Thursday 5 February 2015

Restaurant Review: Bubba Gump's, London

When I heard that a Bubba Gump was opening in the UK, I was really excited. I had a great time at the one I visited with my boyfriend in Baltimore- despite my work colleagues there dismissing it as a bit tacky. In the end it took about two years from when I first heard that London was getting a Bubba Gump’s before it actually opened in Piccadilly, so once it did, my boyfriend and I made a point of going there.
The restaurant takes its name from the shrimp company in the film Forrest Gump – and it is full of movie memorabilia and references from the movie. The shop at the entrance (on the ground floor – the restaurant is upstairs) was exactly the same as we saw in America, selling all sorts of Bubba Gump kitsch – you can buy everything from a light-up glass with slogans from the film, to a shrimp cookery book. It’s worth noting if you like this sort of stuff that if you order certain drinks in the restaurant you get to keep the branded glass anyway – and that after our meal, we were given with our receipt a discount voucher for the shop. I would have been quite annoyed if I’d bought something beforehand while waiting for our table!

The restaurant doesn’t take bookings other than for larger groups which is something I don’t really like about places these days but it can’t be helped. We were told our table would be 20 minutes but it was more like 40, giving me plenty of time to look around the shop! When we sat down at our table I expected the same spiel we’d gotten in America – where they explained that the ‘run Forrest run’ sign on the table was to indicate that we were fine, and if we turned it to ‘stop Forrest stop’ it meant we wanted a waiter to stop, and so on – but there was none of that. Our server also didn’t ask us the quiz questions about Forrest Gump that seemed part of the whole experience in the Baltimore branch – admittedly it was a bit cheesy but we had enjoyed it! In fact, I would say that our server was sufficiently polite and friendly but pretty much what you’d expect of a waiter in London rather than one in America (where they depend on tips a lot more, so try really hard to connect with you).
The menu looked exactly the same as I remembered, though I notice from their website they also have a gluten-free menu, which is good. In fact when I ordered I was asked if my dish needed to be gluten free – I like the fact that this is becoming more mainstream (though it may be because more people are gluten-intolerant than ever before, which isn’t good!). I had a mango mojito which was nice, but I’d thought I’d ordered one of the drinks that came in a take-home glass but actually I hadn’t (I have already got one at home and don’t really need another anyway!).
My boyfriend loves garlic bread (“It’s the future!”) so ordered the Mama Gump’s garlic bread basket (£3.25), which was one of the most disappointing garlic breads I’ve ever had. It was basically just two pieces of baguette, toasted and spread with butter that tasted a little bit garlicky.

For his main course he chose an All-American burger (£9.95), which he liked but noted that the portions are a lot smaller than in America! I had the I’m Stuffed Shrimp (£17.50), which consisted of shrimp stuffed with crab, standing up around a pile of Jasmine rice, baked in a garlic butter and topped with cheese. The first thing I’d say was you know how cheese goes when you leave it under the grill for too long- all blistered looking? This was what came on my dish.


The shrimp were very nice and overall the dish was good but it wasn’t particularly filling in itself, which is probably why it came with a slice of garlic bread on the side. But having eaten and not particularly enjoyed the garlic bread starter, I didn’t really want any more! I know prawns/shrimp aren’t cheap but I did think this dish was pretty expensive for what it was, and I wouldn’t order it again (the Shrimper’s Heaven I had in Baltimore was far better).
We decided then to finish off the meal with a dessert. There are actually only five desserts on the menu, and only one of them chocolatey (which is pretty much the only type of dessert my boyfriend ever wants) – we both had the chocolate chip cookie sundae (£6.25). This in itself rescued the whole meal – it was a large, warm, gooey cookie topped with ice cream, chocolate and caramel sauce, peanuts and whipped cream – calorific but glorious.

We left feeling a little disappointed that we hadn’t had the full Forrest Gump experience, but perhaps that’s something you only get in America (British people are probably too cynical for that level of cheese anyway!) and that the food wasn’t as good as we had remembered – apart from the dessert. I expect this place will be popular with tourists as it is quite unusual, but I think if they are going to make the restaurant all about the movie tie-in, they could try that little bit harder to engage the customers.

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