If you have ever been to a comedy night or an open mic, there is a chance that you will have witnessed that most devastating of experiences, the comedian who dies on stage. This is markedly different to the comedian who is heckled, booed or jeered off stage. This is someone who stands before an audience, tries to make them laugh and nothing works.
The experience is harrowing for both audience and the performer. Each punchline that lands flat only goes to intensify the awkwardness. The crowd sense the comedian’s nervousness and increasing desperation, and are almost willing him or her to turn it around in order to dissipate the tension. This turns into pitying the performer and feeling worried for his or her mental state, that they would get up in front of strangers and completely fail in any way to get the requisite response. The comedian then shuffles off stage, and goes and thinks about dancing in traffic.
I had an experience similar to that at the newly opened Westminster Kitchen. So much went wrong and in such a calamitous fashion, that I started to feel sorry for the staff, who were gamely trying to keep everything running. But such was the panic that had set in, it only served to make things worse.
The venue itself is a grill house with wide open plan seating and horseshoe-shaped booths. The focus is on modern British cuisine and prides itself on having a wide selection of English meats and sustainably sourced fish. My companion and I went for the respective starters of seared scallops wrapped in pancetta, dill mouli mash and lemon curd drizzle, and the traditional prawn cocktail in marie rose sauce and iceberg lettuce.
We spent an age waiting for them, and were then surprised to see our main course options come out first. This compounded an issue we had had when ordering our main courses of a T-bone steak and a sirloin steak, as we were told that they didn’t have either of these. This would have been surprising at peak time on a Friday or Saturday evening but was truly baffling to hear on a Tuesday. We were then told that they did have these after all, and it may have been their eagerness to get our steaks to us that meant that they completely forgot to serve us our starters.
However, it was not worth it. The meat was insipid and the presentation was even worse, giving us the impression that we were dining at a motorway service station rather than a restaurant metres from the Thames.
There was some partial redemption in the dessert, which was a delightfully fluffy tiramisu, combining elegance with a real richness too.
It is tempting to say that the restaurant had an off-night and that given it is a new place, there are bound to be teething problems. But this is London dining, and with so many restaurants in the area, Westminster Kitchen needed to come in strong and show off what it does better than any other neighbouring eatery. But at present, it has very little in the way to recommend it.
3A/B Belvedere Road