I really prefer to write positive reviews about restaurants and don’t get me wrong, we did have a lovely and quite a tasty time at Grafene. However when you pay a lot of money for food it’s fair to expect more of the service and the food, and it didn’t quite hit the mark.
I liked the decor – the colour palette is teal, grey and yellow – which is a total winner for me and it’s an attractive, slick looking venue – but despite this it lacked a little soul and warmth in how it looked. And I wasn’t a fan of the bright stark lights – I thought it could have done with some subtle low lighting and candles. Well actually come to think of it, there were candles, they were just drowned out by the lights.
Our waitress was an absolute sweetheart which goes along way in my books. She was very genuine and warm, but unfortunately she did get a lot of things wrong. First of all she allowed Jamie to order the taster menu and myself a starter and main and we later discovered this isn’t allowed and had to start again. When our cocktails arrived, Jamie’s Negroni came with an upturned glass of smoke and some pink flakes – which he had no idea what to do with – and neither did she when we asked. When we ordered wine, she didn’t realise they were out of stock of the Malbec until several minutes later. Whenever our food arrived they kept giving Jamie my dishes and me Jamie’s dishes. These are all quite small things and the waitress’ lovely manner, her super attentiveness and friendliness did win me over, but for such an expensive venue, I would expect the service to be smoother.
We kicked the night off with some cocktails, Jamie enjoyed his Old Fashioned Negroni, but found the unexplained accompaniment rather confusing. I was less impressed with my Grafene 55 – I thought that gin, elderflower liqueur, pear and white grape juice would be fresh and botanical. It was a) an offputting and synthetic shade of shiny purple and b) sickly sweet. So not for me.
Starters were good, Jamie had seared scallop, black pudding bon bon, courgette, proscuitto, chorizo puree – a classic combo that was well executed. I enjoyed my pea mousse, pea shoots, radish, Yellison’s goats curd – it was fresh and quite tasty, I just thought it lacked a bit of excitement and magic.
My main was more successful – seabream, pomme Anna, forest mushrooms, lobster bisque, leek. This really was delicious – the bream was perfectly cooked, I loved the crunchy potato fondant and the sauces were fab. So that totally hit the spot for me. Jamie’s salt aged ribeye, ox cheek and potato terrine, grelot, horseradish cream, onion puree went down a storm – it was meaty, fatty in just the right way and all the trimmings worked brilliantly.
The courses were pretty small so we were 100% up for a pudding each. As per usual I opted for something chocolatey – milk chocolate brulee, blood orange sorbet, cocoa nib crumb, dark chocolate soil and Jamie went for a fruity number – baked goats curd cheesecake, strawberry sorbet, macadamia crumble, white chocolate soil. I found my brulee pleasant, but rather bland, I was looking for a kick or an intensity to it, but it was just a bit plain. However Jamie swore that his cheesecake was the best dessert he’d ever eaten so at least he was a satisfied customer! He enjoyed the combination of the creamy goats cheese with the tart sorbet and the crunchy crumble.
From my point of view I had a lovely evening out, the staff were charming, the venue is slick and I ate nice food. On paper that’s fine. I just felt there was something missing for the prices charged in both quality of service and food. My main course was at the standard I expected and really delighted and surprised me. However my cocktail, starter and pudding were all very average (although beautiful to look at). Jamie had a more successful meal than me, so maybe I was just unlucky in what I ordered. There’s a lot that’s really right with Grafene, but more distinctive and daring dishes and a smoother service would make it superb.