reviewing restaurants makes me feel a bit like the way i felt in my final year of uni about reading. i became so overly analytical and so engrossed in critical theory, that i’d kind of stopped enjoying books. when i graduated, i vowed to forget everything i’d learnt and just start reading again. 

so now i am back to swallowing books whole, and spitting out only the largest bones of detail. i quickly forget the rest. i also give up on books that bore me – i never understand why you would insist on finishing something you are not enjoying. there are too many great books to waste time on mediocre ones. which is not to say i don’t go back to things and try again (the engineer of human souls by josef skvorecky – that was a triumph the second time around. i still can’t do: bothers karamazov (never made it past the 60ish page), hopscotch (just looking at it makes my heart sink) and moby dick (always give up as the leaves the inn at the very beginning).

talking about the food in restaurants and, to a certain extent, the food i make, brings out this over-analytical side. i am not sure i enjoy it much. i think that is the real reason why i avoid taking photos when we go out to eat or, god forbid, take notes on the menu.

thinking about it, food is actually easier to be analytical about than reading because the process of putting it together is to a large extent mechanical - which makes the process of taking it apart equally so. i know there are some dishes which blow your mind and you have no idea how they have been concocted. but home cooking is usually pretty straightforward. you can educate your palate and learn how things work together but the basic process is not that different from being a car mechanic. i often think that’s why i’d enjoy surgery too.

so...we went to garufa ( last week. i’d heard good things about it, namely that the steak is amazing. and it wasn’t half bad. but there were other things that weren’t quite right. 

we had black pudding and grilled provolone to start – nothing fancy, literally just a small black pudding sausage and a plate of melted cheese. they were both nice, in a way good ingredients left alone can be. we also had some hugely overpriced salad. i resent paying £6.50 for a bag of leaves they clearly bought from the supermarket (i would hazard a guess which one as well) and a single asparagus spear. it’s insulting and it’s not necessary: making a good salad is hardly difficult or expensive.

we both had sirloin steaks, mine of 300g, r’s of 400g, both done medium rare. i thought mine was great – properly seasoned and burnt on the outside, which is the best bit (though probably the worst for your health). r thought the meat was rare, rather than medium rare, which slightly spoilt the experience for him. although i argued the toss that night (the argentinian malbec may have had something to do with it), he’s a man who’s eaten a lot more steak than me, and a lot of it in the US, so he probably does know best. it was blue, i suppose, and i am not sure why i didn’t mind. to think i was a vegetarian once...

we had some grilled peppers and a salad with tomatoes on the side. again, it was a joke. a single roasted red pepper, doused with a bit of oil and garlic, which probably cost about 60p to make, and a salad with more of the same supermarket leaves and some unripe tomatoes chopped into chunks.

i know garufa probably thinks people will flock to it because of the steak and may be willing to forgive the rest. but i am not so sure. i for one wouldn’t rush back. it’s a nice place – the atmosphere is pleasant, the wine list is good and the steak is better than in most places – but it takes more than that to make a successful restaurant.

waitresses that smile would be a good start. a decent salad a close second.


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