Monday, 25 February 2013

REVIEW: Heliot, Hippodrome Casino, Leicester Square

About four years ago I used to work at Heathrow airport doing a job that paid relatively well, and gave me a lot of free time between flights. Apart from eating as much food as I could between those gaps I also used to have a dab on the slot machines, the occasional £500 win, but most of the time I would put in much more than that and subsequently after I became an online gambling addict and most of my wages went on gambling sites. Stepping into Heliot restaurant was either going to ruin me, or prove I’m a changed man. Luckily, I only bet a mere £10 and felt rather proud of myself.


The décor at both the casino and restaurant are bordering low key Las Vegas tackiness. But I think that is the charm of the place, it’s all about the flashing lights and flowing alcohol to keep you inside, and of course the food. There really is no reason to ever go home, right? Unless you run out of money of course. We started our evening with a cocktail from the bar which has been developed by the well-known Tony Conigliaro. The American Sour is particularly good and I would definitely make an excuse to come here again for cocktails.

Before dining here we looked at an offer we had come across on the internet which displayed entirely different dishes to its a la carte, I think I even preferred the sound of it. Starting with some bread which I must say was very good indeed. It arrived hot at our table with a lovely salty butter and a delicious roll filled with a warm black olive tapanade.

A short while after the Peking duck consommé and wonton arrived, a single wonton with the consomme poured in to my bowl via a small teapot. It had a lovely amber translucent colour, very bright and clear, its flavour was meaty and complex with some real depth to it, the wonton was good, cooked very well and nicely filled but something just wasn't right with the filling, it could be I'm just not used to eating too much mushy duck in my wonton, for me is normally something fishy. I ate every last drop of that delicious consommé.

We chose to order the chilli salt squid purely because it got some good feedback from a well know restaurant critic, I was looking forward to trying this. What a disappointment it was in the end, the batter on the squid was admittedly very good but the squid couldn't have been more over cooked if it had tried, it had lost all of its flavour and was extremely chewy, it was such as shame because everything else on the plate was very good. The smoked haddock brandade was intensely flavoured but excellent and the pickled relish gave a little zing. Maybe I was just one of those unlucky dinners whose squid was overcooked? Still, it shouldn't happen at these prices.

The main of twice cooked pork belly with puy lentils and calvados sauce was yet another let-down, and again it was the main star of the dish, the pork. The puy lentils were good, and so was the calvados sauce but the pork belly seemed to constitute of 90% fat and 10% meat, I may of well been eating a slab of lard. Such a shame as I had to leave most of it and in turn gave me little to say about it. The sides of sautéed spinach and dauphinoise potato were on the other hand, excellent.

The green Thai curried monkfish with coconut, red onion and coriander garnish sat on a pile of fluffy white rice. It was such a relief to get a good dish at last, and it was really good. The Thai green curry was smooth, slightly sweet, quite thick and well spiced with a good kick of chilli, it tasted incredibly fresh. The monkshish was a little overcooked but given it comes in small thin cuts i didn't notice this too much. The coconut, onion and coriander slivers made this dish seem even lighter and rounded everything together.

Heliot, sticking to a menu mainly consisting of comfort food, desserts were no real surprise. Sticky toffee pudding wasn’t very sticky, nor was it particularly moist. It did have a light spongy texture but there wasn’t enough toffee sauce, at first glance you almost think it came from a microwave container out of the supermarket, I’m sure it wasn’t.

The eggnog parfait was a little better, slightly sweet, good texture and a nice light dessert, something which you would want after a heavy meal. The parfait sat on a lemon sable, which is a kind of buttery cookie laced with lemon. I knew I was eating a sable but until writing this I had no idea it was infused with lemon, I couldn’t taste any of it.

After some mixed reviews from critics I was really looking forward to my dinner at Heliot but unfortunately it just didn’t do it for me, yes it's OK comfort food, but for the prices they charge it’s not good enough. It’s a great place for gambling, cocktails and people watching. When we left around 8pm the casino was flooding with stag and hen do’s. If this place is going to succeed it needs to stick to its strengths which seem to be the Asian dishes, not hearty British. The menu is too much like the casino, a gamble.

Apologies for no photos this week but the following weekend, there were a few too many tequila slammers involved and a subsequent loss of my camera, and everything else that was in my pockets. So if you come across an IPhone 5, just pick it up, it’s definitely mine.

6/10

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