Conran's been busy. His new 'Boundary' complex on Boundary Street in achingly trendy Shoreditch houses not just a new restaurant - Conran's 50th - but a grill, a shop, a café and a 17-room plush hotel. I haven't been around long enough to know what it was like when Conran first came on the scene, but I feel the effects everywhere. In which lifestyle pit-stops, be it food or furniture, has he not - at some point - been ringleader?
Initially, we booked a table at the basement restaurant, given fair but not thrilling reviews when it opened earlier this year. But seldom does the sun shine on a Saturday evening, so we swiftly chose to cancel the booking and eat at the rooftop grill. Not as easy as one might think, however. To do this, I went down to the basement restaurant, who sent me up a lift to the hotel reception, who then had to phone the grill and the restaurant before I could get back in the lift to proceed to the rooftop (the rooftop doesn't take reservations, so you just have to get lucky). The fuss was worth it. On a balmy evening, the taupe decor, typically Conran, oozes Mediterranean glamour and beach-side chic. Just don't gaze into the distance expecting a view to die for: Texaco station and Old St traffic are the only landmarks on this side of town.
You can eat at the comfy sofas, or upright under a canopy beside the galley kitchen. The grill offers a safe and straightforward selection of French-style bistro classics. Anchoïade, tapenade, breads, grilled meats and fish, and roasted Mediterranean vegetables. My poussin with salsa verde is pictured below. The food gets a rather lame 5/10. The anchoïade should have tasted of more than just mashed anchovies, the salsa verde was far too salty and dense. But the breads at £2.50 a bowl had much more going for them: filled with pesto, studded with tomatoes, and clearly home-baked.
Just as we were getting chilly and looking over longingly at Shoreditch House, we managed to procure some blankets. Huddled up, we got stuck in to the wine list, choosing another French pleaser for £20-£25. I was reliably informed by N that Conran happens to own a great swathe of Provençal vineyards... quelle surprise.
Don't come here for the food. So-so, so Conran, and frankly it's not worth the effort of queuing/getting past hotel reception. Apparently the café on the ground floor, Albion, hits the mark on that front. Do come here for an al fresco drink and snack though, if the weather's favourable. The staff are friendly, the drinks decent, and the setting impressive.