London by Cuisine

 

See the following link for the rationale on marking scheme: Explanation of rating system  For exact directions to each restaurant, use the excellent website www.streetmap.co.uk.  Additionally you could try Multimap.com or Google Maps UK.

 

Latest updates: Xich Lo,Berekely Suqare Café, Royal China Club, Tom’s Kitchen, High Road Brasserie, Atelier Robuchon, Oottupura, Sumosan, Eight Over Eight, Bentleys, Notting Hill Brasserie, Deya, Galvin at Windows on the World, Arbutus.  Note that food hygiene scores are becoming available following a campaign by the Good Food Guide.  I will add these scores to each review as they become available e.g. Hammersmith and Fulham’s scores are already on-line.  By April 2007 all of London boroughs are supposed to have scores available.

 

Asian

E&O (4/10)

Eight Over Eight (3/10)

Gilgamesh (2/10)

British

Berkeley Square Café (4/10)

Ledbury (6/10)

Lindsay House (6/10)

La Trompette (6/10)

l’Escargot (6/10)

Kensington Place (6/10)

Bentleys (6/10)

Orrery (5/10)

Maze (5/10)

Notting Hill Brasserie (5/10)

Chez Bruce (5/10)

Belvedere (5/10)

Oxo Tower (5/10)

Glasshouse (5/10)

Prism (5/10)

Windows on the World (5/10)

Mirabelle (4/10)

The Wolseley (4/10)

Quo Vadis (4/10)

Salisbury Tavern (4/10)

Drones (4/10)

Quaglinos (4/10)

The Clerkenwell Dining Room (4/10)

Brackenbury (4/10)

High Road Brasserie (3/10)

Sonny’s (3/10)

Quality Chop House (3/10)

Teatro (3/10)

Criterion (3/10)

Bradleys (3/10)

Ealing Park Tavern (2/10)

Bollo House (1/10)

Eagle (2/10)

Jaks (2/10)

Sam’s (2/10)

Chinese

Royal China (4/10)

Hakkasan (4/10)

Yauatcha (4/10)

Mandarin Kitchen (3/10)

China City (3/10)

Mr Kong (3/10)

Fung Shing (3/10)

Golden Dragon (2/10)

Fish and chips

The Fish Shop on St John Street (3/10)

Toffs (2/10)

Two Brothers (2/10)

French

Gordon Ramsay (9/10)

Pied a Terre (8/10)

Tom Aikens (8/10)

Capital (8/10)

The Square (8/10)

Foliage (7/10)

Pétrus (7/10)

Atelier Robuchon (6/10)

Tom’s Kitchen (6/10)

1 Lombard Street (6/10)

Club Gascon (6/10)

Monsieur Max (6/10)

Morgan M (6/10)

Putney Bridge (6/10)

Roussillon (6/10)

1880 (5/10)

Le Cercle (5/10)

Aubergine (5/10)

Incognico (4/10)

Arbutus (3/10)

Greek

Sappho (1/10)

The Real Greek (1/10)

Indonesian

Melati (1/10)

Italian

Zafferanos (7/10)

Locanda Locatelli (6/10)

Timo (5/10)

Phoenix (5/10)

Ibla (4/10)

Assaggi (3/10)

Red Pepper (3/10)

Spiga (2/10)

Japanese

Nobu (5/10)

Zuma (5/10)

Roka (5/10)

Umu (5/10)

Miyama (4/10)

Tatsuso (4/10)

Sakana Tei (3/10)

Café Japan (3/10)

Sumosan (3/10)

Wagamama (1/10)

Lebanese

Al Hamra (4/10)

Mexican

No good ones in London – see notes on the US

Modern Indian

Deya (4/10)

Haandi (4/10)

Mint Leaf (3/10)

Zaika (3/10)

Sarkhels (3/10)

Café Spice Namaste (2/10)

Chor Bizarre (1/10)

Masala Zone (1/10)

North Indian

Brilliant (4/10)

Madhu’s (3/10)

Tandoor (2/10)

Khans (1/10)

Agni (1/10)

Pizza

Red Pepper (3/10)

Spiga (2/10)

Pizza Metro Pizza (1/10)

Singaporean

Singapore Garden (1/10)

South American

Fina Estampa (2/10)

Spanish

Salt Yard (4/10)

Thai

Patara (3/10)

Mantanah (3/10)

Thai Bistro (1/10)

Turkish

Iznik (2/10)

Vegetarian Indian

Sabras (4/10)

Rasa (3/10)

Kastoori (3/10)

Oottupura (2/10)

Diwana Bhel Poori (1/10)

Radha Krishna Bhavan (1/10)

Vietnamese

Xich Lo (3/10)

Huong Viet (1/10)

 

 

Reliable London Restaurants

 

For my personal favourites follow this link: My personal Top 10.  However ten restaurants is a little limited, so here are some additional places that I can recommend. 

 

Index By Area

 

By popular request:

 

Area

Postcode

Area

Restaurant

Central

W1

W1

WC2

W1

W1

W1

W1

W1

W1

W1

W1

W1

W1

W1

W1

W1

W1

W1

W1

W1

W1

W1

W1

W1

W1

WC2

W1

W1

WC2

W1

WC2

W1

WC2

W1

W1

W1

W1

W1

W1

WC1

W1

Goodge Street

Mayfair

Covent Garden

Mayfair

Soho

Soho

Marylebone

Piccadilly

Marylebone

Mayfair

Mayfair

Goodge Street

Mayfair

Marble Arch

Mayfair

Mayfair

Yauatcha

Piccadilly

Soho

Goodge Street

Piccadilly

Marylebone

Soho

Mayfair

Mayfair

 Leicester Square

Soho

Soho

Leicester Square

Piccadilly

Leicester Square

Soho

Chinatown

Mayfair

Soho

Piccadilly

Chinatown

Piccadilly

Soho

Holborn

Soho

Pied a Terre (8/10)

The Square (8/10)

Atelier Robuchon (6/10)

Berkeley Square Café (4/10)

Lindsay House (6/10)

l’Escargot (6/10)

Locanda Locatelli (6/10)

Bentley’s (5/10)

Orrery (5/10)

Maze (5/10)

Nobu (5/10)

Roka (5/10)

Umu (5/10)

Deya (4/10)

Windows on the World (5/10)

Mirabelle (4/10)

Yauatcha (4/10)

The Wolseley (4/10)

Quo Vadis (4/10)

Salt Yard (4/10)

Criterion (3/10)

Ibla (4/10)

Spiga (4/10)

Miyama (4/10)

Al Hamra (4/10)

Incognico (4/10)

Hakkasan (4/10)

Patara (3/10)

China City (3/10)

Rasa (3/10)

Mr Kong (3/10)

Teatro (3/10)

Fung Shing (3/10)

Sakana Tei (3/10)

Arbutus (3/10)

Sumosan (3/10)

Golden Dragon (2/10)

Chor Bizarre (1/10)

Melati (1/10)

Wagamama (1/10)

Masala Zone (1/10)

West

W4

W8

W11

TW12

W11

TW9

W2

W6

W8

UB2

W11

UB2

W6

W2

W9

W2

W4

W5

W4

W6

W4

W4

W2

W6

Chiswick

Kensington

Ladbroke Grove

Hampton Hill

Notting Hill

Kew

Queensway

Holland Park

Kensington

Southall

Ladbroke Grove

Southall

Shepherds Bush

Queensway

Warwick Avenue

Notting Hill

Chiswick

South Ealing

Chiswick

Hammersmith

Chiswick

Chiswick

Westbourne Grove

Hammersmith

La Trompette (6/10)

Kensington Place (6/10)

Ledbury (6/10)

Monsieur Max (6/10)

Notting Hill Brasserie (5/10)

Glasshouse (5/10)

Royal China (5/10)

Belvedere (5/10)

Timo (5/10)

Brilliant (4/10)

E&O (4/10)

Madhu’s (3/10)

Brackenbury (4/10)

Mandarin Kitchen (3/10)

Red Pepper (3/10)

Assaggi (3/10)

High Road Brasserie (3/10)

Ealing Park Tavern (2/10)

Sam’s (2/10)

Oottupura (2/10)

Bollo House (1/10)

Thai Bistro (1/10)

Khans (1/10)

Agni (1/10)

East

EC1

EC3

EC3

ED1

EC1

EC2

EC1

EC1

E1

EC1

Smithfield

City

City

Farringdon

Farringdon

Liverpool Street

Angel

Smithfield

Aldgate

Farringdon

Club Gascon (6/10)

1 Lombard Street (6/10)

Prism (5/10)

Clerkenwell Dining Room (4/10)

Quality Chop House (3/10)

Tatsuso (3/10)

The Fish Shop on St John Street  (3/10)

Xich Lo (3/10)

Café Spice Namaste (2/10)

Eagle (2/10)

South West

SW3

SW3

SW3

SW1

SW1

SW1

SW15

SW1

SW3

SW7

SW3

SW17

SW6

SW7

SW15

SW13

SW6

SW1

SW1

SW17

SW3

SW1

SW18

SW6

SW3

SW11

SW1

SW4

SW11

SW17

Chelsea

Knightsbridge

South Kensington

Knightsbridge

Pétrus

Belgravia

Putney

Pimlico

South Kensington

Gloucester Road

Chelsea

Wandsworth

Fulham

Knightsbridge

Putney

Barnes

Fulham

Belgravia

St James

Tooting

Knightsbridge

Haymarket

Southfields

Fulham

Chelsea

Lavender Hill

Chelsea

Clapham

Battersea

Tooting

Gordon Ramsay (9/10)

Capital (8/10)

Tom Aikens (8/10)

Foliage (7/10)

Pétrus (7/10)

Zafferanos (7/10)

Putney Bridge (6/10)

Roussillon (6/10)

Tom’s Kitchen (6/10)

1880 (5/10)

Le Cercle (5/10)

Chez Bruce (5/10)

Zuma (5/10)

Phoenix (5/10)

Sonny’s (3/10)

Aubergine (5/10)

Salisbury Tavern (4/10)

Drones (4/10)

Quaglinos (4/10)

Kastoori (3/10)

Haandi (4/10)

Mint Leaf (3/10)

Sarkhels (3/10)

Zaika (3/10)

Eight Over Eight (3/10)

Café Spice Namaste (2/10)

Jaks (2/10)

Sappho (1/10)

Pizza Metro Pizza (1/10)

Radha Krishna Bhavan (1/10)

South East

SE1

SE25

SE1

Bankside

South Norwood

Tower Bridge

Oxo Tower (5/10)

Mantanah (3/10)

Fina Estampa (2/10)

North

N7

N16

NW3

NW11

NW9

N2

N3

N5

NW1

N1

N1

Holloway

Stoke Newington

Swiss Cottage

Golders Green

Kingsbury

Muswell Hill

Finchley

Highbury

Camden

Hoxton

Hackney

Morgan M (6/10)

Rasa (3/10)

Bradleys (3/10)

Café Japan (3/10)

Tandoor (2/10)

Toffs (2/10)

Two Brothers (2/10)

Iznik (2/10)

Gilgamesh (2/10)

The Real Greek (1/10)

Huong Viet (1/10)

North West

NW10

NW6

NW1

Willesden

Kilburn

Euston

Sabras (4/10)

Singapore Garden (1/10)

Diwana Bhel Poori (1/10)

 

Restaurants With A Non-smoking Section

 

Visitors from the USA will be horrified by the amount of smoking that occurs in London restaurants; in California a lynch mob would form at the first puff.  However at least the situation is better than on the continent, where a “non smoking section” can mean a proprietor coming up to a table with a complaining diner wreathed in smoke and putting a sign on the table saying “non smoking”.  Non-smokers can be comforted that at least they will live eight years longer, on average, than smokers.  A smoker might, on having these missing eight years pointed out to them, retort: “yeah – but they are the crappy years” (actor John Lithgow in 3rd Rock From the Sun). 

 

The following restaurants have a designated non-smoking section – bravo to Pied a Terre for being the first serious restaurant to manage this. Now Chez Bruce and La Trompette have followed.  We are still a long way off Dublin yet though.  Still, non-smokers will get the last laugh in summer 2007, with London restaurants all having to go non-smoking.

 

Chor Bizarre

Pied a Terre

Rasa Samudra

Wagamama

La Trompette

Chez Bruce

 

For Vegetarians

 

Sadly, most “pure” vegetarian restaurants in London are gruesome affairs, either a cynical excuse to serve cheap ingredients at inflated prices, or tiresome political statements rather than places interested in serving food.  This is a shame at a time when 3 star Michelin chef Alain Passard in Paris has shaken France by offering a wide-ranging vegetarian menu.  The best bet for Londoners of the “pure” vegetarian places is the Gate in Hammersmith W6, but it is hardly a standard bearer of great cuisine, just better than the mostly hideous alternatives.  Fortunately, so many people in Britain are at least partially vegetarian these days that there is a decent vegetarian choice to be had almost everywhere.  Gone are the days when a request for a vegetarian dish was met with a baffled expression and either a plate of vegetables or an omelette.  Best of all can be found in Indian cuisine, which had a great tradition of vegetarian food; the Sabras is the best of these.  

 

So, to the restaurants…

 

 

Restaurant

1880 

Food rating

5/10

Address

Bentley Hotel, 27-33 Harrington Gardens, SW7 4JX

Phone Number

020 7244 5555

Nearest Tube

Gloucester Road

Open

All week

Price

£100 a head with drinks

Web site

http://www.thebentley-hotel.com/

Map

Click here

 

The restaurant is called 1880, after the year in which the building (the Bentley Hotel) was built.  The basement room is elegantly decorated, with cream walls with yellow moiré decorative fabric panels.  There are several pillars finished with black marble along the walls.  There is a large gilt mirror on one wall.  The carpet is comfortingly thick and is light beige with a red rose pattern.  The ceiling is high and painted white, with three large chandeliers providing the dominant light in the room, supplemented by side lamps and also directed ceiling spots. Chairs are high-backed with armrests, traditional and comfortable, upholstered in midnight blue.  Opposite the dining room is a piano bar with a pianist playing various easy listening classics; fortunately he did not sing.

 

Each table has a white linen tablecloth and napkins.  A single red rose is on each table in a silver holder, but no condiments are displayed. The restaurant had ourselves and two other diners this evening.  Apparently business is slow, yet you still have to leave credit card details when booking. 

 

Amuse bouche was a samosa of duck confit, served on top of a couple of small spears  of tender asparagus, which is in season right now.  The samosa had light texture and excellent duck taste (6/10).  Breads arrived in an impressive tray, whole breads that were then cut at the table.  There was baguette, rosemary foccacia, bacon and cheese, olive, mushroom and garlic brioche and sunflower seed loaf.  The breads were warm when served and were very good.  The bacon and cheese bread was stunning, with lovely light texture, intense flavour and perfect seasoning (9/10).  Others were around the 6/10 level, except the olive bread at 3/10, which was too hard.  The wine list stretches over 17 pages, and spans the world, organised by country.  Prices are high, while the Bonny Doon Cigare Volant at £68 was my pick of the list . Rioja Alta 904 1995 was a steep £78, and even Catena Malbec from Argentina 2002 was £42.  There is little under £40.  There are no dessert wines by the glass officially, though one was rustled up by the very pleasant Turkish maitre d’, whose name is Volkan Acil.   

 

Seared blue fin tuna was served as three small discs, next to each of which were a pair of broad beans.  Served with this was a little salad of mesclun leaves, capers and tomato topped with a soft quail’s egg.  The tuna was dipped in salt and dill and was very pleasant, though not of the very highest quality, the salad was nice and the presentation pretty (6/10).  Pumpkin soup had creamy texture and tasted properly of pumpkin; it had a few very tender prawns in the soup, as well as a few carrots in the middle of the dish.  Alongside were ginger flavoured “batons” (really just thin tuiles) and a few thin tuiles of parmesan and olive (6/10).

 

Fillet of beef was tender and served on an excellent bed of crisp potato Anna, itself on top of a layer of tender spinach.  This all rested in a pool of reduced cooking juices that would have benefited from further reduction (6/10).  A fillet of wild salmon was nicely cooked but did not taste wild.  This was served with a sauce of sultanas and white wine that had reasonable texture and balanced flavour, with thin slices of  caramelised cauliflower and small pieces of broccoli  surrounding the salmon (6/10).

 

The cheese board was French and sadly appeared rather past its best, which was confirmed when tasting.  The supplier is “First Choice Cheeses”.  Munster was not ripe, while Comte and Beaufort both had a soapy texture and little taste.  Forme d’Ambert was also past its best.  The cheeses were served with grapes and a few home-made cheese biscuits (2/10).

 

A pre-dessert was of peach melba, which had a nice quality peach but vanilla ice cream that lacked vanilla taste, along with a little raspberry sauce and sliced, good quality fresh raspberries (4/10).  Stella had a dish with five little pieces of caramelised banana displayed in a row, alongside good coconut ice cream served in a little chocolate tuile bowl which mimicked the shape of a coconut shell This continued the theme of good presentation tonight. The centre of the ice cream contained Malibu.  Five dots of chocolate sauce were placed alongside the line of banana pieces (5/10).  A pineapple ice cream had smooth texture and reasonable taste, accompanied by a mango “carpaccio” i.e. mousse, sandwiched by sesame seed tuiles, separated by a pineapple crisp.  The mango mousse lacked any depth of mango flavour, and I am unconvinced with the idea of a sesame seed tuile, which sits oddly in a sweet dish (4/10 only).  Both filter coffee and cappuccino were good (6/10). This was served with petit fours: a sad rum baba that was heavy, dry and lacking in rum, a good mini chocolate tart, a little chocolate bar and a choux bun with pistachio filling (3/10 for the petit fours overall, the rum baba being barely 1/10). 

.

The starters and main courses were capably produced, with desserts lagging a little below this standard.  The menu is well balanced and appealing, and pretty presentation was in evidence throughout the meal.  The cheese board was poor, but the new manager seems intent on switching to a better supplier.  The breads are a real highlight.  The question would be the value for money factor, as this is by no means cheap, with hefty wine mark-ups.  The combination of high price, basement setting and being in an obscure hotel have clearly caused the place to struggle.  The chef in charge tonight was someone called Sharon, a sous chef of Andrew Turner.  I have the impression that they are on the lookout for a new head chef. 

 

Last visited August 2006.

 

 

Restaurant

Agni 

Food rating

1/10

Address

169 King Street, Hammersmith W6 0QU

Phone Number

020 88469191

Nearest Tube

Ravenscourt Park

Open

All week (see web site for times)

Price

£30 a head with drinks

Web site

http://www.agnirestaurant.com/

Map

Click here

Hygiene

Click here

 

This is a cut above the usual curry houses on King Street, with chef Gowtham Karingi (formerly head chef at Zaika) producing some interesting dishes.  Not everything works.  Popadoms were an odd mix of pieces of conventional popadoms and what are essentially potato crisps, an innovation best forgotten; chutneys are home made but not particularly good, served in absurdly small dishes (0/10).  Aloo tikki is somewhat different from the Southall version, with one central potato pattie surrounded by chickpeas and tamarind sauce, but this was nonetheless reasonable (1/10).  This was better than the potato patties that Stella had, which was simply dull (0/10).  The chef is from Hyderabad, so I would have expected more from the biriani, but there was no pastry seal on the pot, and the rice itself was rather over-moist, though the prawns in the biriani were correctly cooked and there were plenty of them (round up).  The chef popped out later and he explained that the oven he has seems unable to deal with the sealing of the biiani pots; they just crack.  He is hoping to get some new ones.  Encouraging was a pleasant mixed vegetable curry which retained the texture of the potatoes, carrots etc (1/100 and better still was a good bhindi, which had the key attribute of the okra being roasted first and so sealing in the flavour, avoiding a greasy mess when it is finished (2/10),.  Naan bread was very good (maybe 3/10).  Worth a try if you are in the area.

