Food with enough garlic to make a coven of vampires gag
Although Garlic and Shots is located smack in the middle of Soho, it’s easy to pass by it without realising it’s even there. The menu at Garlic and Shots is wide-ranging from curries and pastas to roasts and burgers, but all are strongly flavoured with liberal does of garlic. You can request more garlic, but you can’t have anything without the noxious herb.
The place looks more like a bar, and a dive of a bar too, that happens to serve food than a proper restaurant. The open air area round the rear looks especially grim, with an appearance reminiscent more of a Reichchancellery patio circa 1945 than a pleasant space for knocking back a few drinks.
Despite my reluctance Kangaroo Face and I were persuaded to dine at Garlic and Shots by LeChuck who is a rampant garlic fiend. Since it was an early weekday evening, neither of them were in the mood for shots but both sampled the garlic beer. Rather than some kind of special brew however, it was merely San Miguel with chunks of garlic thrown in. Kangaroo Face described it best in one word: ‘horrible’.
I started off with the bay jumble, a dish consisting of crayfish in a creamy, garlic sauce served on a garlic tortilla. The chunks of crayfish were unidentifiable as such and if it would have resembled a bland, tasteless supermarket prawn cocktail if it wasn’t for the garlic which is surprisingly subtle at first but has a very strong aftertaste. The pale yellow ‘tortilla’ resembled a pancake served with Chinese roast duck, but tasted of regurgitated vomit which made it difficult to stomach.
My first choice of fried, smoked Swedish sausages was sadly unavailable so I opted for the garlic meat balls on the advice of the waiter. Despite being doused in a creamy yet thin garlic sauce, the offally-tasting and coarse meatballs were surprisingly dry which made them difficult to stomach, even when slathered with lingonberry jam. As with the bay jumble, the garlic flavour was subdued at first, but had an unmistakably strong aftertaste. The accompaniments were far more pleasant with a sweet and creamy mash contrasting nicely with slices of vinegary cucumber.
Kangaroo Face greatly enjoyed his baby back ribs, but I thought the flesh was too soft and flavourless, over relying on the garlic marinade for flavour. It’s therefore a shame that said marinade tasted like the sauce you might find on a particularly bad kung pao chicken dish in an anglicised Chinese takeaway.
The best of the main courses was LeChick’s intriguingly titled ‘roast beef of lamb’ which simply turned out to be roast lamb. It was tender and juicy with surprisingly little garlic flavour. Overall, it was on par with the lamb you’d find in a good food pub.
Kangaroo Face skipped dessert, but LeChuck opted for the ‘radio cake’. I’m not sure what was supposed to be in it apart from garlic, but even LeChuck was unimpressed with it declaring it to be both too hard and too sweet once his teeth finally broke into it.
Honey and garlic ice cream sounds like an odd combination and it is, but not in a good way. The taste of honey was too sickly sweet which clashed with the overbearing taste of garlic producing a gutwrenching combination of flavours.
Even bearing in mind that Garlic and Shots is really more of a bar than a restaurant, the service was scattershot at best. There were often long delays in clearing our table of finished plates, even when we were only the occupied table. Our waiter also seemed bored and displeased by our very presence which is especially ironic given the neon ‘A friendly place’ sign outside .
I didn’t expect to love Garlic and Shots, but even I was surprised by how much I disliked it. The emphasis on garlic may have started out as a gimmick, but it’s now an unsuccessful way of trying to cover up the almost consistently bad cooking. Unless you love garlic more than life itself, do yourself a favour and avoid Garlic and Shots.
Name: Garlic and Shots
Address: 14 Frith Street, London, W1D 4RD
Phone: 020 7734 9505
Opening Hours: Monday-Thursday 17:00-00:00, Friday-Saturday 18:00-01:00, Sunday 17:00-23:30
Reservations: not necessary since you shouldn’t go unless your brain is severely addled by garlic.
Total cost for one person including soft drinks: £25 approx.