Turntable is billed as ‘a fresh new venue which plays electric soul, Motown Funk, Old School Hip Hop and RnB beats vinyl style and is becoming increasingly popular with music influentials and high profile media personalities.’
Located on the fringe of the city and surrounded by the offices of Chancery Lane/Holborn, Turntable is a concept venue with a ground floor cocktail bar, a subterranean lounge/restaurant, and a late night club. Their ultimate aim is to provide good food, good drink and good times served with an old school soundtrack which comprises of soul music played on rare vinyl. An interesting concept on paper, but is the Turntable spinning a future hit or a future flop?
A lot has been going on at Turntable during its initial three months, although the blueprint and conceptual idea is there, Turntable is clearly in its early stage of business so still finding its groove and true identity. We were told the menu just changed from Pan Asian to Spanish tapas a few weeks ago. A brave transition for a new spot, not only because the styles of cooking are extremely different, but both styles are a challenge to master and prepare authentically.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by a big but very kind bouncer, who explained that the front of house was on break, so he would help us. I told him we were late for our dinner booking, so he led us straight to the basement level restaurant. Somehow in our ‘late’ haste, we completely missed the ground level vibe-y cocktail bar, and subsequently the venue’s managers, who had come to welcome us.
I was later told most people choose to start their Turntable experience in the cocktail bar, but we entered straight into the dining room. The dining room was spacious, with a live DJ set in the corner, several small tables scattered on the fringes, and one large long table, with a party of 24 lively diners, in the centre. The walls were newly decorated with vinyl records, framed classic album covers, and a ‘just put up yesterday’ silhouette of a dancing Michael Jackson. A bit kitsch for sure, but it also shows a real commitment to express the décor’s distinctive theme. Newly decorated; the dining room still felt a bit in transition and incomplete. First impressions, the table layout lacked warmth and some strategic softer dining lighting could make it feel a lot more comfortable and less like the former event hall it once was, however, this could have also been down to the fact that we were the only other diners there besides the big party booking.
Our lovely waitress Laura promptly arrived to talk us though the drinks menu. In keeping with the conceptual theme, the cocktails are named after classic old soul songs. We sampled the vodka based ‘Just an Illusion,’ tequila based ‘I Know You Got Soul’ and a champagne based ‘Sex Machine.’ The cocktails were delicious, well prepared and beautiful to look at. A real winner, which we later found out were prepared meticulously in the upstairs cocktail bar by talented mixologist, Antoine Paichard. If this is their standard, the cocktail bar should become a hit with the locals as an after work go- to destination ideal for unwinding from the daily grind..
The tapas menu had a lot of choice, and although we were tempted by all the varieties of Paella, we decided to order a selection of other dishes for variety.
The drinks were flowing when the charming waiter Remi appeared with our food. He could only bring a few at a time -Turntable serves humongous sized tapas. Seriously, these are some of the biggest tapas portion sizes I have seen on this side of the Atlantic! So gigantic, they are served on plates, rather than in small, individual ceramic ramekins.
Too much of a good thing? Perhaps, but, Turntable is also a club, so you can always dance it off afterwards.
We dined on Ensalada de Garbanzos: a chickpea salad with tomatoes, cucumber and boiled eggs; Ensalada Tre Colores: avocado, tomato and mozzarella; Pimientos Del Padron: sweet hot peppers sautéed with olive oil; and Tortilla Espanola: traditional Spanish potato and onion omelette. My half -Spanish dining partner was impressed by the tortilla and the salads, while the vegetable dishes were also flavourful.
We were off to a good start and really looking forward to the Calamares Fritos: fried squid, as we are both huge calamari fans. Our excitement dampened when we were presented with a large dinner plate serving of giant hoop sized thick and chewy almost tasteless calamari, served with tartar sauce and a side of lemon. It wasn’t crispy and crunchy like we expected, the pieces were too big and despite it being one of the most popular and well received items on their new tapas menu – we just weren’t impressed.
Next was the Gambas La Ajillo: prawns with garlic and oil; and finally the chef’s recommended Filete de Lubina: sea bass tempura, which was disappointingly similar to the calamari, in terms of no lightness, crunch or exciting flavour, just battered, deep fried and also accompanied with tartar sauce. When we saw servings of Paella go by, we wished we had ordered it. We didn’t finish our seafood; however, we were still stuffed from our first round of tapas. We shared a nicely presented light Almond Tart for desert. Delicate and sweet, it was just the pick me up we needed.
Spanish tapas are challenging to master and although the salads, vegetable dishes and tortilla were good, the seafood tapas lacked both the flavour and texture we expected. I’m wondering if the menu will change again, but I’m told the reactions to the tapas are good, so maybe the seafood just wasn’t for us.
On the positive side, service was personable, warm and attentive, which goes a long way, and a rare treat in London. The managers Graham Porritt and Ganesh Yoganathan introduced themselves and it’s easy to see how they set the cordial tone for the staff. Instantly likeable and enthusiastic, their passion for Turntable and its music, food and drink is apparent. This is their first step into the restaurant world, and in all fairness, at 90 days in, even for seasoned pros; there will be some trail and error. I have a feeling they will keep tweaking things until they get it right.
We were told that on weekends, the tables get moved aside for dancing until 3 am. DJ’s Seb Fontaine and Soul II Soul’s Jazzi Q play here, and the National Luxury & Lifestyle Awards, Reality TV Awards and Urban Music Awards have all hosted after parties here. Things are certainly off to a good start.
The drinks are fantastic, the venue friendly and the music is good. With the festive party season approaching, and a late licence, I imagine they will be busy.
Once the restaurant décor is completely finished and food ideas fine tuned, it could be a ‘put your record on, listen to your favourite song, let your hair down’ kind of place, making Turntable a unique, quirky and welcome addition to the (at times) way too serious Chancery Lane.
Price – Expecting small tapas dishes, we over ordered. Dinner for two: eight large, generous dishes and cocktails was a reasonable £96 (excluding service).
Service – Great, attentive staff – friendly, warm and welcoming.
Ambience – With a classic Soul & Old School soundtrack along with vinyl memorabilia on the walls, the Cocktail bar; comfortable, intimate and cool. The restaurant is bright but currently in transition.
Bathroom – 4/5 clean, bright and well stocked.
For reservations and further information please visit: www.turntable.london