Casa Cruz is a new Argentinian restaurant at the wrong end of Notting Hill. Apparently it is very fashionable and reservations are hard to come by. Some friends had managed to secure a table for four last Thursday evening and asked if wanted to join them. Why not. As Thomas Beecham said, try everything in life except for incest and country dancing. And Casa Cruz.

An overcoated doorman in a bowler hat opened the door, a massive, shiny copper affair which might have worked in a brothel in Mayfair but didn't suit a converted pub opposite a housing estate. Inside was more copper, lots of gloom, sulky looking hostesses and a perfectly serviceable martini.

Upstairs to a dining room with yet more copper and moody lighting. There were plenty of empty tables. Those that were taken were occupied by people who looked like they consciously avoided food.

Which would have been a wise choice in the circumstances. My starter was raw tuna and avocado chopped up and unceremoniously dumped on a plate. It looked like baby food. It tasted of tuna and avocado but with too much wasabi. It cost £17. To buy, that is. I'm guessing it cost about 20p to make.

The main courses. £32 for a steak. And the steak doesn't come with anything at all, you have to order a couple of sides. £9 for three small pieces of charred brocolli. Seriously, nine quid. That's a markup of about eight million percent. A similar price for a couple of potatoes. £50 for meat and two veg. More than that for a bottle of indifferent Malbec that could be picked up at an off licence for under a tenner. That's got to be the most egregious example of Argentinian robbery since the 1986 World Cup.


We ate our dinner under the gaze of some of the occupants of the estate opposite who were smoking cigarettes on the walkway. I imagine they would cheerfully have eviscerated me with my own steak knife. I wouldn't have blamed them. I've lived in London all my life and am used to the juxtaposition of ostentatious consumerism and extreme poverty, but I've rarely been a part of one as odious as this. At least I wasn't charged for my side order of self-loathing.

The restaurant is owned by an investment banker and is clearly designed to attract them. One of our number has the kind of job in the City that would get a pig's head forced on him outside a Tory conference, so fell squarely within its target market. And he was as unimpressed as I.

There are probably just about enough trustafarians in that part of London to keep Casa Cruz going for a while, but when they move on to the next shiny thing I can't see how it can survive. Maybe it will revert to being a pub. Or a whorehouse. Anything would be better than this.