Restaurant Review: Tuttons, Covent Garden

Tuttons is an iconic restaurant in London’s Covent Garden; one of the oldest and most famous in the piazza. I remember going there for the first time over thirty years ago. It’s recently undergone a major refurbishment and Annie and I were keen to try it out. Booking online for our usual meeting time of 6.30 p.m., we were automatically assigned the pre-theatre menu (though we were given the a la carte menu as well when we arrived). At a bargain price of £13.95 for 2 courses and an enticing choice, it seemed like a good idea to try it out.

There’s a large sitting area outside if you fancy eating al fresco, but in the noisy bustle of early evening Covent Garden at the height of summer holiday time, I was thankful to be immediately taken to a seat inside. I couldn’t quite remember what it was like pre-refurbishment – it’s been about 5 years since I was last there – but the new interior is very attractive with a bit of a Parisian brasserie feel to it.

We ordered our dishes and a 50cl carafe of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc – though we noted there was only a few pence saving in the price of ordering it this way rather than separate large glasses of wine. So if you don’t want the same wine, it’s no big deal to order separately.

I ordered pork rillette with cornichons and toast to begin. I was obviously still in French mode after my holiday last week. They were OK; not brilliant and lacked seasoning. The toast was overcooked and so crispy, each bite was a noisy crunch and I didn’t finish it. How do you get toast wrong?

Annie, on the other hand, thought her warm mackerel fillet with saffron and horseradish creme fraiche was excellent (though writing this, I can’t help wondering who would put saffron and horseradish together – I should have asked Annie if there was any evidence of saffron).

We chose the same main course of salmon fillet with couscous, cherry tomato, leaf salad and pomegranate dressing.

I may have been on French mode but moved out of blogger mode temporarily as we chatted happily, and it was Annie who reminded me as I tucked into my food that I hadn’t taken a photo! But I was saved just in time. Again, this dish was OK but not great. The salmon was slightly overcooked and not especially tasty. The couscous could have done with a bit more seasoning and the pomegranate dressing had no sign of pomegranate seeds, which I suppose, strictly speaking, isn’t necessary but would have been nice to enhance the pomegranate taste.

We finished with coffees and our final bill for two, including tip, was £52 (the half carafe of wine was £13.65). We agreed it wasn’t somewhere to rush back to; in fact, I probably wouldn’t bother to go again. Someone at the next table was having the salmon from the a la carte – at £16.95. It was a slightly bigger piece of salmon, but at that price for a main course, I expect something much better.

It seemed to me that the fixed price menu was catering to the tourist trade. The portions were quite big but the whole meal was just too bland; the cooking lacking care and attention. It’s a pity. I’ve not gone to Tuttons a lot in the past but have always thought of it being a good place so had been looking forward to a return visit tonight. But it’s not how I remember it and sadly not as good as I remember it.

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A lifelong lover of good food and travel; writer and book editor

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