It was a dreary, cold Saturday evening in December, and the weather was dictating the need for a nice cosy meal that would warm the chilled bones, and soul. Having read about the hearty home-cooking that was being served up at one of Dalston’s latest hot spots, A Little Bit of What You Fancy, we decided to head on over and get a good feeding. Sadly, that’s not quite what we got.
Walking into the restaurant it became immediately obvious as to why this is one of Dalston’s most popular venues of late, tapping into the trend of vintage shabby chic and informality, A Little Bit of What You Fancy is a cramped, somewhat overcrowded space, filled wall to wall with Hipsters. The bubbly, enthusiastic staff fly around the place like dedicated worker bees, whilst the open kitchen at the back is packed with people dancing around each other like a kitchen full of mothers and aunts at Christmas time. After being made to wait for our pre-reserved table, we were shown to our distressed oak table and offered a menu that certainly looked promising. We began by selecting the ham hock terrine for starter.
Much like the menu, the terrine certainly looked promising. Chunky bits of ham pressed with cornichon chunks with some pickled cornichons on the side. What’s disappointing was that was all it was. It was chronically under-seasoned, really lacked flavour, and we had to ask the waitress for a serving of bread as there was none provided.
Then came the mains. D had ordered the Slow Braised Beef with Porcini, Parmesan Polenta and Watercress. I opted for the Squash and Pumpkin Red Thai curry with Cashews, Coriander, Rice Noodles, Spinach and Lime. Both dishes looked good when they arrived, but yet again they failed to stand up on the flavour front. My red Thai curry tasted only of rice noodles and fresh chilli, and for plain rice noodles to be the lead flavour in a dish, you can get the picture for how little flavour there was over all. I was actually quite surprised how a dish that has so many strong flavour ingredients could manage to taste of nothing. D’s slow braised beef was described as “An ok beef stew, but certainly not good enough for what you’d expect at £15 a serving”.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the informal setting and home-cooking style, however the food really needs to deliver on flavour when you’re charging an average of £15 for a main course. In my opinion A Little Bit Of What You Fancy misses the mark in quite a major way. Our meal of one starter, two mains, a sparkling elderflower and a beer came to somewhat infuriating £45. I say ‘infuriating’ mainly because you can go and eat somewhere like The Corner Room for the same price (also excluding wine) and have an absolutely delicious meal which makes you feel like you should be offering to pay double. A Little Bit of What You Fancy is unfortunately not a lot of what I fancy. It’s seemingly style over substance, but given the high style levels of its clientele, it’s sure to remain popular for the trend-seekers. I can’t imagine it’ll become a popular hangout for foodies however, unless it seriously ups the stakes with its food.