My favourite restaurant in London and by extension in the whole world, is temper Soho. I don’t think I’ve ever visited the same restaurant so many times out of choice. Steadily since my first review, two other branches have opened, a curry- focused restaurant in the City and another just walking distance from the first site specialising in social media’s favourite food – pizza. Read my review of the new Neil Rankin restaurant temper Covent Garden to find out if it measures up to its eldest sister.
I have a soft spot for the Soho site but with each visit, there’s a little magic lost each time. They’ve been bleeding out their charismatic fun staff (presumably from a little Instagram stalking, they’ve moved to the sister restaurants) and their menu has been condensed. Not necessarily a bad thing but I miss their pickled onion crumble taco topping. Not just this but Soho has seemed quieter with every visit. I know life is not a zero sum game but I went to temper Covent Garden expecting the special touches that my favourite restaurant had been losing. Even better if it could deliver the beautifully executed, meaty comfort food with the same complexity and nuance that I’ve come to associated with Rankin’s venues.
In the menu you’ll detect accents of similarity, like their less-waste policy in the beef fat and pesto ravioli (£4 and very average). Then there’s the incredible goat salami available as a pizza topping and the burrata with jalapeno (£9). As for dessert, you have the renowned cookie dough dish that earns its place by being a real crowd pleaser. But for a restaurant with Italian references, temper could have done a lot better with their sweets offering.
We started with the small plates which are predominantly seafood that is brought in fresh every morning. The octopus was ‘k’ and their razor clams flavourful but not properly prepared, where much of the crunch came from the grains of grit rather than the muscle. The bone marrow and beef ragu (£9.50) was like the Bolognese sauce I used to have at my white friend’s house, during playdates after school. Take from that what you will. The combination of crispy polenta was however, the kind of innovative interpretation of classic dishes I’d come to expect from temper. Unfortunately, it was also the only glimpse I’d had of it that night.
Now I know you want to hear about the pizzas. Can I just say, we’re better off going to Homeslice? You’ll find that with these reviews, I make quite a few comparisons but that’s part of the competitive nature of food in London. But if you really have to get the low down, we tried the crab okonomiyaki pizza. This can easily be shared between two, despite being advised by the servers that it’s a lot lighter than the Chicago deep-dish style. You can’t really go wrong with the visuals of Bonito flakes moving with the heat and the texture of a good thin crust. However, this adaptation isn’t new and neither was it a flavour bomb on the tongue.
I feel like if you’re going to go fusion on anything, it’s got to have an impact and the elements have to be distinct. Flavour Bastard does this well if only they weren’t so overpriced (whoops another comparison). Also, may I add that it was quite a confusing addition to the menu? I’m not a purist when it comes to ‘what cuisine is this?’ but with so much attention to Italian dishes on the first half… you have to wonder how this ended up on there. Let’s just say, if the spacious Covent Garden version didn’t share the same name as Soho, you wouldn’t even think they were cousins.