Jacuzzi, Kensington


If you've been to Gloria, or Circo Popular, or Ave Mario, you'll know the drill by now. Big Mamma group restaurants are ludicrous, overblown chintz-fests where decent if overpriced food plays second fiddle to people watching and celeb-spotting. And don't get me wrong, there's absolutely nothing wrong with this occasionally - hell, even I got into the Ivy once - you just have to know what you're getting yourself into, because after being squeezed onto a tiny table and served food that would cost half the price anywhere else, you'd better hope there's a celeb or two to gawk at to make the whole experience worth your while.

Fortunately for us, Nick Cave was sat at the next table but one on Thursday night, so we had that box ticked from the get-go. It was somewhat of a surprise to notice he'd been sat at a very poky table for two in the same "Siberia", the third floor dining room next to the toilets - it's hard to believe even the youngest member of staff wouldn't notice Nick-bloody-Cave, looking more like Nick Cave than Nick Cave has ever Nick Caved, stalking into your restaurant, even if you'd never caught him on Jools Holland. Maybe they just have so many celebs going through their doors he doesn't even count as A-list any more.

The food, if you care (and I'm not sure they do), is fine. Least successful was crudo di gambero rosso whose main ingredient, usually one of the sweetest and most delightful Mediterranean residents, was served in three mushy dollops, drowned out by a fiercely sharp citrussy dressing. We couldn't detect any of the advertised 'bisque reduction', either, and as seafood bisque is one of my favourite things in the world maybe I'm more annoyed about this than anything else.

Crocchette di vitello tonnato could have been disgusting (much like the parent dish itself) but actually as veal-rich breadcrumbed croquettes topped with a gently tuna-y sauce they were perfectly pleasant. Giant capers are always fun, too.

Bresaola grissini were also edible. I mean it's hard to completely cock up the wrapping of charcuterie around breadsticks, and they didn't, so well done them. Probably they could have done with a bit more lime zest but in all honesty I'm just trying to find more words to say about meat wrapped around breadsticks. They existed. We ate them.

We both enjoyed the truffled spaghetti - at first. You'd have to be a real sourpuss not to enjoy at least some amount proper home-made and nicely al-dente spaghetti soaked in truffle-cream sauce, topped with yet more black truffle. The problem is after a couple of mouthfuls it all becomes a bit, well, much and about half the amount would have been more than enough. Fair play to them for the generous portions, though, I'm sure it would delight some quarters.

And speaking of generous, veal alla Milanese was so ludicrously massive that we managed barely 20% of it before handing the rest to friends of ours (not Nick Cave, even though he looked like he could do with fattening up a bit) who happened to be sat on the next table. It was actually pretty decent, and I'm sure the portion sizes are part of the whole Bacchanalic vibe, but there's really only so much deep-fried veal I really want to eat even at the best of times.

The bill, with a soft-launch 50% off food discount (with a bottle of wine and including an endive salad I have no memory of ordering or eating), came to £102.11, so would have been more like £200+ in normal times. And you know, perhaps £100 is the going rate these days for the possibility of gawking an A-lister and sitting in a room decorated with underwear, and perhaps I'm not exactly their target market (in fact I'm definitely not), but as a food blogger it is my duty to inform you that you can eat much better elsewhere for much less. But then, I expect you knew that already.

So, and to repeat, Jacuzzi is not really about the food. Some of it works, and some of it doesn't, and it's all too expensive, but none of that matters. Like Sexy Fish or the Ivy before it or even Bacchanalia from Richard Caring with its dedicated grape-feeder (yes, really), there are some places that exist outside of the usual norms and rules of restaurant dining, that will remain packed night-after-night while people like me scratch their heads and wonder what we're not getting. In fact, why not go, you may have the night of your life. You're welcome to it. I'll be in the pub.


During the soft-launch period, which I think might have ended already, food was 50% off.

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