yes, it looked creamy and buttery as the dish suggested, but was bland and watery to taste, and where was the promised salt (or any flavour for that matter)? As a seafood lover, this was not up to standard. The squid was crispy, good flavours in the crumbing, but possibly too much of it and not enough meaty squid.

With the starters being finished, it was time to be excited about the main course. The duck breast,served with new potatoes, green beans and red wine Jus (£13), cooked to medium-rare only (as pointed out by our waiter; he knew that cooked any longer the duck would be too dry) was going to be a treat.

The duck arrived, and to my disappointment and contrary to my expectations, it was cooked medium-to-well (“Well” being the operative word). It was a good quality duck breast, as the flavour was all there, but it was just over cooked. New new potatoes and the green beans were perfect.

From my observations of the other meals, the pork belly had a thick layer of fat on it, and the crackling (stuck in like a ship sail in the mash potatoes) resembled deep fried pork-belly packet crisps on taste. The steak also came out over cooked to specifications, however the burger and the fishcakes looked tasty.
Fish Cake with Poached egg

Should I even go into dessert? I went for the Eton Mess, a good English dessert. The dessert graced me with its swan-like presence and I was immediately ‘on-guard’.

I was hoping there was more meringue somewhere in between that cream, but to no avail. And was the strawberry order missed during the week? I ended up fishing with my spoon for ‘goodness’, and the result was this:
Left over cream
Overall, I don’t think this is bad pub, and judging from my friends' reactions to todays' meal/service, this does not seem the norm. But this is the night that I was there for the first time, and this is what I found. Truthfully, the food didn’t take away from having a good night, but I was there with fun people, the atmosphere was buzzing and the wine was flowing. (But my expectations ‘were’ higher).


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