'They should have stuck to what they're best at'

L’Eto Caffe, King’s Road

Open Mon–Sat 8am–9pm, Sun 8am–8pm

You might have seen this small chain popping up around town. It’s the one with a logo that looks like it should be on the front of a 1980s video release; the one that puts cakes in the window that you want to bury your face in. A press release came through suggesting dinner, which was a surprise. My eyes had obviously been blinkered to the sugar temptations. At lunchtime there is a ‘help yourself’ selection of light salad-type bits for which they charge by weight, but come evening there is an actual choice-laden menu.

The set-up is a bit weird. At pavement level you feel like you should be transient as the tables are small and there is nothing even remotely resembling ambience due to the glaring halogen spots. Not a place to linger. We headed downstairs to something that closely resembled a typical domestic Notting Hill dining room (couple of landscapes and faux vintage animal pictures on the wall) but for the massive studded white vinyl wall. And the bloody spot lighting again – the room badly needed some lamps. The only other diners were on a first date (we checked) which made me wonder who had suggested the venue.

Also weird is the menu. Italian looking (starter, pasta, meat or fish, dessert) but no starters under £11 and the sides hidden in amongst the mains section. Strange! We weren’t asked if we wanted water or bread either. Crab and avocado with soy and lime dressing (£16) was fresh but with no discernible soy. Better was the sweet chilli ginger beef salad (£16), which looked beautiful on it’s black plate with satisfyingly crunchy wok fried veg. Crab and scallop lasagna (£18) was also stunningly presented as a stack, covered in a lemongrass and chive sauce in the middle of another black plate. It was style over substance though, with no hint of lemongrass and too heavy with butter. Expertly cooked lamb (£22) came in a kind of mini dugout canoe with couscous, quinoa and burgol – but why would you choose to pair it with these three grains?  A very good salsa was on one end of the canoe, a cube of feta on the other. Stranger and stranger.

The waitress confirmed the cakes are what people come for and they were both very good. Chocolate nut cake (£4.20) was layered with cream and whole hazelnuts and the lemon meringue (£4.80) had a beautifully delicate egg white crown with a zing. We just got them down before we were warned that they would be shutting in ten minutes – the restaurant shuts at 9pm. We left confused. You wouldn’t go to L’Eto for dinner because of the food or the ambience. Certainly not because it’s good value. You couldn’t go if you wanted to eat late. So why would you go there? The answer is that you’d go for a bit of cake and a coffee, probably during the day. They should have stuck to what they’re best at.

L’Eto Caffe, 149 King’s Road, London, SW3; www.letocaffe.co.uk; 020 7351 7656

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