The Andaz London, formerly the Great Eastern Hotel, is by Liverpool Street station. It has four restaurants and a pub, including an all-day brasserie called Eastway.
In the UK the station restaurant has gone out of favour, having been replaced by various fast food outlets occupying units on station concourses. However, the new St Pancras station has its own brasserie, the St Pancras Grand, and it’s actually in the station. Liverpool Street has no such facility, so the adjoining Andaz Hotel offers the next best thing. Of the restaurants in the hotel, Eastway is the equivalent to the French idea of an all-day brasserie open for any eventuality. Easily accessible at the side of the station and actually on Liverpool Street itself, it’s the nearest thing that the rail station has to real food, rather than fast food. However, having said that the Eastway policy is slick, quick and don’t miss a trick, so you could be in and out in record time if need be and you are determined to catch that particular train home.
The decor is fairly restrained – mostly just black and white – with the bar being the most dominant feature of the room, and it could well be the longest bar in Liverpool Street. Obviously this caters for those just looking for a drink and something from the bar bites menu before rushing back to the station, or to work.
As befits a bustling brasserie, Eastway rates fairly high on the noise level. This is to be expected when a lot of people in a hurry get together in a place with hard surfaces and virtually no drapes to dampen down the sound. The general buzz can be a little bothersome if you are trying to hold a conversation over lunch, but it’s almost an obligatory vital ingredient that goes with the territory and it might seem odd if this sort of place were not loud. The atmosphere is more akin to that of a pub, although the Andaz also supplies that in its corner site, The George.
A short and sweet menu means that if you are in a hurry you don’t have too many options to clear. The a la carte offers starters, soups, salads, pasta dishes, main courses, plus sandwiches and side dishes. Most dishes in each section are all one price: starters for £7, salads, pasta or sandwiches at £11 or £12 (they are fairly hefty full-meal sarnies), mains at about £16 and side dishes at about £2. There is also a set menu with a choice of three items for each course at £16 for two courses and £19 for three.
The a la carte starters offer a nice variety of items, including Loch Fyne smoked salmon, pan fried squid and chorizo and duck terrine. The smoked haddock and watercress tart is a fine dish which is heavy on the haddock, with its lovely smoky flavour enhancing a creamy, custardy mixture and nice, crumbly pastry. The Welsh rarebit is good, a mild cheese blended with Worcestershire sauce and spread on toast but, as nice as it is, it needs a stronger cheese to give it more flavour. At the moment it’s a little too bland, even with its pickle accompaniment.
The main courses include meat and fish options such as skate wing, roasted salmon and whole grilled lemon sole. With the breast of duck being unavailable, a confit of duck proves not to be as good. No doubt the breast would be sliced and served fairly rare, but the confit is overcooked and lacking in flavour and rather unceremoniously served on a heap of casseroled white beans which are not all that interesting or attractive, making the whole dish rather dull. Even a portion of delicious winter cabbage with smoky bacon can’t save it. The belly of Suffolk venison is not the best cut of the meat and it makes for a stodgy dish with too much fatty skin surrounding the meat. The cake of bubble and squeak served with it does not lift the dish to a more appetising level. Altogether these main courses are something of a disappointment. Perhaps a better option might be one of the fish dishes or those on the set menu which offers pork T-bone, homemade fish cakes or artichoke and Stilton risotto.
Desserts include cheesecake, chocolate brownie with caramelised banana, homemade ice creams and sorbets. The chocolate and pistachio tart is good mixture of ingredients with the flavour of the pistachio cutting through the sweetness of the chocolate. With a nice dollop of pistachio ice cream, this is a lovely dessert. On the other hand the pear and caramel bread and butter pudding lacks flavour even with its ice cream and custard.
To go with the meal there is a choice of wines, including fifteen whites, sixteen reds, a couple of roses and a dessert wine. Prices are from £5 a glass to £48 a bottle. The house wines, which include a white Chardonnay and a red Nero d’Avola, are good value at £18 a bottle and £5 a glass. Champagnes loom large and there’s a selection of Champagne cocktails and a more general list of classic and modern cocktails, spirits, liqueurs, digestifs, port and sherry, beers, juices, smoothies and speciality teas and coffees.
The Last Word
Eastway is a good idea. Liverpool Street will always need a good all-day brasserie of traditional dishes. However, the menu needs rethinking. It has a prime position in a good catchment area, so it should capitalise on that with simpler food, something that its nearby neighbour The George does so well.