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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.