I am going to lay my cards on the table up front and admit that I didn’t really take to this place.
I don’t really “get” its appeal and as a pretty low maintenance person generally (or so I thought), I was really surprised at how many little things irritated over me the course of the evening, all culminating in leaving Red Onion with overwhelming feelings of mediocrity towards it.
Maybe I was just having a bad day. They happen.
I have tried to end my review with the positives (as there were definitely some) and so feel free to scroll through to the bottom if you want to avoid any of my grumbles.
Party of five
After much humming and hawing as to a suitable location, the Red Onion bistro was chosen as the venue of choice for our ladies night out on Saturday. The organiser explained this choice as being because of its central location and that it was relaxed, yet nice enough to justify donning our gladrags. She had also heard great things about the food.
This all sounded spot on
We entered rather decadently through a curtained doorway into the restaurant.
My first impressions of the Red Onion were that it had the decor of a restaurant that’s not quite sure what it wants to be. On the one hand, it has quite a rustic feel; yet on the other, the stainless steel mezzanine level is very naughties.
Intrigued as to whether this was done by accident or design, I referred to
It’s website, which describes the intended vibe as follows:
“It is a contemporary casual dining experience with a menu that offers something for everyone. The kitchen produces new interpretations of classic Scottish cookery, serving dishes that people know and love. Its environment is modern and comfortable and the service relaxed and informal with the bustling feel of your local neighbourhood bistro.”
The above description kinda explains the decor. Some may call it fusion ~ I call it mish-mash.
Red Onion’s marketing certainly casts out a very wide net in terms of customer appeal and so I can see why my friend landed on it.
Taking our seats
My friend had specifically requested a table on the mezzanine level for the five of us, however, upon arrival we were told that “somebody else was sitting in our seats.” This was really rather unfortunate as it meant that we were located at the front of the restaurant beside the door where I’m guessing the “seat thieves” may have moved from before we arrived.
As mentioned, the entrance has got a curtain drawn across the front of it, however, there was a persistent cold draft where we were sitting and I have to say this seriously curtailed my overall ability to relax and enjoy the evening. We asked to be moved but there were no other tables available. I would have happily put this down to bad luck had the organiser not tried to avoid this very situation from arising when she booked. Sorry Red Onion – big thumbs down.
As mentioned above, the menu at Red Onion is in keeping with the owner’s desire to be diverse and provide “something for everybody.”
The a la Carte menu sees the Scottish Classic: “haggis, neeps and tatties” put up against eastern inspired dishes such as monkfish korma for example.
The physical menu itself was my second gripe of the evening. Anyone who has ever seen Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares on telly will know that he bangs on about keeping a menu short and snappy in order to keep signature dishes to a consistently high quality.
Now, Red Onion have kept things short and snappy in that the whole menu fills just one side of A4, which is great…..until you realise it’s actually just loads of dishes listed out in about font size 8, single spacing. Arrrgh – talk about information overload! Feeling rather overwhelmed, we actually had to agree to sit in silence for several minutes whilst we all picked through it. There was also a daily specials menu to peruse.
Despite the list of dishes available, nothing was really jumping out at me. Again, disappointing since the aim is “something for everybody” and I’m not fussy in the slightest. In the end, I just plumped for a starter of “bang bang chicken” and a main of sirloin steak with pepper sauce, chips and a roasted tomato.
My veggie comrade commented that her options were extremely limited. One veggie main: mushroom risotto. Yawn.
I had done a quick search on “yelp” before heading out and had noticed that the “bang bang chicken” was given a high-five in another person’s review which is why I picked it in the absense of anything else I fancied.
The description of it on the menu was as follows: “Bang bang chicken with spicy peanut dressing and crispy noodles.” Close your eyes and visualise what you might expect to be presented with…..
Having had high expectations, I was just so disappointed with what arrived. I had [wrongly] assumed that this was going to be a warm starter (my bad). Infact it was cold – stone cold – almost to the point of giving me an “ice cream headache.” The chicken itself reminded me of that chopped cooked chicken breast you get in packets from the supermarket and was totally plain and uninspiring. The spicy peanut dressing was really nice but there was only a tiny wee smear of it and so it didn’t go far enough in coating the chicken.
What happened to the “bang bang?!?”
The steak was a generous size and cooked to medium rare exactly as I had requested. Tick. The pepper sauce portion however was pretty stingy and chips a bit stodgy. The tomato was half a roasted vine tomato. It wasn’t bad – just all a bit “meh.”
We finished up with coffee rather than desert.
As promised, here are my highlights:
The staff were friendly and brought us free garlic bread and hummus to start-bonus! The house white wine was lovely and crisp – 2 bottles were slurped. There is a gluten free menu on request – top marks. The price was very reasonable. For two courses and 1/5th share of wine/coffee netted out at £34pp.
It wasn’t awful, but It probably comes as no surprise to hear that I probably wouldn’t choose to rush back here anytime soon. With a few tweaks, it could be great.
In the interests of balance, I should say that there are some great online reviews of Red Onion out there, it just wasn’t for me on the night.
Sigh! I shall be back soon with some new reviews on my dining experiences.
As ever, please let me know what you think……and especially if you feel I got it wrong!