No Magical Tales To Tell at Fable

I really wanted to like Fable Bar & Restaurant. I really, really did. But it wasn’t to be.

The venue takes inspiration from “fairy tales and the fabulous fables of Aesop” and is described as an all-day bar and restaurant and event space. It is certainly an attractively decorated venue, spread across three floors. There are fairy-tale touches from walls papered with pages of books to a glass bell jar over a pair of shoes filled with succulents. And there’s lots and lots of light spilling in from enormous windows. Much of the seating on the top floor is at tall bench tables with tall stools to match, but if (like me) you prefer regular tables and chairs, there are plenty on the other two floors.

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Middle floor, where we were seated

Our visit was exactly a week after opening, for a weekday lunch, so the place was still quiet, though the few regular tables on the top floor were taken. Declining the bench we were initially shown to, and the enormous table for eight we were offered next, we were eventually offered seating on the floor below, though I don’t think it was really open and no one else was seated here during our visit. I found the lack of cloakroom or coat hooks annoying; the stools provided (I assume) for our bags weren’t an ideal resting place for our pile of winter coats, scarves, hats and gloves.

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Middle floor

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Top floor, where we transferred for lunch to make way for an event being hosted on the middle floor

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Bottom floor, which also provides an alternative entrance, on Farringdon Road

Fable’s cocktail offering is fun! I like the Cocktail Bull’s Eye wheel that helps you pick cocktails that best suit your tastes, but wish it listed more of the menu’s offerings. I definitely enjoyed my Russian Rose Martini (£7.25) which features vodka, lychee liqueur, ginger syrup and a rose petal garnish. Better described as lychee than rose, though.

The beer menu invites customers to “ask about our collection of small batch, artisan craft beers” so we were disappointed to be offered Meantime London Lager, Goose Island IPA and Brooklyn Lager; none of these can be described as “small batch” and “artisan craft” is meaningless marketing spiel. The international draft beer selection is more extensive, though heavily lager-based. At a time when another new London brewery is opening every few months, it’s a huge shame not to see more genuinely small and local breweries represented, and some proper British ale.

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I found the menu confusing.

The very limited selection of starters feels forcedly global with satay chicken, tempura squid and chilli and soy prawn lollipops next to soup, mushroom pesto and goat’s cheese bruschetta and lobster parmesan croquettes. I don’t entirely understand what most of the flatbreads or sharing plates actually consist of, though they too offer that same odd combination of Asian and Mediterranean influences. And then when you get to the (enormous) list of mains, the Asian influences virtually disappear – there’s a sandwich and burger section, a steak section and a posh pub grub section. Salads, “tatties” and sides make up the rest.

It’s not that there aren’t appealing dishes here, but rather that the menu appears to have been designed by committee and lacks coherency because of it.

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Lobster & parmesan croquettes (£5.95) looked glorious but were shockingly bland. Though I did spot one tiny piece of lobster in one of them, the taste of lobster didn’t come through at all. The best thing on the plate was the grated cheese underneath and the greenery on top.

Chicken satay with peanut sauce and prawn crackers (£5.95) was similarly disappointing. The chicken hadn’t been marinated first, so it was plain Jane, and really needed smothering with a rich, intense sauce. Sadly, the peanut sauce was very thin, didn’t adhere to the chicken and failed to contribute much flavour. This time, the prawn crackers were the most flavoursome items on the board and the mixed leaves under and over the chicken. My suggestion is to serve this as a chicken satay salad – that runny sauce would work far better as a dressing, tossed through the meat and leaves.

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To the basic d&m beefburger (£8.45) Pete added crispy bacon and cheese (£2.55) and chips (£2.95). He deemed it a decent burger that had retained its juiciness, though it lacked a real beefy taste.

There was a steak and lobster deal on the specials menu for £15 but no information on cut of beef or size. When I asked, I learned that it was sirloin, but decided to order my usual rib eye from the regular menu instead. To my 10 oz rib eye (£18.95) I added half a Scottish lobster (£12.95) and Bearnaise sauce (£2.95). Though my steak came with onion rings, tomatoes and mushrooms, chips were not included. It was an awful steak, incredibly tough and chewy (I usually order rib eye so I wasn’t expecting the tenderness of a fillet) and a tendon running along one edge was difficult to cut away, too. And the lobster was murdered by overcooking; I’ve never actually had such dried out lobster before. The onion ring batter was super crispy and tasted good but what a shame the onions inside were stone cold.

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Tendony steak; nicer details

By this point, we were on our own. The manager who looked after us initially was busy rearranging all the tables around us for an event (which was somewhat off-putting) and no one else had been assigned to look after us. When I was eventually able to ask for some wet wipes or a bowl (having dirtied my hands cracking lobster claws open), there was an extremely long wait before a waiter first brought me a teapot of water. After another wait, he came with a bowl of water and napkins; but he’d poured boiling water into the bowl, which would have scalded me badly had I not spotted it and checked. I gave up and headed to the Ladies instead.

We moved upstairs for the last course.

I asked for Pete’s coffee to be served at the same time as dessert. After another very long wait, coffee and my drink arrived, but the dessert didn’t materialise for quite some time again. It was sloppy and frustrating.

Instead of dessert I chose a coke float (£7.25) described as coca-cola, ice cream, spiced rum and pedro ximinez sherry. The rum came through nicely but I failed to detect even a hint of my beloved PX.

The mini pudding shots (£7.95) came in three pretty green glasses that made the tiny portions look even smaller. White chocolate crème brulee was entirely the wrong texture, had no crunchy sugar layer on top and no white chocolate flavour. The chocolate brownie was alright, but far too sweet for me and too hard to cut through with a  spoon. And the Knickerbocker Glory was completely unbalanced by a sharp frozen yoghurt in place of the usual ice cream.

