Thursday, 6 January 2011

Franny's Pop-Up

It does seem odd to write about a restaurant that has a limited shelf life. Franny’s is a 21st century phenomenon that is to say a pop-up (horrid term) restaurant. I have written about restaurants on this blog that appear and sink without trace in a relatively short time. Their closures were due to over-confident business plans and they certainly didn’t have the advantage Franny’s has with its well-cited but invariably terminal existence. This blog is after all a personal diary of my dining-out experiences, if I decide to pen about a dream I had of a feast at Charlemagne's Table, I will. And Franny’s is no exception, the two dinners I had here were good enough for the diary entry.

Franny’s is located at a place (of flagship proportions and quite possibly more than a hundred grand rent plus crippling rates liabilities) in Soho which was once occupied by Bertorelli (ahh, a name that conjures up ‘luxurious’ Italian dining so worthy of the theatre-going tourists from the Home Counties!). The impermanent joint is run primarily by the remaining staff of the defunct Bertorelli Soho. Hence the Italian influence on the menu. By the end of January, this place will become another Giraffe entity. Sad for Franny’s but good news for the yummy slummy mummy brigade and their buggies.

The ambience at Franny’s belongs to the cocktail bar variety. The ground floor dining area is inherently dark (therefore effusively romantic for some, I daresay) and additionally a most befitting home for the lounge lizards. The service was excellent and consummate (gotta be, as all the staff members possess a purposeful equity within the pop-up initiative).

The menu
No poncey irrelevancies here, just a direct, efficient, and practical listing of dishes. Now if I may I would like to do a micro rant on eating out Italian. When I venture out for an Italian I want pasta but like everybody else I don’t bother simply because I think I can knock a dish at home at a fraction of a price and yet still tastes better. Now I’ve been to places like Semplice, L’Anima and Locatelli where the pasta dishes masquerading as main courses consistently cost up to 20 quid or more (to perhaps include the Death Eaters’ 12.5% curse), delicious they may be but I still end up hungry thereafter (‘tis a pity a majority of us are not willing to admit that’s the case). For my sins I’m of peasant stock and when I see a bargain of hearty servings I revel. The pasta dishes at Franny’s are on average seven quid each and trust me they taste as good as the above and certainly better than the supposedly ultra cheap La Porchetta Pollo Bar down the road.

A bottle of Barbera.
20 quid for a wine that costs 8 at the offie. It was ok but had a lingering aftertaste of cough medicine or was it cherry-flavoured lozenges?

Dining Companion’s started with an apple and celery soup.
DC’s a vegetarian and, like most veggies would, she said it was nice. I didn’t bother trying it as the word ‘nice’ means bland in my vocabulary. The fresh bread, reminiscent of a heavier and less sweet Panettone, was very good.

DC’s spinach and ricotta ravioli main course.
She declared it a lovely ‘nice’.

I said, ‘Hon the ‘lovely’ was simply due to the Parmesan!’

Now this pic confirms that I’m a pain in the arse sort of person to have a meal with. Well someone’s gotta do it and you can thank me for it! I call it nutritional forensics, anyway as you can gather the ravioli was well-filled.

Courgette fries
All very real and suitably heavenly.

For my main course I thought about my business partner Pete-
he who only ever orders a burger without fail no matter where he eats.
If there’s a Room 101 thing I could nominate, then it would have to be ciabatta bread. I just can’t stand the texture and its endless chewiness conflicts abominably with the unctuousness of the meat patty.

Bun withstanding, this was a bloody good burger. I don’t really know where the cow came from but it tasted juicy and cooked beautifully medium. The processed cheese slice was an added bonus.
Burger snobs, Franny’s effort was loads better than this and on par with this.

And there you have it, a ‘we like to be beside the seaside’ pudding menu.

I ordered Tiramisù straightaway without consulting DC.
The alcohol kick within the dessert imparts needfully. Am not entirely sure if it was made in the kitchen or otherwise, but it was still utterly passable.

Came back the second time because of the 25 per cent off the food offer from the first bill.

Deep-fried calamari
The notable batter coating suggested that the dish was at least prepped in the kitchen. However, if I was wrong with this observation and it was made from the frozen variety, then I’m a convert- Iceland here I come! The squid was amazingly tender and I couldn’t fault the tame mayo (in spite of the menu saying spicy aioli) either.

DC’s courgette rigatoni
She said not nice this time, but very nice. Yes, it was excellent. See the amount of pine nuts…and I thought they’re pricey enough these days! Franny’s, hats off to you, a memorable veggie dish!

Now a dish by which all Italian joints are thus judged in Britain (Yes Sybil I know, spag bol’s on their menu as well!) -

Spaghetti carbonara

Silky smooth, creamy (as well as eggy) and a near 2 die 4 dish. Huge portion with perhaps too many lardy pancetta pieces. The carbonara simply took the mickey out of the 15+++ quid mushroom fettuccine I had at L’Anima last year! A Michael Winner historic.

The House red at a jolly happy-hour-time price of 8 quid.
Marvellous. I'm so hopelessly uncouth but it was so much more quaffable than the Barbera I had on me first visit.

DC’s childhood favourite.
The ice cream sundae. She said it was very very nice. I said I wasn't totally sure about the ‘strawberry a la permafrost’.

Still, one couldn’t fuss much, the second outing came to a mere 25 quid for two! Franny’s is remarkable, and remarkable things don’t last forever. Take heed and enjoy…time’s running out.

11-13 Frith Street
London W1D 4RB

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