Friday, 8 July 2011


To welcome back some friends following an abandoned Canadian relocation, Lantana seemed the perfect spot to show off some of the Empire’s better attributes, Antipodean coffee and café/brunch culture being one of my favourites.

I’ve been to Lantana several times before, but not with my blog hat on so I was very much looking forward to it…and starving of course, being a touch hung-over as I am wont to be on Sundays. Coffee here is one of the drawcards (Square Mile) and although I don’t have one on this occasion, my friend’s espresso looks excellent. The fresh orange juice (£3.50 for a large) is good value too.

corn fritters
Food-wise, I try the ‘Croque Lantana’ -  a ham, gruyere and chilli jam creation (£7.50) which arrives with the cheese inside. That is a toastie, not a bloody croque! Argh! Big pet peeve of mine as dedicated readers will know – they should maybe look towards Out Of Town for a lesson.

the croque of shame
My usual choice - the homemade baked beans & sausages with feta and spinach (their full English I guess - £9) doesn’t dazzle my friend but it’s a solid choice here and the beans work well with the crumbled feta. It’s a great dish - I’ve had a fantastic version of for brunch in Sydney before (somewhere on Darlinghurst Road), and Bill Granger has a similar recipe I’ve tried unsuccessfully once.

The corn fritters (£9.80) with bacon, tomatoes and rocket go down very eagerly, and the grilled halloumi with poached egg (£8)  served with tomatoes and the ubiquitous rocket and sourdough is well received also, but not too memorable.

sausage, beans, feta, spinach, poached egg
I’m not sure quite what it is about the food on this occasion, but I’m left quite unenthused. The service is a little duff (more in a sec) but our friends who are Lantana virgins agree that it’s good but not amazing. I think standards, expectations and experiences have shot up in London ‘shabby-chic’ dining and Lantana just hasn’t kept up. The new ‘croque’ was a greasy disaster, and there aren’t many other signs of innovation. Prices are sneaking upwards though.

Service is usually the laidback but attentive ANZ style, but on this occasion the team were overwhelmed. Our server was confused, spilled some of the OJ onto the floor, forgot a side dish and was generally a tad rubbish, I have to say. Service has always been great on my previous visits so possibly some element of the recruiting or management itself isn’t quite as tight as before.

Or maybe it was just a bad day, but I’ve seen it far busier.  Drinks and condiments were slammed down aggressively, and there were no pleasantries – although 12.5% service was added on automatically which I think is a little bit incongruous with the casual vibe (there is also a tip jar!?) and certainly with Antipodean tipping culture in general.

I’m off to (the vastly superior in my eyes) Caravan later for lunch, so I will keep an eye out for the service charge. As many London food bloggers and readers are Antipodeans or fans of their cafe scene, I’d be interested to hear thoughts and experiences on the tipping subject…

A shabby sign at the till pleads for investors for a second site – shouldn’t it be the other way round? Possibly a bad day as I said, but it seems my once-beloved, now slightly tired Lantana could do with some tinkering and TLC before dreams of the big roll-out. 

Food – 7/10
Drink – 8/10
Service – 5/10
Value – 7/10
Tap water tales – 5/10 (provided, nice and warm by the coffee machine, serve yourself)
Staff Hotness – 5/10 (bumbling and defeated by the service is never hot)

13-14 Charlotte Place, W1

Lantana on Urbanspoon

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