So Utah. Well don't be silly - of course it's not in the Mid-west. It's in Wimbledon - though frankly, I'm all out of jokes about restaurants named after American states. I ran out when the sister restaurant Idaho opened in Highgate and while I may have exhausted the concept, apparently the Montana group who owns this 'family', are pushing this Yankie horse just as far as it can drag the gravy train.
Inside, Utah is fairly cramped and visually, not quite as starkly handsome as the other restaurants: Obligatory plate glass windows. Tangerine and lime upholstery. God knows - green does nothing for my complection and orange clashes with my hair. There's an emphasis on being child-friendly and a long communal bar-height table which might work in your neighbourhood but in mine would mean the libidinous details of your best friend's love life would be overhead by half the lunching mothers of North Kensington.
The food is a loose interpretation of comtemporary American food, as confused as a newly arrived immigrant and suspiciously close to an upmarket Cafe Rouge in a cowboy hat. Each dish has too many fussy ingredients, all sourced and attributed like footnotes in an anorexic's food diary. The menu stretches America all the way to Australia for the unappetisingly named signature dish - Moreton Bay bugs - which are lobster tails. That's before we get to such things as rack of lamb with a vanilla bean mash. Well really. You could cover it with syrup and call it pudding.
We went for brunch which I'm sure is the best idea and a wonderful excuse to sit from noon to dusk drinking Bloody Marys and drawing on the brown paper tablecloth. They have a good wine list and I certainly needed a drink. Lone parenting is the pits and the Husband is gone so often these days that I wonder if we've divorced and I just haven't noticed. I wouldn't mind, but I suspect I'm still doing all his laundry.
I took Nigel and Maureen. Very Mormon - two women and a man. It seemed as close to a Utah theme as we were going to get - well unless we started singing snatches of the Osmond's greatest hits.
I decided to forgo the pleasures of displaced Middle American food for a straightforward plate of Eggs Benedict with field mushrooms on the side. A sigh of relief all round when the eggs arrived perfectly poached, all virgin white and trembling like a postulant nun in a pool of excellent hollandaise sauce. I couldn't fault it, even though they had forgotten the field mushrooms. I was so busy eating, so did I.
Nigel had a Caesar salad with blue crab fritters while muttering that: 'it's coming to something when we're all surprised that a restaurant can do something as simple as poach an egg. The fritters looked a bit befrazzled but he said that they had exceeded his expectations, which I think means he liked them. Maureen had goats cheese profiteroles. Also, rather good, but the portion of three teeny little cohones obviously didn't hail from the land of the large. America didn't get obese eating like this. Especially when one is sharing. The spiced fig salsa wasn't bad and the Arugula leaves? Well that's in case you had forgotten that we are divided from our American brothers by a common language. Rocket to us, sweetie.
Nigel had scorched cuttlefish which, with accompanying coconut flakes, failed to impress. As for the Cilantro dressed leaves - think herby salad oil - it might sound like the Sloaney Middle Class sibling of young Arugula, but it's just coriander.
Maureen had the Pepita crusted salmon with tomato and mozzarella salad which almost breaks the cardinal rule of not having fish with cheese, but not quite badly enough to warrant a rap over the knuckles with a ruler. The salmon was nicely done, still pink on the inside and well seared on the outside. Then I had pancakes. Call me British, but I like to have sugary carbohydrates at the end of a meal.
Unfortunately they were flaccid, half cooked and tepid - furthermore - even in Britspeak, three pancakes does not a stack of 'em make.
Maureen then had peanut butter flummery which I thought the most revolting thing I've tasted in my life, bar one. Or maybe two. The praline base was a gift to cosmetic dentistry in that there's a fair chance you'll need some after attempting to eat it - and the gruesome banana and peanut concoction, cloying enough to cement your jaws together.. Those who like peanut butter may find it palatable. The two of you can share it.
Nigel had the Black Sapote Cheesecake with coconut cream which was overly chilled, and tasted strangely like creamed carpet underlay. Service was well intentioned, haphazard and dreadfully slow. But as we tried to explain to Nigel, that's the whole point of brunch. Like revenge it's best savoured very slowly - though eating it cold, I admit, is pushing it a bit.
signature dish: scorched cuttlefish with Cilantro dress leaves and cocnut chips
Roast Moreton Bay Bugs (slipper lobster tails) with saffron risotto, crisp chorizo shards, Tomato and olive salsa.