Saturday, May 18

Food: R.S. Hispaniola Click for more info

"Back in the 80s and 90s, if you brought a date to the Hispaniola it would pretty much be a done deal."

Not that it mattered much to me (of course), but this was the tagline that was prescribed to us in the week coming to the birthday party we were to have in this place. Leaving aside the graphic detail (chi chi), the sentiment is sound in theory - what could be more romantic than a meal on an, albeit permanently moored, boat on the Thames?

It certainly was novel, that's for sure. I mean sure, I've lost count of the number of times I've eaten on a boat, but there was something different about this place, this setting. It could have been the Thames, but more likely it was the fact that this was restaurant first and boat second. Perhaps that's why the rocking was so unsettling (and for some of us, nauseating). Buyers beware then, although I suspect it's better on the outside deck where you know you're on the water. I'd also suggest heading out there if you did actually happen to bring a date. It'd pretty much be a done deal.

Due to our party size we went for the set menu which allowed us to pick one, two or three courses (yes, you could just have dessert) from a more-limited-than-usual selection - even more so for the majority of the table, who just happened to be Muslim. It said a lot that almost all of us ordered exactly the same starter (a salmon dish) and main (fish and chips).

Points were scored by the restaurant when they mixed up a fresh batch of ale-free batter, but immediately lost when the salmon starter came without the potato pancakes that were described. The well fought for table salads in compensation didn't save them, but at least the food was good. A good selection of dessert ended a pretty well rounded meal, food wise.

But otherwise service was adequate, and I have to say I quite enjoyed the live piano too - the inevitable happy birthday ditty went way beyond the call of duty.

So yes, a decent enough night out, for a decent enough price - most paid £20 for three courses - and assuming you did actually get what you wanted out of it (wink wink, nudge nudge), that's pretty good value there. For the rest of us who are just going for the food and dining experience, I would say that there are plenty of other options out there for a fancy night out.

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