FOOD REVIEW: Woosters, Emsworth
From the Art Deco-inspired exterior and the grand piano (given its own stage in the dining area) to the outlandish but fun flamingo print wallpaper in the toilets, Woosters gives the impression it is clearly not aiming for the ordinary.
So it was disappointing to find some of the food in that category.
There is a definite sense that this restaurant in Emsworth has set the culinary bar high and then struggled to reach it.
We also found the service to be wanting despite our visit falling on a relatively quiet Wednesday evening.
Having been left standing at the door unacknowledged for a while, when we were finally seated at a table we asked for a few more minutes to peruse the drinks menu – and were given a quarter-of-an-hour.
Thankfully my green waistcoat cocktail of Hendricks, St Germain, elderflower, lemon juice and basil (£7.95) and my partner’s virgin mojito (£4.50) both hit the mark.
On first glimpse the food offering was well-curated and concise, with two pages providing plenty to ponder.
For first course my partner opted for the pan fried scallops served with pea puree, crispy serrano ham and pea shoots (£9.95).
Despite being a stripped-back dish, not all of the components delivered.
The ham was better described as ‘foldable’ rather than crisp and there was a surprising lack of pea flavour to the pea puree.
The scallops were deemed to be perfect, nicely-cooked with a good colouring. But with little change from a tenner, you expect excellence.
My choice of crab cake featured delicious brown crab mayonnaise, pickled cucumber and deep fried capers (£8.95).
The cucumber added contrast while the mayonnaise delivered the depth.
But the supposed star of the show seemed little more than breadcrumbed mash potato.
By now my partner’s £27.50 8oz fillet steak had a lot of work to do. But it had a price tag which gave us reason to think it would pull it out of the bag.
And it did, being met with comments of ‘excellent’, ‘well-cooked’ and having ‘plenty of flavour’.
Alas, the blue cheese sauce didn’t pack the punch it should have done, but we tried to cling to the positives.
A hold which got tighter on closer inspection of my roasted hake with caponata and crab bisque (£17.95).
The fish was beautiful, soft underneath with a crispy top. However, any chance of flavour from the rest of it was wiped out by the overly creamy bisque.
It coated my tastebuds, meaning the caponata - a Sicilian dish which traditionally sings with notes of capers, olives and tomato - was reduced to a textured mush.
For dessert we tried to stick to our favourites, with my partner opting for the dark chocolate delice with Cointreau ice-cream and orange meringue and me plumping for the banana parfait (both £5.95).
Aside from the strange presentation, which made it look like blobs of sauce were attempting to join canapes into something cohesive, the chocolate offering was, well, nice.
As for the parfait, it was only saved from being completely forgettable by the tasty sesame tuille.
Woosters has just celebrated its first year of business, so it was a surprise to get the impression that it still hasn’t quite found its feet.
We departed, some £88 lighter, with the waitress’s plea to ‘give it a good rating on Tripadvisor’ ringing in our ears.
But we were left with the sense that it’s a case of style over substance and that something here needs to change.
Tel: 01243 379600
(ratings out of 5)