Address: 5 Mercer Walk Mercers Yard, London WC2H 9FA
Bookings:  Walk in
Day:  Sunday
Meal:  lunch
Price: ££
Rating: 6/10

Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 20.59.36Temper has been high on my hit list of restaurants to visit ever since I read a review celebrating its hellacious fire pit, which takes whole animals and smokes and grills them, pushing out vast shoulders of lamb, legs of beef and bellies of pork, leaving your hair, clothes and soul ingrained with smoke for days afterwards.

Unbeknownst to me, however, there are three Tempers, and I have now visited all of them except the one I wanted. Late last year, we went to Temper City, near Bank, where we ate some lukewarm Indian food and lost badly in a 1980s-themed quiz. Sat directly adjacent to us was the founder and head chef at Temper, Neil Rankin, along with a gaggle of his friends. Far be it from me to even hint at foul play, but it was in fact Rankin and his gang who won the quiz…

Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 21.00.20Last week, keen to finish what I started, I wandered into Temper off Covent Garden, forgetting entirely that the mothership restaurant with its pulsing fire pit is actually in Soho. The food served in the Covent Garden branch was not as expected. It tried hard. There was thought behind it. But it didn’t quite hit the mark.

It wasn’t even serving the great cleaved slabs of meat that the review promised. The menu consisted of tapas dishes and pizzas. Not being a big fan of pizza (unless using it to soak up the remains of a big night out and tame a raging hangover), we restricted ourselves to the tapas.

Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 20.59.59First up was the lardo carbonara I don’t say this often, but it was like nothing I’ve ever tasted in my life. Smothered in a mountain of grated parmesan, it was cold, it was flavoursome, it melted, it was mercurial. It had the texture of an eel.

I was curious as to how pasta could feel like this. A nervous looking waitress told us that the strings of ‘spaghetti’ were actually made purely out of pork fat. My partner in culinary crime looked queasy. I stand by the dish though. For cardiac reasons, it’s probably not something to eat in large quantities on a regular basis, but it was the best thing they served us, and a true culinary original.

Our fried tortellini with hot honey were stodgy, comfort food, something you might get on the side with a domino’s pizza. A platter of charcuterie was decent, but when you live 200 metres from Brindisa, and can gorge on plates of fat, soft, acorn-fed iberico ham at the drop of a hat, you have been well and truly spoilt, and anything else seems like a slippage in standards.

Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 20.59.51A beef cannelloni, with provolone and mozzarella cheese, cooked with anchovy butter, had a bubbling warmth, the tang of capers coming through, and melted on the spoon. A big wedge of garlic bread, sprinkled with rosemary and cooked with nduja butter, was greasy, ridiculously filling, and essentially flavourless. It was the low moment of the meal, a piece of culinary flotsam spat out of the kitchen.

Some entertainment was provided by the Korean American family on the table next to us. The father of the family announced to the waitress that he made a living from running a food rating app., and proceeded to pose his food and snap photos of it with an ancient looking camera.

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Before sitting down, he had been wearing a sort of straw boating hat, which he placed upside down on the free seat at the table. As he photographed a bizarre looking pizza covered in clams, his wife accidentally jolted the table, sending a dozen of the juicy crustaceans tumbling into his jaunty hat.

He shrieked at his wife and daughter to keep back, as if the clams were nuclear waste, and proceeded to scoop them back onto his plate, before giving his fishy hat a good shake. He acted too hastily: clams in a hat would have made for an excellent photo on his app, and perhaps started a new culinary trend.

Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 21.00.10In any case, there is only one branch left go. By process of elimination, we shall get there. Neil Rankin has one last chance to awe us with that fire pit, before we finally lose our Temper.

Temper City

Address: 30 Throgmorton St, 2 Angel Court, London EC2R 7HJ
Bookings: Curry, quiz and fizz booked through design my night.
Day: Saturday
Meal: Brunch – £39 bottomless prosecco for 2 hours, 3 courses and a quiz
Price: £
Rating: 6/10

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Saturday lunchtime found my partner in culinary crime (PICC) and I sat in the City outlet of the open-pit BBQ restaurant Temper. We were there to eat curry, drink ludicrous quantities of prosecco, and partake in a 1980s themed quiz.

Half an hour earlier, we had also been in Temper’s Soho branch, having been somewhat misdirected by my PICC’s socially challenged sister. Discovering the error, and desperate to arrive before the 2pm bell rang on the start of the quiz and the first prosecco cork was popped, we leapt onto the Central Line and dashed to Bank Station, from where we ran the rest of the way as fast as my PICC’s heels permitted.

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 19.53.40The quiz had a solid turnout. I would guess about 20 teams gathered to take part, and our collective appetites were whetted by the announcement of various prizes, including gin tasting and an all-expenses paid dinner at the restaurant itself.

I have to say at this point that the quiz and the liberally distributed prosecco (eventually the waitress stopped bothering to walk round and top us up, instead just dumping a full bottle on our table), were the highlights of the afternoon, the food itself being a little disappointing.

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The selection of starters, consisting of mutton rolls, crab bites and squid and samphire pakora, were nice enough. As on so many previous occasions, I benefited from the fact that my PICC has taste-buds that flee in terror at the slightest sign of spice, and so I was able to hoover up most of her plate as she cooled her singed tongue in a glass of prosecco.

We had three options for a main course: chicken curry, fish head curry, and a katsu egg curry. Between us, we ticked off each of these, and no one was particularly complimentary about what they ate. One of our number had to send back his fish head curry because it was colder than Siberia, whilst my chicken curry had cubes of chicken so pale and so perfect in their geometry that it was hard to believe they hadn’t been processed on an assembly-line far away from any BBQ pit.

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 19.53.25This is a shame, because I have heard people of good standing raving about Temper and its full-blooded cooking, and I am sure they are entirely correct, but that was not what was brought out for the afternoon quiz.

Speaking of the quiz, we put up a valiant effort, given that none of us was particularly sentient in the 1980s, and some of us weren’t even born then. We finished bang in the middle of the pack, and staggered out prize-less, but with our heads held high. We went in the direction of The Ned, where more prosecco was drunk, which was anything but free, but that’s another story. If anyone knows of a 90s quiz, drop us a line. Until then, Beat It.