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Inn The Park, St James' Park, Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield on simple food, King Lear the manager and brassica boosting

Written by . Published on September 5th 2011.

Inn The Park, St James' Park, Reviewed

KOHLRABI sounds like a 4.15 runner at Sandown rather than a ugly brassica that’s top of the food fashion stakes.  

The vegetable's got a cracking description in Wikipedia, the lazy writer’s handbook: ‘German turnip – low, stout cultivar of the cabbage that will grow almost anywhere’.

The three or four ingredient dish with maybe the odd sauce, jus, gravy is a refreshing newish direction of good British cooking. All restaurants trying 'fancy' and getting it wrong should follow suit.

I reckon you can get at least three insults out of that sentence.

Sir, you’re a low, stout, cultivar; Madam you’re nothing but a cabbage that will grow almost anywhere; Mein Herr, I’m afraid you leave me with no choice but to call you a German turnip.

This was the second time in eight days I'd come across kohlrabi, the first was at St John Bread and Wine Restaurant in Spitalfields, the second was here at Inn the Park. 

This is an elegant wooden framed structure, surrounded, by flowers, lawns, water and roughly 473,728 tourists, morning, noon and night. It lies just off the Mall in St James' Park and does take-away and sit down meals.

Inn The Park and some of the 473,000 tourists                       Inn The Park and some of the 473,728 tourists

It does this food well too, although the experience was spoilt a shade by the restaurant manager who is a German turnip although he may not actually be German.

On our parklife trip this man was a walking clenched fist, a rolled up ball of neck vein throbbing anxiety, snapping at his staff, and muttering and rolling his eyes as though he were working himself up for a role in King Lear.

The worst moment was when he had an argument with a waitress about a metre away from our table. Bad form. The only consolation was when we were skipping onto a train home, we realised he’d undercharged us on our bill of £97 by £27. Fortunately we’d left a cash tip for the pleasant if slow waiting-on team.

The kitchen of Amanda Wilson in the Oliver Peyton owned restaurant didn’t deserve this buffoon. Their work was quality.

The grilled mackerel, samphire, fennel and the aforementioned 4.15 runner at Sandown was a spiritedly simple dish at £16.50. The kohlrabi contributed with a textured, sweetish yet earthy punch, a good counterpoint to that essence of coast that is samphire and the brutish but welcome tones of the fennel. The fish was timed a dream.

The Yorkshire lamb burger (£14.50) was almost as good, with anchovies and capers, that enhanced and entertained rather than ruined. A kids menu (main, ice cream, drink – £8.50) kept up the standard although the fruit infused lemonade would have been more appreciated as a straight-forward lemonade.

Lamb and anchovies: oceanic woolLamb and anchovies: lovely oceanic wool

Eleven-year-old Ralph even declared the pork sausage and mash the finest he’d ever had. I nearly presented the restaurant with an award for that comment, but also for not mucking about with the sausage and inserting apple, ginger, kohlrabi, toadstools, finger fluff and whatnot in the thing. A simple pork sausage is one of God’s gifts and should be just as described – with seasoning.

Simple sausages win awardsSimple sausages win awards

The spelt, ewe’s milk Berkswell cheese and Bobby beans dish was over-priced at £13.50 but another absolute winner. Unless the ingredients are extremely rare and they’re not, then £9.99 would have been better, but for another stonking combination of simple flavours it was a delight. Spelt is a cereal related to wheat by the way, and bobby beans is a tedious way of saying green beans. Still, let the veggies of the world descend here and stick their faces in, they’ll love it.

Veggies of the world uniteVeggies of the world unite

A shared butterscotch and banana knickerblocker glory (£7) provided a gloriously lush final flourish. Glasses of 2007 Muscadet at £6 a pop had jollied along the occasion. They were presented in beakers, another food fashion although one not as appealing as kohlrabi.  

A bath of sweetA bath of sweet

Inn The Park provided a good meal all round. The three or four ingredient dish with maybe the odd sauce, jus, gravy is a refreshing newish direction of good British cooking. Restaurants trying 'fancy' and messing up should follow suit. Source the food well, cook artfully yet simply and everyone’s happy. Leave the molecular cooking to chefs with names beginning with B.

Readers may also be happy to learn that I've set up a kohlrabi farm in nearby allotments.

Expect Schofield’s Finest German Turnips on sale in Borough Market soon. However I have made it clear to the HR department that I don't want job applications from berserk Royal Park restaurant managers. 

Or Royal Park menu sub-editors.

Inn The Park had spelt kohlrabi wrongly on the menu - the daft low stout cultivars, the ridiculous grow anywhere cabbages.

Inn The Park
St James's Park, London

Rating        14/20
Breakdown: 8/10 food
                  2/5 service
                  4/5 ambience

Follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter @JonathSchofield

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: We gets carried away.


Amanda Wilson's team plot against Restaurant ManagerAmanda Wilson's team plot against the Restaurant Manager

Fountains and Whitehall through the windowsFountains and Whitehall through the windows

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