 

 

Restaurant

Tom Aikens

Food rating

8/10

Address

43 Elyston Street, SW3 3NT

Phone Number

020-7584 2003

Nearest Tube

South Kensington

Open

Monday-Friday only: 12:00 – 14:30,  19:00 – 23:00

Price

£90 a head with drinks (evening £49 for three courses, £24.50 for lunch)

Web site

http://www.tomaikens.co.uk/

Map

Click here

 

When I first entered the dining room I at first thought I had suddenly lost all sense of colour in my vision, but then was relieved to find that the dining room simply has none.  The décor is black and white and that is it, with just a few modern paintings by Anthony Kirkhaar (on the north wall of the dining room in the above illustration) to provide a tiny splash of colour.  The walls are white, the fairly high ceiling is white, the modern low-backed chairs (which are not comfortable) are black, with black leather.  Even the flowers on the tables are white (peonies), while lighting is from overhead spots and is fairly bright.  Along two walls with full-drop windows are wooden frames used as screens, behind which are a row of free-standing lamps with orange shades.  The floor is plain wood, making the acoustics somewhat harsh.  There is theoretically air conditioning, but this evening it was not working and temporary units were being used instead.  The tablecloths and napkins are (you guessed it) plain white with a black underskirt to the tablecloths, and it was almost jarring to notice that the French porcelain display plates were an olive green with a cracked glaze.  There is no music to distract from the food.  Tom’s wife Laura runs the front of house, and service was excellent throughout.  Dishes were also paced well.  One quirky feature of the menu is the addition of meat to more than one of the fish dishes, which limits the selection a lot for non meat eaters.  However there is a relative slimming down on sheer numbers of components to each dish relative to Tom’s Pied à Terre days, when half a dozen elements could easily appear.  After his branding of a commis chef with a hot iron Tom was dismissed from Pied à Terre and found work in private catering for the seriously rich before opening in his own right here.  He apparently spent a lot of time travelling around farms looking for top ingredients, and indeed this seems to have paid dividends.

 

The wine list is a 23 page tome presided over by an Irish sommelier who used to be at the Capital hotel but more recently has been working at 3 star Michelin Pierre Gagnaire in Paris.  While there are a couple of token wines below £20, there is actually hardly anything less than £30 on the list, and mark-ups are stiff e.g. de Bortoli Noble One at £40 a half bottle is more than three times retail, while a half bottle of Trimbach Clos St Hune 1992 is £80.  Bonny Doon Cigare Volant is a hefty £59.  Mineral water is either Badoit or Evian at a shocking £4 for a 75cl bottle.  The sommelier kindly produced some wines by the glass.

 

As you arrive and are seated an initial selection of nibbles arrives.  A little marinated salmon with cucumber gelee (very delicate)  was served on a silver spoon next to a sliver of foie gras pate sandwiched between two thin savoury pastry layers; next to this was a delicate brandade of cod topped with a thin red pepper tuile.  These were a nice introduction but were around the 7/10 level.  Better was to come.  The first amuse guele proper was a celeriac soup with summer truffle served in a little cup. The celeriac flavour was stunningly intense, the soup silky in texture, little cubes of summer truffle adding a little texture contrast; it was just a little tad salty but otherwise was soup of the highest standard (9/10).  Bread is cooked on the premises, and although on our first visit here the bread was disappointing, it has improved greatly since and is now excellent.

 

Langoustines were roasted and served on top of slivers of delicate braised pork belly that was so fatty and tender that the dish needed something to cut through the fat.  However the langoustines themselves were wonderfully fresh and perfectly cooked.  Around the shellfish was a little smear of rich artichoke puree and a single raviolo of black truffle featuring supremely delicate pasta topped each langoustine.  There were four wedges of excellent fried artichoke as garnish (9/10).  I had a dish of eel cooked several ways.  On a long rectangular glass dish were a few eel beignets, an intriguing idea contrasting the sweetness of the beignet with the powerful smokiness of the eel, which sounds potentially dire but in fact balanced very well.  There was an excellent apple salad with finely shredded apple and alongside this a little cup of cider syrup with a very deep cider flavour.  The star component was a soup dish with a few quail eggs into which was poured a dazzling eel and apple soup, the sweet flavour of the apples proving an excellent foil to the strong smoky flavour of the eel.  This was an original and wonderfully successful dish (easily 9/10, pushing 10/10).

 

John Dory fillets were very fresh and well timed, avocado and circles of dill pasta making an unusual appearance to provide a contrast to the strong flavour of the John Dory.  In addition, though less obvious in terms of dish harmony, were a couple of utterly divine langoustine tempura that shamed anything I have eaten in Tokyo or Kyoto (these were 10/10 level).  The fish rested in a classy though sparse red wine sauce.  Overall the dish was perhaps 8/10, as I am unsure that the components really melded together that well.  My chicken was sourced from an organic source and indeed had excellent flavour.  A few slices of poached breast were served, interleaved with chicken slices that had been boned and stuffed with chicken mousse and leek, then sliced thinly.  Next to the meat were a few tubes of perfect macaroni scented with truffles and topped with cheese gratin, the chicken resting in a pool of delicate artichoke sauce.  The pasta was stunning, while overall the dish was 8/10.

 

Cheese is served on a trolley, a wide of selection of well over twenty cheeses.  Unlike so many cases in the UK, the cheeses were generally ripe and in good condition, though sweating a little due to the lack of air conditioning.  The classics such as Comte and Munster were well represented, but there was also the odd English farmhouse cheddar and a Cabecou goat’s cheese.  Slices of either prune bread or walnut and raisin bread were offered, and these seemed to have been cut a while ago as they were a little hard in texture.  7/10 for the cheese, but much less for the bread.

 

A pre-dessert rhubarb fool with ginger cream was served in a glass.  The ginger at the bottom was worth fishing for, the rhubarb fool was smooth and sweet, but there appeared to be lurking with this a little bit of basil, which added nothing useful (6/10).  Delicate little torpedoes of cooked apple were served in between layers of fine apple filo pastry with almonds.  Topping this was a scoop of green apple sorbet with silky texture, the filo layers resting on a layer of moist apple cake.  The cake itself seemed an unnecessary addition.  Overall 7/10.  A slice of pineapple was roasted with vanilla and rum, served with a surprisingly bland pineapple jelly that seemed rather watery to me, but the dish was rescued by a dazzling pineapple sorbet that was one of the most delicate I have ever tasted (10/10 for the sorbet).  The dish was garnished with a pretty square of spun sugar.  Overall 7/10 for the dish.

 

Filter coffee was good though not perfect (6/10) but espresso was coarse and really not very good at all (4/10).  This should easily be fixed in these days of high quality espresso machines.  Fortunately there are distractions.  A box containing a variety of fine chocolates arrives (8/10 level), as does a sort of toast rack of delicate tuiles:  mango, caramel, raspberry, sesame and orange (9/10 for the tuiles).  Best of all was a basket of sublime Madeleines: chocolate, pistachio, almond, orange and coffee.  These all were fabulously moist with meltingly delicate texture, served warm (10/10 for these). Last visited March 2004.

 

By the way, do be careful to account for your cutlery during the meal.  In October 2004 Tom Aikens accosted a diner and accused her of stealing a coffee spoon, and didn’t even have the grace to apologise when a waiter found it on the next table.  Expect an inventory to be presented on sitting down, and a body search before you leave. 

 

 

Restaurant

Al Hamra

Food rating

4/10

Address

31-33 Shepherd Market, W1J 7PT

Phone Number

020 7493 1954

Nearest Tube

Green Park

Open

All week, 12:00 to 23:30

Price

£50 a head with drinks

Web site

http://www.alhamrarestaurant.com/

Map

Click here

 

A very reliable Lebanese restaurant where you can try the usual wide range of mezze style starters that characterise this cuisine, as well as some less common dishes on a very long menu.  Grilled meats are much better than is usual, and service is slick.  Desserts such as baklava are good.  Last visited June 2003.

 

 

Restaurant

Arbutus

Food rating

3/10

Address

63 Frith Street W1D 3JW

Phone Number

020 7734 4545

Nearest Tube

Leicester Square

Open

All week 12:00 – 14:30,  17:00 – 23:00 (earlier on Sunday)

Price

£45 a head with drinks

Web site

http://www.arbutusrestaurant.co.uk/

Map

Click here

 

Décor is bare wooden boards and simple but tasteful plain walls with limited adornment, though tablecloths are white linen. Service was stretched tonight and the dishes took some time to appear, but it seems that they did 120 covers this evening so perhaps this was forgivable: certainly the place was packed out.  It is open every day, lunch and dinner, and is aiming at Paris bistro style.  At 20:00 the sardine starter I wanted was already finished, but smoked eel was good, served simply alongside a few salad leaves and a pile of rather watery beetroot that I suspect came from a jar; a little scoop of horseradish cream was a positive addition to the dish, the horseradish flavour subtle but distinct (4/10).  Chillled soup of cucumber was presented as a jar of soup to be poured over a soup plate lined with a little smoked salmon and crème fraiche with borage flowers.  Good presentation but the cucumber soup lacked flavour (1/10).  Stella’s gnocchi with Parmesan and summer vegetables had good texture and a pleasing taste (3/10) while my chicken breast was served with its skin on and was in a pool of buttery veloute with peas.  The chicken was cooked through well but was rather tasteless, and the supposed foie gras in the dish was absent, which was rather cheeky.  Bread was just white and brown slices, the white a little better than the brown, and were pleasant (4/10). 

 

Raspberry trifle worked well (3/10) as did a slice vanilla cheesecake served with a pile of English strawberries that were rather tasteless (2/10).  Coffee was good (5/10).  The wine list is excellent, two pages of wines from around the world, mostly available in bottle but also in 250cl carafe, a great idea.  There is a also a fine wine section with growers such as Guigal, and these wines are actually quite fairly priced e.g. La Mouline at £255 is only twice retail if you can find it.  The mark-ups in general seemed about twice retail + VAT, maybe a little more.  The problem I found was that the menu is not that appealing.  They have really gone for profit here.  The starters were pigs head, sardines, boudin blanc, ricotta salad, cucumber soup, chicken, eel and a squid and mackerel “burger”.  OK, they are priced between £5.95 and £9.95, with main courses £12.50 to £15.50 (desserts around £5) but there still must be some pretty hefty gross margins here.  The ingredients were also not of high quality e.g. tasteless chicken, poor strawberries, which is a shame.  Technique was mostly good, and the ingredients reasonably harmonious.  Things are not great for people who do not eat meat, with one vegetarian man dish, a dish of pollack and one of sea bream only.  Their PR company has done a great job for them with some great write-ups in the nationals, but the question to ask is this.  Why exactly would I not go a few doors down to Alistair Little and get a better meal for the same price?   Last visited June 2006

 

 

Restaurant

Assaggi 

Food rating

3/10

Address

The Chepstow Pub, 39 Chepstow Place, W2 4TS

Phone Number

020 7792 5501

Nearest Tube

Notting Hill Gate

Open

Monday – Saturday, lunch 12:30 to 14:30,

dinner 19:30 – 23:00

Price

£45 head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

In a room above a pub, it is a noisy dining room that is remarkably hard to get a reservation for.  Notes on a recent meal follow.  To start with I had prawn salad, resting on a “lemon risotto” which was really a deep fried rice cake, with strips of deep fried leek on top (4/10).  Stella had taglialine with chopped herbs and walnuts (4/10).  For main course we both tried John Dory with a “tomato and olive sauce” that was more a smear than a sauce.  This was with a wedge of dauphinoise made with olive oil instead of cream (3/10).   This was served with soggy zucchini, good crisp baby green beans and undercooked very plain spinach (vegetables only 1/10).  For dessert a lemon tart was light and fluffy, different from a French tart and none the worse for it (5/10).  Stella had amoretto pudding with a drizzle of caramel sauce, that was a little heavy, but moist and with good almond flavour (2/10).  Bread was mediocre, a sort of popadom style crisp bread made with olive oil and some pleasant white bread that only appeared as a single slice at the start; only the popadom came back when extra bread was requested.  The mineral water was not chilled, though they did supply ice.  Coffee, both espresso and cappuccino was very good (5/10).  Service was generally fair, though they do not remember who ordered what, and getting the bill was a task of Herculean magnitude.  The fact that the menu is solely in Italian is a touch of remarkable pretentiousness in my view: what country are we in here?  What would we think of an Indian restaurant in London that printed its menu only in Gujerati or Punjabi?  The starter and pasta choices are wider and more appealing than the limited main course dishes.  The bill was much more reasonable than I was expecting.  Last visited November 2001.

 

 

Restaurant

Atelier Robuchon

Food rating

6/10

Address

13-15 West Street, London WC2H 9NQ

Phone Number

020 7010 8600

Nearest Tube

Leicester Square

Open

Mon-Sun 12:00-15:00, 5.30pm-24 :00 (Sun -22.30) :

Price

£110 head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

Smart décor, if rather 1980s, with lots of red velvet curtains and black lacquer.  Unlike Atlelier Robuchon in Paris, this has some tables as well as sitting around the bar, though the same bar stools are used throughout. Space is “intimate” according to an interview with Joel Robuchon, though “tightly packed” would be another view.  The menu offers either small portions or a conventional set of starters and main courses; we went for the tasting mini portions.  There is just one type of bread, rather bland country bread that was just a little chewier in texture than ideal (4/10).  Crab and avocado salad was two small pairs of rounds of avocado with crab sandwiched between, served with a few spots of red pepper sauce (5/10).  Fried langoustine was delicate and served with a smear of pesto sauce and a little deep-fried basil as garnish (7/10).  Langoustine ravioli wrapped in Savoy cabbage was less successful, topped with a little black truffle, and with a tiny amount of shellfish sauce (5/10).  Mackerel tart was very good, with delicate pastry and tasty mackerel, topped with black olives (6/10).  Raw tuna with a little finely chopped tomato was of good quality (5/10).  Two miniature beefburger with foie gras was good, the steak of high quality and cooked with lightly caramelised bell peppers (6/10).  Two small pieces of quail on the bone were very tender, stuffed with a little foie gras and served with a little truffled mash potato (7/10).  The mash potato was reminiscent of Robuchon’s famous version, but was nowhere near as good. 

 

Tarts of chocolate and passion fruit had reasonable pastry and high grade fillings, but a vanilla and cinnamon tart was less successful (6/10).  The coffee glace dessert was very intensely flavoured coffee ice-cream topped with coffee mousse and a melting coffee tuile, served in a glass; at the base was a chicory jelly, which worked very well; the glass stood in a dish of silvered coffee beans (6/10).  Service was friendly but a shambles.  There were lots of waiters, mostly French, but they were completely unable to keep tabs on who had ordered the various dishes.  Overall it was all just a little disappointing, given the high price tag, and certainly less good than Atelier Robuchon in Paris.  It would be interesting to compare with Maze, which may well have the edge.  Frederique Simonin may have got two Michelin stars at La Table de Joel Robuchon in Paris, but he has a long way to go before getting anywhere near that standard here. The service in particular seems inexcusably bad, and little details like a typo on the main menu “whitting” instead of whiting are careless.  Last visited September 2006. 

 

 

Restaurant

Aubergine

Food rating

5/10

Address

11 Park Walk, Fulham Lane, London SW10 0AJ

Phone Number

020 7352 3449

Nearest Tube

Gloucester Road, plus a long walk

Open

Monday – Saturday dinner

Price

£80 a head including basic wine

Map

Click here

 

Once the premises of the talented but temperamental Gordon Ramsay, William Drabble has stepped into the chef's toque in a very assured way.  A one-starred Michelin chef in his own right, he is a fine cook.  The weaknesses here are desserts, and a menu that hardly changes.  Here are detailed notes from a fine meal here, though my last experience here feels as if the cooking is stuck in a rut.

 

An amuse bouche was a little dish of shellfish bisque – this was scented with truffle oil and had excellent intensity (8/10).  The breads are rolls: white, brown or olive, and are very good (7/10).  My starter consisted of three scallops wrapped in ventreche (bacon) and roasted, with a puree of Jerusalem artichoke and served with a veloute of salsify.  The scallops were stunningly juicy, moist and full of flavour (these can only have been divers-caught scallops of the highest quality).  The delicate ventreche worked well with them, holding their flavour in during the cooking process but in no way overwhelming the flavour of the scallops.  The artichoke puree was of the highest standard, silky smooth with wonderful artichoke flavour coming through.  This was one of the best scallop dishes I have for a very long time, and I just cannot fault this dish in any way.  Stella had a fine warm salad of roasted vegetables, accompanied with a smooth puree of asparagus.  This was prettily presented as a tidy pile of vegetables on a set of carefully arranged salad leaves.  All the components were of very high quality e.g. lovely wild mushrooms and perfectly fresh.   

 

For main course I had breast of duck sliced and resting on a galette of potato, itself on a confit of creamed green cabbage, the tower resting in a pool of the cooking juices.  This was another stunning dish – the duck perfect and pink, of very high quality texture and flavour. The potato galette was perfect, the cabbage delicious, even the few baby carrots scattered around for decoration were stunning.  This dish was 9/10.  Stella’s turbot was beautifully timed, served with stunning creamed leeks, along with excellent chanterelles and a remarkably intense red wine sauce (7/10).  For cheese we tried a goats cheese I have not encountered before, some excellent Comte, good Munster, very good Longues, some Reblochon that will be in better condition in a few days, served with walnut and raising bread that was sliced very thin and had somewhat dried out (6/10 for the cheese).  Dessert was apple and raisin charlotte shaped into a cylinder, the apples cooked through beautifully, complimented well by the raisins, this accompanied by a perfect green apple sorbet of silky texture (6/10).  Stella had a fine lime parfait with a ginger sponge that needed more ginger and was perhaps a little too dry – however the parfait itself was superb (7/10).  Coffee was very good indeed (8/10), with some excellent petit fours: ones tried were a good mini lemon tart, a rum baba that needed just a little more moisture (5/10), a biscuit, a little chocolate tart and a raspberry tart (6/10) for the petit fours.  Service was good rather than flawless, despite the charm of Christophe.  The main flaw was the sommelier, who seemed unaware of what we had ordered when we asked for some advice, and who struggled to keep the wine glass refilled.  Service 7/10. 

 

Last visited October 2002, when I had a much less satisfactory meal (hence the lower mark overall than is suggested by the notes).

 

 

Restaurant

Avenue 

Food rating

4/10

Address

7-9 St James Street, London SW1A 1EE

Phone Number

020 7321 2111

Nearest Tube

Green Park

Open

Monday – Saturday 12:00 –15:00 and 17:45 – midnight (till 00:30 on Friday and Saturday only)
Sunday 12:15:30, 17:45 – 22:00

Price

£65 a head with wine

Web site

http://www.theavenue.co.uk

Map

Click here

 

The Avenue is a highly successful venture that has settled into its stride.  Desserts are the highlight, these being of a level well beyond the rest of the cooking and to a very high standard indeed.  The mainstream cooking is consistent and competent without ever reaching any real heights, while the atmosphere is lively and the service operation efficient.  Not a place of great originality, but the Avenue is a very enjoyable place to eat.  Here are notes from a meal there. 