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Having only been open a week, it’s not surprising that staff lack training, though many of them seemed utterly lost and confused by it all. All but the two members of the management team spoke so quietly we had to ask them to repeat themselves several times. I hope this will improve as they are given more training and gain confidence.

Given the central location, with many offices all around, I imagine Fable will be popular with the office crowd. It’s a lovely space and if I worked nearby, I’d definitely pop in for drinks happily. But the menu and the food itself need a lot more work. As it stands, Fable fails to transport me anywhere but the mundane.

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Fable Bar & Restaurant.
The Fable on Urbanspoon
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12 Comments to "No Magical Tales To Tell at Fable"

  1. kaveyeats

    Yes, that was my thinking too. Such a shame! The place looks good and the food looks good but right now, it’s style over substance. That said, I think the cocktail menu is a good one, and I think the excellent drinks offering will pull in the punters. Plus, when it comes to places to eat and drink out that are close to work, there aren’t that many choices with so much space, so I imagine the office crowd will keep it busy anyway,

    Reply
  2. Gingle

    I really liked the idea of a bar/restaurant being themed around stories and fables but wasn’t at all surprised to read you gave it a negative review. I went to the Refinery for part of my birthday celebrations last year, run by the same people. I liked the bar in itself but the food was pretty dire! We had the 15 pound surf and turf deal and just like you had never had a drier lobster! It was awful! At least when we went the staff were lovely. It put me off eating at any other Drake & Morgan place, and it sounds like I was right.

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    kaveyeats

    Yes, a couple of days before I went, I heard someone mention that D&M don’t have the best reputation for their food, but I am seldom aware of the ownership groups behind individual restaurants, so I hadn’t known. I had hoped this place may live up to their own hype, but sadly not, on the evidence of my visit.

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  3. Neil Davey

    I had a meeting at their sister place The Folly last week. Turned up at 2:45 for a 3:30 meeting, figuring I could have a cup of tea and catch up on email before the appointment. Was offered various tables, but all the ones of decent size for three people – as we would be within the hour – already had RESERVED notices on them. Headed downstairs to the bar area, was offered a seat at a high shared table. Figured actually, will want a little privacy, how about one of those many unoccupied tables over there? Are you eating? No. Sorry, that’s the restaurant, those are reserved for diners. Er… It’s 2:45. There are maybe a dozen empty tables. Do you really think there’s going to be a late rush for lunch?

    So, I returned upstairs, found a tiny table, set-up computer, got settled, asked for the wifi code and some mint tea. Got told the former… And instructed to order tea from the bar. To my left was a little cafe area, with a member of staff behind it, a coffee machine, plates of cakes etc. I kept an eye on my stuff and asked for tea… Oh no, you need to order at the bar. So, back to table, pack up all my stuff as I don’t fancy leaving it unattended, gather jacket and coat and bag, go back downstairs, order tea, come back, unpack AGAIN… Tea v.average, nicely served and cheap, but v. average. Staff looked hassled and utterly bemused and appear badly trained. Set up a nonsense, uncomfortable and apparently designed for maximum inconvenience. Ironically one of the e mails I was responding to was an invite to the launch of a The Fable. Was free, had intended to go… Took great delight in politely declining instead. The entire chain, frankly, can do one.

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    kaveyeats

    Oh dear, that really does sum it up, doesn’t it?

    When I arrived, the girl at the door didn’t seem to understand how to read the reservations sheet, but between us we did find me listed. What I was surprised about what that, given the reservation was there, why no table had actually been reserved for me at all. That had resulted in the few normal height tables on that floor being taken by / given to other parties, and the silly walk around trying to find a suitable one for our booking.

    From the sounds of your experience, neither initiative nor customer service are what they recruit for.

    Now I know what D&M stand for, I can do a better job of avoiding in the future.

    Reply
  4. Nat

    The girl at the door had similar issues with finding our reservation though we did eventually get a table. We had better luck with the steak than you, but our dessert was seriously underwhelming and we were left with huge gaps between courses, the wrong main courses showing up at our table before our food eventually arrived. There was a another long gap before we were even offered dessert. Music was throbbingly loud throughout; I don’t mind a bit of back-ground noise at all and I understand that this is more of a bar than a restaurant, but this made it difficult to talk. Our food was average rather than poor (except for dessert) – maybe the kitchen is more on the ball in the evening? – but the whole experience was pretty disjointed.

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    kaveyeats

    Oh dear, looks like my experience definitely wasn’t a one off.

    And I agree, the music was loud for my preferences, but I realise this is the bar vibe they are going for and it was at least, not nightclub loud, for our lunchtime visit.

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  5. kaveyeats

    True, but perhaps our experience was as far as they are ABLE to pull out all the stops, given their kitchen’s capabilities and the staff training so far?

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  6. Sarah

    Thanks for this! When I heard they were opening a fairytale themed bar in London I was really excited. I don’t really know what I was expecting either, maybe indoor trees strung with fairy lights, a faux grass floor, a giant unicorn statue, a carriage style booth halfway into its transformation into a pumpkin…. either way I was so disappointed by the look and the menu is incredibly uninspired too.

    I do however like the goldfish in a bag cocktail idea so thanks for highlighting one redeeming feature!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Yes, while I think the decor is perfectly pleasant, I do agree that the fairytale aspect is really a bit too subtle. Wish they’d asked people like you instead of their no-doubt incredibly expensive designers, as they’ve played it too safe and therefore fail to really capture the magic the name and branding implies.

    A friend went a few days later, I believe she said they’d run out of the bags for the goldfish in a bag cocktail, though that may have been teething issues with stock control in the early days, (being generous).

    Reply

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