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Sanderson Hotel, Berners Street, London W1. Tel:+44(0)20 73001400.

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      16.12.2000 18:39
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      It's been the designer launch of the year - and one of the hottest restaurant openings on the London scene... so going there for a Christmas treat seemed a brilliant idea... Three hours later, we felt ripped off and angry, after paying £121 for a weird and not especially satisfying meal. If this is how the other half live, they can keep it! The Sanderson hotel is dead cool, but from the outside it looks like a nasty office block circa 1974 - maybe because it is? We arrived early for a drink in the bar, and had our first look at the restaurant. At one end is a very long bar indeed, with rich looking business types clustering around. We were unsettled by the use of net curtains everywhere - nasty nylon full-length drapes along every huge window. Outside there seemed to be a pretty courtyard area, but come on, this is December. Anyway we were too shocked by paying £22 for two cocktails (which included a £2 service charge 'for ordering from the bar') to move... Nine o'clock came, and we were shown to our table, sitting next to one of those ever present net curtains. We could also see the kitchen, all chrome and testosterone. There were some nice touches - handmade plates, ultra-kitsch padded white chairs with close-ups of eyes printed on the back. The overall effect was a little like being in a seventies blue movie. Then the menu... the idea of Spoon+ comes from a Parisian restaurant, where you choose in stages. So there's the main ingredient, then you have carte blanche to select a sauce and a vegetable or accompaniment to go with it. Nice in theory - utterly confusing in practise. We felt muddled, and perplexed. Eventually we found our way through it, not helped by the fact that I'm a vegetarian, and ordered: poached egg on leek marmalade with shaved truffles (for me) and pasta with fresh pesto (for my friend). As a main course we both ordered garden cooked vegetables with a side order of aubergine.. plus a b ottle of wine and a bottle of water. The eggs were nice enough, once I got over the idea of leek marmalade, and the pasta and sauce were tasty. The main courses were bizarre - the vegetables were well cooked in a kind of slow cooker dish brought to the table. The aubergine 'paste' was ok, nothing special, and they sneaked in another dish, some stir-fry of veg, which tasted alright but not that different from the 'main course.' For pud we had 'cheesecake ice-cream sundae' between us, which was very sweet and had an odd texture, plus coffees and one liquer. Then the bill arrived... an astonishing £121 including a 15% service charge. We nearly died, then checked everything, and sure enough, it added up, though was an outrageous amount of money for the curious array of odd food we had consumed. The fact that they then left the credit card slips blank for further tips was deeply insulting... Maybe we're just not classy enough, but I would never go here again. I found it a total rip-off and would rather have spent that amount of money somewhere which serves decent food, like the River Cafe or Incognico. My advice - don't do it. But then perhaps I just don't appreciate good food...

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