 

There is a huge picture window into the restaurant interior from St James Street, which is flanked by two classical-style columns.  You are greeted on entry through the glass door, and then led away to your table.  As you head towards the dining area you pass by a video wall on the right playing a fashion show (pop videos on other occasions), an appropriate choice since many of the clientele would look at home on the catwalk.  On the left as you enter is the spectacular long bar, cleverly under-lit with yellow light; with a beautiful flower display at each end.  Opposite the bar are a number of low chairs, stools and tables at which to wait and have a drink.  The floor is white-tiled and the room benefits from a very high ceiling.  Walls and ceiling are gleaming white, the walls almost entirely bare.  This leads to quite a noisy feel, partly due on this occasion to a bunch of nearby nouveau riche Russians knocking back bottles (not glasses) of vodka.  In the background is rock music, occasionally alternating with some live piano music.  Lighting is from overhead spots and is bright.  

 

The part of the dining area to which we were ushered has bench seating, the bench in fact being back-lit in purple, and there is a narrow sky-light above which appears to have blinds which can be rolled over it.  On the wall are a couple of large modern paintings.  The tables by the benches are bare wood; white linen tablecloths cover those in the rest of the room.  White linen napkins are used, and on each table is silver cutlery and an ashtray with a letter @ design.  Chairs are modern, wood and fairly comfortable.  The clientele is generally fairly young and well heeled.  The wine list is predominantly French but with a smattering of good New World choices.  Examples are the basic Guigal Cotes du Rhone at £17.50, Krug non vintage at £90 (not unreasonable given that it retails at £60 or more) while the dessert wines include Tokaji 5 Puttonyos at a ludicrous £35 or £7.50 a glass (about four times retail).  In general the mark-ups are fairly high but the growers are good.  There is also a new idea, a fine wine menu selected by Christies, with various serious wines like Petrus 1993 at £195 and Lafite 1978 at £275. 

 

Bread is either herb foccacia or a brown bread with a salt crust, both fresh and having good flavour.  Service is brisk and efficient.  A leek and Gruyere risotto was a little over-creamy in texture but still had plenty of flavour, the mound of risotto topped with shreds of deep fried leek.  The Gruyere flavour was kept in control and the leek strips added a texture contrast to the risotto.  Overall this was 3/10.  A blue cheese salad with croutons featured ultra-fresh, crisp baby Gem leaves, good croutons and was garnished with a little deep fried parsley (4/10). 

 

My sea bass was well timed, moist and full of flavour, topped with a very well balanced herb crust which complemented rather than overwhelmed the fish, served on a bed of young, tender spinach and in a light buttery sauce with baby broad beans.  This was a harmonious dish, all the components cooked correctly (5/10).  A salmon fishcake had excellent salmon flavour though was just a little flaky, served with a butter sauce that had a hint of aniseed.  The courgettes, mange touts and carrots that accompanied the fishcake were delicately cooked, and the sauce flavoured lightly with mixed herbs.  Overall 5/10, with the vegetables a clear 6/10.  A side dish of champ had good texture for the potatoes but was swimming in a pool of butter; however the chips were thin, crisp, salted perfectly and all in all were hard to fault - some of the best chips I had all year.

 

A chocolate assiette dessert consisted of three components: a white chocolate triangular parfait slab had very smooth texture, a dark chocolate tart had plenty of rich flavour and excellent base of pastry, while a chocolate mousse also had smooth texture and kept the potentially overwhelming coffee taste within check.  These dishes were garnished with a thin biscuit wafer interleaved with chocolate, and some dribbles of chocolate sauce artfully arranged around the plate; a few slices of strawberry added a little colour.  A pretty dish that showed a dessert chef of considerable abilities (7/10).  A baked vanilla cheesecake was also a great success, with a perfect base and a well balanced compote of blueberries accompanied by a little creme fraiche (6/10).  As the £2.25 coffee arrived an incident occurred.  I had ordered a double espresso, and as so often happens a small cup arrived with a tiny pool of coffee at the bottom of it.  I get fed up of this practice, and asked the waiter “is this a double espresso - it is tiny?”  The waiter, who until that moment had been efficient but rather poker-faced, smiled and said: “sir, you should see the single espresso” and waltzed off.  The coffee itself, both filter and espresso, was good.  Some chocolate covered coffee beans were brought to snack on while you sip (very, very carefully) your drops of coffee.  To be fair, the filter cafetiere for one person did provide two cups. 

 

Last visited 2003.

 

 

Restaurant

Belvedere 

Food rating

5/10

Address

Holland Park (actually in the park itself) off Abbotsbury Road W8 6LU

Phone Number

0207 602 1238

Nearest Tube

Holland Park

Open

All week12:00 – 14:30, 18:00 – 23:00 (22:30 Sunday)

Price

£55 a head with wine

Web site

http://www.whitestarline.org.uk/

Map

Click here

 

Finally the beautiful setting of the Belvedere has cooking to match the view.  Marco Pierre White has taken it over, spruced it up and installed a competent team in the kitchen.  Much improved décor can be seen in the high-ceilinged main room, with beautiful flower displays to match.  Marco himself sitting was two tables down from us with Rocco Forte on our first visit, admiring his handiwork.  Service was courteous and efficient, bread served warm, either very good brown and white rolls (5/10).  Tagliatelle with langoustines had tender langoustine, good pasta and an excellent sauce made from the juices of the shellfish (5/10).  My Bresse chicken was excellent, served with a very good peas risotto and a simple jus (6/10).  Stella had tranche of salmon, which was timed just right (5/10).  Lemon tart was superb (easily 7/10), with light pastry and lemon in fine balance with the sweetness of the filling.  This was served with a fine lemon sorbet.  Coffee is very good (6/10).  The wine list, which is in very small print, has reliable selections like Guigal Cote du Rhone at £18, and Hugel Pinot Gris at £30.  There are some more exotic bottles for visiting millionaires e.g. Chateau d’Yquem and a Domaine Romanee Conti at the usual absurd mark-ups.  As so often, the cooking a few months after it has opened seems to lack the edge of the first few months, but this is still 5/10 territory.  In the summer you can sit out on the terrace and look over the park, but remember to ask for this when booking.  Last eaten October 2001.

 

 

Restaurant

Bentley’s

Food rating

6/10

Address

11-15 Swallow Street, London W1B 4DE

Phone Number

0207 734 4756

Nearest Tube

Piccadily Circus

Open

All week 12:00 - 15:00, 18:00 - 23:00

Price

£65 a head with wine

Map

Click here

 

On the ground floor is a bar; you walk through this and walk upstairs to the dining room, split into two sections. The décor has a slight sense of a gentleman’s club, but I mean this in a positive way: it is truly welcoming.  The blue leather chairs with metal studs are both attractive and very comfortable, and there is no music.  The walls are painted cream up to the dado level, and above this is a blue floral patterned fabric in place of wallpaper.  The curtains are of matching fabric, which my wife (who understands these things) dismissed as “very 1980s”.  There is a window at one end of the room, but this just looks out onto a building site next door.  The floor is plain wood, as is usual these days, while tables have crisp white linen tablecloth and napkins.  There are no flowers at all in the dining room, which perhaps contributes to the slightly masculine feel of the décor.  On the walls are a series of prints of fish, plus one large painting of what presumably is a fishing boat.  The ceiling is white and has directed spots, supplemented by a few side lamps on the walls, which have yellow lamp-covers.  The lighting is excellent, carefully directed and making the menu easy to read.  Why this basic concept seems to elude so many interior designers escapes me, so no peering into the gloom with a torch tonight.  Tables have just salt and pepper set out, nothing else.

 

The menu majors on seafood; Bentley’s has been around 90 years no less, and its new owners (Richard Corrigan etc) have kept the focus on the fruits of the sea.  The waiting staff are formally dressed, and to my amazement included two English waitresses, something I thought was an extinct breed in London.  Service was friendly and capable, the dishes arriving at a pleasant pace, and dishes were correctly delivered (no “who ordered the ….” here).  Wine service featured a sommelier who seemed to know what he was talking about, and indeed the wine list is a lengthy affair, with 13 pages of closely typed choices.  There are plenty in the £25-£40 range e.g. Shaw and Smith Sauvignon Blanc at £28.50 and Domhoff  Riesling 2004 at £27.75. There are plenty of choices by the glass, including seven sweet wines.  I am pleased to report there are no stingy half-glasses poured for dessert wine e.g. the Pedro Ximenes measure was very generous indeed. 

 

Breads are, unusually, baked on the premises, and while commendable this may not after all be that wise.  A dark Irish soda bread was not my thing but was nonetheless well made (6/10) but although slices of white bread were reasonable if a little light in salt (4/10) the sourdough was sliced ultra-thin and was frankly dried out (0/10).  There are no amuse guele. I began with macaroni with Dublin bay prawns, and this featured high quality home-made pasta with excellent texture and fresh, tender langoustines mixed in with the pasta, all with a little shellfish sauce to add moisture.  This was very well executed, the langoustines clearly of good quality and having pleasing taste and silky texture (6/10).  Stella had crab brulee, served with good pickled cucumber with sesame seeds and an excellent finger sandwich of prawn toast with a thick layer of prawns at the centre, toasted and topped with sesame seeds.  The brulee itself worked well, tasting properly of the crab and having smooth texture (6/10). 

 

Stella had Dover sole, simply grilled and served with a half of lemon and some home-made tartare sauce. Nico used to make the definitive version of this and so everything else seems a pale imitation, but the one tonight was very good, the fish fresh and cooked through just the right amount, having excellent flavour. The tartare sauce had a pleasing tartness and was a good accompaniment (6/10).  I had roast duck from Goosnargh, served in two pieces on the bone with a little meat jus, and a blob of celeriac puree, plus a single caramelised apple in a torpedo shape.  Although the duck was cooked pink it was just a little harder to cut through than I would have expected, though the flavour itself was good.  The celeriac puree was superb, with very light, creamy texture and great intensity of flavour, while the jus could have perhaps been reduced a little; there was a little sauerkraut on the side, but this was rather tasteless (5/10 overall).  Vegetables arrived with the main courses: new potatoes were cooked with a little mint, and had lovely texture; so often potatoes turn up either under or over cooked, but these were just about ideal.  A mix of mange tout, sugar snap peas and spinach was also very capably cooked with a little butter (7/10 for the vegetables).

 

A caramelised apple tart had good pastry but in fact the apples were not properly caramelised; this was disguised by the addition of a caramel sauce and some excellent (7/10 standard) vanilla ice cream, but the dish was less good than it would otherwise have been due to the incorrect treatment of the apple (4/10).  Sherry trifle was a delightfully old-fashioned dish to see on a menu.  In this case the sponge base had good texture and was generously laced with sherry, there was a layer of fruit jelly above this and then a layer of strawberry, a little grapefruit and even the odd blueberry, topped with cream.  The fruit was of good quality, seasonal and the sponge a success (6/10).  Cappuccino and filter coffee were both good quality coffee, the filter coffee served in a silver coffee pot and left on the table for refills; accompanying the coffee were four small but very well made chocolate truffles, with rich centres and a light coating  (6/10 for filter, 7/10 for the cappuccino). 

 

This was a very pleasant dining experience all round.  The room is relaxing and the chairs comfortable, there is no music to distract you, and the service was extremely friendly.  The menu is very appealing and an exercise in simplicity, with every dish appealing.  There is no coconut herring or Earl Grey tea wasabe froth appearing on your fish, as so often seems the case in London restaurants these days. Above all, the ingredient quality of the fish was excellent and the technical execution consistent.  Prices are also fair for cooking at this level. 

 

 

Restaurant

Berkeley Square Restaurant & Grill  

Food rating

4/10

Address

7 Davies Street, Mayfair W1K 3DD

Phone Number

020 7629 6993

Nearest Tube

Green Park or Bond Street

Open

Lunch all week: open all day

Dinner: all week 18:30 – 22:30 (Sundays 22:00)

Price

£60 a head with wine

Map

Click here

 

Sadly Stephen Black and his wife have headed off to Austarlia, and the place is not what iit was, though there are still flickers of talent showing.  The menu now is priced at £42.95 for two courses of £49.95 for three courses, and there is  also a 7 course surprise menu at £55.  Breads (rolls of onion, olive white and brown, and the onion roll lacked much onion taste) were rather chewy (3/10).  A pumpkin veloute served in a little cup arrived as an amuse bouche and had reasonably good pumpkin flavour, though it could have been more intense and the texture was a little thicker than the ideal (4/10).  My starter of “Sennen cove” crab with avocado, grapefruit and pea shoots was a disappointment.  The crab meat used was the brown meat from the crab, and it had very little taste given that it was supposedly fresh crab.  The grapefruit segments were also rather dried out (1/10).  Better was a pair of diver-caught scallops (sweet and timed well) with a bulb of well cooked warm foie gras, a little parsnip puree and a smear of ragout of salsify and girolles (6/10). 

 

Roast loin of venison was reasonable, served with a well-made fondant potato, creamed Savoy cabbage, a parsnip roasted with a honey glaze and a sauce of beetroot and red wine.  The vegetables were nicely cooked but the beetroot did little for the sauce and the venison was merely pleasant in taste (4/10).  Stella’s pasta parcels with ricotta were downright poor, the pasta chewy and hard (0/10).  Roasted monkfish was cooked well enough but was rather uninteresting despite its miso marinade, while the “tiger prawns” were more like kitten prawns judging by their size, while a butternut squash tortellini had chewy pasta (3/10).  A pre-dessert apple cake was mediocre, though my dessert of lemon tart with lime rice pudding was better, nicely made with clean flavours (6/10).  The cooking was a serious drop in standards compared to when Stephen Black was in charge, and now the prices would seem too high to justify returning.  Overall this was perhaps 4/10, but this is no longer good value for money at £100 a head. 

 

Last visited November 2006.

 

 

Restaurant

Bollo House 

Food rating

1/10

Address

13-15 Bollo Lane, Chiswick W4 5LR

Phone Number

020 8994 6037

Nearest Tube

Chiswick Park

Open

Lunch: weekends only, open all day

Dinner: all week 18:30 – 22:30 (Sundays 22:00)

Price

£20 a head with wine

Map

Click here

 

A decent “gastro pub” finally arrives in Chiswick.  The drinking half of the pub is panelled wood, the dining half carpeted.  Décor is fairly modern, with bright lighting.  At a recent visit, smoked haddock and mussel chowder was very good indeed, with none of the powdery texture that often dogs poor chowder; instead there were chunks of well cooked haddock and mussels, in a creamy sauce with fresh chopped chives (2/10).  A Caesar salad was also a cut above the norm, with good leaves and dressing (3/10).  Smoked salmon is never a great test of a kitchen but it was fine here, while the grilled fillet of mackerel I had was cooked carefully with new potatoes, crisp green beans and a light mustard sauce; the three mackerels were draped artistically over the central heap of potato and a little green salad (3/10).  There is an acceptable wine list e.g. Firesteed Pinot Noir for £18.50, most wines around the £15 mark, even a dessert wine by the glass.  Far better than I was expecting – I have eaten much, much worse in many restaurants. 

 

Last eaten November 2002, when sadly the experience was less favourable.

 

 

Restaurant

Brackenbury

Food rating

4/10

Address

129-131 Brackenbury Road, Shepherds Bush, W6 0BQ

Phone Number

020 8748 0107

Nearest Tube

Goldhawk Road, also Hammersmith is not too far

Open

Sunday to Friday 12:30 – 14:45, Monday to Saturday 19:00 – 22:45

Price

£30 a head with wine

Map

Click here

Hygiene

Click here

 

The sort of restaurant everyone wishes they had at the end of their road.  Despite some ownership changes over the years the Brackenbury has remained remarkably consistent, turning out British and French dishes that are rarely fancy but are always carefully cooked.  Fish is well timed, ingredients are excellent and service is friendly.  The dining room is in two parts on what is basically a residential street, with a few tables outside in the summer.  A feature is the very fair prices, and there is a decent wine list with good value wines.  The current owners, who took over in July 2003, have brought a promising chef.  Notes from my last meal here follow

 

A starter of risotto made with white truffle (presumably just oil truffle given the price tag for the dish of £6.50), fresh peas and feves featured well cooked Arborio rice and a very good chicken stock that had suffused the rice with flavour.  The texture of the rice was excellent, and the vegetables tender (6/10).  Fresh and smoked salmon were layered and cut into a circular tower shape, topped with guacamole, surrounded by a thick dressing of cherry tomatoes laced with Bloody Mary.  This salmon worked well with the guacamole and the tomatoes; an unusual but effective combination (5/10).  We both had a main course of carefully cooked tuna, served with a green salsa, tender broad beans and a little relish of red pepper and chilli jam.  The spices were restrained and added a little lift to the dish without dominating it (5/10).  I tried a passion fruit cheesecake, which had a good base and plenty of passion fruit flavour, accompanied by a very good passion fruit sorbet, bursting with fruit flavour and having smooth texture, served inside a hollowed out passion fruit (easily 5/10).  Mango sorbet was also well made, with smooth texture and intense mango flavour (5/10).

 

 Last visited September 2006. 

 

 

Restaurant

Bradleys  

Food rating

3/10

Address

25 Winchester Road, Swiss Cottage, NW3 3NR

Phone Number

020 7722 3457

Nearest Tube

Swiss Cottage

Open

Sunday to Friday 12:00 – 15:00,
Saturday to Thursday 18:00 – 23:00

Price

£40 a head with wine

Map

Click here

 

A simple neighbourhood restaurant with a pleasant little garden accessed through French doors that open out in summer.  Here are notes from a recent meal.  To begin with I had a rather watery Jerusalem artichoke soup, which I have to say I can cook better (1/10).  My companion had a much better dish of four scallops, which were nicely cooked with a simple cauliflower puree and a smear of red wine sauce (4/10).  For main course I had tuna, cooked rare, covered with a pepper crust and served with some ordinary potato crisps (2/10).  My companion again fared better with a loin of venison, cooked pink and served with a shallot tatin and a tasty horseradish mash.  Some accompanying (charged extra) French beans and snow peas were competently done (3/10).  A pear tatin for dessert was reasonable, while a caramelised apple was less good, with an over-flaky strudel.  Coffee was fine, and the breads were good.  The wine list is almost entirely New World, including a good selection of Bonny Doon e.g. Cigare Volant and his Moscato dessert wine.  Friendly, unpretentious service, but the waiter struggled to remember who ordered what.  Overall, an erratic meal, but with cooking a cut above the average for a local restaurant and with an excellent wine list. 

 

 

Top ten favourite

Restaurant

The Brilliant

Food rating

4/10

Address

72-72 Western Road, Southall, Middlesex UB2 5DZ

Phone Number

020 8574 1928

Nearest Tube

none, but Southall BR is a five minute walk

Open

Tuesday – Sunday for dinner

Price

around £25 a head with drinks, but you will never finish the meal if you spend this much!

