Groucho Saint Jude's, despite being in partnership with the Groucho club in London, is not just Soho with a Scottish accent: there's not a shifty, middle-aged hack in sight and no-one seems to disappear to the bathroom for extended periods. There's no Caroline Aherne, no Carly Simon karaoke nights with Phill Jupitus at the bar, and no Vic Reeves. 'Oh don't, DO NOT look at him,' said the aforementioned Phill when I came over all Shooting Star-eyed after spotting Vic there recently - if Jim comes over we'll be stuck with him all night'. And your point is? So, you won't get stuck with the bores at Groucho Saint Jude’s - damn it - only the bill. But at least the food is good.
It has one of those menus that make choice difficult. Dishes feature simple ingredients, cleanly used - things like a shelfish and lemongrass consomme wiht crab and ginger dumplings, salad of pigeon breast with a Mizuna leaf salad and menoki mushrooms, and char-grilled scallops on squid ink linguine - perfect for the black toothed look that so often comes naturally to my fellow Scots as part of our cultural heritage. DInner comes in at about £25 plus a head, but being a lassie lunching alone at an unfashionably early time of the day, I had the fixed menu 2 - courses for £11.50. The fantastic deep-fried squid came dressed in the lightest of batters with a punchy dill and lime mayonnaise, and this was followed by a rub-it all over you, lie down and roast in the sun, delicious butternut pumpkin tortellini, so sweet and unctuous it was almost walking backwards out of the room blowing kisses. Only the earthiness of the sage and pistachio garlic butter prevented it from grovelling - pumpkin is a bit of a sychophant, it can often get sickly after a few mouthfulls.
Pudding was either a wild berry sorbet or cheese with oatcakes, but I declined. I have a small oatcake problem - the merest taste of one and I'd be off to the nearest Spar market mainlining the things - then its rehab and months of Methadone-substitute Rivata. Just say no, girl. I was also longing, dying, aching to have the orange pot de creme with brandy snaps but there an elastic waistband will only stretch so far - and I'm still traumatised from trying to make a phone call last week in the Clarence Hotel in DUblin. Their triangular phone booths are so small that if you can get in at all, the amply girthed come out looking like TOblerones.
Currently, I'm the family sized bar.
In the evening it's back to the subterranean depths. So many restaurant here and in Edinburgh seem to be in basements that you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Montreal. Worse, the Arthouse Grill Rotisserie is the land that lard forgot. The smell of cooking oil wafts up the stairs to meet you like a greasy waiter. The more upmarket restaurant upstairs in the hotel - the Arc - has closed due to lack of custom. This bigger, ode to a chip pan place has opened in its stead. Most of the smell seems to come from the Japanese grill which can seat abut 12 people. For the rest of us there's a book like menu offering everything but a massage and a seaweed wrap.
Unfortunately I was with some young relatives who looked through the menu as though it was going to get up and bite them on the bum. Shrimps? Oh I'm not very good with food that has things on it. Fish - oh bones. Mussels, ah dinnie like shellie things. What we need is a restaurant that serves food for the feart.