There is a theory that in most cases, if a restaurant offers a 50% off deal on Toptable then it probably won’t be very good value for money; that the special offer price reflects the true worth of the meal and the massively inflated original price is there to trap clueless walk-ins.
I haven’t always found this to be the case, having taken advantage of quite a few 50% off deals in my time and finding a few gems such as Nuocmam in the process. Other times, however, I’ve been served some genuinely traumatic meals. I love a bargain, but seeing “50% off” on a Saturday night always sets off alarm bells.
It was with some trepidation that I booked a table for three at the Smithfield Bar and Grill. A friend was visiting for the weekend and we needed somewhere cheap to eat that offered a decent-enough range of food. This place was certainly cheap enough with the deal and offers a nice selection of steaks, burgers and seafood – things that are hard to find offensive.
We got there at about 8pm and it was quite busy, so I’m guessing that the deal is working out well for them so far. The decor was quite nice. They had a bit of cookie-cutter “trendy pub” thing going on with the patterned wallpaper and mini-chandeliers but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We were promptly seated and ordered some averagely-priced drinks (pushing £5 for a bottle of cider or glass of wine).
We already knew what we were having as we had looked at the menu before booking. Nuhar ordered the beef carpaccio with rocket, parmesan and truffle oil, while I ordered the Camembert with toasted croute and cranberry salsa. Carpaccio and Camembert are two of our favourite starters so we decided to eat half each and swap. Our friend “R” went for the calamari.
The carpaccio wasn’t great. The meat was bland and chewy and relied way too much on the strong flavours of the truffle oil, parmesan and rocket. Also, there was way too much oil and I was left with the overpowering taste of truffles in my mouth until the main arrived, which wasn’t particularly pleasant.
The Camembert, however, was fantastic. It was everything that you look for in a Camembert – warm, gooey, garlicky, and with a bunch of stuff to dip in it. It wasn’t massive, but I find that Camembert is often over-sized for a starter. This was a perfectly agreeable size.
The calamari wasn’t fantastic. I only tried a small amount but it was a bit bland and chewy. “R” wasn’t massively impressed either – he said that there was probably more batter than squid.
On to the mains! Well, sort of. We were waiting for what seemed like over half an hour before the mains arrived, and when they did, the delivery of accompanying sides and sauces was staggered over about five minutes. This is arguably just nit-picking though as they were pretty busy, and half an hour isn’t actually that long to wait.
I ordered the surf and turf. I honestly don’t know why I did this – probably because I was undecided when they took my order and I panicked.
Steak bores me. Common sense tells me that I should enjoy steak as it’s just a huge slab of meat, but I very rarely do. A nicely-sauced fillet I can handle, but steak just doesn’t do it for me any more.
To it’s credit the steak was absolutely massive, and was a pleasing shade of pink in the middle. I ordered medium and actually got a medium. The blue cheese sauce that I ordered helped with the blandness.
As for prawns… well, they just freak me out. Before eating them you are forced to look into their cold, dead eyes and tear off their head; then comes the process of prying the fleshy prize from the exoskeleton. Left behind is a macabre pile of flaky bits and tiny little legs. I don’t eat prawns very often.
I managed to put aside my prawn issues for the duration of the meal and found them to be quite tasty. I still didn’t enjoy the process of turning them inside out but that’s more my problem than anything else. The chips weren’t amazing, mostly because they were weren’t very hot.
“R” ordered the same as me. He doesn’t have as many hangups surrounding seafood as I do and he enjoyed his main just fine.
Nuhar ordered mussels in a white wine sauce with chips and bread. Mussels are not a thing that I eat - I find the taste/texture combination hard to get along with – so I cannot comment. As you may have guessed, I have trouble with seafood at times. Nuhar, however, enjoyed them a great deal. She said that the sauce was good and the bread was amazing. The only thing that she found disappointing was the size of the mussels themselves.
The bill, including drinks, came to about £65 for the three of us. I think that this represents good value for money. I also think that the original price is way too high (for mains at least, not so much starters): £22 for steak and prawns with lukewarm chips isn’t great, but £11 is pretty good. I wasn’t blown away though and probably wouldn’t go back, simply because there are so many other options open to us.