Map

Click here

 

Forget the various "best Indian" food awards, which are mostly as unpredictable and independent as the outcome of a WWF wrestling match.  For real Indian food ask Indian people, and most will recommend this long-established fixture in the Asian community.  The main dining room has finally been refurbished (no more silk plants) and the room is bright and smarter, if a little glittery.  They have now introduced plasma TV screens where you can see the Bollywood films as well as listen to them, which is somewhat surreal but quite fun.  The clientele is mainly Asian families, and portions are designed with that in mind i.e. BIG.  My favourite dishes are the chicken starters, e.g. butter chicken, or the bhajia mix or lovely aloo tikki (chilli chicken is not for the faint of heart).  For main courses the methi chicken is superb, as is any prawn dish.  Chef Gulu Anand has his own garam masala recipe made from forty ingredients, and the quality of the spicing here is very high.  Rice is wonderfully fragrant, but breads are only reasonable.  I generally stick to chapattis or romali roti here (which at present is not made in the taditional way, though this should hopefully change soon).  Note that the restaurant will close in January 2007 for major refurbishment, hopefully reopening in February.

 

Last visited November 2006.

 

 

Restaurant

Café Japan

Food rating

3/10

Address

626 Finchley Road, London NW11 7RR

Phone Number

020 8455 6854

Nearest Tube

Golders Green

Open

Wednesday – Sunday 18:00 – 21:00

Price

£30 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

Simple café surroundings with bench seating as well as a bar where food is served to customers seated on bar stools.  It was packed out tonight.  Service was stretched but friendly. This is pretty much entirely a sushi and sashimi place, with no meat dishes that I could see, and almost everything being raw fish of various kinds others than specials and just a few hot dishes.  Miso soup was pleasant.  I had sashimi tuna, with eight prettily presented pieces of good tuna, with pickled ginger and wasabi (3/10).  Grilled eel was served on a bed of rice that had absorbed the cooking juices and was excellent (4/10).  Blackened cod was capable with good flavour (3/10).  This place is very fair value.  I had Kirin beer, but other Japanese beers and some wines are also available.  Last visited August 2004.

 

 

Restaurant

Café Spice Namaste

Food rating

2/10

Address

16 Prescott Street, London E1 8AZ

Phone Number

020 7488 9242

Nearest Tube

Aldgate

Open

Monday-Friday 12:00-15:00

Monday-Saturday 18:15– 22:30

Price

£35 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

Oddly, when Cyrus Todiwala was cooking in a backwater in Alie Street at the original Namaste, I loved it but the food guides ignored it.  However his talent was spotted and money was loaned, and Café Spice Namaste came forth, a huge eatery in high-ceilinged splendour at the edge of the City.  Cyrus himself no longer cooks, which is a great shame, as his cooking at the old Namaste was original and superb, but now his restaurant is a great success and the food guides fawn.  Here are some notes on one of my meals there, showing the inconsistency that can creep in. 

 

Popadoms are crispy (2/10) and come with homemade pickles.  For starter a dish of prawns were cooked tenderly but were in a rather one-dimensional sauce (1/10).  Aloo papri chat was a rather inferior version: a mound of heavy potato with rather sharp raw onion and deep-fried “pasta” pieces served with a tiny dish of yoghurt-based sauce with a dash of mint and tamarind.  Too dry, the dish lacked cohesion, with too many elements that did not blend into a whole.  Goan prawn curry again had prawns correctly cooked, but the sauce was rather ordinary, with chunks of tomato in the sauce used as a filler (1/10).  Marked as being “very hot”, it actually lacked spiciness.  Chicken xacuti had a more interesting sauce, though again the spices, not being freshly ground, merged into one and were indistinct, rather than each being recognisable as happens when they are truly fresh (1/10).  Pilau rice was OK, though the polished rice with the prawn curry was well cooked and different - it had a somewhat nutty taste.  The best feature of the meal was the naans, which although they had been left to stand for a while and so were not piping hot, were fluffy and excellent (3/10).  Bombay potato, always a good test, were reasonable but fell in to the common trap of overcooking the potatoes, resulting in the vegetables losing distinct texture and being too soft on the outside, yet the larger ones were still hard on the inside (0/10).  Raita was quite creamy, without much cucumber in it (1/10).  Service was not at its best: the waiter rushed off before we had finished ordering - they seemed a bit stretched.  As ever, the atmosphere is lively, though full of arrogant traders and their Essex girl companions: entertaining in its way.  Last visited May 2004.

 

There was a similar, though smaller, branch at 247 Lavender Hill, SW11 (0207 738 1717) minus the City wide boys. But this seems to have folded.

 

 

Top ten favourite

Restaurant

The Capital

Food rating

8/10

Address

22-24 Basil Street, Knightsbridge, London SW3 1AT

Phone Number

020 7589 5171

Nearest Tube

Knightsbridge

Open

Monday-Friday 12:30-14:15, 19:0023:15

Price

£90 a head with drinks

Web site

http://www.capitalhotel.co.uk/

Map

Click here

 

Normally hotel dining rooms in the UK are strictly to be avoided, but there are a few exceptions.  The boutique Capital Hotel has long had a fine restaurant under the expert hands of Phillip Britten, but on his departure transitioned smoothly to Eric Chavot.  Eric has a long history of successful restaurants in London after originally cooking with Nico Ladenis.  The dining room is small and cosy, with very high ceilings and warm, rich fabrics.  The service is very good indeed, friendly and efficient.  Generally the cooking is modern French, based on strong technique and with fine ingredients.  We often have Christmas lunch here, which features the lightest Christmas pudding I have ever tasted (“light” and “Christmas pudding” are not normally words that appear in the same sentence).  Eric Chavot’s cooking appeared stuck at the 7/10 level in his previous ventures, but here he seems to have moved up a gear.  Here are my notes from a recent meal. 

 

Breads are rolls of either white (7/10), brown walnut and raisin (8/10), paprika (6/10) or olive (5/10).  The olive and paprika rolls were a little doughy, but the walnut and raisin was very fine, crisp and with great flavour, just the right amount of salt.  Overall breads were 7/10.  An amuse guele was a little black pudding resting on a circle of Lyonaisse potatoes, topped with a sliver of caramelised apple.  The black pudding had hearty flavour, the potatoes were very tender and the apple nicely provided some acidity to balance the black pudding (7/10).  A bit tricky if you don’t eat meat though.

 

Warm smoked haddock was served on top of aioli potatoes as a fillet in the centre of the plate, topped with a precarious tower of mini-blinis, surrounded by a salad of deep-fried quail eggs.  The haddock was stunning, with great flavour and perfectly timed; maybe the best haddock I have eaten.  The blinis had excellent texture and the salad leaves were very fresh (8/10).  The vertical presentation theme continued with a tower of four layers for my starter.  At the base was a very fine tomato risotto wrapped in smoked pork belly (“poitrine fumee”), on top of which were two seared langoustines.  Atop the langoustines was a solitary ravioli of langoustines, crowned by a sliver of deep-fried chorizo.  Around the tower were smears of red chorizo juice.  The only relative slip was in the langoustines, which while by no means chewy but were seared a little too much.  However the risotto was superb, the bacon sealing in the flavour, while the ravioli had perfect texture.  An original dish, and one in which the very different flavours worked surprisingly well with one another (8/10; would have been 9/10 except for the langoustines). 

 

Stella had roasted turbot served on the bone, on a bed of spinach and surrounded by a fricassee of ceps and Jerusalem artichokes, all resting in a pool of red-wine reduction of the cooking juices.  The turbot was dazzling, flecked with black truffles and having a wonderful rich flavour.  The spinach was very fine, as were the Jerusalem artichokes, while the ceps were very good if a little salty, some little gnocchi added a starch to offset the rich sauce, the whole flavoured with thyme.  The jus reduction was either very intensely reduced or may have had a little meat reduction added to bolster it (8/10).  My main dish was served on a rectangular plate.  In the middle was an excellent galette of potato and bacon, with full, deep flavour and fine texture.  On the left were two pink fillets of excellent venison, sitting in a pool of the cooking juices, reduced to a thick, rich consistency.  On the right was a bed of shredded green cabbage and tiny flecks of carrots, resting on which was a circle of ossobuco.  The ossobuco was extremely tender, the dark meat’s richness nicely complemented by the cabbage and carrots.  I wondered whether a green vegetable somewhere in all this might have been advantageous at least for my arteries, but there was no doubting the quality of ingredients or technique (8/10).    

 

Cheese was served from a very handsome covered silver trolley, the top being ceremonially opened to reveal the cheeses within.  I tried St Maure, (7/10) Brillat Savarin (6/10) Beaufort (6/10), Munster (5/10 – a little past its best), while best was Bleu de Courses (south west France) at 8/10, in lovely condition.  Overall 7/10 for the cheeses.  The selection was entirely French.  There were no pre-desserts, which given the richness of the main course was probably no bad thing.  I had a plate of lemon dishes: a very capable lemon meringue tart, a smooth lemon sorbet, a lemon and blood orange jelly and, best of all, little pancakes wrapped into cylinders containing super lemon cibouste.  Overall 7/10 for this, with the pancakes as high as 9/10.  Stella had chocolate and peppermint vacherin, which consisted of some “paintbrushes” made of meringue, on which rested a cylinder of excellent, very full-flavoured peppermint ice cream wrapped in dark chocolate, on top of which a scoop of excellent chocolate ice-cream and another meringue brush (7/10).

 

Both filter and espresso were very high quality coffee.  Accompanying the coffee was an excellent tray of petit fours, so often the Achilles heel of French restaurants in England.  There were three delicate tuiles: lime, raspberry and a stunning plain biscuit tuile.  Next were three excellent fruit jellies, apple, orange and blackberry.  A mini lemon tart was faultless, while a pistachio Madeleine had great pistachio flavour and fine texture, as did a sponge with a single currant in the middle.  Orange peel wrapped in chocolate, a white chocolate, a truffle and a white chocolate macaroon were also excellent.  9/10 for the petit fours, some of the best I have had in England for some time.  Last visited December 2005.

 

 

Restaurant

Le Cercle

Food rating

5/10

Address

1 Wilbraham Place, London, SW1X 9AE   

Phone Number

020 7901 9999

Nearest Tube

Sloane Square

Open

Tuesday - Saturday 12:00-14:00, 19:00 – 22:30

Price

£40 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

A basement, but one with a very high ceiling.  At the far end is a wine cellar behind glass, and there are a couple of booths.  There is also a love seat, and in general the atmosphere is romantic, with the lighting subdued, with spots picking out the centre of each table in a pool of light as at Hakkasan, though less well done.  The clientele is definitely trendy – one blonde woman was wearing both a kimono and a tiara.  Tables are a decent size for four, though I observed that a table for six just had two extra chairs stuffed in around the same table.  The menu is tapas style.  I had summer salad with mixed leaves and baby vegetables (4/10).  This was followed by a  small piece of sea bass pan-fried with a little beurre blanc; the fish was fresh and well timed, the sauce subdued (6/10).  Next was roasted quail with sauce diable, the quail tenderly cooked and the sauce just a rich smear that did not overwhelm the delicate quail (6/10).  Fillet of beef with mushroom duxelle was medium rare yet somewhat chewy, so presumably was not very well sourced (4/10). 

 

Cheese is odd in that you choose and pay for each cheese individually.  Camembert and Comte were good but the quantities were too big for a single cheese – much better to have a board and have a little of several (4/10).  Tarte fine had good pastry, dessert apples and a fair vanilla ice cream (4/10).  Coffee was of good quality (6/10).  There is just one bread, a mini white loaf served warm and this was excellent (6/10).  Service was flaky – they had lost my booking so I suppose I should be grateful to have got in at all given the place was completely full.  Wine topping up was erratic, and getting attention also hit and miss.  The wine list was good value, and with plenty of careful selections.  Overall this was a very pleasant experience, and a fair price. It is already doing very well.  Last visited April 2005, when I had a slightly less good meal than the above.  .

 

 

Restaurant

Chez Bruce 

Food rating

5/10

Address

2 Bellevue Road, Wandsworth Common, London SW17 7EG

Phone Number

020 8672 0114

Nearest Tube

Balham, but none really near

Open

All week 12:00-14:00 (15:00 Sundays), 19:00 – 22:30

Price

£50 a head with drinks

Web site

http://www.chezbruce.co.uk/

Map

Click here

 

In the old premise of the legendary Harveys (Marco Pierre White’s original restaurant) Bruce Poole, who used to cook at Chez Max in its glory days, brings fine cooking to a part of London that needs it.  The small dining room looks out on to Wandsworth common, and now that Bruce runs the place rather than Marco, diners need no longer live in terror of arriving ten minutes late.  His British cooking brings punchy flavours together with high quality ingredients and consistent execution.  The wine list has plenty of choice below £20 a bottle, and there is a reasonable range of growers on the list.  Simply the best restaurant in South London.

 

One meal (June 2001) consisted of seared tuna with the component of a salad Nicoise (5/10).  For main course duck confit was served on a cassoulet made from summer beans (5/10).  Cheese was reasonable (5/10) with Mrs Montgomery Cheddar and Colston Basset Stilton in good condition, but some of the French cheeses were past their best.  An assiette of apple had a disappointing tarte tatin and apple jelly, but sorbets were good, as was a grand marnier truffle.  Service was very slow (three hours to serve the dishes, despite arriving at 21:30 – I dread to think what it is like at peak times) and had several errors: two separate wine orders forgotten, bread not refreshed, no recollection of who ordered what, difficulty getting attention.  Still, at £30 for three courses prices are fair, and there is an excellent wine list with a fine list of dessert wines, no less than 18 by the glass.  Last visited April 2002.

 

 

Restaurant

China City (aka Imperial China)

Food rating

3/10

Address

25a Lisle Street, Soho, London, London WC2H 7BA

Phone Number

020 7734 3388

Nearest Tube

Leicester Square

Open

All week 12:00-15:00, 18:00 – 23:00

Price

£30 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

This is not easy to find.  If you come from the Charing Cross Road end of Lisle Street it is tucked away in an alley on the north side of Lisle Street.  Remarkably, it is a warren of a place on three floors seating no less than 500 people at a time.  The cuisine here is the usual Cantonese fare, but to a much higher standard than is usual in Chinatown. On my last visit we had some excellent cold meats followed by a surprisingly good bean curd soup.  Lobster was tender, rice was fragrant, and Chinese broccoli was very delicately steamed.  Last visited June 2006.

 

 

Restaurant

Chor Bizarre

Food rating

1/10

Address

16 Albemarle Street, London W1S 4HW

Phone Number

020 7629 9802

Nearest Tube

Green Park

Open

All week 12:00-15:00, 18:00 – 23:30 (22:30 Sundays)

Price

£40 a head with drinks

Web site

http://www.chorbizarrerestaurant.com/

Map

Click here

 

Many up-market Indian restaurants in London are disappointing, and after a good start this one seems on the decline.  The cooking stretches beyond the usual fare into interesting regional dishes, while service fluctuates from off-hand to reasonable.  More recent experiences have tended to the former.  In particular there is a tendency not to respect reservation times, which I find deeply irritating.

 

The floor of the main dining area is in two areas.  The first part is patterned black and white marble, the second a bare wood floor which has in it some of the frosted skylights that you sometimes walk over on pavements that cover basements.  The walls are stone, painted off white, while the ceiling is white.  Lighting, from a mix of directed ceiling spotlights and hanging lamps, is reasonably bright.  Sitar music plays in the dining room.  The tables and chairs are very interesting; each table is unique some of marble, some made of wood but with a glass top looking into a base of embroidery, or in our case a marble balustrade.  One table is even made out of an old four-poster bedstead, complete with drapes.  The chairs are very impressive, varied but all of intricate design, some with inlaid wood and most chairs elaborately carved. On the walls are various Indian carvings and some photos of India.  There is a downstairs dining area that is usually not in use.

 

Starters I have tried include aloo tikki chat, which is a Southall speciality that rarely ventures to the West End.  Some carefully cooked potatoes were stuffed with green peas, lentils and spices, with a sambal (tamarind) sauce, all mixed in with yoghurt and laced with fresh coriander, garnished with shreds of fresh ginger.  This was competent but cold (2/10).  I had a dish of five scallops, deep-fried and served with an excellent salad of red chillies, green peppers, red onions, curry leaves, fried coconut and a little coriander (2/10). 

 

For main course you could sample chettinad chicken, which is basically a peppery chicken curry, the flavour predominantly that of curry leaves with a little aniseed.  A makhani dal, once a fine creation here, was now rather watery.  Alternatively try a dish of four tandoori prawns, straight from the charcoal over and served with a red onion salad.  The large prawns were somewhat chewy. A wild mushroom methi had various wild mushrooms, liberally coated with fenugreek and ginger (3/10).  Zeera aloo was the least good dish on one visit, with potatoes that were perhaps a touch too starchy, though still with their texture and coated with cumin.  Rice, both plain basmati and a version with saffron, was light and fluffy (3/10), while the breads were excellent.  Naan was too hard while the paratha was crumbly (0/10).  Last visited May 2003.

 

 

Restaurant

The Clerkenwell Dining Room

Food rating

4/10

Address

69-73 St John Street, London EC1M 4AN

Phone Number

020 7253 9000

Nearest Tube

Farringdon

Open

All week 12:00-14:30, 18:00 – 23:00

Price

£60 a head with drinks

Web site

http://www.theclerkenwell.com/

Map

Click here

 

Headed by Andrew Thompson, the ex executive chef of L’Escargot , this venture has been open since November 2001.  It has a smart dining room, decorated in a modern style with hard-wood floor, some tasteful wall lamps and some tasteless modern art.  Tables are well spaced and generous in size, waiters are fairly attentive if a little pushy at times with their recommendations.  I started with a special, two scallops in a thick bouillon of sweetcorn and bacon.  The scallops were timed quite well but were not the best quality diver’s scallops, the broth worked well (5/10).  Less good was a crab cake, pleasant enough in itself but with a red pepper remoulade that lacked distinctive flavour (3/10).  Bread is just slices of white and brown, decent and freshly made (4/10).  For main course I tried suckling pig, slices of what was effectively gammon on a bed of green cabbage.  The suckling pig was quite bland, the cabbage better, surrounded by a fricassee of fairly tender white beans with garlic (3/10).  Slightly better was seared salmon with a rather ordinary red wine sauce but with very good leeks (4/10).  Desserts were more consistent: a passion fruit crème brulee was a little runny but had well balanced passion fruit in the custard (4/10).  A chocolate fondant had excellent texture and rich taste (6/10).  The wine list is short and fairly priced, and there is also a short “premium” list of rather uninspiring wines; mineral water is Hildon.  Coffee was reasonable (4/10).  The price is quite fair here: starters average £7, main courses £13, desserts around £6.   Last visited March 2002.

 

 

Restaurant

Club Gascon

Food rating

6/10

Address

57 West Smithfield, London EC1A 9DS

Phone Number

020 7796 0600

Nearest Tube

Barbican or Farringdon

Open

Dinner Monday – Saturday 19:00-22:00

Lunch Monday- Friday 12:00 – 14:00

Price

£70 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

We tried the tasting menu.  First was a veloute of shellfish and lamb’s lettuce served in a tall china cup; this had intense flavour, the liquid having the occasional mussel and even an oyster, as well as pieces of ewe cheese (5/10).  Foie gras of canard was a think slice of pate with smooth texture and strong foie gras flavour, served with some remarkably light toasted brioche (7/10).  Grilled confit of salmon was pleasant, resting in a frothy cauliflower cream (4/10).  Braised capo, had wonderful flavour, served with chestnuts, crosnes and black winter truffle (7/10).  Finally, “Twelfth night cake” featured delicate pastry and served with an almond ice cream and a little glass of fresh green apple juice (5/10).  Wines appropriate to each dish were served, the whole five courses priced at £55 a head including wines (we had some drink beforehand, which bumped the price up).  Best of all was the bread, both country bread and cereal bread, of wonderful flavour, crispy crust and fine flavour, very well salted – some of the best bread I have had in ages (9/10 for the bread, which is made on the premises).  Service was competent and the premises, though cramped, no longer involve literally packing people in by rearranging the tables.  Last visited January 2003.

