Online reviews can be deceptive. For this reason;
- I was expecting something fabulous after reading hoards of 5 star Google reviews of this new restaurant
- you should probably visit for yourself and not trust this review too much! But here’s my experience.
We weren’t expecting a glorified kebab shop with a pleasant-looking restaurant, but food-wise that’s pretty much what we got.
For great Middle-Eastern food, we usually schlep to the other end of Chiswick High Road, preferring Fanoos for its gorgeous bread and enjoyable ambiance. Loads of locals eat at Fanoos and it has never let us down. Recently we also tried the little cafe restaurant attached to The Catch, nearby to Fanoos – lovely owner and enjoyable food.
But last week we tried out Shams, at the East end of Chiswick High Road. This is set in the old Toscana Italian restaurant that sadly went out of business a couple of years ago. Toscana was a mainstay for this end of the High Road for some years.
Perhaps it’s because we arrived 20 minutes before closing time, but the experience wasn’t altogether great. There was certainly a disconnect between the very bold statement on the menu about how proud they were of their food and service, and how we would be impressed by this new restaurant (although “you the customer are the judge” or somesuch wording). We were sat down, but after about 3 minutes of having menus in our hands, we were told that the kitchen was closing so we needed to order quickly.
We were intent on having a great meal with a good bottle of wine. I was struggling to find a main course on the menu that wasn’t essentially a kebab and chips – or kebab and rice. Given this I asked for some recommendations for food, and that I was looking to try a few different things on the menu that they were really proud of. I was told that all the food is good, but he specifically recommended the Mixed Grill. Sounded basic – grilled meat and chips. But I ordered this. Noting that it was essentially meat and chips, I asked if this dish came with anything else at all, e.g. salad – but no.
In fact all of the mains seemed to feature meat and chips. No interesting sauces, no variation to this formula. So we ordered a few starters as well as the basic mains, to get some variety.
The okra dish was great, but for some reason two of the same dish turned up, and another starter we ordered didn’t come. This was put right.
So the starters came. Hummus – delivered without bread, or a spoon, and the okra stew. I had to get up to find a waiter to ask for some bread. Pitta bread came, it was pretty soggy. The hummus was average but okay.
At this point, we’re on a par with nipping to the local Sainsbury’s and buying some hummus and pitta and presenting it on a nice plate. Actually, scrap that – I wouldn’t serve soggy pitta. If you’re not going to make bread fresh for your customers, at least make sure it’s toasted well and not shoved in the microwave. Come on.
The salad did sound wonderful; a spicy Lebanese salad with pomegranate molasses was promised. In reality it looked pretty bad; doused in a thin dressing of some kind, with a very faint taste of pomegranate at best.
The “hearty” Okra Stew was served on a pretty small plate. Not hearty by any means. Tasty, yes. But served slightly under luke-warm, above room temp. For me the flavour came through but I don’t imagine most people would enjoy a stew served cold, but not too cold.
I did complain about getting cold chips. The waiter literally asked “what would you like me to do” to which I replied “perhaps you might bring some chips that are not cold”…
Total bill was £65 to feed two people with wine. In my experience, a bill like that buys you a far more wonderful dinner, the other end of the High Road.