The Lawyer Eats: Oyster Shed
14 February 2012
Brecher managing partner Nicky Richmond tries out Geronimo Inns’ Oyster Shed on the City’s Angel Lane
Why the Oyster Shed? It’s not an oyster bar and it’s not a shed. Decked out with a nautical theme, no doubt due to the fact you can see the Thames, it’s on the ground floor of a financial institution and however homely they might make the name, it’s still just a glass box. With river views, depending on where you sit.
If you like All Bar One, you’ll love this. Because I can’t finish the review there – and really that’s all you need to know – here’s the detail.
There are great tables at the window downstairs, but only for groups of four or more. If there happen to be only two of you, you’re taken either to the somewhat gloomy undercroft at the back or, like me, to the balcony upstairs, which lacks any sort of atmosphere and offers you a great view of an oversized, yet silent TV screen showing financial news. It needs to be silent, because it would have to be at full volume to compete with the intrusive music.
I felt I would need a large glass and I ordered it. The wine list was, I think, the best thing about the menu, showing a good and reasonable selection with some interesting and sensibly priced bottles.
Our waiter couldn’t remember the specials and anyway, we couldn’t really hear him properly. Having already decided what we wanted from the printed menus, they were literally taken out of our hands by another man who said it had been “updated”. Naturally, the only dish that I really fancied was on the old menu.
The starter took around half an hour to arrive. We chased. We asked for bread. The waiter was flustered. It will come with the starter he said. Yes, we said, but we’ve been waiting half an hour and we’re quite hungry now. Oh, he said, I’ll bring you some now then. It didn’t come.
What was described as fish soup (we were thinking Mediterranean, tomato-y boulabaisse-y ) was, in fact, seafood chowder. Nothing wrong with that, if that’s what you’re expecting. Yes, it is fish and technically, it is in a liquid, but there is a whole creamy world of difference between fish soup and fish chowder.
It was pleasant and well seasoned, albeit not what we thought we’d ordered. We also ordered oysters. Well, we had to didn’t we? They were fine, not notable, only one variety offered and no bread with them. So I asked. And I got . Limp pieces of bread, which had been put on a griddle and tasted of carbon on the charred bits. Not quite what I had in mind.
After another interminable wait, the sea bass arrived, on a butterbean casserole, with savoy cabbage and butternut squash as extras. The fish? Good, fresh. The casserole? A bit dry but ok; to be better it really needed some more tomato sauce and olive oil. The butternut squash? A tiny portion with a strong aftertaste of stale baking oil. The cabbage? A joke portion and served soggy, with no discernible seasoning.
The ever more irritable Mr H, who doesn’t do patience, was complimentary about his cod in parsley sauce. Fresh and well cooked, he said, competent. He also ordered ’mum’s chips’, mainly because I asked him to. Mum’s chips? Well, if you’re my mum, that means something out of a freezer bag and I suspect it does here too. Having never come across the description “mum’s chips” I’m not sure what they are meant to be. Not this limp, surely. I left them. That’s a first.
And dessert. By then I was pushing it with Mr H, but I appealed to his sense of duty and he ordered the apple pie. He needed more custard, because there simply wasn’t enough. He didn’t comment on the apple pie, possibly because he was eating so quickly it didn’t actually touch the sides of his mouth and possibly because he was transfixed by my choice.
Influenced by the big sell on the menu (they have their own unique cheese, apparently) I ordered the cheese plate. It was a very big and generous plate. Enough for two. I prefer my cheese when it isn’t sweating though, don’t you? One of the cheeses was actually translucent.
Really, this isn’t for me. Judging by the noise levels and the lack of empty tables I think this is a perfectly good lunchtime/after work hangout for those young things who aren’t really particularly focused on the food, who want a nice view over the river, a good and reasonable wine list and a buzzy atmosphere. To me, this is no different to many other modern City pubs aimed at thirty-something office workers who aren’t looking for something particularly sophisticated or different.
What annoys is that the website cites “a balance of classic pub dishes, done beautifully and more expressive dishes to appeal to those in a delicious mood “. It isn’t, they aren’t and they don’t.
It made me feel old and out of place and even though I often am both of those things these days, I’d rather not be reminded of it quite so forcefully.
As a pub 7/10. As a restaurant 4/10.
Best for: a relaxed night out after work with a few mates, when you want to have a few bottles and some light snacks to mop up the booze.
Worst for: anyone over 45/clients/foodies.