I blame a certain celebrity chef for duffing up that good old pub favourite, the prawn cocktail.
We were in a pub a couple of years ago and ordered one, expecting a balloon glass full of shredded lettuce and Atlantic prawns smothered in Marie Rose sauce.
It’s hardly a sophisticated dish but the fun comes in searching, not always successfully, for the last bit of prawn at the bottom of the glass.
This came on a plate: a dollop of prawns and a dollop of lettuce: the right ingredients but not necessarily in the right order. And it didn’t look half as exciting.
“Nice but tell the chef it is better in a glass,” we told the waiter.
He came back with a curt message: “The chef says that’s how Gordon Ramsay does it.”
Now chefs have a phrase for reworking an old recipe hallowed by time and customer expectation. It’s called a deconstructed dish.
I call it prannying about.
Still, at least chef Anthony Commons gave us fair warning of his version of the menu at the Amici wine bar, tagged on to the Devonshire Arms at Dore. He calls it ‘Posh Prawn Cocktail.’
It was certainly that. A rectangular glass dish had a small mountain of prawns covered in sauce and sprinkled with paprika on a bed of fancy greenery, none of your iceberg lettuce here.
Each end of the dish was flanked by a spiralled tower of thinly sliced cucumber and in one corner a shell-on crevette stood sentry duty.
It could have been a modern art installation but what else would you expect from a wine bar which describes itself as ‘modern and trendy’ on its Facebook page?
Landlady Tina Gage opened it last December but as Dore is not our stamping ground, there has been barely a mention on Twitter or Facebook since December and the website is hard to find, we were late in inspecting it.
Anthony, aged 27, is a local lad who has come up in the traditional way: pot washer at Yankees, Castle College, Christian Kent’s Blue Room and Christian’s Restaurant, a spell with a lobster restaurant in Cornwall and, until recently, working as a personal chef to well-heeled chalet guests in Austria.
He’s also made landlady Tina order new furniture. She had intended Amici to be all wine and the occasional panini, leaving the food trade to the pub proper.
Consequently, the seats and tables are a little low slung, fine for lolling around with a glass of chardonnay but not for tucking into your crab and chilli linguine.
Since Anthony arrived four months ago his menu has caught on and on Friday fish nights it’s stomping.
It was much quieter for us on a sunny Tuesday evening.
As well as that posh prawn cocktail (£5.50) the starters included potted baked crab, tandoori chicken wings, moules marinière and king prawns piri-piri, relaxed, easy eating.
I had smoked mackerel pâté (£4.50). My yardstick for this is the one at Loch Fyne. This wasn’t quite like that with a rougher texture but aside from needing a squidge more lemon juice was pleasing eating.
Those who take a exception to eating off anything other than plates might not want to order the chicken breast stuffed with smoked cheese (£10.50), as my wife did. It was served on a slate and while it was big enough to roof a small outhouse that didn’t stop the sauce threatening to drip over the edge.
Apparently, Anthony is having to work with what he has but new plates are also on his wish list.
This looked good and tasted good. “I was a little worried the cheese might be too overpowering but it works well,” she enthused.
I got a proper plate with my surprisingly inexpensive calves’ liver and onions (£8.50), served up cubed and glossily brown with a generous helping of creamed mashed potatoes.
As you might expect from the price, the quality of the liver wasn’t tip-top although it tasted fine.
It was sweet. You might have been forgiven for thinking he’d used a sweet wine like Marsala but it was onion caramelised to the nth degree, finished with a splash of brandy.
This was a dish Anthony picked up at the Blue Room where it was quite popular, so those wanting their tastebuds to revisit old times might want to head for Dore.
Other mains include a mushroom risotto, the inevitable fish and chips, burger and a couple of steaks.
Amici is on several levels and features a glittery, mirrored bar and has some pleasant, efficient staff.
As we were clearly in to dine rather than just drink we were moved away from cubed seating to proper chairs and table.
Desserts include a competent, if very squidgy, chocolate brownie and a sticky toffee pudding, both £5.50. Not bad at all.
We paid £40.45 for food and £8 for two glasses of wine.
Amici Wine Bar, Devonshire Arms pub, 11 High Street, Dore S17 3GU. Tel: 0114 2351716. Open daily. Vegetarian dishes. Music. Credit cards. Car park. Web: http://amiciwinebar.weebly.com