Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Dining Rooms

Like all hard-working, rule-abiding citizens, Abby and I got tickets for Wes Anderson's latest, The Grand Budapest Hotel, as soon as we could. We arrived at Cinema City with expectations of pointlessly good sets, the colour orange, and Bill Murray. We were given pointlessly good sets, the colour orange, Bill Murray, and free whisky. We liked it.

At one point in the film Jason Schwartzman, playing a not-even-second-rate concierge, takes your drink order. Or maybe that wasn't in the film, but in the bar, where the staff wore ridiculous bellhop hats and literal pencil moustaches--all the better to sell you Wes Anderson-themed cocktails, or tell you where to find the GBH-themed Guess Who? board. It's nice when a cinema is as excited about a film as you are. And did we mention the free whisky?

You have to pay for your whisky at The Dining Rooms, but you can still see the bellhops looking stupid (or cool? Maybe it's cool) behind the bar. It's small, with tables tucked under arches, and just far enough from the bar to fit between being quiet and noisy.

The chef was something like the John Cleese mountaineer organising a two-team climb of the twin-peaks of the Kilimanjaros, who sees two of everything. At least that's my theory; both our main courses seemed to be doubled. I ordered the guinea fowl--which came with lentils, parsnips, and a definite sniff of smoked parika--and my plate contained at least two birds. Abby had salmon fillet with crispy mussels, and hidden under her decently-sized chunk of fish was another chunk of fish, almost as big.

The mains were large, but what was more exciting were the starters. Abby's goat cheese, pear and pecan crumble, apart from being a clever mix of textures and flavours, had nearly enough cheese for her to bathe in (which is the long term goal), and really good cheese at that. I had pigeon breast with black pudding and watercress, which I would like to eat again right now. The pigeon was rare (and even rarer now that I ate one), and black pudding is very fashionable, if Master Chef is anything to go by.

The staff spoke so confidently of the food that I started to interview Abby as to whether waitresses get to taste all the dishes they serve. Not at any of the establishments that have ever employed Abby, I learn. Maybe we were being eavesdropped upon, because two minutes later our waitress came over to explain that they had all had a special tasting session of the new menu, and that Abby had picked all the waitresses own favourites. My own excellent choices did not provoke comment.

So we'd recommend the Dining Rooms, especially if you're looking for a genuinely interesting menu in a cosy but not informal old building. And we'd recommend The Grand Budapest Hotel if you like sets, orange, or Bill Murray.

Or free whisky.

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