I find myself at the Hyde Park Shopping Centre from time to time, probably about once a month or so, with a hour or two to kill over lunch time or dinner time. When this happens, I sometimes choose to spend this time in one of the many restaurants in the Hyde Park Centre. JB Rivers is the closest one to the movies, which is usually where I am meeting whoever I am meeting, so it tends to be the one I use most.
JB Rivers is a fully fledged restaurant, even though it gives the initial impression of being only a coffee shop. I recently had dinner there. This is an account of my experience at that one event.
I arrrived shortly before the main dinner crowd so the restaurant was not yet busy. The waiter was ready and waiting and put the menu on the table just after I had settled. My companion went off to one the mall shops to get something he needed so the waiter removed the extra menu, took my initial drinks order and then left me to peruse the menu for what I wanted to eat.
The requested glass of “tap water with ice” arrived, as did the iced coffee. One ice block, one slice of lemon, the latter not offensive but unrequested. The ice block failed to chill the tap water and it soon melted into the summer afternoon’s drink.
I placed my order for beef ragu with penne. It arrived less than ten minutes later, prettily presented with a generous side of one of the Italian hard cheeses freshly grated. I have become accustomed to receiving, together with the standard grated cheese which traditionally accompanies Italian style pasta, portions of garlic in oil and chilli in oil, at restaurants, often together with some complimentary bread. In fact, I was quite surprised that neither the sauces nor any bread were offered.
The bowl in which my meal was presented was not heated. The penne could not possibly have been prepared from scratch in the time between me having placed the order and it having been delivered to the table which was, as I said in the previous paragraph, less than ten minutes. They were obviously prepared earlier, turned out when nearly ready (they were the perfect degree of al dente), and then reheated for the order. Reheated? No, they were luke warm at best even for the first mouthful. They were cold a quarter of the way through the meal. I should have sent them back to be heated further, but I didn’t. Cold plates, and worse, cold food is noticed with displeasure, but it doesn’t actually offend me to the point at which I cannot eat it, especially on a warm summer’s evening when I am not particularly hankering after the comfortable warming sensation of a hot meal.
The ragu was bland even to the eye. No visible onion, no visible herbs, no mushrooms. It was topped with two skinned cooked small tomatoes under the garnish. It could certainly have used the spicing up of some garlic and chilli as it tasted of nothing but adequately salted mince in a light tomato paste sauce. My tongue could discern no other herbs or spices, not even the ubiquitous origanum of most Italian restaurants.
By this time my companion had returned. He placed his order and I placed an additional order for a repeat round of drinks, requesting more ice for the water. The round of drinks came exactly as before, one ice cube in a glass of tepid tap water. It struck me that the theoretically cold water and the theoretically hot penne were exactly the same temperature in practice.
The service was swift, pleasant and mostly efficient, but the meal was lukewarm and bland. I may well have drinks at JB Rivers again given its proximity to the movies, but I will certainly not be tempted to eat there again for many moons to come.