By Jane Harrington
I REALLY want the Tulse Hill Hotel to work. It should fit perfectly into the area, a great addition to The Railway with it’s awesome garden and sunday roasts and the White Hart, its cozy open fire, dart boards and tasty artisan pizza.
First impressions are great. The refit of the previously tatty, tumbledown old boozer-on-a-roundabout has been extensive, with rooms upstairs, bar and restaurant downstairs, all very well done. It’s glossy without being pub-in-a-box, airy without being cold and with a massive garden and BBQ area outside, will undoubtedly be the go-to-garden for summer.
I’ll start with the food, because that is really the most important element here. The chef is a fan of the no-nonsense style of Fergus Henderson of St John fame, always a good start for me, and very obvious from the menu. Everything does what is says on the tin. As sister to a vegetarian, I was a bit disappointed in the options for veggies, but that’s a small matter really.
First came the potted salmon, pickled cucumber and toast and the Welsh Rarebit. Both were fantastic. The salmon was fresh and flakey and the subtle flavour was perfectly complimented by the tang of the pickled cucumber. The rarebit was also delicious, really gorgeously cheesy, with a real mouth-watering bite, perfect for a freezing winter day.
For the main course I ordered the rump steak, chips and horseradish. The steak itself was beautiful and served medium – more on that later – the chips were crisp without being overcooked. My friend had the pork chop, mash and apple sauce. Again, all very well produced and the mash in particular deserves a special mention. It was light and fluffy and just the right side of buttery. We also ordered broccoli, almond and chilli and carrot, feta and cumin as side dishes.
We didn’t stay for dessert…because those two courses took over two hours. This is where the Tulse Hill Hotel needs to pull its socks up, I’m afraid. The service was not good. We waited for 20 minutes after being seated for the waitress to take our drink order. She only took it then because we flagged her down (in an almost-empty restaurant). We ordered our food at the same time, so we saved a bit of time there.
The waitress didn’t understand ‘blue’ steak, so I asked for it to be as rare as possible. Once our starters were finished, we again waited quite some time for our dishes to be cleared. When my steak finally arrived (by which time we’d ‘had to’ order a second bottle of wine, which arrived just as we were finishing our mains), it was medium. To be fair to them, I didn’t give them a chance to rectify the problem. We’d been there well over an hour by this point, so I wasn’t in the mood to wait and it was a beautiful piece of meat, prepared with love, so my enjoyment of the dish wasn’t affected. We received our broccoli and garlic, but no carrot, feta and cumin because ‘there’s not enough feta and the chef can’t be bothered’, so that was nice. Whatever, I’m sure they could have told us before serving our main dishes. We ordered buttered cabbage instead, which never arrived.
Overall, I enjoyed my meal, which was expertly prepared and very well priced, but I was really disappointed with the service. Service is such a huge part of the dining experience, especially when they add 12.5% service charge to the bill. Sadly this isn’t the first time I’ve had bad service at the Tulse Hill Hotel. I ate there in the first week of opening, so put it down to ‘bedding in’. This time I’m more disappointed. I hope they can pull their service standards up to the standards of the food, because as I said, I REALLY want the Tulse Hill Hotel to work.