I hesitated to contribute to the British food thread a while back out of
some misguided sense of loyalty - after all, she's our Queen too (us
Canuk's, that is). Anyway, this restaurant review from the Sunday Times is
too good not to pass on - even if it turns out to be a joke. Besides I'm
of Scots and French origin, so haven't any real sense of British loyalty to
worry about. (Don't get me started.) But I do appreciate Brit humour.
Possible lbc content alert: I assume the restaurant's name, Acclaim!, has
nothing to do with the Triumph Acclaim(no exclamation) - which wasn't even
British, anyway, was it??
Rod. '70 TR6 CC55899L
January 23 2000 FOOD THE SUNDAY TIMES
Acclaim!: the restaurant that doesn't deserve its name
NO PLACE LIKE DOME
Acclaim! Millennium Dome, Greenwich (0181-331 4326). Open every day,
I haven't finished with it yet. With the Dome. It's the worst place in the
world. They couldn't have made it any more horrible if they'd built it in
There's far more to say about the Dome than there is to do in it. The fox
flap, for instance. Did you hear about the fox flap? No? Well, it has one.
I'm not making this up. The Dome has a small door for foxes. In fact, foxes
are the only thing that can get into the Dome without queuing. How
depressingly, cringeingly, screamingly, raiment-rentingly, predictably new
Labour is that? Apparently, when they started building the place, they
discovered a family of foxes on the site (single-parent vixen, cubs out of
control, taking and driving away cats, chickens, etc), so they built them a
door. Any day now, it will be a stipulation for every new house.
Undoubtedly Chequers has half a dozen, for Shaun Woodward's personal use.
Equally predictably, the Dome is a fox-free zone, and having sampled the
catering, I can see why. There are some things even foxes won't eat.
If you were thinking of celebrating all that's best of British, the amazing
turnaround in our cuisine might have struck you as being sort of important.
You'd have imagined that someone at the Dome would have put their hand up
and said: "Please miss, why don't we use the Dome to show off the best of
Considering that London has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any
European city except Paris, it's sort of obvious, isn't it? So what do you
get? What's on offer? Europe's biggest McDonald's.
Here's a gap ( ) for you and I to wave our palms at heaven and speechlessly
make like a goldfish. It's beyond language. The rest of the catering
facilities are what you'd expect to find in a mainline rail terminus: juice
bars, cloned coffee bars and sandwich shops, and a Yo! Sushi stuck in a
corner as an afterthought.
There are two restaurants, supposed to cater for those of us with an
appetite for fine dining: one provincial-looking seafood bar and, above it,
a British restaurant called Acclaim!. Let's just pause for a moment and
roll that name round our tongues. Acclaim!. How utterly, spinningly
Domeish. Get your congratulations in first. Pat your own back, chuck
yourself under the chin, give yourself a big tip. Pass the sputum cup,
nurse. Acclaim! has apparently been designed by a bored trainee scaffolder.
It's a sort of open-sided mezzanine-floor affair with a view of dull
When the Blonde and I approached the desk at about one o'clock, the
restaurant was two- thirds empty. One harassed girl was trying to deal with
people waiting and settle half a dozen credit-card bills at the same time.
As we hung around, something that has never happened in all my years of
restaurant reviewing happened. A furious man stormed out and said: "Don't
go in there. If you're waiting to eat, don't. It takes hours. Everything
comes in the wrong order. They're rude. It's disgusting."
And then, you know what? It happened again. Another man, completely
unconnected to the first, buttonholed the Blonde. She doesn't actually have
a buttonhole, but he transfixed her where her buttonhole might have been if
she'd had one, and ranted about how awfully rude, useless, etc, the staff
were, and that under no circs was she to accept a menu from these people.
Dragging his eye away from her domed, phantom buttonhole, he caught sight
of me. A flicker of recognition brought a thin, humourless, malevolent grin
to his lips and he did a simply marvellous about-turn, without losing an
iota of vehemence. "No, go in. Go. Eat. Eat. You must go. Go now. Please."
A maître d' appeared out of nowhere and interposed himself, asking if we
had booked. Well, no, principally because the Dome has only been open for
two days and nobody knows you're here. "Ah well." He gave me that
practised, I'm-so-sorry- you-sad-dung-person look. "I'm afraid we're full."
