Not exactly a glowing tribute for this unlikley fusion of tastes
PUBLISHED: 15:38 24 September 2008 | UPDATED: 15:25 07 September 2010
I m glad I knew nothing about Glo before my visit. I almost certainly wouldn t have gone. Everything about the concept screamed no . The menu combines two disparate cuisines. Perhaps Asian/Italian business partners met and decided to start a restaurant t
I'm glad I knew nothing about Glo before my visit. I almost certainly wouldn't have gone. Everything about the concept screamed "no". The menu combines two disparate cuisines. Perhaps Asian/Italian business partners met and decided to start a restaurant together but couldn't agree on whose cuisine was best?
The restaurant is the second in a chain brought to us by the Hong Kong owned company Glo Group/Nature Food. The first was in Reading and a third is hot on its heels. The company opened the first of three outlets branded 'Glo Rice and Noodle Café' - two in the City and one in Basingstoke - in 2004. Aims to build the chain to 13 by 2008 have clearly not been realised.
Until I saw the menu, the restaurant was looking good. Although it has all the signs of a chain, thankfully, there has been no attempt to reflect both culinary backgrounds in the décor. They've not skimped on interior design. In the shop front is a long dark wood bar for those eating on the hoof or who'd prefer to look at West End Lane than their dining companion. In another area, tables line up in front of a long leatherette banquette scattered with designer cushions for the more relaxed and sociable.
Designer artwork panels grace the walls and no less than three styles of fancy light fittings hang from the ceiling. Smooth jazz and chill-out music played over the speakers on the Sunday afternoon we visited. We were one of three tables occupied.
The menu was so busy I had to give our waitress several brush-offs while working my way through my options. The mission statement declares that they're all about "casual, contemporary, home-style eating with a stylish edge, fusing flavours from Pan Asia with Italia". How many homes do you know blending Italian and Asian heritage? Not many I would imagine.
On offer (amongst other things) are curries, pizzas (Asian or Italian), Dim Sum, salads, pasta, noodles and more. In the starter section alone, Thai crab cakes sit with aubergine alla parmigiana , thai calamari and chicken satay.
All bases are covered. Great for the group who can't agree on what they'd like to eat but it set my restaurant snob alarm bells a' ringin'. This is a restaurant with an identity crisis. If the first rule of any enterprise is to know what your audience or customer wants, how did they arrive at this pan-cultural, pan-asian confusion-fest? Nonetheless, we were by this point seated and I was duty bound to give it a go.
The manageress (who we didn't see again) brought us a lemongrass and ginger iced tea each. Listed as mixed with lychee and cranberry juice but pale and inspid - as if they'd run out of lychee and were low on cranberry, so topped it up with water. Not the best start.
Once I'd finally settled which continent I want to eat from, things picked up. Edamame beans (favourite snackette of the diet conscious celeb - Mrs Beckham apparently favours their flavours) were naked & served in a steamer basket. Thai prawn sesame toast was pleasant enough - warm, not too greasy and with visible prawn.
There followed a long wait while we watched a disagreement breakout between a young couple, and admired the panoramic view of Costa Coffee. Situated right next to Starbucks, I've always wondered which of those two does better.
Grumpy had chosen an Asian pizza - Thai vegetable. It arrived looking attractive; a very thin base piled with cheese, tomato, spinach, baby corn, mange touts, peppers and gingery Thai green sauce. Novel, and according to him - successful. It actually tasted good, but perhaps in the same way that many things taste good battered and deep fried, perhaps anything on a cheesy, tomatoey base is going to be a winner.
My Aromatic Duck Noodles weren't bad - a mound of steaming noodles with plenty of generous-sized lumps of duck, spring onions, peppers and spinach. The whole plate was generously drizzled with sweet plum sauce. Again, maybe a winning combination - duck and plum sauce in this case - is going to work whatever you pair it with. Why does it feel like I'm confessing to liking The Nolans or to wearing socks with my Birkenstocks (which I don't) in sharing that yes, I enjoyed both this and what I tasted of the pizza.
When our waitress - who'd just replaced her colleague - could tear herself away from chatting to her kitchen colleagues eating their lunch at another table, she collected our plates and took our dessert order.
My husband is a creature of habit, so sharing a dessert with him meant sharing the cheesecake. This Honeycomb version arrived with an odd lump of ice cream coated in a thin layer of cocoa-clad sponge, a swoosh of squirty cream. The cheesecake lacked any of the acidity of a cheesecake and was more like the cream. The few chocolate covered honeycomb lumps lurked within and on top. We left much of it.
At one point we overheard the man next to us telling the waitress he didn't like his food. Her reaction? "If you don't like it [the food], that's fine" as she wiped the adjacent table. At the bar, one of her kitchen colleagues - with dirty tea towel slung over his shoulder - flirted with her colleague and sipped his drink.
Despite my instinctive food snobbery, Glo are actually producing some tasty food. It's not overly expensive and will appeal to the young and large disparate groups with different tastes. But if they are going to succeed they may want to sort their staff out.
Glo, 152 West End Lane, NW6 1SD
Telephone: 020-7372 9632
Food: Three star rating
Service: Two star rating
Hours: Monday to Friday 8am to 4.30pm
Saturday and Sunday closed
Cost: £35.85 for two (no wine) excluding service