*Note: My grade is solely based on the food and not ambiance and service*
You walk into Cheri, and you are hit with a dose of "happy vibes". You walk right into their sprawling courtyard, brimming with charm and you can see the work of interior designer Lucie Salaun unravelling before you. The place only gets better as you wander inside to a warmer and almost surreal space with perfectly coordinated mismatched furniture of blacks, reds and beiges.
Their outdoor private dining area that is accessed through the restaurant is my favorite. A long table extends through the length of the area, beckons me to through a tea party with my magical friends, the Hatter and Alice. Big potted plants have been half encased into the wall while their green and flowering contents brighten the otherwise white wall.
What Cheri's known for is their eclectic variety of music shows, and no better place to catch these than from their lounge-terrace. Black wraught-iron furnishing with white upholstery and curtains are the theme of this space, made less sparse by the wanted abundance of greenery. The greenery and sense of whimsy is what brings each of these areas together making it truly one of the most beautiful spaces in the city.
Cheri has become a weekly jaunt for me. When in doubt, I go to Cheri because I know they will surprise me in a very good way. From jazz to bossa nova, from the Dutch Queen's birthday celebration to a Drag Queen performance — Cheri always delivers on entertainment. Combine the place and the music with an ubiquitous bunch of fun faces and you have something great going.
Well almost. If it wasn't for the service, which is tedious, uninformed and quite simply aggravating. The servers seem very lost and have very little communication or coordination among each other. The bar sadly is the biggest drawback. Besides being torturously slow, they have no idea what's going on. Unless you approach the bar directly, you can expect your drink somewhere towards the end of your meal and don't be silly enough to expect them to arrive together. Not everyone is born equal after all. For a music venue to not be able to handle the crowds and miss out on people ordering three drinks instead of one is a huge shame. A word of advise order anything but the margarita. All very well to serve it in appropriate glasses but what about appropriate proportions. I love a good margarita so was instantly tempted to try it, big mistake. My margarita extended as far as the short stem part of the margarita glass and didn't even make it to the bowl of the glass.. forget to the rim or even halfway! It literally stopped where the bowl started. After complaining, 2 servers and a manager later the explanation I was given was that this was a normal size margarita and Im feeling this way because the glass is big. Oh silly me should have known its my inability to see straight! Never seen or heard something so ludicrous.
Though Cheri's not usually a place I have more than a nibble at, I decided to give it a fairer chance. Firstly, something needs to be done about the very make shift print outs that are handed as menus. The main menu seems to be having a bit of an identity crisis — mainly Mediterranean which would have been fine but then it has 3-4 Asian dishes that includes one very out of place Indian Chicken Akbari. Um ok.. While on the menu certain dishes like the Hungry Man's Pizza could do with a description because I have received three very different explanations for that one dish from three different servers.
We started with the pizzas, which are probably the highlight of their menu. Now what works for here is, the crust which is the pillar of this pizza, the proportions are right, and the sauce isn't bad. What doesn't work are the mediocre quality of ingredients and toppings. The quality of cheese just won't do, it quite frankly brings the whole thing down. The two we tried were the smoked chicken with spicy sauce, which could have been good if its star ingredient — the smoked chicken — was worthy of the spotlight; instead it's a bit dry and not very smoky at all. The other was the Pesto, Bacon and Apple — this should be a lot better than it is because it has the right combinations. However, the bacon was not up to par nor was its quantity. The apples aren't the best either, in which case they should bake it with the cheese and bacon that will enable the sugars in the fruit to come out and lift it up.
We munched on a bunch of other things. The Pork Dumplings were just dismal and had nothing good going for them.
The Kibbeh and Hummus platter that came with a portion of tabbouleh and mini pitas was lovely. The Kibbeh wasn't dried out or too wheaty but more meaty and flavourful which I appreciated a lot. The Goat Cheese Salad with Pears and Walnuts was nice but nothing you haven't eaten before. My only complaint would be to use slightly firmer goat cheese so it doesn't become one with the dressing.
For the mains, we tried some spaghetti with mushrooms and with more of that insipid smoked chicken, overall it wasn't bad. Like a fairly typical aglio olio, which I love anyway, will skip the smoked chicken next time.
Our Sea Bass Risotto went two ways. The risotto itself was lovely but the fish smelt like sweaty socks and well fish, and tasted just as nauseating.
For dessert we got the Tiramisu. The cake/biscuit layer could have been a little thicker to balance so much cream but overall, it's tasted fairly good.
So there you have it. Calling it a beautifully designed space would be an understatement. The vibe and entertainment does knock my socks off. And though the food is not bad, it's definitely an afterthought. But everything may look brighter once the staff has been booted back to training school.