We’re with you, Jay Rayner. We loathe the term “concept” when describing the aims of a food and drink establishment. The term is so sterile. And who even talks like that? “How about we head down to that hot new baked potato concept in the East Village?”
Over the weekend the famously crabby, and Negroni bashing, Guardian critic took aim on a poor hotel restaurant that has attempted to serve some of the city’s most famous street foods under one roof. It’s certainly not an original “concept” — there we are with that word again. In Vietnam, a small and growing chain called Quan An Ngon serves the country’s famous rice rolls and noodle soups in contemporary digs. In New York City, food court Food Gallery 32 serves many street food dishes from Korea, Japan and Taiwan. And earlier this year word came out the Anthony Bourdain was planning a large-scale market-styled restaurant modeled after the great hawker halls of Singapore — but with cuisine from throughout Asia, Europe and North America.
We have not dined at Lanes of London, located in the Marriott near the Marble Arch tube station. So we have no way of commenting on the cooking firsthand. But we’ll take the critic's word that this is one concept (that word!) in need of an overhaul. With that, here is Rayner’s 15-gun execution:
1. Here is a lesson in impotence.
2. As exercises in missing the point go, they don't come much better.
3. The Marriotts haven't just missed the point. They've studied the point, taken a few notes, turned away from it, gone on a long country walk, ended up in a pub, got drunk and woken up in their clothes the next morning with scribbles on scraps of paper from which they have cobbled together a menu.
4. It's dinner as curated by Stockhausen
5. We are approached by a waitress who makes "suited and booted" look like part of her job description.
6. Marriott has noticed that street food is now a Thing; that the capital's roads are clogged with reconditioned campervans knocking out stuff that makes sauce dribble down your forearms, some of which is great and a lot of which is stuff in a bap flogged for £6.50.
7. Bogs are a country mile's walk away through the Minotaur's labyrinth of a tourist hotel.
8. It's not that all the cooking is truly awful (though some of it re-defines the word).
9. Vietnamese food is not something you can just turn your hand to, like crochet or housebreaking, as their pho proves.
10. To be fair the butter chicken from the Brick Lane list is bang on. It's as appallingly over-sweetened and claggy as any version you could find on Brick Lane, where the curries are uniformly dire.
11. The honey and sesame dressing next to it tastes of sugar, vinegar and low self-esteem.
12. Eating this literally three minutes' walk from the Edgware Road while mouthing the word "Why?" with my mouthful, is an experience that will stay with me.
13. There's also a list of haute pub meat dishes, another of fish and a lazy attempt to fob off vegetarians.
14. Poor Knights of Windsor sounds like a rowdy bunch of mercenaries from Game of Thrones.
15. I hate menu concepts, how they make me want to stab forks into soft body parts.
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