At it’s best you don’t notice service. It’s a seamless part of the dining experience, one you only remember in recollection. A good waiter will first of all know the menu and know what to recommend because they have tried it, not because they’ve been told to up-sell that dish. But most importantly, a good waiter knows when to leave you alone. It seems so simple, and yet so few restaurants get this part right. There’s fine dining restaurants that seem so eager to justify the service charge that they do everything except wipe your arse for you. Then there’s the restaurants with staff who pull up a chair and ask you so many overfamiliar questions that you end up checking your starter for their signs of their bodily fluids. And then you get the worst of them all. The waiters who are like incessant little flies, pestering you from the moment you enter, literally turning the table as you are still sitting there. Tonight, Bo Drake fell into this last rung in hell.
From the moment we sat down, we were given a menu and immediately asked if we were ready to order. No, we’d like to at least have a look at the menu first. Maybe some water. A minute later and he was back. We sent him away again, or rather he hovered three foot behind me waiting for the next moment I dared to open my mouth for conversation with my partner- a sure signal I had made my mind up. On the third attempt we gave in and ordered our dishes- which given how concise the menu is, was just about everything worth trying. Three minutes later the food came. Yes a whole 180 seconds from the waiter writing it down in his pad, to the order being passed to the kitchen, to the chefs cooking 7 different dishes, to it being put down on our table. This is no exaggeration. Needless to say not one of the dishes served was hot.
Having now ordered and been served, I could take the restaurant in. Bo Drake clearly took its design inspiration from what was hot last year- brown paper menus, matt-grey walls and exposed pipes. Minimal, cold, and drab- something between a prison cell and a pervert’s sex dungeon. With it’s menu and look, it is in the same vein as restaurants like Flesh & Buns and Pitt Cue Co, but it lacks their boozy basement buzz and the food doesn’t pack as much of a punch.
First up KFC (Korea fried chicken) with soy garlic, grapes and rosemary (£8.50) which would have the Colonel turning in his grave over this poor pun on his classic. At their best Korean chicken wings blow your balls off. They’re red hot dirty finger food, something Flesh & Buns have nailed. Here the skin was soggy (maybe from standing pre-made on the pass for the last thirty minutes?) and they had no kick of spice. Bo Ssam was smoked pulled pork with kimchi (£14) that you forked into lettuce parcels, although it looked more like a can of cat food that had slurped onto the plate. The smoke was lacking and the meat was without that fatty goodness you associate with pulled pork. Smoked duck bao (£9) were tasty little bites, but not the best I’ve had.
From the specials striploin beef served rare with truffled shiitake, tofu cream and shizou (£18) was a dish that you’d get in a restaurant like Zuma and happily pay twice the price. Cooked perfectly with good clean flavours, albeit served lukewarm, it showed that the kitchen can create moments of magic here. Only moments though, as a side of smoked aubergine with a miso and vine tomato water (£7) restored the order- it was like slurping down smokey slugs. Sweet potato fries with kimchi island dressing (£3.80) were better, but only because the pickled vomit flavour of the kimchi wasn’t coming through.
It wouldn’t take an imaginative chef to pad out the dessert list. A choice of three was cut to two as the most appealing one- passion fruit brulee- was unavailable. At 7.30pm on a Friday? Maybe it had melted on the pass having been prepped three days before? That left a choice between sesame soft serve ice cream or apple tarte tatin (which really didn’t fit with the rest of the menu). It was a tarte tatin cooked by a Korean kitchen. Uninspired and out of place. A dribble of soft-serve vanilla ice cream did nothing to lift it.
Having now eaten there, I can see that Bo Drake is an after work place where you go for a quick bite and a few drinks. Had I gone expecting this, I might have been more forgiving for being rushed through a meal in 45 minutes. I know London restaurants like to turn tables, but less than an hour is really pushing it. It was all bang on-trend with the decor and style of cooking, but food like this should be vibrant and punchy that makes you want to drink. The only thing making me want to drink more here was the shite service.
6 Greek St, London W1 4DE