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Restaurant Review: Lanes of London, Park Lane

Lanes of London
140 Park Lane, London, W1K 7AA
020 7647 5664
Cuisine: International
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Helen Hokin: This Marriott mashup is OK in execution but the concept is contrived, and you know what they say about pleasing all the people all the time. For London street food, best stick to the streets.
 
I’m one of those people who hate to sit at a bad table in a restaurant. I really take it personally.
 
At Lanes we were led all the way from the entrance right across the restaurant’s main dining area, past the roomy tables for four, which were all sitting empty, around the inviting-looking, cosy, leather banquettes – all equally unpopulated, until we arrived at the darkest, farthest corner in the room. And I mean really dark; they had to bring me an extra candle so I could read the menu.
 
Ours was the last in the row of window tables where incidentally every other diner had also been placed. Ours just happened to be the worst of the lot. It’s the sort of table you’d be grateful for if you’d just rocked up somewhere fabulous, at peak time, without a reservation and they’d carried in an extra and even rickety table from the back and set it up wherever they could find a space just so as to accommodate you. Then you would be delighted to have snagged a seat. But not this. Not when the place is two thirds empty and you find yourself staring across a bare restaurant at all the good and vacant tables suspecting you might be part of some grand plan to make the place look busy from the outside.
 
This being a blustery night in January, on our limb out there, rammed up against the cool pane, a finger of icy air crept about my kidneys and loitered for the duration of the meal.
 
Executive chef and Raymond Blanc alumnus, Anshu Anghotra has devised a concept menu around street food. It’s a bandwagon that has frankly been rolling for quite some time and I do wonder if he’s a little late to the party, or whether he should be serving out of a camper van somewhere in Hackney rather than inside the oak parquet floored Marriott on Park Lane.
 
Anghotra’s menu offers Indian from Brick Lane, Vietnamese from Kingsland Road, Lebanese from Edgware Road and British classics from Portobello Road. Down the end of Portobello where I live Spanish, Portuguese and Caribbean foods have dominated for decades. I fear the only British classic featuring in those parts might be me.
 
So it’s cuisines from various continents all on the one menu and all from the same kitchen. That calls for one heck of a lot of skill and expertise. Some of London’s standout street foodistas succeed by sticking to one or two dishes and executing on  them really well. I’m thinking of the guys behind Horn OK Please in Kings Cross who create outstanding Chaat, or Guasacaca which is run by two talented Venezuelans and masters of the cornflour arepo which you’ll find on Acklam Road, or the couple from Hanoi whose Vietnamese success story is Bahnmi11 in Clapton.
 
With the cold setting in – the irony, we might as well have been on the street - I was in the mood for calorie-laden, comfort food. The dishes are all designed for sharing and the excellent server suggested we choose three or four between the two of us.
 
The crispy sage onion rings (£3.90) were slicked in oil so that after a couple of bites it was as if I’d had my lips and the roof of my mouth basted. Said rings displayed little evidence of sage or crispiness. The Mary Rose dip that came with them seemed cold and stern; we didn’t try it. The fish and chips (£6.90) fared much better with a decent piece of haddock in ale batter cooked until nicely crispy, and its accompanying hand-cut chips duly crunchy. With semi-mushy minted peas and tartare sauce it showed the kitchen at its best that night. The third of the battered dishes I tried, I said I needed calories, was crispy soft shell crab (£11.50). The airy tempura batter enveloping moist crab delivered delicious and piping hot bites cooled by the refreshing tang of a fennel, chilli and apple salad.
 
Our last dish was butter chicken (£9.50) from the Brick Lane end of the menu with potato paranthas and cumin rice. In all, it was akin to a Brick Lane curry. But I wonder if that’s where it should stay. And where we should be going to get it.

In fact, and amusingly, the menu blurbs do the establishment no favours as they extol the virtues of London street food so much that it makes me want to get right out of my seat and go and try the real stuff. To give you an example, in one place the menu reads  "Imagine exotic food, music and belly dancing, and you could be in the Middle East. Or you could be in Edgware Road, London." Quite.
 
This Marriott mashup is OK in execution but the concept is contrived and there's way too much happening at one meal. You know what they say about pleasing all the people all the time. I think Lanes might be a mistake. But then I’ve been wrong before.  For London street food, best stick to the streets.
 
Get 'The London Street Food Guide' on Amazon
 
 
 
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