Third time lucky as the Temperance stretches our patience

PUBLISHED: 14:29 12 April 2007 | UPDATED: 14:30 07 September 2010

The pretentiously named Temperance is the youngest of a small family of gastropubs that includes Soho s Endurance and Holborn s Perseverance. As the food at it s older siblings has had rave reviews I couldn t wait to trot down there. They were in less of

The pretentiously named Temperance is the youngest of a small family of gastropubs that includes Soho's Endurance and Holborn's Perseverance. As the food at it's older siblings has had rave reviews I couldn't wait to trot down there.

They were in less of a hurry to entertain me.

The first time I tried to book they told me - despite the fact that their press release said otherwise - the dining room had not yet opened. On the second occasion their power had failed. Ready to give up I tried a third time and, unexpectedly, they were open and serving food.

Only an estate agent could describe that section of York Street as Marylebone. True, it's within spitting distance of Marylebone station, but a good 10-minute walk from the High Street, the area normally thought of as Marylebone.

Notices proudly declare the pub to be entirely non-smoking, a gaggle of smokers reduced to loitering outside the doorway. Emerging from their smoky haze, we entered the downstairs bar where snacks are offered. More substantial fare must be taken in the first-floor dining room. A grubby-feeling, depressing dark blue staircase and corridor (reminiscent of the sweaty nightclubs of my student days) take you past the toilets and to the small 38-cover dining room.

The room is simple with a theme that reflects the plain Victorian exterior. The black-painted wooden floor and shiny gold-printed wallpaper probably look better by day, the two overhead glass fittings achieving only an uncomfortable dreary half light.

At 8pm on a Friday the dining room was half full. Most of the occupants were at one table. The last people you want to be anywhere near on a night out and even less so share a small room with - 10 rowdy workmates, well into their weekend binge.

A quietly charming French waiter - who told me this was previously the staff room when he worked for the pub's previous incumbent - brought menus and took our drinks order.

Disappointingly, there seemed only one red and one white wine by the glass - and this in a drinking establishment. Perhaps an attempt to live up their name?

The menu is short and mostly seasonal - if you include the seasons in southern parts of continental Europe. Their publicity claims provenance and traceability to be of key importance - four starters, eight main courses (only one vegetarian option), some side dishes, three desserts and cheese.

Service style is very much more pub than gastro. My chicken liver and bacon salad was a pile of interesting leaves, nicely cooked, creamy livers and salty, chewy bacon nuggets plonked in a dessert bowl. It could have done with a crunchy element to the texture, but otherwise was very good with a good gutsy dressing. Fortunately, it was tastier in the mouth than on the eyes.

Grumpy's starter arrived with a scattering of prawns, not a common component of a Caesar salad. It was an unwelcome surprise and was dispatched to the kitchen and the menu sought. Our waiter returned to explain that, "Chef was very sorry, but the prawns had landed there by accident." How unfortunate.

Instead, he chose the boconcinni, basil and vine tomato tart. This was disappointing and even more amateur in its presentation. A slab of puff pastry topped with some roasted tomatoes, a few melting boconcinni (small balls of mozzarella) and a whole roasted banana shallot sitting on the top. It was adequate but lazy - nothing Grumpy couldn't have knocked up himself given a quiet morning and a basket of veg.

By now the bingers (mostly women) were squeaking - for some reason - at high volume and moving into rowdy renditions of boy band favourites.

With my patience running low and little else to distract us, it was fortunate the next course arrived promptly. They'd made more of an effort this time. Grumpy's seared salmon, crushed new potatoes and beurre blanc were attractively presented and even touted a parsley leaf garnish.

He found it perfectly cooked and seasoned and I have no reason to disbelieve him.

My fish pie was less alluring - but it's difficult to sex up nursery food. They could at least have cleaned the burnt bits off the sides of the dish though. Piping hot smooth mash, creamy sauce coating salmon, shrimps, mussels and generous amounts of frozen peas made up for the lack of aesthetic appeal with buckets of taste. It was let down by the wilted spinach which was far too heavily seasoned.

What stole the show was the side order of thyme-roasted carrots. Sweetly caramelised carrots and onions were addictively moreish and gone before either of our main courses. The other side dish of sprouting broccoli was overcooked.

By 9pm we'd demolished two courses and two more tables had arrived. The party table had reached full karaoke volume and the torture was too much. Grumpy and I left without the chocolate brownie with butterscotch sauce, fruit crumble with vanilla ice cream or Jude's ice cream.

The bill - including 12.5 per cent service, but with only one glass of wine - came to just over £25 per head. It seemed reasonable but overall I felt mildly disappointed. The food was well cooked and tasty but it lacked professional finesse. It just doesn't mirror the aspirations of the dining room décor and service and feels out of context.

If they can iron out these issues and I happen to be in whatever part of London this is, I'd go back, but I'm not rushing.

The Temperance, 74-76 York Street, Marylebone, W1H.

Telephone 020-7262 1513.

Food: Three star rating

Service: Three star rating

Opening hours:

Pub: Monday to Saturday noon to 11.00pm, Sunday noon - 10.30pm.

Dining room: Monday to Friday noon to 3pm and 6pm to 10pm, Saturday noon to 11.30pm, Sunday noon to 10.30pm.

Cost: £51 for two courses and one glass of wine.

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