 

 

Restaurant

Criterion

Food rating

3/10

Address

224 Piccadilly, London W1J 9HP

Phone Number

020 7930 0488

Nearest Tube

Piccadilly Circus

Open

All week 12:00 – 14:30, 18:00 – 00:00 (22:30 Sunday)

Price

£50 a head with drinks

Web site

http://www.whitestarline.org.uk/

Map

Click here

 

Perhaps the most beautiful dining room in London, the Criterion was once a tavern and then a large restaurant and entertainment complex, Victorian style.  The spectacular gilt ceiling and marble walls were covered over during the war and only recently has this glorious room been y restored to its fully glory under the ownership of Marco Pierre White.  The kitchen serves simple brasserie food with a wide, appealing menu.  Examples are pleasant risotto with asparagus, but when the kitchen pushes itself a little harder it generally delivers e.g. a tian of crab with a tomato and saffron dressing.  There is comforting food like smoked haddock, poached egg and colcannon. For dessert try the extremely good lemon tart, a cut above the general level of cooking here. Service is erratic, generally well meaning but also sometimes disorganised.  There is a good wine list, with choices like Riesling Cuvee Frederich Emile from Trimbach and the excellent value Guigal Cotes du Rhone, as well as a wide selection of New World offerings.  The Criterion is never going to push culinary boundaries, but it is mostly reliable and is a great place to take visitors to London, as the dining room itself is so stunning. 

 

 

Restaurant

Deya 

Food rating

4/10

Address

34 Portman Square, London W1H 7BY

Phone Number

020 7224 0028

Nearest Tube

Marble Arch

Open

Lunch Monday to Friday 12:00 – 14:45

Dinner Monday to Saturday 18:00 – 23:00

Price

£48 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

The restaurant is owned by Sir Michael Caine, Claudio Pulze and Raj Sharma (of Cuisine Collection).  The executive chef is Sanjay Dwivedi (also of Zaika) but the actual cooking is being done by Verapan Muragapan, who is a long-standing Zaika chef.  The room is an impressive one, with a very high Georgian ceiling with intricate plasterwork (painted white), a dark wood floor and walls painted eau-de-nil.  The walls are uncluttered, with just a couple of large mirrors and large brass side-lamp fittings.  Lighting is from these and a large central fitting hanging from the ceiling in the style of the root system of a tree, with multi-coloured bulbs. 

 

David d’Almada, the designer, has placed a long cocktail bar in between the dining area and the bar area, on the back of which (i.e. the side that you see from the dining area) is a mural of Indian figures and scenes.  Western muzak plays, though at a low level, and despite the wood floor the noise level is not too high.  Tables are fairly well spaced.  On each is a white linen tablecloth with matching napkins, a single rose in a glass jar and a lamp in a Moroccan-style pottery lampshade (maybe this was also Moghul style).  Crockery is plain white “Porcelana”.  There is banquette seating along the long wall, while chairs are somewhat out of character with the classical feel of the room – they are modern, low, ugly, upholstered in a variety of colours (blue, brown, red) and are very uncomfortable.  The chairs are a bewildering choice to go with the grand setting, and if I was Michael Caine I’d be asking for a refund from the designer for this little error of taste.  Waiters seem to be mostly Italian, and stylishly rather than formally dressed.  Service was very good, with wine topped up well and dishes emerging at a steady pace.

 

Popadoms are of the mini-disc variety favoured at Zaika, with three chutneys served in metal dishes on a square dish lined with a banana leaf.  These were very fine indeed, a tomato chutney, a sweet mango chutney and an aubergine chutney.  Each are made from fresh ingredients and carefully spiced, a world away from the jar contents that most Indian restaurants use.  The tomato chutney managed an intense flavour that was enhanced by a rich blend of spices (5/10 for the chutneys).  A recurring theme in this report will be the similarity with the old Zaika, which of course is hardly surprising given the backgrounds of the chefs, and it is notable that the chutneys at Zaika were always a great strength.

 

The wine list is extensive and well chosen, ranging across the world and stretching to over 20 pages.  Louis Roederer champagne is £49.50 i.e. about twice retail.  Other mark-ups are less generous e.g. Chassagne-Montrachet 2000 Jean-Marc Pillot is £66 on the list, but is available at £20 even from the pricey Berry Brothers and Rudd.  The excellent Marques de Murrieta "Capellania" Gran Reserva 1997 Ygay, Rioja is listed at £21 compared to around £8 retail. At the higher end of the list mark-ups remain at about three times retail, with Pommard 1er Cru "Clos des Epenots" 2000 Domaine de Courcel at £95.50 compared to retail of around £30.  There are even five dessert wines, two by the glass.  A large part of the wine list is £30-45, but there are some selections around the £20 mark, and in fact very little over £80.  Growers are generally intelligently chosen e.g.. from the USA we have Au Bon Climat, Qupe and Bonny Doon, which are all excellent choices. 

 

There was an amuse bouche.  This consisted of a tiny puri topped with chickpeas and yogurt, and garnished with sev.  There was also a good cauliflower pakora, hot and fresh with crispy coating (4/10).  I began with mustard tuna.  The first thing to note here is that this is bluefin tuna, the very highest grade of tuna, which is a rarity in a London restaurant.  Slices of tuna were marinated with ginger and chilli and cooked with mustard seeds, which give a pleasing crunchy contrast to the voluptuous texture of the tuna (which can easily handle spice without being overwhelmed).  The fish was served on a bed of excellent shredded spiced cabbage, a little asparagus and a small salad of bitter leaves (red-stemmed chard) with no dressing. This was a very successful dish (5/10)

 

Stella’s crab rice was carefully heaped into a little ring, topped with fresh crabmeat and sweetcorn.  Inside the rice was a raita with additional crab meat, and garnished with a samosa of crabmeat and sweetcorn.  A drizzle of mint and yoghurt sauce surrounded the rice. The crab was fresh and perfectly cooked, with carefully controlled use of spices, the samosa crispy and providing a good texture contrast to the crab (4/10).  Four large tandoori prawns were of high quality and superbly cooked, resting on an excellent utthapam (a pancake made from rice flour and “urad” lentils) topped with onions, chillies and baby shrimps.  The utthapam was golden and crispy but not too crisp, just as it should be.  The prawns were served with a salad of red-stemmed chard, shreds of beetroot and rocket with no dressing.  There was also a small pot of coconut chutney.  These were as good tandoori prawns as you will find anywhere in London (5/10)

 

Green chicken had chunks of good quality, tasty chicken, cooked in a thick sauce of cardamom, chilli and fennel, with spinach leaves.  The sauce was garnished with coriander and showed fresh, well-balanced spices.  Although labelled “spicy” this would only seem spicy to Americans (3/10).  Green vegetables were stir-fried green beans, broccoli and mange touts, with cashew nuts and shreds of fresh coconut, cooked with spices and mustard seeds.  The vegetables were very lightly cooked, and the dish is the same as that at Zaika except for the lack of baby sweetcorn (4/10).  Baby new potatoes were cooked with mint.  There was no sauce here, the potatoes cooked with spices and retaining their firm texture (3/10).

 

Boiled basmati rice was excellent, light with the grains clearly distinct (4/10).   A raita was thick and creamy, with cucumber, tomato and onion in it.  The texture was superb and the spicing accurate (5/10).  Garlic naan was fluffy, with finely chopped garlic and restrained use of butter (4/10).  Paratha was made with mint, was of the non-greasy variety, light and without the mint flavour being out of control (3/10).  

 

Pre-dessert was a lychee granita.  This was correctly made, the lychee taste coming through strongly and possessing good texture (5/10). Stella had pineapple and mango, thinly sliced with a little passion fruit juice, served with excellent coconut ice cream which had strong coconut flavour and a smooth texture (4/10).  I had pistachio kulfi with supposedly a mango ice cream but was actually coconut ice cream (a rare service blip) and a chocolate samosa with crispy pastry and a liquid chocolate centre.  A decorative chocolate tuile arch was a nice presentational touch.  The kulfi had good taste and texture (3/10).  My double espresso was of reasonable quality (3/10).  Stella’s tea was served in a teapot was was actually a teabag marked “French breakfast tea”, which was not very good.  There were even petit fours: peanut brittle, salted pistachios coated n white chocolate, a meringue stick, raisins in milk chocolate and hazelnuts in dark chocolate.  These were all pleasant rather than inspired (2/10). 

 

The bill was £109.69, with food and drinks at £97.50 and service at 12.5% i.e. £12.19.  After some of the outrageous prices now being charged by “Modern Indian” places (take note Amaya) the bill came as a pleasant surprise.  After all, there were two forms of nibbles, pre-dessert and petit fours here, as well as some high quality ingredients.  Water was £3 for Hildon water, and Cobra beer was also £3.  I thought this bill was quite fair in context.

 

Deya is a real surprise.  The dining room is grand but not overwhelming, the cooking is excellent, with genuinely high quality ingredients e.g. bluefin tuna and prawns of a quality that would shame many a French restaurant. Spicing was well handled, and the extras were great, with magnificent chutneys and good bread.  This was how I recall the old Zaika at its best.

 

Last visited September 2006.  Several visits here have confirmed a very consistent, fairly priced experience.

 

 Top ten favourite

Restaurant

Diwana Bhel Poori

Food rating

1/10

Address

121 Drummond Street, Euston, London NW1 2HL

Phone Number

0207 387 5556

Nearest Tube

Euston, or Euston Square, or Warren Street

Open

All week, lunch and dinner

Price

£8 a head for the food

Map

Click here

 

Where else in London (or England) can you eat genuinely classy food for around £8?  This café does not take bookings and has fairly basic decor (no tablecloths) but the service is efficient and you can buy alcohol from the shop two doors down (Diwana's is unlicensed).  The South Indian vegetarian food is superb. 

 

Personally I think Diwana is best at the starter snacks, so I normally order two or three of these per person, and then just skip to the home-made kulfi (Indian ice cream).  You should try the bhel poori, samosas and aloo papri chat, which are outstanding.  Also the de-luxe dosa (basically a large crisp pancake stuffed with a spicy potato and onion filling) is excellent, though some of the curries are quite ordinary.  Feeling that their prices were too high for lunchtime trade, they offer an "eat as much as you want" lunch for £4.95; this is excellent value, but does not usually include the snacks at which they are best.  Last visited September 2006.

 

 

Restaurant

Drones  

Food rating

4/10

Address

1 Pont Street, Belgravia, London SW1X 9EJ

Phone Number

020 7235 9555 

Nearest Tube

Knightsbridge (plus a 10 minute walk)

Open

All week 12:00 – 14:30, 18:00 – 23:00 (22:30 Sunday)

Price

£45 a head with drinks

Web site

http://www.whitestarline.org.uk/

Map

Click here

 

Another addition to the Marco family.  This low-ceilinged room is done out in wood, with some black and white photos to give a bit of turn-of-the-century clubby feeling (Drones was the club in Jeeves & Wooster).  The menu is extensive, along the lines of other Marco places, but this one has some nods towards older dishes that have long since passed away from modern menus e.g. Crème DuBarry soup, game, asparagus with Hollandaise sauce, oxtail en daube.  A recent meal started with salad of crab, piled into a circle with a mayonnaise sauce, atop a “Russian salad” of diced carrots, sweetcorn, potatoes and beans served with little snips of chives with some chervil. (3/10).  My chou farci a l’Ancienne was spicy minced pork and some spinach wrapped in a Savoy Cabbage leaf, sitting in a pool of rich tomato sauce (5/10).  For main course lemon sole was simply cooked but well-timed (4/10) while Black Chicken was roasted, served with a chipolata sausage, a single strip of bacon as a garish, some al dente beans and a bread sauce (4/10).  For dessert, compote of fresh fruits were mainly red berries held together in aspic (4/10). Lemon tart was served on its own, and was the usual high Marco standard (5/10).  Coffee was fine, and the bread is good.  The two page wine list has some interesting choices (e.g. a red Alsace wine), as well as various old faithfuls. We had Au Bon Climat Chardonnay.  Service was generally good, though the elderly waiter who led us to our table managed to take just one drink order from us before disappearing, then brought us still water instead of sparkling, then brought a glass of wine we had not ordered.  Otherwise things were smooth enough.  Last visited April 2001.

 

 

Top ten favourite

 

Restaurant

E & O  

Food rating

4/10

Address

14 Blenheim Crescent, Ladbroke Grove, London

W11 1NN

Phone Number

020 7229 5454

Nearest Tube

Ladbroke Grove, or Notting Hill

Open

All week  18:30 – 22:30

Price

£49 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

A very successful pan-Asian restaurant conveniently near the wonderful Electric Cinema.  Normally I am suspicious of a place that features dishes from Japan, China, Korea and more, yet the kitchen here pulls it off again and again.  Brief notes from a recent meal follow.

 

Prawn and chive dumplings featured tender prawns, the dumplings being just a little heavy compared to the best of their breed (2/10).  A starter of sashimi salmon and tuna featured excellent fresh slices of both fish, plus daikon and a little wasabe (3/10).  Bulgogi, the Korean beef dish laced with chillies, was very tender (4/10) and the attempt at the Nobu signature dish of blackened cod worked well, the slices of fish very tender indeed (4/10).   Pad thai had good texture (3/10) and the fried rice was excellent (4/10).  The atmosphere is buzzing and the main problem here is just getting a reservation. 

 

Last visited October 2006

 

 

Restaurant

Eagle  

Food rating

2/10

Address

159 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3AL

Phone Number

020 7837 1353

Nearest Tube

Farringdon

Open

All week 12:00 - 14:30, 18:30 – 22:30

Price

£28 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

The first “gastro-pub” and still one of the best.  The Eagle serves down-to-earth, well-prepared dishes in a bustling setting.  The menu is chalked up on a board and varies daily, but an example might be well-timed lamb with rosemary, or penne pasta with kale and chilli.  Soups are hearty and excellent.  The main problem is that you cannot book, and even getting down here at 18:00 for the 18:30 start of food is no guarantee of securing a table.  Last visited June 2003.

 

 

Restaurant

L’Escargot   

Food rating

6/10

Address

48 Greek Street, Soho, London W1D 4EF

Phone Number

020 7439 7474

Nearest Tube

Leicester Square

Open

All week 12:00 - 14:30, 18:30 – 22:30

Price

£70 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

This old Soho fixture is now owned by Marco Pierre White, and in the hands of chef Jeff Galvin is the best of his restaurants, earning a deserved Michelin star.  The downstairs is the more casual of the two dining rooms and is larger, with a bar area featuring art by Chagal and Matisse.  The upstairs Picasso room is cosy, with black and white sketches and prints on the wall (supposedly including a Picasso sketch).  The room manages a pleasant atmosphere considering there is no natural light.  Bread consisted of the smallest rolls I have ever seen: white, brown, onion and walnut & raisin, all very good in their miniature way.  The menu (£42 for three courses) has eight choices at each stage, though the menu is rather heavily weighted towards meat.  The wine list is hefty and features quite fierce mark-ups- we had a Pinot Grigio Jermann at £42, itself pretty steep.  Chateau Musar was more than 20% pricier than at Mirabelle.  Amuse guele was, unusually, different for both of us.  Stella was offered a few very delicate baby asparagus spears with a vinaigrette (extremely delicate) and I had a little cup of excellent, intense langoustine bisque.  These were very good indeed, easily 7/10.

 

 For starter Stella had escabeche of smoked red mullet, served with a herb salad on the side.  The mullet had excellent flavour and the salad was very fresh.  Still, this was only 5/10.  My starter was langoustine ravioli, a single raviolo resting in a fennel sauce.  The langoustine filling was good, the pasta just a touch chewy at the edges, but the sauce had very clean flavour (6/10).  Better was the main course.  Stella had excellent cod, roasted and served with a few girolles on a bed of sliced green beans with an accompanying scallop resting on parsley-puree, the cod resting in a subtle jus of Sauternes; there were also three roast cloves of garlic (7/10).  I had a special, a corn-fed chicken breast in a sauce of peas, with a few turned new potatoes, caramelised onions and fresh peas around the tender chicken breast.  All components had excellent flavour, the chicken was tasty and very well timed, the elements of the dish working well with one another (7/10). 

 

I sampled the cheese board, which was fairly small in size but had cheeses in good condition: an obscure goat’s cheese, Pont l’Eveque. Roquefort, Tomme de Savoie and Crockwell Bishop Stilton, served with grapes and some rather dry raisin bread – 6/10 for the cheeses.  There was a pre-dessert of a champagne and strawberry jelly topped with a peach sorbet (7/10).  For dessert Stella had coconut crème brulee, served on a plate rather than in the usual dish.  The brulee was surrounded by a coconut froth topped with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream and garnished with a sprig of mint and five slices of fresh coconut (6/10).    I had tarte fine of apple, with good pastry and nicely cooked apple (7/10).  Coffee was fine, with petit fours including a good Madeleine, a tiny tuile, pistachio macaroon, orange jelly, red jelly, a chocolate and coffee square, a white chocolate triangle and two conventional dark chocolates (7/10).  Not cheap but very classy cooking.  Last visited April 2004.

 

 

Restaurant

Ealing Park Tavern

Food rating

2/10

Address

220 South Ealing Road, London W5 4RL

Phone Number

020 8758 1879

Nearest Tube

South Ealing

Open

All week)

Price

£30 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

A gastropub near a parade of shops, a five minute walk from South Ealing tube.  The pub is now divided in two, with the bar still pub-style, offering a few “tapas” that are actually bar snacks like charcuterie and cheese.  The other half is now a dining room, sub-divided further into two parts.  The menu is on a large blackboard and the kitchen is visible from the larger of the dining areas.  The menu is short.  I started with a mushroom risotto (actually listed as a main course, but they were flexible).  This had rice with good texture made with proper stock, though heavily over-salted even for my taste (2/10).  A “half pint of prawns” were served in a beer glass, just plain, cold prawns in their shells (1/10).  For main course, my friend had the risotto, which was served with a couple of spears of asparagus.  When ordering, we were curious as to where they found asparagus at this time of year, so asked the waitress.  We got the priceless reply: “well, they are probably from Israel, as that is where we seem to get our artichokes from”.  I looked for the merest flicker of irony as she said this, but there was none – she really felt that Jerusalem artichokes come from Israel, so why not for the other vegetables?   My main course was maize-fed chicken, served with a mushroom veloute atop a rosti with some red cabbage.  The chicken had plenty of flavour and was nicely cooked, while the rosti and red cabbage had excellent texture and taste (4/10).  Espresso coffee was fine, as was peppermint tea (2/10).  Service, Israel jokes aside, was fairly dire. One of our two waiters was clearly on drugs, and he was not the one who was geographically challenged.  Bread was white sliced, but seemed home made.  Curiously it lacked salt, despite the over-salted risotto.  The wine list is an anachronism – entirely French, mostly around or under £20 a bottle i.e. just where the New World is strong.  Not a wise plan for the wine list.  Last visited January 2003.

