Saturday, May 26, 2007
191 Portobello Road
London W11 2ED
Telephone: +44 20 7908 9696
There are some restaurants you go to for the crowd, the fun, the laughter - the overall atmosphere and energy of the place and Electric Brasserie is, indeed, on of those. The moment you step inside, off the crowded Saturday frenzy of Portobello Road, as we did, you know you've arrived at an "in"spot.
We had joined the throng of thousands to shop along the Portobello Road Market for gifts, prints, handcrafted items, antiques, art supplies and even fresh produce. We had known that it was going to be crowded but were amazed at the enormity of the masses and all the stalls and shops offering everything from tourist kitsch to beautifully handmade items, genuine antique glassware, jewelry and even furniture. It's an all day marathon sorting through it for the quality stuff and then negotiating the price but that's half the fun.
Electric Brasserie is the sibling of the Electric Cinema next door, the art house movie theatre long favored by the bohemian literati from Notting Hill to the North. Hipster paradise some would say, filled with the fashionable and/or beautiful, a place to be seen, a notch in one's glamour post, and a pit stop on a round of never-ending social activities and cocktail parties. Yet just because it's all abuzz with conversation and laughter, fashion models and artistes clad head to toe in black doesn't mean that the food's not good. It is, in fact, a truly classic brasserie with a large and lively bar at its epicenter but serving food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We dined on a Saturday night, which meant that many people who showed up without a reservation (or knowing someone) were turned away cold. We sat in the back dining area, a bit more intimate and subdued than the louder social scene at the front bar area but no shorter on the glam factor or those giddy with a Saturday night table and, perhaps, a glass of wine. There's nothing that shouts success in the restaurant business than a spillover crowd. All of these people can't be wrong.
We ordered the rib eye steak and the chicken special of the evening. As I've said it's good brasserie food, nothing wildly creative or extravagant. The steak was done just exactly as requested and the frites the same - crispy on the outside but soft and mushy on the interior. The bearnaise sauce was even fine, too, all buttery and creamy as it should be.
The service at Electric Brasserie seems to be the sticking point. They use the team service approach where one pours the water, another takes your drink order, still another your food order, and a fourth to serve you as a manager stands around sort of coordinating it all. I've never been a fan of this approach. Just give me a server who actually listens, offers advice and serves promptly and he'll be tipped very well. The team thing always leaves some end of it suffering as everyone is juggling all the jobs and in our case it was in practically begging for the bill. Of course it was the height of the Saturday night crunch but other reviews have also noted the spotty service.
I have to say, though, in the end that was a small price to pay. It was definitely a good meal and fun night out. No wonder it always books out in the top ten.