CUISINE: Small Bites/Casual ADDRESS: 32 Covent Market DATE: May 26, 2013
If a restaurant that bills itself as “remarkable dining” springs up in the middle of downtown, and nobody knows it’s there, does it really exist?
First of all, the name is super weird. At first I thought it was Blue Dubby, and because no one seems to have heard of this place, no one corrected me, but last week one of my students mentioned that her brother worked at “Blue Doobie”, and I wrinkled up my nose.
Her reply? “Well, it’s the guy’s name.”
My reply? “If your name sounds like a big spliff, call your restaurant something else.”
Anyway, I found it super weird that I didn’t know a semi-fancy restaurant had popped up right next to the Market, but it’s pretty well-hidden back in the little street on which Robinson Hall occupies the corner.
I think they seem to know it, too. There’s a sign on the door from Covent Garden Place that requests, “If you’re going to Dundas Street, come on through!”
Really? Like, ANYBODY?
(Seems kinda desperate, Doobie Brothers.)
Anyway, I looked up the menu online, and got pretty excited about going. It does have entrees, but seems to concentrate more on “Small Plates”, appetizer-sized items priced between $9-$15 that sounded delicious. The Tasting Room has an extensive menu set up this way, and is one of my favourite places to eat in London (see the blog post “Food I Love” for my current Top 10).
But when I walked into Blu Duby, my first impression was, “Wow, that’s a strong smell.”
And not in a good way.
Have you ever been to New York in the summer? Or Paris? Or Windsor? These are the three smelliest summer locations I’ve ever encountered. New York smells like garbage, Paris smells like urine, and Windsor smells like sewer gases and sweet, rotting Chinese food.
When we walked in, Blu Duby smells just as bad as these places, but reeks of rotting fish.
Not to mention, as you step inside, it’s really, REALLY dark:
Dark wood, dark lighting, smelly. It’s kind of like eating in a Hollister.
SCENE: INTERIOR. 2006
(Inside a dimly-lit, heavily-scented Hollister store at a mall in Port Huron. Megan and Rebekkah the Sceptic enter)
Megan: I want to see if they have any shirts for Mr. Ian.
Salesboy: HEY LADIESSS! Your butt’s gonna look GREAT in our jeans. Wanna try on a pair?
(Megan and Rebekkah wordlessly back out of the store.)
The waiter was a handsome and put together silver fox.
He handed me a dessert menu, which made it harder than usual to order the cocktail I was looking for, but when I got the right one, I was intrigued by the “Chai Martini”.
Mmmmm. I love Chai.
Silver Fox returned, sheepish. They were out of Chai Liqueur.
(TREND #1: RESTAURANTS BEING OUT OF STUFF)
I ordered the Peach Martini. Clean, not to sweet, and a good size for $8. At least a couple ounces of booze, which is all I needed on a Sunday night.
As I said, the menu intrigued me, and the smell faded as you got inside (Megan’s Brain: ORRRRRR, you sensory adapted to it!), so I was ready to order some yummy stuff. It was hard to know how big the portions were, so Ian and I decided to go with two small plates each:
What would you order out of this deliciousness?
Everything on the menu sounded pretty scrumpy, so we asked Terry for advice.
Silver Fox: Moules Frites. With Coconut and Red Curry….and, um….
(That should have been an indicator.)
As is our fancy, Ian and I were sold on the Antipasto plate, aka Charcuterie AKA PLATTER. I love a good platter. Cheese and meat artfully cut up with any matter of mustard or chutney could sustain me through a nuclear fallout.
We also decided, in consultation with Silver Fox, to go with the Braised Beef Cheek Tacos and the Lobster Mac ‘n’ Cheese.
OK, the Lobster Mac ‘n’ Cheese was based on consultation with my brain.
Anyway, while we were waiting for our food, I tried a selfie (and again, NOT AT ALL because Ian doesn’t know how to take a photo with an iPhone…) to see how my food pictures would turn out:
Hmmm. Like seriously, it was dark in there.
So, stressing about the fact that this dinner was, in fact, a scholarly pursuit, I feigned cataracts and asked to be moved to a table with natural lighting.
And look what greeted us upon arrival:
This platter was a thing of beauty. Bean salad, roasted red peppers, cherry tomatoes, grapes, parma ham, salami, gouda, parmesan, light stilton, olives in oregano and basil oil, grain mustard, and FRESH, dense and soft grilled bread. THIS IS EVERYTHING I WANT IN MY MOUTH.
Next up: Our Moules Frites, AKA mussels and tiny bits of potatoes.
The Red Curry and Coconut sauce was thick and flavourful, and covered the mussels perfectly. Ian commented, as he was practically licking his bowl, that he would have eaten the sauce alone as a soup. The little frites added a great crunch to the soft texture of the mussels. A n amazing dish.
Oh, and they divided it in HALF. This was actually what we got for $15.
This is a great deal.
The rest of our order had arrived by this point; the service was actually incredibly fast. We had paid our bill 1 hour and 10 minutes after we arrived.
Ian: Kinda makes the 4 hours at Black Trumpet seem excessive.
Next up, we tried the Beef Cheek tacos:
I loved the soft corn tortilla, and the apple slaw was a nice touch, but combined with the cinnamon marinade on the braised beef, it made the whole taco a little…sweet, which is weird thing to say about a taco. Although the beef cheek was very tender, I don’t know if I’m the biggest fan of SOFT MEAT…in a taco. It made the whole thing less crispy than I’d like. And I always want my Mexican food to have a little spice.
Last up was our Lobster Mac ‘n’ Cheese. It had been sitting on the table for a bit by the time we got to it, but it was still piping hot.
I have to say, the presentation of all of these dishes was beautiful. Looking now at the photographs, I would say that all these photos, taken on my humble iPhone, would not gross me out if I saw them on a menu. The plating and eye-appeal of the food is exemplary.
I will take full responsibility for filling up on the PLATTER, but I only ate two bites of this. But, my argument would be that if this Mac ‘n’ Cheese was really special, I would have found room. There was something kind of briny/sour that I didn’t like about the Lobster Mac (Megan’s Brain:Hmmm, briny. What could that be? THE LOBSTER???), that made me perfectly fine to only eat two bites.
We brought the leftovers home, but now it’s Wednesday, and neither Ian nor I have touched it. It’s safe to say it wouldn’t be a repeat order.
So, Blu Duby is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s beautifully appointed inside, with many appealing things on the menu. I only LOVED two of the 4 things, but to be fair, it probably took me a few visits to get the hang of ordering the plates I liked at the Tasting Room, too.
I think I’ll return to Blu Duby, but may want to take a few preliminary sniffs before I commit to a location. And it the smell hasn’t gone away, I could always just pretend I was heading through to Dundas Street. Apparently, it’s encouraged.