India Fisher would struggle with 28-50. The Masterchef narrator, you see, is very fond of using the rustbucketing cliche ‘in the heart of’ to describe a restaurant’s location. It’s a crap expression and is a lazy writer’s perceived upgrade from the simple preposition ‘in’. So the problem for Ms. Fisher will be that 28-50 isn’t really in the heart of anywhere. It’s sort of City but kind of in Smithfield, but not far south of Clerkenwell/Bloomsbury, and it’s walking distance from Holborn. It’s in no man’s land, and this might be problematic for footfall. Add to that its terrible name. Is it some kind of 18-30s club but for older people? Is that the address? Or the price of the dishes? It’s actually the latitudes between which wine is made. So presumably as global warming accelerates, the name will have to be changed. Or something.
Either way, I do hope these two potential stumbling blocks are overcome, because it’s a great place. I went on its third day with a couple of the gals from Sainsbury’s Magazine and we had a lovely time. So spanking new that the whiff of paint still hangs in the air, the space is grey-blue Farrow and Ball walls, exposed brickwork and wooden tables. Yadda yadda standard bistro shtick but it works well (the space, that is, not my description of it). There is a lofty mezzanine with private tables which would be a blast, because you’d have a room to yourself without being detached from the action.
And the food was almost entirely without fault. Chef Paul Walsh is from the Ramsay stable, and has put together a largely French menu of tidily cooked and well-presented dishes. We started with good charcuterie (£9.50) – chorizo, Serrano, coppa etc (which wanker said it was a French menu?) with some seriously excellent pickled radishes, shallots and cornichons. Coupled with toast and a top notch baguette it was as good a way to start lunch as any. Cod brandade with chorizo and grilled sweet peppers (£5.50) was cloying but somehow in a pleasant way, the chorizo and peppers adding zip to what is essentially fish mash. Duck rillettes (£7.00) were rich and melting and all sorts of other slow-cook-cliches, served with the standard but necessary scattering of piquant cornichons. Sarah’s gazpacho (£6.00) was total perfection; clean and smooth, it was more essence of gazpacho than the usual thick and inelegant slop, and had a nice kick to it. The prawn salad in the middle had a touch of Ramsay but the soup was all the better for it.
We only ordered one main, a piece of red mullet in a bouillabaisse (£14.50). It was superb – the bouillabaisse deeply fishy with the added freshness of fennel and, I think, orange, and the fish was well cooked.
It being lunchtime we drank only a small carafe of dry Riesling, but by the look of things the wine list is pretty booya.
The only criticism we had was a rather mean side salad, which wouldn’t have filled a ham sandwich. A small gripe with an otherwise grand new rezzy, and even though it is geographically in the heart of nowhere, it certainly found a small corner of mine. And that, dear reader, is how you write a cheesy conclusion.
28-50 Wine Workshop and Kitchen,
140 Fetter Lane,
London EC4A 1BT
020 7242 8877