Since then, James tells me around half a dozen customers have been in to Silks mentioning the blog (and presumably quite a few others who didn’t mention it) – so it was about time I made it across the threshold myself.
Now I’m quite adventurous when it comes to food, but then again notoriously hard to please. I have a ‘thing’ about bad food and poor service in restaurants. Mrs WP knows this all too well and has grown accustomed to (and developed coping mechanisms for) my notorious fussiness – that has seen me at best kick up the Mother of all fusses and, at worst walk out of one establishment refusing to pay a penny for such appalling service and food.
Looking back I can't really recall what it was that put me off dining at Silks. I think perhaps it was the zebra print chairs that put me off. Then there was the feeling that it looked like a great place for a hen night or an office party, but not for a quiet meal – and by association that it would be great fun but not great food.
I think, though, it was the whole thing about ‘fusion’ – consigned, in my mind at least, to the food-fashion history books, along with nouvelle cuisine and carveries. For a start, there's the problem of what fusion really is – it certainly flies in the face of Gordon Ramsay’s obscenity-filled mantra of simplifying your menus and concentrating on one-f*#king thing.
Were it not for James’ reassurance on this blog that they did have three specialised chefs concentrating on each area of cuisine, I would have gone on assuming that attempting to blend Chinese, Thai and Italian meant being a Jack of all trades and master of none.
Once I had arrived, and unmasked myself as the mysterious Worcester Park blogger, the first challenge was to get to grips with the extensive. By them time I had read through the main courses I had all but forgotten what I’d selected for starters – but better to have too broad a choice than too narrow.
For starter, I opted for scallops wrapped in pancetta with asparagus and cooked in Sake wine, whilst Mrs WP went for the Pan Fried Gyozas Pork Dumplings. For the main course, the delightfully titled ‘Moo Yang’ (that’s char-grilled marinated pork with thai herbs and chilli sauce) and for Mrs WP the somewhat less pronounceable Phad Bal Krapow (stir-fried pork, garlic, basil and chillies, in case you were wondering).
Expectations were high, and I’m pleased to say the food certainly didn’t disappoint. Balancing flavours correctly in any dish, especially those with an oriental influence, is a hard craft to master - get it slightly wrong and one flavour can completely overpower the others. Yet all the dishes we had displayed the perfect balance of and blend of complementary flavours in the meats, the salads and the vegetables - every mouthful seemed to bring with it a new rush of flavour, and no on element was overbearing.
For Mrs WP, brought up in a land far far away where food comes straight from the field and not the freezer, freshness is a must - so a definite thumbs up for the freshness and flavour of the ingredients at Silks. (Incidentally, it took Mrs WP's feminine insight to notice that, for some reason, the restaurant’s clientele were over 80% women).
Right from James’ initial comment on the blog, his boundless energy and passion for his restaurant was clear, and this was evident on the evening as he enthusiastically worked the floor chatting to the clientele, guiding them through with the somewhat daunting menu choices and filling the place with a clear passion for good service and good food.
James doesn’t shy away from the restaurant’s historic failings – under his management improvements are already underway to the décor, customer service has been sharpened up and with time the menu will be simplified and honed. Perhaps the ‘fusion’ idea will give way to concentration on one specific area of influence. Most would have no problem with the co-existence of Chinese and Thai, but the Italian aspect to the menu seemed out of character with the predominantly contemporary-Oriental theme, so perhaps that would be the most logical aspect to drop (besides there is already a glut of Italian eateries in Worcester Park).
My New Year’s resolution was to avoid chain restaurants. Granted, some can serve up perfectly good fare, but not for me their blandness, their uniformity and the staff in them who care little for the food or the service they provide. A trip to Silks confirmed my reasoning behind that resolution. What you have in James is a proprietor who has a passion for what his establishment does, and channels that into attention to detail, a fantastic welcome and mouth-wateringly fresh and inviting food.
For flavour, service and quality I can't fault Silks at all. I’m genuinely pleased I made the discovery and will definitely be back again soon. So perhaps next time you pass, you too will look beyond the zebra print chairs. And when you do go in, tell them the Worcester Park blog sent you. ;-)
UPDATE: Silks restaurant closed on January 1st 2009