 

 

Restaurant

Eight Over Eight

Food rating

3/10

Address

392 Kings Road, Chelsea, London SW3 5UZ

Phone Number

0207 349 9934

Nearest Tube

Sloane Square (plus a 10 minute walk)

Open

Lunch Monday to Friday 12:00 - 15:00

Dinner Monday to Saturday 18:00 – 23:00

Price

around £40 a head with drinks

Web site

http://www.eightovereight.nu/

Map

Click here

 

A virtual carbon copy of E&O, down to the exact décor and even the layout of the bar and dining room.  The clientele is also indistinguishable from E&O, with lots of pretty young things in their 20s and 30s, who looks as if they all work in film, TV or advertising.  The food also manages to be very similar.  We had prawn and chive dim sum, which have excellent filling though the casing is rather heavier than the feather-light version at Yauatcha (3/10).  Soft shell crab tempura was perhaps the best dish of the evening, which avoided even a hint of greasiness, which in fact puts it ahead of even very good Chinese restaurants (5/10),  Kim chi rolls were very spicy (2/10) while seared tuna was capably executed and the tuna of decent quality (3/10).  Black cod was less good than at Nobu but nonetheless still had quite silky texture (3/10).  Monkfish curry and pad Thai were the Thai dishes, and though the curry spicing was less accurate than at Patara this was still pleasant (2/10) while the noodles had good texture (2/10).  A chocolate fondant dessert was not from the top drawer but still had a pleasant liquid centre (3/10). 

 

 

Restaurant

La Fina Estampa

Food rating

2/10

Address

150 Tooley Street, London SE1 2TU

Phone Number

0207 403 1342

Nearest Tube

Tower Hill (plus a 10 minute walk)

Open

Lunch Monday to Friday 12:00 - 14:30

Dinner Monday to Saturday 18:30 – 22:30

Price

around £40 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

This is run by a Peruvian family – the wife cooks, the husband does front-of-house.  The dining room is poorly lit but is otherwise comfortable.  In my experience the simple dishes work best, such as a fillet of farmed salmon baked in its own juices, topped with a garnish of onions, fresh tomatoes, red pepper and parsley, served with correctly cooked basmati rice, with some very good fried new potatoes.  A simple tomato sauce accompanied the salmon, and the salmon was adequately cooked, nothing ambitious but decently executed.  This was better than pollo almendrado, which featured stringy chicken, and ceviche that had an authentic marinade but suffered from chewy fish.  Skip desserts, which are bought in, and coffee, which is vile.  Service is charming however.  If you have to eat South American food in London, this is about your best bet. 

 

Coffee was excellent (7/10) and bread reasonable (4/10).  Service was generally good, with a friendly female manager.  Last visited October 2003. 

 

 

Restaurant

The Fish Shop on St John Street

Food rating

3/10

Address

360-362 St John Street, London EC1V 4NR

Phone Number

0207 837 1199

Nearest Tube

Angel

Open

Lunch Monday to Friday 12:00 - 15:00

Dinner Tuesday - Saturday 17:30 – 23:00

Price

around £30 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

Very near Sadlers Wells Theatre is this simple yet smart fish shop, the tables split over three levels in what is not an easy site.  The fish is bought from Billinsgate each day and hence the menu changes.  The emphasis is on quality of ingredients and clean, simple flavours.  Haddock and chips featured good quality fresh haddock, thin crispy batter, home made tartare sauce, excellent pickled cucumber and good mushy peas.  Bread, which is just an offering of slices of country bread is bought in yet is really outstanding, the bread crusty, full of flavour and well seasoned; this is actually better than the bread at many top restaurants in London.  There is a selection oif real beers as well as a pleasant wine list.  Service is friendly.  Oddly, the more elaborate fish dishes work less well here, so in my experience stick to the fish and chips.

 

Last visited November 2006.

 

 

Restaurant

Foliage  

Food rating

7/10

Address

Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park Hotel, Knightsbridge, SW1X 7LA 

Phone Number

0207 235 2000

Nearest Tube

Knightsbridge 

Open

Lunch Monday to Friday 12:00 – 14:30

Dinner Monday – Saturday 19:00 – 22:30

Price

around £70 a head with drinks

Web site

http://www.mandarin-oriental.com/

Map

Click here

 

Though in the Hyde Park Mandarin, this is not the same premises as Marco’s old haunt, which seems to have become a ballroom.  Instead this is at the back of the hotel, overlooking Hyde Park.  The chef was the head chef at Marco’s Oak Room.  Since this gained three Michelin stars when Marco was barely present there one would hope that the new man could cook, and indeed he can.  From the windows of the dining room you can see the trees of Hyde Park, hence the name.  Just in case you had missed the point, the starter plates are clear glass and are placed on top of a single leaf – OK I understand now.  The dining room has high ceilings but is not too imposing, the walls entirely plain cream, the focus being on the picture windows.  Bread had good texture but was lacking in taste and needed salt adding (5/10).  The menu is sensible and classical, with eight starters and nine main courses.  The wine list is extensive and unusually fairly priced, Cigare Volant at under £50, Cuvee Frederich Emile around £38, Jermann Vintage Tunina £50.  Not real bargains, but better than I would have expected.  The wine list in mainly French, but the foreign choices are intelligent e.g. Meerlust from South Africa, Ata Ranga Pinot Noir from New Zealand, Ridge from California. 

 

A nibble of lobster brandade had excellent texture and full lobster flavour (7/10), served with a thin strip of melba toast – a little joke about hotel dining rooms, perhaps?  Poached Scottish lobster consisted of five pieces of lobster in a pentagon, with a central display of confit tomatoes and artfully brushed vinaigrette of crab, with a few pools of rather tasteless caviar dressing.  The presentation was lovely but the lobster was a little chewy – a problem that seems to afflict even successful restaurants (5/10).  My starter of ravioli of scallops was much better.  This had four tender scallops arranged around the rim of the plate interspersed with delicately roasted pieces of langoustine.  In the centre of the dish was a single piece of ravioli enclosing a mousse of scallops, with a few baby leeks as a garnish.  This was coated with a fluffed up truffle vinaigrette.  The mouse had good texture but I feel that scallops have too delicate a flavour to really survive this process.  Still, the individual scallops were excellent, and the langoustines were very tender (7/10).  For main course, a piece of sea bass was expertly pan-fried, served with a little tortellini of lobster, with some braised celery hearts and a little caper vinaigrette, which worked well (6/10).  Bresse pigeon was lightly cooked and served pink, served with a piece of roasted celeriac, some girolles and some white cabbage that was shredded so thin that it had lost its flavour.  However the bouillon of the pigeon was excellent (7/10). 

 

Cheese was a mixed bag, with dull Emmental but a Brie in nice condition, some rather chalky St More goat’s cheese and some indifferent Stilton (4/10 cheese).  Desserts picked the pace back up, with an excellent lemon tart with a lemon sorbet that suffered from too many ice crystals, but offset by a good mini lemon soufflé (7/10).  Hot chocolate fondant had excellent texture. Served with a fine whiskey ice cream and a caramel “craqulin” that was just a thin slice of caramel.  Also excellent was an unannounced sliver of rolled up filo pastry containing chocolate (7/10).  Espresso (8/10) was better than filter coffee (6/10), with a mixed bag of chocolates that had good truffles but lacklustre pistachio chocolates and orange sticks (petit fours 4/10).  Service was indifferent all evening.  We arrived at 19:30 but our starter did not arrive until 20:30.  The waiter brought one incorrect cheese and was unsure who had ordered which dessert.  He also managed to bring a pre-dessert of excellent mini crème brulee (7/10) before my cheese, which probably would have resulted in summary dismissal in France.  The wine waiter seemed generally confused throughout (“the sommelier is in Italy”) and while it was all well meaning, the service was only about 3/10.   Last visited January 2003.

 

 

Restaurant

Fung Shing

Food rating

3/10

Address

15 Lisle Street, London WC2H 7BE 

Phone Number

0207 437 1539

Nearest Tube

Leicester Square 

Open

All week 12:00 – 23:15

Price

around £40 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

One of the most reliable Chinatown places, with a long narrow dining room and a further room at the back that is used when they are busy (which is often).  The cooking can definitely have off-nights, which is why I have scored it just 2/10, though at its best it is better than this.  Seafood is generally handled well here e.g. steamed sea bass with black bean sauce is well-timed.  Pork belly in a clay pot with yam is an excellent house speciality, while vegetables are treated very well.  Bak choi is excellent, and even better is gai lan (which is not on the menu, but you can ask for it), Chinese broccoli steamed lightly with garlic, cooked almost as well as at the Royal China.  Last visited October 2005. 

 

 

Restaurant

Gilgamesh 

Food rating

2/10

Address

The Stables, Camden Market, London NW1 8AH 

Phone Number

0207 482 5757

Nearest Tube

Camden Town  

Open

All week – see web site

Price

around £60 a head with drinks

Web site

http://www.gilgamesh.com

Map

Click here

 

A very ambitious opening in the unlikely setting of Camden, in a cavernous building tucked away off the market next to the railway line.  The décor is vaguely Egyptian, with figures of Egyptian style around the walls, yet Gilgamesh was a Sumerian king (the equivalent of Hercules in Greek myth, though Gilgamesh probably did actually live, with various legends attributed to him).  Quite what the connection between an ancient king of what would be Iraq and pan-Asian fusion cooking is a PR mystery rather than an ancient mystery.  The place is big: 200 covers seated in the main dining room, a private dining room as well, and a large bar area off the side of the main room. The bar and main dining have elaborate wooden chairs made in India, with inlaid wood much in evidence on the tables.  The menu is cut down E&O. 

 

We had good quality sashimi yellowtail (3/10), duck spring rolls with good pastry, served half open, the duck being tasty and still moist (4/10).  Soft shell crab “spider roll” with rice was also well made (3/10). There were some cooking issues though.  Asian greens actually seemed to be broad beans and broccoli (!) but in a spicy broth and they were cooked well (3/10).  Yet som tam Thai papayai salad was for some reason prepared with mint, and in such quantity that it swamped the delicate flavour of the papaya (round up).  Worse, a Thai prawn curry .had excellent green curry sauce made with authentic ingredients, yet the prawns were very overcooked and like an old shoe in texture.  I sent these back and the same thing reappeared (0/10 for prawns, 3/10 for the curry).  Fried rice was excellent, just as it used to be at E&O, with just a hint of spices (4/10).  The wine list is appealing and cheap, with plenty of choice under £20 and little over £35 – plenty of Riesling and Gewürztraminer to go with the spices.  Service was a little uncertain but pleasant and willing.  Even on this Tuesday, two weeks after opening, the place was full of young things (and us).  They did 340 covers on Saturday according to the manageress, and even on this Tuesday night they were pretty much full, with some tables being turned.  Doing 250 covers on a Tuesday just days after opening is the stuff of restaurateur dreams. Ian Pengelly was on display running the kitchen, looking very busy but very pleased with himself, as he should be.

 

 

Restaurant

Glasshouse

Food rating

5/10

Address

14 Station Parade, Kew TW9 3PZ

Phone Number

020 8940 6777

Nearest Tube

Kew Gardens

Open

All week 12:00-14:30, Monday-Saturday 19:00-22:30

Price

£45 a head with wine

Map

Click here

 

This opened in mid 1999 and finally brought classy cooking to this prosperous but culinarily challenged area of West London.  Just yards from Kew tube station, the triangular restaurant has floor to ceiling glass windows and modern décor.  With a maitre d’ previously at the late lamented Chez Max the service hums along, and the kitchen produces excellent modern British dishes.  An example might be haddock with coriander risotto, or halibut on a shrimp omelette.  One dish that impressed me was a shoulder of pork cut into four slices, very tender and surrounded by strips of almost translucent bacon that melted in the mouth.  The meat was set on top a base of fondant potato, a layer of cooked apple and some excellent, crispy Savoy cabbage to give an earthy contrast to the sweetness of the fondant potato and apple.  The wine list has plenty of choices from around the world, and there is the sublime De Bortoli Noble One available at dessert time.  Last visited June 2004.

 

 

Restaurant

Golden Dragon

Food rating

2/10

Address

28 Gerrard Street, London W1D 6JW

Phone Number

020 7734 2763

Nearest Tube

Leicester Square

Open

All week 12:00-14:30, Monday-Saturday 19:00-22:30

Price

£37 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

The Golden Dragon is a large, bustling place on two levels.  We ate upstairs, and the place was packed, with tables being turned even on this midweek evening.  The dining room has along one wall a mounted set of wooden Chinese screens, and on another a gaudy red and gold patterned dragon display.  Otherwise the walls and rather low ceiling are plain cream.  There is a tatty green carpet that has seen better days; lighting is bright, from ceiling spot lights.  No music plays, but the sheer bustle of the place generates plenty of noise, so the lack of music is a relief.  Waitresses and waiters, formally dressed, scurry back and forth delivering dishes and taking orders in a generally efficient manner, though there is no pretence at friendliness: this is all about turnover.  The tablecloths have pink linen tablecloths and napkins and chairs are conventional wooden and perfectly comfortable.  The tables are bare except for chopsticks, a soy sauce bottle and, rather oddly, a metal fork (presumably for those tourists from isolated parts of the country who stumble in and go “what was I thinking: a Chinese restaurant and they have chopsticks: I can’t cope”). 

 

The menu is vast; it is mostly standard Cantonese fare, with little in the way of “specials” or unusual house specialities.  The wine list is an odd mix of joke wines (Mateus Rose: £14.50) and perfectly drinkable wines e.g. Opal Ridge Shiraz at £13.50.  The wines are mostly French, and there is an odd mix of simple tasting notes with most wines, vintages for some but not others, and not even the grower in other cases.  It is cheap, with Moet et Chandon at £42, a price well below any bar in central London. Beer is Tsing Tao at £2.80, and tea is 70p.  Please note China Tang at the Dorchester: 70p for Jasmine tea including refills, not £6 and £6 per refill. 

 

A starter of crab meat and sweetcorn soup was rather mean on the crab meat (and even on the sweetcorn) but the broth, laced with egg white, nonetheless tasted well enough of its claimed ingredients, and the seasoning was accurate (1/10). Better was soft shell crab, deep fried and then liberally sprinkled with salt and pepper, served with a  little shredded carrot and cabbage and a few slices of green and red chilli.  Soft shell crab is not so delicate a flavour that it could not cope with the vivid seasoning, and the crab itself tasted fresh and had pleasing texture (3/10).

 

Steamed sea bass had good fish, well timed and served already partially filleted.  The black bean sauce that it came with rather lacked black bean taste, and was a little watery compared to the best examples of the breed: the fish was garnished with fresh coriander.  Still, the fish itself was fine (2/10, verging on 3/10).  Szechuan prawns had tender prawns but a curiously insipid sauce, a brown glutinous concoction that tasted hardly at all of chilli or pepper, and resembled gravy (1/10).  Gai lan was tender, steamed lightly with a light garlic sauce (3/10).  Singapore noodles had good texture and had relatively little in the way of distractions (chunks of meat or prawns, for example) but tasted a little too strongly of curry powder, which blotted any other taste out and was just used to excess (2/10).  Egg fried rice was fine, the grains distinct though the texture was a little on the hard side (2/10)

 

There are virtually no desserts: just a fruit plate or some tinned lychees.  The jasmine tea was fair, but not of the quality used at better establishments like the Royal China or Hakkasan.  This was £75, and just appeared with no breakdown.  Service was apparently included, though the waitress still offered us the opportunity of making a further donation to the management on the chip and pin machine.

 

This does exactly what you might expect, serving good, fresh Cantonese food in a simple, lively setting, with few adornments.  Ingredients were fine and the technical side of the cooking generally good.  The sauces for the main courses were both rather lacking in taste, which is odd given the bold seasoning of the soft shell crab.  However overall this was a very pleasant experience, and the large portions will appeal to many.  It certainly deserves its 2/10 rating, and indeed is better than most restaurants in the area.  Last visited March 2006.  Disturbingly, in September 2006 it was prosecuted for serious food hygiene problems, including cockroaches and mouse droppings.  It is supposedly now OK.

 

 

Restaurant

Gordon Ramsay

Food rating

9/10

Address

68 Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea, London SW3 4HP

Phone Number

020 7352 4441

Nearest Tube

Sloane Square, plus a fair walk

Open

Monday - Friday 12:00 – 14:15, 18:45 - 23:00

Price

£120 a head with drinks

Web site

www.gordonramsay.com

Map

Click here

 

In 2000 I wrote on this web site: “The kitchen here is cooking at very high two Michelin star level, and would be a good bet for the UK’s next 3rd Michelin star restaurant” and this indeed transpired in 2001.  In the premises of the old Tante Claire, this is a cosy dining room, with a maitre d’ formerly from the Aubergine, and a knowledgeable and friendly sommelier formerly at Pied a Terre.  Service is of a very high standard, and the main problem is getting in.  They operate a completely surreal booking system, with attitude to spare: “Try calling back in about three week’s time between 09:00 and 09:05 a.m”, for a table in exactly a month’s time is a common.  If you get past this without screaming and don’t just give up entirely then the dining experience itself is lovely.   Here are notes from a recent meal.

 

Amuse guele of pumpkin soup, flavoured with truffle oil (10/10).  My starter was pork belly flavoured with spices, remarkably tender after slow braising, surrounded by a somewhat superfluous ring of baby sautéed langoustines, which were adequately rather than perfectly timed, and whose delicate flavour was rather overwhelmed by the pork, spices, and by the horseradish flavoured blanc à la crème that was poured over them.  The dish would have been better without the langoustines, though the pork was remarkably tender (8/10, higher without the langoustines).  For main course I had a breast of Bresse chicken, poached then grilled, served on a bed of vegetables including asparagus, confit shallots and wild mushrooms, themselves atop a layer of Savoy cabbage seasoned with marjoram, resting on a bed of delicate borlotti beans (10/10).  The chicken was perfectly cooked, full of the flavour that comes only from Bresse chicken, while the vegetables were faultless.  For dessert I had tarte tatin, which was very good but was less good than the rest of the meal.  The pastry was flaky, the tart suitably caramelised, but somehow this lacked the flavour of the very best tarte tatin (for which try the Waterside Inn).  This was served with some perfect vanilla ice cream (overall 7/10 for the tarte, 10/10 for the ice cream).  Coffee was served with a little box of macaroons and also some home made chocolates.  Service was effortless.  Last visited March 2006.

