Two years ago, a friend and I used to frequent The Table Café often for a work lunch, which was a little ridiculous considering it took us 15 minutes to get there and we only had an hour lunch break (of course, we never made it back in time). But we thought it was worth it — they had a weekly changing menu oozing with creativity and promises of using only local and fresh ingredients. The format was simple: waltz in, order at the counter, grab a seat and then your food is served.
I had Friday afternoon off, the sun was shining and I was excited to revisit this old love of mine for a spot of lunch. The restaurant takes residence on the ground floor of an office block. The benches in their courtyard tucked away at the back were full of diners. Inside was no different; diners were tightly squeezed together indoors. Luckily for me, my sisters had arrived a little earlier to nab some seats. The décor is clean and simple with plenty of natural light coming through the floor to ceiling windows. There is an open kitchen at the back so you can witness the chefs hard at work. Unfortunately, that also meant that it was rather smoky inside.
To my surprise, the workings of the restaurant had changed slightly. It was now full table service and the menu is fixed, bar the ‘fish of the day’ written on the blackboard. On their menu, you can find out where their ingredients are sourced from which shows to me how much heart they put into their ingredients. They focus on locally sourced ingredients as well as sustainable fish and meat. Their menu is geared towards all day breakfast and burgers, and a few different salad dishes. My eyes were drawn to the duck confit burger served with chips. And it’s all because I have recently had two delicious duck confit dishes — one a duck confit burger with honey and goat cheese at the Southbank Centre Food Market and the other a duck confit with mustard in a baguette from a food market in Copenhagen. To me, the duck confit could do no wrong. To drink, I ordered a freshly made smoothie.
The service was fairly adequate but not very friendly. The wait staff took down our orders accurately without having to write anything down but she stared right past us through the window and didn’t look at us the whole time. Whilst I’m not normally a big fan of the loud and talkative types, this style of waiting did seem a bit distant.
The smoothie was described as banana, strawberry, honey and spice. It was certainly sweet but I failed to detect any spice — I couldn’t even try to guess which spice they had used! That didn’t matter too much though; you can’t go wrong with banana, strawberry and honey and it tasted fresh and sweet. The duck confit burger was presented with an unappealing jalapeno chilli protruding from the top — it looked much better without if you ask me. The ever-popular brioche bun was used. Not that I don’t like brioche, I just much prefer sourdough myself. I have found that most of the time brioche does not have enough structure to hold in the bulging ingredients of a burger, and that the bread tends to crumble and disintegrate when a wholesome bite into a burger is attempted; this one was no exception. The burger was jam-packed with meat — a whole leg of tender confit duck. Sadly, flavour of the meat was rather subtle. I blame the overwhelming sweetness of the wild heather-honey; even the pecorino was lost in the sweetness. As for the chips, although not as crispy as I would have liked (I’m a big fan of thrice-cooked chips these days), the heritage hand-cut fries were piping hot and the flesh was soft and fluffy. I found delight in trying to guess-the-potato after discovering part-way through that the chefs used a mixture of potato varieties.
This time around I felt that the Table was let down slightly by the flavour balance. I have a personal soft spot for The Table so I will probably revisit again. Maybe I’ll even try to squeeze a visit into an hour lunch break someday. Unlikely, as even with the fairly timely service I definitely won’t make it back in time. I’ll just have to slip out and hope the boss wasn’t watching. ∎
(Editorial photography: Sarah Chu for Bubbobar; cover photo: via http://thetablecafe.com)
The Table Café
83 Southwark St
London SE1 0HX