No, you're mistaken, I kindly pointed out, I can see empty tables
stretching to infinity. "They're all booked." Really? "Yes." Really and
truly? "Yes, yes." Okay, so when will there be a table available? "Oh dear,
not for a long, long time. Anyway, you have too many things to see." I do?
"Yes, perhaps another day." You think I'm going to come back to this
godforsaken place? When can you give me a table? "Ah," he said, thinking of
a number and doubling it. "Not for at least 30 minutes." Done. And then I
did something else I've never done before. I used my name. Gill. A A Gill.
I know it was childish and unprofessional, but it didn't make any
difference anyway. He had no idea who I was.
Did I mention he was French? Well, you probably gathered. An English
restaurant called Acclaim! in the big national-boast Dome, and they get a
Half an hour later, the Blonde and I are sitting in a virtually empty
restaurant watching the queue for McDonald's. To give Acclaim! its due,
they did try and pretend it was full. The waitress was always serving
invisible people in the far distance, and the kitchen make-believed it had
to get through a dozen orders before starting on ours.
The menu is short. Not short enough. Not short enough by 100%. It is
fabulously annoying. There are little signs at the bottom, saying: "All
dishes may contain traces of nuts or seeds." Seeds? Why seeds? (I'm typing
in falsetto.) When was the last time you heard someone say: "Hold the
seeds"? And then there was the V symbol: "Suitable for vegetarians." And
they put it next to a dish that's called "Chef's Vegetarian Dish of the
Day", just so you can be doubly sure the vegetarian dish is suitable for
Ah, but it's not next to the cheeseboard, under which is written "Suitable
for vegetarians". Well, don't they think (falsetto again) that vegetarians
already know they can eat cheese? "Aw, am I allowed cheese? I can't
remember. Does gouda have a soul?"
But there's nothing saying you can't smoke, because - durr, stupid - it's
obvious that you won't be allowed to smoke. It's not even worth mentioning.
I watched the Blonde get her first course, a neat timbale of salmon hash,
beet-cured salmon and sweet dill dressing (what's beet-cured salmon,
please?). Her pretty face was a picture of serene expectation. Then, a
moment later, it was as if she were sitting still, but her head were
travelling at mach three. She let out a small, strangulated mew and
coughed: "Cat food." What, it's like cat food? "No, it is cat food. It's
Rory Bremner beet-thingied salmon doing such a good impression of cat food,
My terrine of brawn started by being a tautology. Brawn is already a
terrine. But that's academic nit-picking, because this wasn't brawn anyway.
It was a pig that had been beaten into a brick with a hammer, with a hot
black-pudding salad that was silly, and piccalilli that was yellow - the
sort of yellow that makes you say: "If you ever buy me a tie that colour,
I'll sleep with your sister." By this time, my irritation levels were so
high, I was virtually levitating.
Main course: salmon fish and chips. Look (as Tony says), look, I already
know salmon is a fish. I already know it's not an umbrella or the little
plastic thing on the end of shoelaces. Salmon fish and chips is a really,
really stupid idea. It came, traditionally, with mushy peas - except they
were puréed garden peas, not marrowfat - and a tower of chips, presumably
designed by a committee in charge of the Chewing Zone. The salmon fish was
poached, but the batter had been drizzled onto a hotplate to make a zingy
pattern, then laid on top.
At this point, the blood pressure in my head went critical and I blacked
out. When I came to, I had 300-degree peripheral vision and the Blonde had
her hand over my mouth, whispering: "Please stop shouting."
In the muffled distance, I heard someone familiar yell: "This is the
stupidest thing in the stupidest place in the world. This is so stupid that
in a stupid contest it would be disqualified for taking the piss. Cooking
salmon with batter is deeply stupid. But cooking the salmon and the batter
separately because they don't go together is so stupid it . . ."
And I felt myself slipping away again. Luckily, the Dome's nice PR girl
(what's the worst job in the world? I bet she just goes home and sits in
the bath and cries and cries) came panting up. "Oh, I thought I might find
you here. I've been trying to phone them all morning, to warn them you
might pop in. How is everything?" It's, it's, it's ... "Unbelievable,"
interjected the Blonde.