The staircase leading to the weird-ass toilets
Something isn’t quite right. It’s dark. There are lots of girls wearing short dresses and spangly earrings. The sort of music that might induce me to take speed is playing. And there’s a rockery. Just the one, piled up in the corner, like an abandoned archeological dig. Welcome to Chotto Matte: which seems to be a club, restaurant, and garden centre all rolled into one.
We got a table right away at the bar, and thank god, because it meant we got the chance to feel the “curved bar made out of lava stone” which the menu dedicated an entire page to describing. I wouldn’t have lived happily without experiencing it.
Sitting at the bar also meant that we were able to listen in on all the staff arguments which was an absolute relief. I hadn’t gone there with the intention of talking to my date, so again, praise the Lord that the staff yelling at each other about table orders which filled in all those awkward lapses in conversation.
The interior of Chotte Matte at it’s best-with no clientele, food, or waiters.
Japanese and Peruvian restaurants have flooded into Central London in the last 18 months: Ceviche Lima and Coya from South America and Tonkotsu, Shoryu, Bone Daddies, Ramen Sasuke and Koya from the East. It’s entirely possible somebody noticed these cuisines were proving popular and so the brainstorming meeting went something like this:
“How do I make lots of money?” “Well people like ramen and they like ceviche.” “Let’s open a restaurant that serves Japanese food and Peruvian food!” “Why?” “Ceviche and sushi sound similar if you say them fast enough.”
For that seems to be the only reason why you’d consider a joint venture between these two very different cuisines. My meal was comprised of whatever I’d had a chance to point at before the waiter left again, so whatever arrived had an element of surprise. I was slightly hungover so had opted for corn fritters (grease), barbecued courgette (yeh, what the hell), a sushi roll, sautéed chilli veggies, smokey brown rice, tostaditas with yellow heritage tomatoes and “guacamole”. I’d hoped that would give me a greasy kick out of my lethargy and perhaps my five a day at the same time.
Not sure what this is, but all the press pictures online were of food in a line. None of my food came in a line, but I didn’t want to be a food dick and photo my plate. So you’ve got this dish. That looks nothing like what I ate.
Meanwhile, our drinks had arrived. My date had got his beer, and I’d been given a litre of sparkling water which I was apparently expected to swig throughout the evening. Only after a bout of waving and gesticulating did I manage to secure a glass. Seconds later the tostaditas arrived, sadly the highlight of our meal. I say sadly, because at the time I was unaware that each dish we were served would get progressively more depressing. If I’d have known I would have savoured every bite of the tangy sweet yellow tomatoes prepared in front of us by a precise, Japanese-knife wielding chef layered on a charred tostada and soaked in lime and a guacamole paste.
Two bites and twenty minutes later our other courses arrived in that “fashionable style” of when the kitchen decides. Read: when they remember your order. How I wish they hadn’t. A bowl of soggy root vegetables stewed in the musty flavour of lotus root and miso smelt of old wardrobe and two hours later my fingers still smell of Narnia. My corn “fritters” were three chunks of corn on the cob. No oil, no grease, no indulgence. Just healthy, bites of gigantic corn to indulge in. The lack of fritters resulted in a disappointment that I found difficult to accept. The barbecued courgette was the only dish I’d reorder if forced to at knifepoint. Slivers of raw-ish and lukewarm courgette lay in a row on a rectangular plate topped with friseed carrot on top of a sickly sweet BBQ sauce. That also had a slight aroma of mothballs. A bowl of fried brown rice and vegetables was just that: healthy, wholesome and went some way to fill the cavernous space in my stomach that hadn’t been satisfied by the other eight courses (at on average £7-10 each-this is not a cheap joint).
Food with flowers; presumably taken from the rockery
The toilets are also fucking weird. To empty your bladder you have to press a green, industrial “door open” button which reveals a slightly futuristic bathroom, and not the fire exit as you may have thought. Cue lots of drunk girls walking into the door with a series of soft thuds. The cubicle doors are so heavy that I wouldn’t be surprised if the puddles all over the floor by the sinks were caused not by the ridiculous design of the basins, but because women had lost the will to hold on any longer.
Leaving Chotto Matte was the highlight of my evening. The feeling that I would never have to go back and navigate the dining area with the strangely roped off areas (like enclosures for rich people) or sit on a wobbly bar stool staring at a tomato, gave me a warm feeling inside that I normally hope to get from a good meal with friends.
I headed straight to Gelupo for a serving of bitter chocolate sorbet to celebrate my bravery and foolhardiness in the face of weird fusion restaurants.