Describing itself as a Mediterranean neighbourhood restaurant, Beso (whose name in Spanish means Kiss), is a newly-opened independent co-owned by Moroccan head chef Khalid Dahbi and former journalist Eyup Can Saglik in Covent Garden. The prime located corner venue is situated close to the infamous and must-visit Neal’s Yard but is ironically anything but exciting. Following its makeover in July, Beso does boast a sleek and stylish setting with its exposed brick, panelled bar and chrome details throughout but their attention to detail or lack thereof when it comes to their menu is disappointing.
Looking through their menu before our visit not only gave feelings of culinary excitement with seasonal dishes and small meze plates perfect for sharing with friends or family but gave off the charm as the perfect late-lunch spot that the area was crying out for. What we received, however, was something rather dull in comparison: from the service through to the taste our experience of Beso was rather dry and average.
For a Friday lunch service, the restaurant was rather empty – so there was no excuse for the lack of attention to both the service and the final dishes we were presented with and it begs the question what would the experience have been like, should the restaurant be at capacity?
We started the meal off with a glazed goat’s cheese salad with caramelised walnuts, honey and watercress and Moorish green pea and herb hummus with crudités. The menu states that the hummus is freshly made, but since they use an external brand to buy in their hummus; one I am a huge fan off, so recognised immediately and although very delicious – there’s only so far ‘freshly made’ on a restaurant menu can be stretched. The goats’ cheese salad was… just that – a huge chunk of cheese placed on some leaves with a sprinkling of walnut. Delicious in its own right, but nothing special or something to scream (or write) about.
Mains came in the form of grilled Welsh lamb cutlets, smoked aubergine Begendi, watercress, pistachio and cumin and their infamous Beso slow cooked beef Tanjia burger with pickled chillies and crunchy slaw with a side of plum tomato, gem lettuce and shallot salad and fresh hand-cut fries with rosemary salt for the table. The cutlets were tender and juicy but lacked the flavour from the aubergine Begendi underneath, which brought nothing to the plate but a faint purple paste and not much else. The dish was missing that punch of smoked flavour and the cumin was either a minuscule dusting or was forgotten entirely.
And the attention to detail in the food itself isn’t the only qualm we had with the visit. Beso, who claim they are suitable for vegetarians, vegans and those with a gluten allergy failed to inform our table on two separate occasions on allergens. After speaking to the establishment before booking and on arrival about my coeliac disease, and then again to the waitress to make sure she understood my dishes needed to be gluten-free – she failed to inform me that the fries I ordered contained gluten, which was not mentioned anywhere. Its only on the way home from the restaurant when the symptoms hit in and a near-trip to my local A+E I knew something was wrong. A few days later I spoke to the establishment again and asked for a full menu sent across with dishes suitable and the fries were not listed. Enquiring about this and explaining the current situation Beso did offer their apologises on the matter, but frankly, it’s not acceptable. Their establishment, which does not offer an allergen menu, clearly does not state all known allergens on the menu. My guest, who is lactose intolerant, ordered the aforementioned infamous Beso burger – which reads on the menu “Beso Slow Cooked Beef Tanjia Burger, Brioche Bun, Crunchy Slaw & Pickled Chilies” saw her meal arrive coated in cheese – should the menu have stated this fact she would have either asked for it without or chose a different dish. Yes, those with an allergy should have the responsibility to make it known but look how well that turned out for me, so even if she did mention, there’s no reason to say it wouldn’t have still been cheese loaded.
Of course, the gluten fiasco did ruin my overall experience of Beso but the food had already done that. It failed to hit the high expectations we had for the venue and the food was sub-par to those in the area. The menu lacked creativity, the food lacked seasoning and the staff lacked attention. A very mere 1/5 and a must-avoid for allergen sufferers.
Written by Amanda Bootes