Hello! A massive lack of posts lately, but let’s go straight back in with a food review. Since working in Soho, I find myself making quite a lot of ‘what to eat in Soho for lunch’ inquiries into Google. The problem is, there’s almost too much choice, and I’m attempting to avoid chains and explore somewhere different most days. I’m planning on writing posts based around my lunchtime escapades, in the hope that it might help out someone else similarly stuck for where to eat! Anyway, mission statement dispensed with, let’s go to the food:
When Mac Met Cheese: The Concept
Virtually underneath our office is a rather glum pub aptly named The Endurance. It’s nearly empty and appears to play host to a variety of pop-up ventures, including When Mac Met Cheese. When I saw the posters, I nearly passed out with excitement. Mac and cheese is one of the most truly perfect foods in existence, and a dining experience solely devoted to it sounded wonderful. I’m a big fan of the new wave of restaurants offering just one choice of food in a couple of incarnations (Honest Burgers, Burger & Lobster, Bubbledogs). I read up on previous reviews of WMMC as a food stand, and set my hopes to: ludicrously high.
Three options for the pasta, optional extras (bacon lardons, chicken, rocket, tomato, broccoli); a side of coleslaw; deep fried Oreos. Absolute simplicity, which made me think that the food was duty bound to be excellent. I mean, if you’re only serving one thing, you’ve got to do it right, haven’t you? I opted for one option with a ghastly name: the ‘cheesy green afro’. Because, you know, who DOESN’T love thinking about a hairstyle with a hygiene problem while eating? Anyway, with stilton, mozzarella and broccoli, it ticked quite a few boxes.
On first mouthful, I was happy. Rich, extremely cheesy and supremely comforting, this was like the Richard Madeley of foodstuffs. It came to us in cardboard boxes, and let’s just say that mac and cheese is never going to win any beauty contests, so visually it wasn’t much. I started flagging at around the halfway point. It was lukewarm on arrival and cooling rapidly, and each mouthful tasted exactly the same. My companions struggled – this, from one of the boys: ‘I think I’m going to go to Leon after this to get a wrap’.
The primary issue for me was how I felt afterwards. A truly great eating experience leaves you full but happy. I’m not just referring to restaurants – just down the road from The Endurance are Freebird Burritos and Jerusalem Felafels, both of which leave me full and happy, whereas WMMC left me feeling like more sluggish than a slug that had just taken part in a marathon slug battle and had also found out its’ slug wife had left it. That’s how sluggish I felt. The general table consensus was indeed: ‘I feel full. Not the good kind of full’.
Curious. We were served by a waitress AND someone who appeared to be from The Endurance itself. Things rapidly descended into a Fawlty Towers-esque situation with one waitress coming from the right, another from the left, asking us the same questions. The person serving us from The Endurance came across as slightly brisk, telling us she had ‘nothing to do with the pop up’, she was ‘just helping out’. Taking orders was a bit of a faff: ‘they get it all mixed up in the kitchen’. Mm.
I’m going to touch on decor here too, for a minute. A stripped out ghost pub; tables clung to the walls like kids at their first school disco. Stuffed animal heads on the walls and wallpaper that reminded you of those strange country hotels where you feel slightly uneasy but can’t really put your finger on it. And dark, it was so dark. Dimness doesn’t equal atmosphere, lighting concept designers.
Some street foods translate perfectly from pavement to plate. After all, you never expect street food to be that hot or that pretty but it still kicks ass (kinda like Mickey Rourke). But when you’re served that same lukewarm, messy dish with plastic cutlery in an actual restaurant, it’s a different matter. Come on, would it kill you to give us some proper cutlery? Even wooden cutlery would do. Anything. A rough hewn tool from wire and rocks. Just not plastic.
For me, this entire experience demonstrated the sticky problems with pop ups. What exactly constitutes a pop up? What service do we expect? Should the food come in takeaway boxes or should it be properly plated up? To give it the benefit of the doubt, I think I’d have been a lot happier with this if I’d been eating it while wandering around Camden Market, which is where it usually stands. But as it is, I’m confused, I’m underwhelmed, and I still feel full. And not the good kind of full.