Art's Cafe has been banded around in conversation by food lovers for a while. It wasn't something that hit my radar until I started writing my blog (in 2011) and I've FINALLY gotten around to paying it a visit.
I've heard a lot of good things about Art's Cafe so when the time came to visit I was excited (not just because it was a restaurant that serves something other than American food), the menu sounded intriguing and confident, banding around jargon used often on masterchef (jus, fricasse, red wine reduction etc).
With the early bird menu in mind we booked a table for 6pm and were seated near the door.. cardigan at the ready.
There were a few starters I fancied but having decided upon my main I chose what I felt would compliment - the Haddock and Dill Fritters with tomato gel, caper and chive potato salad.
I expected a few more fritters (there were two 1 inch long bites), not just because I'm greedy but also because it would have improved the fish to potato ratio... but it looked pretty.
The tomato gel didn't seem very 'gel-like' to me but more like a tomato sauce, perhaps I'm a little too uncouth to notice the difference. The flavours combined well, the batter was light and crispy, a small dish done well.
For mains I ordered Moroccan style chicken breast with tomato, cumin and harrisa stew, coriander pilaf and natural yoghurt.
A small disclaimer - be aware this dish contains a bone (visible in my dish), however my dining partner ordered the same and didn't see the bone and took a mouthful, teeth crunching in to the bone...
The chicken was cooked well, slightly charred with a flavoursome rub. I expected more from the pilaf, it seemed to me that it was just boiled rice with coriander sprinkled on, it didn't appear to be cooked in a broth or flavoured with spices (something the Internet tells me are the basic components of a pilaf). The ratio of food to sauce was spot on with this dish and I mopped it all up... leaving the bone.
We decided against desserts on this occasion despite there being a few on the menu I would have tried.
I'm not sure whether the choices I made were poor but I felt that I could of made a similar meal at home to the same or a better standard. That might have sounded boastful... let me explain - when I choose to dine out I like to do so believing that I am going to eat something that I would be a little bit more special that what I could of had a home, whether that be due to sourcing ingredients, skills, timings etc. I just expect a little more.
The early bird menu is a good deal with two courses for £12.50 and £15.00 for three (really should have ordered dessert when it would have only been £2.50 more) and available until 7pm Sunday to Friday. With an unexpected 10% service charge and two glasses of wine this made the meal a little more pricey than I was expecting. Given the choice I wouldn't have left a 10% tip, the service was the bare minimum and we were left ignored for a while until I flagged down a waitress for the bill.
I still haven't tried Shears Yard, but I'm hoping it holds its own.
42 Call Lane