Given the interest we’ve had, we thought it would be rude not to go along and see what Cornelius was like! There were a lot of positives but overall the restaurant needs to work out who their target market is. Here’s the details.
We had a table for two at 7pm on a Sunday evening. The only other diners while we were there were a family with a young child. It’s quite hard to judge a restaurant when it is so empty, as there wasn’t much buzz but the waiter was extremely attentive.
There was also a table being used by a group of guys who were obviously connected to the restaurant, and they were basically drinking and popping out for a fag. It wasn’t really disruptive, but was definitely a bit off-putting when we arrived and undermined the classy feel they were going for.
The music was Romanian folk music for most of the evening, until it became what I think was Romanian disco-pop. I was pretty happy with that, although the disco felt slightly odd in an empty restaurant.
Cornelius is trying to market itself as an Italian and Romanian restaurant, but it definitely felt primarily Romanian. The menu basically had separate sections for Italian and Romanian food and wine, and the two sections were totally different in terms of font and layout. It’s not a major gripe, but I felt like I had to choose between going Italian and going Romanian.
The waiter was a nice guy but didn’t seem to know the menu very well. However, the service was good, it felt relaxed without taking too long. The menu was quite extensive, with a reasonable amount of veggie options. The decor was cool, the loos were fine (big pictures in the ladies, I hear), the chairs were a bit low but it was generally all good.
Food, wine and price
We had two starters, two mains and one dessert, plus a bottle of wine and two more glasses of wine, coming to £65.12 including 10% service.
Starters were antipasti (£5.95) and mushrooms provencale (£5.25), both of which were quite tasty but fairly straight forward. The mains were tagliatelle salmone (£6.95) and grilled marinated lamb (£9.95), and we ordered a tomato salad (£2.50) on the side.
The tagliatelle had smoked salmon rather than salmon and was quite heavy, although also quite nice. The lamb had a kind of minty flavour which, if I’m honest, was totally fine but reminded me of a lamb burger. The roasted veg and potatoes (well, I’d call them potato wedges) were nice. The tomato salad was a disaster – even though it was from the menu, I think the waiter got confused as it was literally a tomato cut up in a bowl. Oops.
In terms of wine, we had a bottle of the Romanian Cabernet Sauvignon Murfatlar wine for £15.50 a bottle. There was a slightly random moment when, having ordered the Romanian wine, the waiter brought over a bottle of Californian Cab Sauv as well as the Romanian one we had ordered, and asked if we would prefer that as it was more full bodied. We weren’t sure if he was saying that it would be nicer. Anyway, we stuck with the Romanian and it was really tasty, hence having two more glasses of it (in the name of research, of course).
For dessert I had mixed ice cream (£4.50), which again was fairly straightforward but quite tasty.
I know E17ers had a lot of love for The Lock. This is definitely not The Lock, Part 2. Cornelius is nice and I respect what they are trying to do. I’m sorry they weren’t busier. I really think they just need to work out who their audience is. The decor, prices and service (the waiter poured the wine throughout dinner) says ‘high end’ but the menu and food say ‘tasty budget fare’.
I can’t help thinking of an Aerosmith lyric, “it’s like the right dress on the wrong girl.” That describes my overall impression of Cornelius. Mrs Stow Scene said it better – “this place would be great if it was where Mondragone used to be.” That’s it really. Cornelius could be a great Romanian restaurant if it was a bit smaller and a bit cheaper. I really hope they make a go of it, as that location is amazing. I just wonder if the location and the restaurant really work together.