I went to the Forge and Foundry in Camden without quite knowing what to expect. I’d had a quick look at their website and had decided to try the place out based on the impressive images of their food and interesting music line-up.
My friend and I arrived, after getting slightly confused and lost in the Camden crowds, at just after 6pm; the restaurant was verging on empty. However, it did eventually fill up… how were we to know though that the other guests were there for the music and certainly not for the food?
The manager put on a cheerful smile and guided us through the menu, urging us to begin with a cocktail. Pink and girly, our Russian Spring Punch’ arrived at the table complete with straws and raspberries. Now, I’m not much of a pink, frilly girly girl type – I felt a bit like a Barbie, slurping through my plastic straw on the bubbly, slightly sickly, sugary drink – but after a few long sips, I was tipsy enough to not care. This, mixed with the wine that came with our meal (which was actually quite pleasant), made for a cheerful evening.
This, however, was probably the only good thing about our meal. My starter was a fennel and orange risotto. I ate about a quarter of this dish, though purely out of necessity as I was starving. The orange was extremely over-powering, giving the entire dish an overly acidic flavour which made my tongue feel unnaturally dry and reminded me of those dreadful Vitamin C powdered supplements that you drink when you’ve got a cold coming on. To top off, the dish was lukewarm and sloppily presented.
After the starters, which we both barely touched, we sipped on our drinks and talked whilst waiting for our mains. At this point, however (in preparation for their evening’s entertainment perhaps?) the staff began playing around with the sound system; the music, which had been playing softly in the background, proceeded to have its volume tampered with, spasmodically and unexpectedly jumping from quiet and mellow to extremely loud. My friend and I shouted and whispered across the table respectively.
Our mains were no improvement on our starters. My friend had quail, stuffed with mushroom and speck, on a bed of lentils with mushroom cake and pistachio cream. Now, quail would usually be a treat of a dish if one were to order from the likes of St Johns or Roast but, here, it was disappointing, rolling around the plate like a tiny bowling ball, and oddly paired with the other parts of the dish. The manager, who I must add was extremely friendly, came to our table, pointing gaily to the strange, grey, dry, hard sponge-like object on my friend’s plate, exclaiming, “that is our famous mushroom cake!” Unfortunately, it tasted just how it looked: dry, bland and strange. The pistachio cream was odd also, with barely any flavour, bright green and verging on cold. My meal was just as bad. My artichoke millefeuille tasted (for use of no better word, as it barely had a taste except for salt) more like a flan and had the texture of curdled milk, piled into a mould and compressed. The burratta cream made the millefeuille collapse into a soggy mess that I tried to eat, but failed.
Still starving and full of wine, we both managed to eat most of our deserts. However, the fact that we ate a lot is no reflection on how good the deserts were. I ordered a dish described on the menu as ‘Lady Grey tea cake with a pistachio and hazelnut centre in white chocolate soup.’ Despite this sounding incredibly appetising, I didn’t have high expectations following our previous courses. And… I was right to not expect anything. By the time I broke into the centre of my desert, the white chocolate soup (which was as thin as milk) mixed with the hazelnuts inside the teacake (which wasn’t a teacake: more a panacotta) and the whole dish ended up resembling left over breakfast Weetabix: crumbly yet soggy at the same time. My friend’s desert, which was supposedly a Belgian chocolate marquise filled with Tahitian vanilla crème, was nothing but glorified chocolate mousse stuffed in a ‘fancy’ spherical chocolate shell. My friend likened it to a bath bomb… I can think of no better description.
By the end of our meal, the back wall of the building had opened up to reveal a very impressive stage area. We stayed behind for a little while watching a duo perform. The Forge part of Forge and Foundry (The Foundry being the restaurant, the Forge Camden being the music venue) is quite interesting. With a season of acts ahead performing the likes of Schoenberg, Schubert, Beethoven, and even one string of events focusing solely on works composed for Left Hand piano music, myself and my friend ended up thinking that we wouldn’t mind coming back… Of course, when we do come back, we’ll be sure to eat dinner elsewhere before.