 

 

Top ten favourite

Restaurant

Haandi 

Food rating

4/10

Address

136 Old Brompton Road, London SW3 1HY

Phone Number

020 7823 7373

Nearest Tube

Knightsbridge

Open

Lunch all week 12:00 – 15:00

Dinner all week 18:00 – 23:00 (23:30 Friday, Saturday)

Price

£35 a head with drinks

 

Almost opposite Harrods, with another entrance at the back, from which you go down a couple of steps into the dining room; this has a large window into the kitchen.  Service was excellent throughout, attentive and efficient.  Popadoms were fine, but the pickles were nothing special; out of a jar I fear.  A starter of king prawns was costly at £16 but did feature no less than five large prawns, cooked in the tandoor, tender and tasty (4/10).  Even better was a starter of fish cooked in the tandoor, timed very well with a lovely, smoky taste (5/10).  My main course was cumin chicken, very capable (3/10), while aloo gobi was in no way slimy and fully retained the texture of the vegetables.  Dhal was excellent (4/10), as was another fish main course, coconut flavoured fish fillets (Machli naryai pani) with a curry sauce (4/10).  A problem was the rice, which was cooked in a microwave and was clumpy and tasteless.  This was completely out of character with the rest of the meal (0/10).  Naan bread was quite good but was really only 2/10 at best; it needed to be lighter and fluffier in texture ideally.  Halwa was quite good, but kulfi had too much saffron and had a crystalline texture (1/10).  They need to stop cooking rice in a microwave, make some pickles (or buy better ones) and improve the texture of the bread.  However, despite these flaws much of the cooking is very good indeed.  The portion sizes are very generous and prices by no means outrageous given the location.   It is worth trying the chicken burra tikka, which is superb, and probably the best in London; virtually all vegetarian dishes are excellent.  

 

 Last visited October 2006. 

 

 

Restaurant

Hakkasan  

Food rating

4/10

Address

12-14 Hanway Place, London W1T 1HF

Phone Number

020 7927 7000

Nearest Tube

Tottenham Court Road 

Open

Lunch all week 12:00 – 15:00

Dinner All week 18:00 - 00:00

Price

£50 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

Super-cool designer basement down the end of an unpromising alleyway just north of Oxford Street.  The walk down the dark spiral staircase does not prepare you for the carefully lit, artfully architected dining room (with obligatory trendy bar).  The menu is broad and appealing, with dim sum at lunch excellent, as good as any in London.  In the evening the food has shown some variability but is generally good.  Good experiences from the evening menu include Singapore noodles with very good texture (4/10), while rice was more ordinary (2/10).  Spicy prawns were carefully cooked (4/10) and even better were gai lan (Chinese broccoli), lightly steamed to an excellent consistency.  The place is still buzzing at midnight and it even has a Michelin star now.   Last visited March 2004. 

 

 

Restaurant

High Road Brasserie  

Food rating

3/10

Address

162 Chiswick High Road, London W4 1PR

Phone Number

020 8742 7474

Nearest Tube

Turnham Green 

Open

All day every day (breakfast to dinner)

Price

£60 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

The style of cooking here is a little like the Wolseley, with an appealing bistro menu. Tuna Nicoise was a really excellent example of how to do this properly.  No nasty little chunks of timed tuna: here was a generous slab of tuna, light seared, served with hard boiled eggs, a few anchovies, new potatoes and lettuce leaves.  All the ingredients were fresh, and the tuna itself tasted great (4/10).  Fillet steak and chips was simple but also worked well, the steak itself was good quality, cooked as requested, served with thin chips that were nicely crispy and properly seasoned (comfortably 3/10).  A side order of iman bayeldi was also excellent, aubergine stuffed  with onions, tomatoes and garlic and them simmered in hot oil, served with two pieces of crisp toast (4/10).  Bread here is just a single choice: slices of crusty country bread, presumably bought in, but very pleasant (4/10).  The wine list is on the back of the menu and is somewhat limited, but has a few decent choices from France, Spain and Italy.  Already this place is so successful that they have two sittings in the evening.  Service was friendly and capable.  The only trouble is getting a reservation. 

 

 

Restaurant

Huong Viet   

Food rating

1/10

Address

12-14 Englefield Road, Hackney, London N1 4LS

Phone Number

020 7249 0877

Nearest Tube

Angel, but none near

Open

Lunch Monday – Saturday 12:00 – 15:30

Dinner Monday - Saturday 17:30 - 23:00

Price

£22 a head (Bring your own alcohol)

Map

Click here

 

The building looks distinctly uninviting, but as you enter a good sign is a real charcoal grill, with the coals red hot and meat being grilled.  The dining room itself has fairly a low-ceiling and is very cramped.  Tables are crammed in, and need to be moved around just to sit down.  The floor is a grey-green lino, and tables have quite unpleasant plastic tablecloths, which are wiped now but none too successfully: ours was not the only one to be badly stained.  The walls are cream except for the far wall as you enter, which is red.  The ceiling has white ceiling tiles, and there are overhead spots: it is quite brightly lit.  On the cream walls (with blue painted dado rail) are various black and white framed photos of Vietnamese scenes, and there are a couple of pleasant flower displays, one on the right as you come in and one on the bar area.  Windows have bamboo blinds.  Each table had a little glass containing carnations and narcissi.  Napkins are paper and tiny.  The chairs are uncomfortable fold-up metal things, with red plastic upholstery.  China is a cheap blue pattern on white.  The crowd is casual and mostly local. 

 

Service was friendly but poor.  Admittedly this was a busy Saturday night, but the staff were clearly over-stretched, and long gaps occurred.  Our fairly simple meal took over two and a half hours to produce.  Dishes appeared as they were ready rather than at once, and there was some difficulty in getting any attention.  The Vietnamese staff were dressed casually, mostly in black trousers and white shirts.  The restaurant has no alcohol licence, which would have been
useful to know when I made the booking, but this went un-remarked when I made the reservation; there is an off-licence, but it is several minutes walk up the road.  As this is the sort of area where the Alsatians go around in pairs, it is best to bring something from home.

 

Vietnamese spring rolls were served as four rolls, with a little lettuce and coriander leaf as salad garnish.  These had excellent flavour and texture, though were not piping hot.  A sweet chilli sauce was a good compliment to the richness of the rolls (1/10).  A prawn pancake was a large crispy affair, stuffed with well-cooked prawns and bean sprouts: this dish worked fairly well, though was a generous size for a starter (1/10).  

 

I tried the chicken with lemon-grass, which was cooked on the charcoal grill but was grilled a little too long: not chewy but not optimal either.  This was served with a small salad and some pickled vegetables, as well as a pile of none-too-hot but acceptably textured noodles (1/10).  A “tamarind fillet of fish” was not a fillet at all, just a fried catfish with little flesh and plenty of bones, with what I can only describe as a brown gravy since it manifestly failed to taste of tamarind, or indeed anything else.  This had some snow peas and red peppers for garnish, but they could not rescue the dish (0/10).  Better were the vegetables dishes.  French beans with garlic were lightly cooked with a generous amount of garlic (2/10).  Even better were some very lightly cooked snow peas, served with garlic and a well made black bean sauce (3/10).  A dish of Singapore noodles was very bland, while some egg fried rice was acceptable. 

 

A pineapple leaf cake came as two slices of conventional cake, whose filling was green and managed to have no discernable taste whatever.  I’m not sure what pineapple leaf tastes like, and after this I am none the wiser.  Still, the cake was moist and well enough made (round up).  Creamy tofu in a sweet ginger sauce was served in a bowl and was essentially a sweet ginger soup with pieces of tofu and coconut floating on top. 

 

Coffee was served in a cup with a little filter draining into it.  Unfortunately it was all too authentic Vietnamese coffee, which is made with chicory, and is frightful (0/10).  Jasmine tea is a better bet, and was fine.  Last visited March 2002.

 

 

Restaurant

Khans  

Food rating

1/10

Address

13-15 Westbourne Grove, London W2 4UA

Phone Number

020 7727 5420

Nearest Tube

Bayswater 

Open

All week 12:00 – 15:00, 18:00 – 23:45

Price

Around £20 a head with (soft) drinks

Map

Click here

 

An institution, with its high ceilings and cavernous dining rooms with pillars kitted out as fake palm trees.  This is a major logistical operation, with vast numbers of tables to support, yet the food comes out efficiently, indeed perhaps briskly, even on a busy Saturday night.  The food is fairly basic, with modest quality but well cooked chicken tikka, capable chilli chicken and excellent breads.  Service is a joke – dishes are practically thrown at you, and you are very much a cover being processed rather than a customer.  But prices are low and portions generous, and the standard of cooking is still higher than a high street tandoori, so as long as you are after a good curry rather than a romantic evening then it is a place to consider.  Last visited November 2002.

 

 

Restaurant

Ibla 

Food rating

4/10

Address

89 Marylebone High Street, London W1M 3DE

Phone Number

0207 224 3799

Nearest Tube

Baker Street

Open

Lunch Monday - Friday 12:00 – 14:30

Dinner Monday - Saturday 19:00 - 22:30

Price

£45 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

This meal was in the back part of the dining room, decorated with red walls.  This gives a quite cosy feel to the low-ceilinged room.  To begin with were rather ordinary nibbles e.g. fried squid, some pate on a little toast, baby tarts with finely chopped Mediterranean vegetables and stuffed tomatoes (2/10).  The first course was a trio of raw fish: salmon topped with crème fraiche, dill and a crisp, prawn tartare topped with a cooked prawn and tuna topped with cold soft-boiled quail egg, each shredded and packed into little cylindrical shapes.  This was very good, the fish very fresh (4/10).  Risotto was of the authentic variety, in this case made with stock of quail rather than chicken, but using Arborio rice, topped with a few wild mushrooms and a slice of quail, all scented with rosemary (4/10).  My best course was an excellent fillet of venison, served with a reduction of the cooking juices, an apple sauce and a few baby mushrooms and a little green cabbage; the meat was pink and of very high quality, nicely hung (7/10).  Dessert was a honey mousse, layered between caramel and almond tuiles, topped with a raspberry and a sprig of mint, with a drizzle of very intense blackcurrant sauce to the side (5/10).  The only worrying slip was Stella’s main course, a simple dish of sea bass with a cream-based sauce that was accompanied by a pool of balsamic vinaigrette that was not fully integrated into the sauce.  The sea bass was not cooked through and was raw except for the very edge of the fish, though it tasted OK after it was sent back and re-cooked.  This was served with a ball of rather dull spinach. 

 

The wines with the meal were excellent e.g. Vermentino di Gallura 1999 from Capichera with the fish tartare, Ciro Classico Reserva Duca San Felice 1995 from Librandi with the risotto.  Best was a wine not on the list, a Barbaresco 1995 from Bruno Gaicosa, perhaps one of the best three or so producers.  At £35 retail this is a beautifully structured wine that was a fine foil for the game.  Dessert wine was a lovely La Passule 1994 from Librandi, where the grapes are, hung on racks to dry before being pressed, giving a lovely intensity of rich fruit.  Service was friendly if sometimes inattentive, while the bread was a major let-down, just hard foccacia and a selection of other very poor Italian bread. (0/10).  Coffee was fine (4/10).  Last visited October 2001.

 

 

Restaurant

Incognico

Food rating

4/10

Address

117 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8AD

Phone Number

020 7836 8866

Nearest Tube

Leicester Square

Open

Lunch Monday to Saturday 12:00 – 15:00

Dinner Monday - Saturday 17:30 – midnight

Price

£55 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

Things were certainly busy here, even though we came in late at 22:30 to eat.  Both halves of the dark dining room were completely full.  Some tapenade arrives as you look at the menu, which is Marco-style on a large card (same for the wine list).  The wine list has plenty of choices below £30, a pleasant change, and some decent selections e.g. Chateau Musar at £34, Trimbach Riesling at £23.  We had the latter, though were charged for the Trimbach Gewürztraminer, which is slightly more expensive; I think this was an innocent slip.  Bread is very good (6/10) and is baked daily; this has excellent texture and good balance of salt.  A starter of smoked salmon with horseradish cream had a generous portion of good smoked salmon.  I had three excellent seared scallops, cooked in garlic butter and served with very fresh rocket salad.  The scallops were fresh, plump and full of flavour, perfectly timed (6/10). 

 

Grilled baby Dover sole is an old Nico’s favourite, and is still pretty good here.  The fish is of high quality, served on the bone and timed to perfection.  It is difficult to impress with such a simple dish, but this succeeded admirably.  The tartare sauce, while good, was not as stunning as the Chez Nico version, but that is hardly to be expected (6/10).  Crisp salmon was cooked well and served in slices on a skewer, cooked with ginger (though this was barely discernable) and served with a rather bland plum sauce (4/10).  The salmon was farmed and so had relatively little taste.  You order vegetables as extras here, which bumps up the price.  Petit pois were disappointing, almost a mushy pea style, while French beans were distinctly soggy (vegetables barely 1/10).  However a portion of chips was excellent.  Dessert was a let-down.  My chocolate marquise was fairly rich, but the Crème Anglaise had not one speck of vanilla (3/10) while Stella’s passion fruit sorbet was just poor.  This had nowhere near enough sugar and so was very tart, and to compound things it had a far too crystalline texture (0/10).  Coffee was fine.  I guess 5/10 was a fair mark overall except for dessert, which were very weak.  Service was reasonable, though the staff were obviously tired at the end of this busy Saturday night.  Last visited August 2001.

 

 

Restaurant

Iznik

Food rating

2/10

Address

19 Highbury Park, London N5 1QJ

Phone Number

020 7354 5697

Nearest Tube

Highbury & Islington

Open

All week 10:00 – 16:00, 18:00 – 23:00

Price

£25 with drinks

Map

Click here

 

Most Turkish restaurants in London (and for that matter in Istanbul) are gruesome affairs, but here is how it should be done.  A simple but charmingly decorated dining room, friendly staff and authentic cooking.  The starters, as ever in this type of cuisine, are more interesting than the main course dishes (“let’s stew the meat in, er, yes olive oil again”), and falafel is way above the supermarket standard, as is the home-made hummus.  Last visited June 2000.

 

 

Restaurant

Jaks  

Food rating

2/10

Address

77 Lower Sloane Street, London SW1W 8DA

Phone Number

020 7730 9476 

Nearest Tube

Sloane Square

Open

Monday – Friday 12:00 – 14:15, 18:30 – 22:30

Price

£37 with drinks

Map

Click here

 

Jaks is a pleasantly relaxed neighbourhood restaurant, avoiding the stuffiness that might be expected in this part of London, but also managing to avoid the pretension that might equally be expected.  The basement dining room is simple, the menu a limited set of modern British choices, the service relaxed but able.  The cooking generally delivered well enough, with no great flair but no technical errors either, which is relief enough.  You have the impression that the kitchen is cooking within itself.  The crew are all ex Chapter Two and have settled into a similar rhythm.  Here are notes from a recent meal.  

 

The owner previously ran a catering and entertainment firm, so this is a bit of a departure.  However he has wisely recruited an experienced team from Chapter Two in Blackheath to cook, along with a few waiters from the same establishment.  Jaks seems genuinely relaxed rather than trying to impress you that it is.  You enter at street level to an unpromising room with a welcome desk and three tables, though this area was unmanned for much of the evening, which must be disconcerting to spontaneous diners passing by.  The laptop PC on the welcome desk appeared firmly locked down, though they’d be advised not to try that in the East End, where local ingenuity would take several seconds to deal with the security cable.

 

The dining room is downstairs and has low ceilings.  It is quite plain, with pine flooring, white walls and ceiling, and simple ash chairs with green upholstery.  Yet tables have linen tablecloths and napkins, and there are side-plates for the bread (albeit the ubiquitous Churchill plain white catering crockery).  The walls have a few eclectic black and white photographs but are otherwise unadorned.  Lighting is from ceiling spots and could be a little brighter.  The tables each have a glass vase, inside of which are coloured glass beads rather than flowers, which presumably would not flourish in the basement.  Otherwise the tables are plain, with not even salt and pepper.  Warm bread arrives near the beginning, a mixture of plain white thick slices, with brown slices that are surprisingly rich, almost like molasses bread.  The menu is enclosed, and as you will see the kitchen restricts itself to a limited number of dishes.  The wine list fits on a page, with ten whites, a few more reds and some champagne from around the world. The typeface of the wine list could do with being larger given the slightly gloomy
lighting.  There is a fair selection under £20, and most wines are under £35, with a few costlier French reds.  Mineral water is Hildon.  Waiters and waitresses are fairly casual, wearing black trousers and white shirts, and keep things casual e.g. the wine is left on the table for customers to top up.  However there is no trouble getting attention, the dishes are brought at a fair clip and the waiter remembered who had ordered what.  There are no amuse gueles.  Background music was initially Queen and then the Fine Young Cannibals, though the 80s cool was rather undermined by the later introduction of some Gene Pitney.

 

Stella had grilled red mullet and crab mash.  The mullet was reasonably cooked and moist, but the crab mash was rather dry and did not taste much of crab at all, just picking up the taste of some mixed herbs with which it was prepared.  There was a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette that seemed more for display than taste, and on appearance the fairly uniform colour could have benefited from a little green, perhaps some herbs or a few salad leaves (2/10).  I tried the sardine, shallot and green bean salad.  This was pleasantly presented, the single sardine displayed on a bed of broad beans and a few salad leaves with shredded shallots around the side, with just a thin emulsion of dressing.  The sardine was cooked lightly, and retained its distinctive taste well, while the broad beans were good quality and tender.  The shallots were shredded in a chutney form, cooked a little long for my taste and had begun to lose texture but had not gone as far as caramelising.  Overall 3/10 for this dish.

 

Stella had sole that had been poached in cider, an interesting idea but one that ended up with the sole, which has a delicate flavour, just tasting watery.  Some prawns served with it (were these necessary?) were rather chewy, though a central swirl of pasta had reasonable texture.  There were already flavours enough here without some rather superfluous mussels, some in their shells and some surrounding the sole.  The fish rested in what was presumably intended to be a beurre blanc but which was far too watery for its own good (1/10).  I fared better with poussin served in a casserole dish, cooked with a few peas, a little asparagus and some morels.  The poussin was cooked through well, still moist and firm, and the peas were fresh.  However the asparagus and morels were not very high quality, so did little to enhance the dish as they should have, since they were fairly tasteless.

 

Three cheeses were offered.  A Bath cheese was long past its best, and a St Nectaire was rather young, but a slice of Roquefort was in good condition (cheeses 1/10 at most).  This was served with some pleasant home-made walnut and raisin bread and some sadly misjudged onion chutney, which looked stringy and tasted remarkably nondescript.  Passion fruit sorbet arrived as two spheres served in a large wine glass.  The sorbet had fair passion fruit flavour, but was a touch acidic, while the texture was not perfect, with some ice crystals (3/10).  Stella’s pistachio ice cream was served in the same style but was smoother and had good pistachio flavour.  The chocolate waffles were possibly not home made but tasted of chocolate, and had acceptable texture (3/10).

 

Coffee, both cappuccino and espresso, was of fair quality, and they were not stingy with the espresso.  There are three dessert wines by the glass, including the Andrew Quady black Muscat and also a red Welteverde Muscat: if you are going to offer just three dessert wines, having two of them red seems eccentric.  Coffee 4/10.  There are no petit fours, but a couple of small squares of rather dull flatjacks arrived with the bill.  The bill here is rather quixotic - service of 6.8% (?!?) was included but then the credit card slip was left open, which seems odd.   Last visited April 2000.

