Monday, March 06, 2006

The Farm, Fulham

I first visited The Farm, a gastropub in South West London, shortly after it opened to much acclaim in 2004, and so was keen to see if standards had been maintained when presented with the opportunity to make a return trip.

We fought our way through the noisy revellers in the bar to get to the restaurant, and to my astonishment, had to find somewhere to hang our coats up ourselves due to a reception which matched the chilly February evening. Sadly, this rather set the tone for the whole experience.

We were proffered the wine list which is divided in a somewhat confusing manner. ‘Spicy fruit’ and ‘Bordeaux’ were the two categories of red wine and yet the latter included wines from Australia and Chile. We opted for a 2000 Chateau la Fleur Carrere from St Emilion having received no help from the indifferent sommelier.

Since my last visit to The Farm, the menu has been changed to ‘French classic favourites’, a theme which is reflected in the starters (although I didn’t spy anyone eating the calves brains in butter), but which fizzles out by the main courses. I chose an artichoke and truffle salad with toasted pinenuts to start and my fellow diner opted for the saffron risottowith rocket and parmesan. These two starters did not sit well together on the table; my salad was tiny - wafer-thin slivers of artichoke sprinkled on a sparse bed of rocket and topped with little rounds of black truffle. Luckily the truffle had a good earthy taste but there was just too little of the artichoke for it to make an impact on one’s palate. Conversely, my partner’s risotto was a huge mound of rice, the saffron flavour of which was killed by a liberal overdose of cheese and an unimaginative presentation. Bland is the word.

18 months ago the menu displayed a touch of flair and imagination, however, unless roast duck, grilled steak, roast lamb and grilled fish are your thing, then you may be hard pushed to find something to your liking. Luckily this is exactly the food my partner loves and he chose the roast rump of lamb with cherry tomatoes with a confit of shallots in a lamb jus with a side order of chips. I plumped for a second starter, peppered tuna with green beans, soft egg and olive sauce with a green salad on the side. No choice was offered as to how the lamb was cooked but happily it was still pink in the middle and very tender. The confit of shallots however was overly sweet as if sugar had been added rather than caramelising the onions. Indeed, the texture of the shallots rather added to this suspicion. The chips were simply awful. Greasy and like something one would expect from a local chippy, not from a gastropub.

My tuna was delicious, two slices of lightly-seared fish with a pepper crust which was complemented beautifully by the salty tapenade. The soft egg was actually hard and only half appeared on my plate, but by then we were no longer surprised, more resigned.

With coffee and water, the bill came to a little over £75. Not the cheapest gastropub I’ve dined in but almost certainly one of the most disappointing. More of a barnyard than a Farm.

The Farm, 18 Farm Lane, London SW6

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