I took a few days off last week to celebrate yet another year getting away from me. My wife and I went to Vegas, not for the gambling but for the entertainment and food. We stayed at Caesars Palace and one evening we thought we’d try the “Gastro Pub” experience offered by none other than Brit Bad Boy, Gordon Ramsay. Truth be told, although I love to cook, I’m not a huge fan of cooking shows, and shows where Mr. Ramsay makes a buck by humiliating what are often hardworking (albeit out of their depth) restaurateurs I find less than edifying. As a fellow reasonably foul-mouthed Brit bad boy who has been known to yell on occasion, maybe I just find it too close for comfort.
In any event, I love good Pub Grub so we gave it a shot. In their defense, the beer menu was excellent and the chips (French Fries for our US cousins) were authentically soggy and British… but beyond that, the food was just horrible… by far the worst we had all week. What was especially galling was the pretense that this was in some way Great British cuisine. Let’s all agree on something… much (if not most) British food is horrible… really horrible. It’s food made by poor people from less than great ingredients, typically over cooked under spiced and dull. It may have won us the British Empire… but it would get one star on Yelp on a good day. It is possible to do British staple dishes really well, with great ingredients and proper care Bangers and Mash or Fish and Chips can be killer… that’s what’s behind the current craze of “Gastro Pubs.” Unfortunately, done poorly Brit Grub just sucks… as did the Fare at Mr. Ramsay’s Caesars Palace joint.
To start with the bread was stale. I had the fish and chips with mushy peas; my darling wife had the “mixed grill”. The fish bore absolutely no resemblance to real Fish and Chips, and the mushy peas were simply green peas which had been pulsed in a blender for a couple of seconds… not remotely authentic. The mixed grill (to phrase it how Gordon himself might) was “F*@king atrocious”. The steak was perhaps passable (though over-cooked and served cold), the weird pork belly thing was a revolting gelatinous mess, and the lame lone shrimp was either horribly spiced or perhaps spoiled. The waitperson did her best, and when I pointed out the shortcoming she apologized but made no effort to resolve.
Mr. Ramsay, if you are going to use your brand and our heritage to foist over priced high concept but poorly executed crap to an unsuspecting world, would you at least take the “British” part out of your promotion to save us the national embarrassment. There are a thousand chip shops or hole-in-the-wall cafes up and down our damp nation which wouldn’t dream of serving up the swill you deal out in Vegas. It is (by the way) entirely possible to do that kind of fare well in a Vegas context, Todd English proves that to be true every day of the week. If the menu at Caesars was ever decent, it is being betrayed by your team there… sort it out!
If this makes it to your hallowed halls, we ate on September 10th and our check number was 1884527.