Erebuni
London Guards Hotel
36-37 Lancaster Gate
Bayswater
Westminster W2 3NA
10/10/2010
Did my prep, studied the dishes, the restaurant’s menu, briefed Edo and left bound towards Erebuni. Location wise the place was really handy for us, but the venue was a bit of a treasure hunt. Edo walked in, looked around suspiciously, detected the point and waved. The way was cleared to go. Once in, another challenge was waiting for us: what direction were we supposed to take? The lift? The stairs? And most importantly, which one? We glanced at the receptionist through a glass, even though we knew it was a dangerous move. The guy was obviously instructed not to release any information. We were all alone in the mission and we had to work as a team. Edo spotted an arrow leading to a basement and our instinct told us to follow it; we were scared, but that was clearly a coded message for us. Mild smell of mould, spider nets on the wall, pumpkins with fiery eyes and blood on the wall: the place was near. A girl suddenly materialized in front of us. Nice. Friendly. Was she the enemy? Or was she our mentor? She asked for the password; “Edo” we said in chorus. And then…then she nodded and smiled. We were safe. No position was assigned and being the first two spies to arrive we sat in the most secure area. The mentor came back with menus and a buzz to use in case of need. She addressed us in Italian with a clear Eastern European accent and then disappeared behind a door cleverly disguised in the dark wooden panels on the wall. A feeble red flame made the tablecloth look pinker than it was, and the restaurant vaguely romantic. I would dare say I felt…at ease… But then the wooden floor creaked: a man and a woman took their place on the opposite side of the room. Confidently. Other two, younger this time, did the same just a few minutes later. The Mentor came back, I was ready.

KAPUSTA KWASHENAYA: sauerkraut salad. Pickled chopped cabbage with fresh onion in olive oil

VEGETARIAN BORSH: potatoes beetroot, cabbage and carrots soup with sour cream and with fresh dill
A glass of Moldavian red

Edo was ready too

VARYENIKY S-TVOROGOM: dumpling stuffed with cottage cheese and served with sour cream

DOLMA-ECHMIADZIN STYLE: vine leaves stuffed with minced lamb meat, rice and herbs with garlic-flavoured yoghurt

To share KHACHAPURY: cheese bread made with puff pastry

A glass of Merlot
Still water

The salad was tangy and crunchy exactly as I expected. A fairly basic dish, but good.

Heard of Borsh many times but never tried before. I was impressed. Rich flavour remotely sweet but not heavy at all. Actually I would have loved a slightly bigger portion. Brown bread with fennel seeds came with and it was…just right.

The cheese bread reminded me of “feathery” feta quiche. Definitely my favourite dish of the dinner. Helped soften the sweetness of my wine…a blessing somehow.

Didn’t like Edo’s dumplings, closer to a pudding than a starter. And didn’t like the Dolmas either. Again, way too sweet.

The Mentor recommended the Armenian coffee, which was thick, intense and again sweet. Coffee with sugar is a mortal sin, but in that particular instance I have to admit it worked. Was it really good or was I so high on sugar I just couldn’t do without? Everything was sweet and nice and weirdly friendly and quiet. We knew we had to leave before it was too late. We paid our £60 and made ourselves invisible by sinking in Charlene’s seats. I could see the building’s chafed facade getting smaller in the rear-view mirror. Our duty was over and I felt empty since it was in fact an ADVENTURE I was after…

  • Food: 2.5
  • Ambience: 2
  • Service: 3
  • Value: 2.5
  • Overall: 2.5
Monica
We could not find the place at first, because it’s a hotel restaurant and not indicated in any way from the outside. Basically you walk into this townhouse hotel, shabby, potentially nice but not quite, and there’s a little sign on the wall, in fact an A4 printout telling you the restaurant is in the basement. Until the instant you are in the room you keep wondering whether you are in the right place.

So you walked into this basement and it was all very nicely decorated for Halloween, in a tacky but caring and meticulous way. Take away the decorations and the place would have looked pretty worn and old fashioned.

The website was OK and the place was in the process of getting very full as we ate there, but it’s so hidden! It is obviously very popular with the Armenian / Russian communities.

Service is subdued, gentle, the waitress was quiet, polite and all smiles. We ordered five dishes between us. I caused much confusion by asking for them to be served in a specific order which was the only obvious one for me but evidently not for my wife nor for the waitress. I was feeling terrible from a cold so I was difficult and incapable of expressing myself properly. The waitress was very patient, indeed more patient than Monica who spent the following ten minutes bollocking me for my allegedly unacceptable demeanour.

We come to the food. I tried everything so here it goes:

Sauerkraut salad: somewhat refreshing, too much onion, overall unimpressive.

Cottage cheese ravioli with sour cream (varyeniky s-tvorogom): they were good! The cheese was sweet, I mean properly sweet, the dough somewhat neutral, the sauce zingy, it was a very different dish and a very good one if you are into something original. Apparently they are Ukrainan, though, not Armenian.

Borsch: it was good, earthy, spicy, I only had a couple of spoonfuls but I loved it.

Dolma-echmiadzin style: stuffed vine leaves with lamb and herbs. They were delicate, juicy, full of taste, I loved them. The garlic yoghurt over them could have spoilt them but it was actually very balanced and well matched.

The baked-on-demand cheese bread, which was essentially puff pastry stuffed with cottage cheese, was also very good in its simplicity.

Presentation was poor throughout and it brings down the overall score on food, but taste on the whole was very good. They surely know how to cook well.

I had a glass of Moldavian red wine, drinkable, nothing much to say.

We spent £60 overall, what I had expected. On the whole this place was let down buy its seclusion, its looks and by the the looks of the food. Pluses were the taste of the food itself and the kind service. I was ill so I did not take it in as much as I would have liked, but on the whole the experience was not particularly notable.

  • Food: 3
  • Ambience: 1.5
  • Service: 2.5
  • Value: 2.5
  • Overall: 2.37
Edo
ARMENIA