Ranked '#32 of 12,026 restaurants in London' - questionable?
“ZOE is delighted to present a modern French Mediterranean menu spotlighting local ingredients and offers an eclectic regionally focused wine list alongside original cocktails invented by resident mixologist Gasper.”
We finally decided to check out Zoe restaurant. Having walked past it numerous times on Upper St it boasts a surprisingly high Tripadvisor ranking – at the time ‘#32 of 12,026 restaurants in London‘ thats ALL of London, currently ranked higher than a majority of Michelin Starred restaurants in the city this place is intriguing to say the least. It’s also somewhat of a contradiction; with an interesting French Mediterranean menu, Indian owner called Rony and a bizarre mix of interiors. None the less whilst it’s not amazing, it’s also not a bad place to go for dinner as we found out.
On arrival there was no-one to greet us, Rony the owner and father of Zoe was out back in the kitchen, as it’s a small family run place if you chose a mid-week evening its quite likely they’ll only be one waiter on hand however ours worked hard to ensure his diners were satisfied. There were a few other diners seated but generally the place was quiet and lacking in atmosphere. Rony seated us and was attentive throughout, very friendly and I asked a few questions about how business was going. We were dining with a Tastecard (we’d taken up the free introductory offer but decided not to continue). With the Tastecard you pay an annual fee of £79.95 and it offers 2-4-1 or 50% off your food bill at a vast number of eateries. I was surprised to learn the restaurant get no cut from this, I assumed Tastecard passed on some commission to the restaurants based on how many diners use their card for example but this is not the case. For many restaurants particularly independents I think this means they make a loss or just cover themselves through Tastecard diners but see some value in attracting new business.
Anyway onto the meal and the drinks. We chose cocktails and these were large but didn’t blow me away. For food, we had Olive Bread (£1.25) to start, then Gary had the Steak Tartare (£5.95) which was good, followed by Bouillabaisse of mixed fish, mussels, tiger prawns, scallops and rouille (£12.50) which wasn’t that memorable. I had half dozen Escargots de Bourgogne (£4.95) and Roasted Rabbit with dijion mustard and tarragon served with grilled potatoes (£12.50). It was great to have an opportunity to eat Rabbit and Snails as they are so rarely featured on menus so I had to have both of these and I’m glad I did, rabbit is a delicious meat but for this dish in particular I think it would have benefitted with slightly less sauce and it could have been more delicate in flavour, the snails were tasty and garlicky but wait for them to cool before tucking in. Along with our mains we also had Cauliflower Gratin (£2.95), and Boulangerie Potatoes (£2.95) sides. Both were on the stodgy side, and disappointingly the Cauliflower Gratin was lacking a strong cheese flavour and a little watery. We skipped dessert as we were pretty full by the end of it.
Going back to the Tripadvisor ranking* I don’t understand it and as Tripadvisor don’t provide information on their ranking system and algorithms used I think it will remain a mystery. I expect it is anomaly, in my eyes there is no way it should be ranked that highly for London for many reasons.
*Updated: as of 15/09/2013 holds 49th position.
Overall I think the dishes at Zoe used great ingredients and were fresh but lacked an element of finesse. Having said that for the prices and portions you do get good value for money. I wasn’t won over by the atmosphere or decor, the pink lights (featured on their website if you’re interested) would look right at home in my teenage bedroom and the name feels out of place. These things may seem trivial to some and it’s not always detrimental to establishments but as it contributes to the first impression and the overall view of the place when you walk away in ZOE’s position the importance of that shouldn’t be overlooked. I found this a hard one to review and I’m in two minds as to whether I would return. I do think it will continue to surprise though so I probably will go back on occasions as I’m interested to see how the menu develops and if it improves because it has the potential to be great.
|Escargots de Bourgogne||£4.95|