 

 

Restaurant

Kastoori 

Food rating

3/10

Address

188 Upper Tooting Road, Tooting, SW17 7EJ

Phone Number

020 8767 7027

Nearest Tube

Tooting Broadway

Open

Lunch Wednesday to Sunday 12:30 – 14:30,
Dinner all week 18:00 – 22:30

Price

£25 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

A long established family-run restaurant, Kastoori cooks Gujerati vegetarian food, and does so very well indeed.  Here are notes from a meal.  The Kastoori dining room has a blue carpet and blue-upholstered traditional wooden chairs, while tablecloths and napkins are a cheery bright yellow.  The walls of the restaurant are plain white, the only decoration some repeated white reliefs of a female Indian figure.  The ceiling is also white, in the middle of which a rectangular recess (perhaps a skylight once?) covers an air conditioning unit through whose grill plastic climbing plants hang.  On each table is a single exotic flower to go with the pepper and salt cellar, and the tables are lit by a mix of ceiling spots and directed modern spotlights.  There is even a respectable wine list, with Leon Bayer Gewürztraminer as well as a range of wines from Chile, South Africa, Australia and even one from India, 24 wines in all (10 each red and white, the rest sparkling) ranging from £7.75 to £24.95.  The wines have grower and vintage listed, with brief descriptive notes.  Alternatively there is Kingfisher beer, or Ballygowan mineral water.  Waiters are dressed in white shirts and black trousers, and the service is efficient and friendly. 

 

Crisp grilled popadoms are accompanied by three homemade chutneys: yoghurt and mint (very good) and, even better, a tasty tomato and carrot chutney and a pungently spicy coriander, garlic and green chilli chutney (3/10 for the chutneys).  I began with sev pooris.  Five were offered, the little crisp pooris filled with potatoes, chickpeas and onions and puffed rice, laced with a sweet and sour sauce.  You eat them whole, the tangy sauce enlivening the savoury filling, the crispy poori giving a crunchy texture.  The best example of this is to be found at the Sabras, but these were quite respectable, with a light poori and lively sauce (2/10).

 

Onion bhajee was a cut above the cliché, five generous pieces in a dark batter, the onion and flour filling suffused with spices, with the chutneys on the side to add another dimension (2/10).  Often onion bhajee can be either soggy or burnt to a crisp, but here they were timed just right.

 

Potato curry featured carefully cooked potatoes that retained their texture, in a good tomato and onion sauce (3/10).  Mattur paneer had good cottage cheese and peas and a tasty sauce (3/10) while moong bean curry had the pulses cooked to a firm texture (2/10).  Best of all was a channa curry, the chickpeas tender and in an excellent dark spicy sauce, with a few slices of firm potato (4/10).  Plain rice was fine (1/10) while paratha was of the non-greasy variety (2/10) and chapatis were very fresh and had excellent texture (3/10); these are offered with or without butter, for those on a diet.  Cucumber raita was also excellent – fine shreds of cucumber in creamy yoghurt topped with chopped coriander.  Throughout the meal the spicing was that clear and distinct kind that you only get through the use of freshly ground spices.  This is an establishment that even makes its own garam masala.

 

Kulfi is not made here; as so often it is bought in (the supplier is Everest).  This was ordinary, more ice cream than kulfi (0/10).  However shrikand, which is a fairly rare dessert to be seen outside Indian areas like Southall and Wembley, was homemade and excellent.  The curd cheese had a rich flavour enhanced by the strong tastes of cardamom, nutmeg and saffron, which were in good balance here (it is easy to overdo the saffron), topped with a coating of pistachios.  Sometimes this dish can be almost chewy, but here it was very smooth indeed (4/10 for the shrikand).  Overall the dessert mark would be lower, say 2/10.  Avoid the tea, which is disappointing.  It was fairly cheap tea served in a cup with a teabag in the cup; worse, the tea was already stewed (0/10).  Last visited December 2004.

 

 

Restaurant

Kensington Place

Food rating

6/10

Address

201 Kensington Church Street, London W8 7LX

Phone Number

020 7727 3184

Nearest Tube

Notting Hill Gate

Open

All week 12:00 – 15:00, 18:30 – 23:45 (22:15 Sunday)

Price

£50 with drinks

Map

Click here

 

An institution in the London restaurant scene, the busy, noisy dining room with the floor to ceiling windows has managed to keep its standards high over the years.  Service, despite the bustle, is friendly and competent.  Old favourite dishes continue to impress e.g. seared scallops with pea puree is a classic, the scallops fat and juicy, the odd-sounding puree a fine foil for the scallops.  Seafood is handled well, but then so was some excellent corn-fed chicken on my last visit here.  The lemon tart here is particularly good, and features excellent citrus bite to balance the sweetness of the filling.  The wine list is attractive and acceptably priced.  Overall Kensington Place is a place to be cherished.  Last visited March 2004.

 

 

Restaurant

The Ledbury 

Food rating

6/10

Address

127 Ledbury Road, Ladbroke Grove W11 2AQ

Phone Number

020 7792 9090

Nearest Tube

Westbourne Park

Open

Lunch all week 12:00 – 14:00
Dinner all week 18:00 – 23:00

Price

£65 a head with drinks

Web site

http://www.theledbury.com/

Map

Click heer

 

A simple but pleasant dining room in a rather quiet corner of Ladbroke Grove, but just a couple of months after opening they are already turning tables.  The chairs are comfortable and the lighting excellent, so the place feels welcoming rather than over-designed.  Helene Hell is the Swedish maitre d’(ex Menu, formerly sommelier at La Trompette) while the chef was sous chef at the Square.  Bread is just in one form: crusty white rolls, not made here but bought in (from the supplier Millens) and are served warm. The bread had good texture, perhaps lacking a fraction in salt for my taste (5/10).  Amuse guile was a clear tomato jelly with a little avocado and tiny pieces of diced raw tuna as garnish; the jelly had excellent clarity and the components worked well together (7/10).  Ravioli (actually just the one) of shellfish with champagne and chives featured delicate pasta and carefully cooked mixed shellfish, resting in a little a dark shellfish sauce (7/10).  Lobster with asparagus was certainly not chewy, but was too plain a dish to really shine without perfect ingredients; here the lobster (Canadian) and the asparagus were good, as were some Jersey Royals, but they needed something to lift them; you’d need to be in the Mediterranean to get the kind of ingredients that would allow this to work (4/10). 

 

Similarly ballotine of Glenarm salmon is just organic farmed salmon, although in this case it was enhanced by being wrapped in pancetta, which gave some taste to the otherwise bland farmed salmon.  This was served with more Jersey Royals (crushed in this case), good peas and some disappointing morels.  Given that this new season’s morels in France are the best for years, these were either dried or of poor quality (5/10).  Better was carefully cooked sea bass with a rather lackluster creamed but tasteless potato, with an effective vinaigrette of raisins, pine nuts and cockles (6/10).  Chocolate soufflé had good texture, mixed in with pieces of banana and sprinkled with pieces of honeycomb, served with a rich dark chocolate sauce at the table (7/10).  Even better was assiette of mango, with a mango mousse wrapped in a tuile, a warm mango upside-down cake, a mango crisp and, best of all, a fine mango terrine.  The mangos used were Alphonso mangos in season (their season is May to June in India) and have a great taste which came through well here.  I’m not sure why they were served with a vanilla ice cream (surely a mango ice cream or sorbet would be better?) but the technical quality of the cake and terrine was high (8/10).  Service was capable, from staff dressed in fashionable black (this is, after all, near Notting Hill).  The wine list is very good indeed, though mark-ups are a little higher than La Trompette.  Still, seven different Kracher dessert wines gives an idea of the ambition of the list, which spans the globe.  Overall, a very capable performance by the kitchen, with essentially no technical errors in this meal.  My only quibbles are with the poor morels, the rather tasteless mash and the bland farmed salmon, but this is an ingredient issue.  At £39 for three courses they are not trying for the very top of the market, and perhaps these are the sorts of compromises that are inevitable.  A very successful place to match its sister restaurants Chex Bruce, La Trompette and Glasshouse.  Last visited November 2005.

 

 

Restaurant

Lindsay House

Food rating

6/10

Address

21 Romilly Street, London W1V 5TG

Phone Number

020 7439 0450

Nearest Tube

Leicester Square

Open

Monday to Friday 12:15 - 14:15

Monday to Saturday 18:00 - 23:00

Price

£60 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

Set in a charming Soho townhouse, this is Richard Corrigan’s most successful venture to date.  The restaurant is a converted Soho town house, and you need to ring the doorbell for admittance.  The menu is rather limited in choice, but the quality of the cooking is very high.  For example a risotto of girolles and broad beans was freshly made and featured fat arborio rice that had soaked up the flavours of the stock, along with tasty and delicate broad beans and lightly cooked girolles.  Desserts are also good e.g. a white chocolate parfait laced with excellent cherries and served with a fine dark chocolate sorbet.  Service is competent and the wine list extensive.  However a recent visit exposed some inconsistency in delivery, with a generally good meal marred by some chewy scallops.  Last visited February 2005. 

 

 

Restaurant

Locanda Loctelli

Food rating

6/10 (just)

Address

8 Seymour Street, Portman Square, London W1H 7JZ

Phone Number

020 7935 9088 (good luck getting through)

Nearest Tube

Marble Arch

Open

All week 12:00 – 15:00, 19:00 – 23:00

Price

£75 a head with drinks

Web site

www.locandalocatelli.com

Map

Click here

 

Perhaps the most difficult place in London to get a reservation.  At least at the Ivy they answer the phone before sorrowfully giggling at the notion you might want to eat there some time the same year; whereas here they don’t bother answering the phone at all (they reportedly get 2,000 calls a day).  The only way to do it is to go around in person – they are actually within the Churchill hotel on Portman Square.  The reason for the crush is that this is the hallowed dining room of Giorgio, the original chef at the superb Zafferanos, and boy has his PR company done a good job.  Beneath the hype, the experience is actually very like Zafferanos, with many dishes identical (perhaps that will change in time) but with a more spacious, if less cosy, dining room.  I would have to say that, based on three visits, Zafferanos still has the edge on the food, at least in terms of consistency (perhaps Giorgio trained Andrew at Zaffs too well!).  On the three visits we had two very good meals and one complete shambles in terms of service when Giorgio was not present and the staff had presumably decided they could get away with anything.  Assuming this was an isolated experience, the place can be recommended although the pricing is steep, reflecting the high demand. .My notes from the less successful evening follow. 

 

Trouble in paradise tonight.  With a 19:30 booking we left the restaurant just before 22:00, having managed to be served just two courses.  The food was generally fine, with excellent Italian breads (better than Zafferano) at around 6/10.  Then fettuccini with porcini mushrooms had good texture, the porcini fresh and well cooked; a quibble would be that the pasta was cooked just a fraction too much, but still 4/10.  Pasta with red mullet and olives was also to a high standard, with excellent texture (5/10).  My main course of wild sea bass with artichoke puree is a straight lift from Zafferano, and no bad thing at that, the fish fresh and timed well (6/10).  However the tuna with rocket salad (also a Zafferano regular) was rather disappointing tonight, the thick slab of tuna rather chewy at one end of the steak.  The rocket and cherry tomatoes were good but not as fresh or full of flavour as the exquisite ones at Zafferanos (4/10).  This sounds fine as a meal, but the service experience was dire tonight.  During the interminable wait between starter and main course I had to practically stand on the table to get attention to get wine an water refilled, while when the main course finally appeared the vegetables with it (roast potatoes) failed to arrive, and took three reminders to various bemused waiters to even check for.  Similar chaos ensued all around us, with other diners increasingly tetchy as their dishes failed to arrive.  The waiter was singularly unapologetic about the whole thing, and only when I spoke to the manager at the end was there any real concern shown.  Even the wrong bill was finally delivered, which was in line with the rest of the service experience.  These sorts of slips are all the less excusable when considering the very high prices here, which are higher than that of the far more consistent Zafferanos.  Last visited April 2003.

 

 

Restaurant

Madhu’s

Food rating

3/10

Address

39 South Road Southall, Middlesex UB2 5DZ

Phone Number

020 8574 1897

Nearest Tube

None (Southall BR station)

Open

Wednesday - Sunday 12:00 – 23:00

Price

£28 a head with drinks

Web site

http://www.menu2menu.com/madhus.html

Map

Click here

 

After a fire, Madhu’s was completely refurbished, and owner Sanjay Anand took the opportunity to significantly upgrade the already smart surroundings to West End standard.  There are many good value Southall restaurants, but this is the first one to really go up-market.  Fortunately Sanjay also upgraded the chefs, bringing in two excellent new chefs (one from the Taj New Delhi, the other from the Grand Hyatt in Delhi), and leaving his cousin to do the catering – the restaurant food is much improved as a result.  However there is no fusion food here – the cooking is traditional, with some new dishes but plenty of the old menu intact.  

 

The décor has certainly moved very up-market: as you enter you walk over a glass display containing water, whose colour changes in a repeating pattern.  We were seated in a dining room upstairs that on this busy Saturday night was used as an overflow, but is usually a private dining room or for customers discussing catering (Sanjay Anand runs the leading Indian wedding catering business in the UK, so in some sense the restaurant is intended as an advert for his catering business).  This room had stripped wood floor, walls with gold wallpaper and tasteful modern lighting.  The general look is very modern and smart: chairs are modern black leather, while tablecloths are white linen.  Popadoms came with three chutneys: a mango chutney that was fine but from a jar, a good home made mint chutney and a home-made tamarind sauce that tasted good but was rather thin for use with popadoms. 

 

An entirely new dish was “Achari prawn”, basically king prawns marinated in spices and cooked in the new tandoor.  The tandoor is gas-based rather than charcoal-based, so you don’t get the true charcoal flavour of the best places in India, but the prawns were cooked very well indeed, tender and having absorbed the spices, served with a simple salad of shredded carrot, beet and cabbage (4/10).  Aloo papri chat had whole pooris amongst the chickpeas and yogurt/tamarind sauce, and had good flavour (1/10).  Methi chicken was a huge improvement over the old chef, the chicken tender and resting in a dark, thick fenugreek sauce (3/10).  Masala fish was tilapia, carefully cooked in a lively sauce (2/10) while dal makhani featured black lentils cooked carefully, though the sauce was rather thin in texture for my liking (1/10).  Pulao rice was excellent, as were a non-greasy paratha and, a major improvement, a light fluffy naan (3/10).  For dessert halwa was tasty and well made, while kulfi is home-made and good, though served tonight a little too cold (2/10).  Coffee, usually the bane of Indian restaurants, is now from a modern Italian espresso maker, and was very pleasant (3/10).  Service was extremely good, with a new team of attentive staff.  The female reception staff wear beautiful black saris, while the waiters are uniformed.  Last visited July 2005.

 

 

Restaurant

Mandarin Kitchen

Food rating

3/10

Address

14-16 Queensway, London W2 3RX

Phone Number

020 7727 9012

Nearest Tube

Queensway

Open

All week 12:00 – 23:30

Price

£32 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

The Mandarin Kitchen specialises in seafood, though there are meat dishes also.  The restaurant has perhaps the fastest service in London: at a recent visit we had two courses and were out of the restaurant in 45 minutes.  This is no reflection on the food though: soft shell crab was succulent, while for main course a sea bass was steamed whole with garlic and ginger, and was nicely cooked.  Bak choy were excellent, while garlic and chilli prawns, Singapore noodles and fried rice were also fine.  Not a place for a leisurely dinner, but very good cooking.  Last visited January 2002.

 

 

Restaurant

Mantanah

Food rating

3/10

Address

2 Orton Buildings, Portland Road, South Norwood London SE25 4UD

Phone Number

020 8771 1148

Nearest Tube

None near

Open

Tuesday – Sunday dinner only 18:30 – 23:00

Price

£28 a head with drinks

Web site

http://www.mantanah.co.uk/

Map

Click here

 

This simple restaurant delivers cooking well above the standard of the formulaic Thai places that are dotted around London.  This gets beyond the clichéd dishes into regional cooking, and there are some attempts to innovate on the long menu.  The ingredients are good and generally the execution is reliable in dishes like green curry and non-greasy Thai fishcakes.  Another dish that worked well was moo pad king, thinly sliced pieces of lightly cooked pork combined with oyster mushrooms, spring onions, garlic and ginger; the cooking juices were nicely flavoured with the spices, giving a sauce that was in fine balance.  There are a few wines but best stick to beer. Last visited April 2001.

 

 

Restaurant

Masala Zone

Food rating

1/10

Address

9 Marshall Street, Soho, London W1F 7EJ

Phone Number

020 7287 9966

Nearest Tube

Piccadilly Circus

Open

All week 12:00 – 15:00, 17:30- 23:30

Price

£20 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

The Masala Zone is a brisk, lively restaurant serving authentic Indian dishes, a rare sight in central London.  The ingredients are OK, the spicing capable and even the desserts are home-made.  There is no pretension to greatness here, just straightforward food, capably cooked.  A solid 1/10, a distinct notch up from the lager and vindaloo brigade.  The main gripe is that the non-vegetable ingredients e.g. prawns and chicken, are served in cynically tiny quantities, it being cheaper to fill people up with potatoes and pulses.  Here are my notes a meal here.

 

There are full drop windows to the street, letting in plenty of natural light.  The décor is predominantly brown: brown lino floor tiles (two shades), plaster walls painted brown, then enlivened a little by white painted designs (flowers, stars etc) with brown chairs.  The last are simple wooden chairs with extremely low backs.  The ceiling is plaster in the form of square tiles, with recesses for ceiling lights.  The lighting was bright when we entered, though the lights were dimmed later.  The ceiling is quite low, but there is some sense of space because the dining room has an offset area that is down a few steps; this adjoins the open kitchen showing the chefs at work.  The clientele is young and casual, the restaurant clearly aiming to get covers through as quickly as is decent.  To this end they bring out the dishes in no particular sequence (except for desserts), which involves the odd notion of getting your main course then a starter, then perhaps a side dish.  This, while no doubt very convenient for the kitchen, is not an endearing trait.  Waiters wear black trousers and red Masala Club T Shirts, and are of mixed nationality, but the chefs all appeared to be of Indian origin.  The tables are plain wood with no tablecloths and just paper napkins.  There is muzak, modern house music with no vocals.  By the welcome desk is a tub of flowers floating on water.  The wooden bench seating shown has lighted panels on top of the benches, in mock art-deco style. 

 

There is a brief set of wines on the large menu, which contains all the dishes and drinks on one large page (they would not let me have a copy of the menu).  Mineral water is Hildon (despite the menu saying Highland Spring) while Cobra and Tiger beer are available, as well as the somewhat bizarre choice of Phipps beer (Sweden not being noted for its spicy food and matching beers).  The wines are at least fairly priced, all between £9.75 and £15 e.g. Thorne Hill Shiraz/Merlot/Cab blend at £13.50.  Popadoms were crisp, with two home-made chutneys: spicy mint chutney and unusual pineapple chutney with very small cubes of pineapple.  These were interesting and well made (1/10).

 

The concept of “starter” has no meaning here, since every dish just shambles along when it is ready.  Sev poori had five pieces of poori, hollow shells with a potato filling, coriander, spices and topped with sev, the potato filling topped with a sambal, itself garnished with small pieces of cucumber.  These were quite good, though miles away from the perfection of those at the Sabras. Perhaps the ratio of sambal to potato filling was a little low for my taste, but the pooris were crisp and the spices lively enough (1/10).  Aloo tikki chat, usually not seen outside Southall and Wembley, was also good.  The potato and vegetable patti was accompanied by a tasty sambal, yoghurt laced with coriander and fairly tender chickpeas (1/10)

 

Butter chicken featured an almost vanishingly small amount of chicken, but this was cooked tenderly enough and the tomato and butter sauce with it avoided the usual traps: it was not oily and the spicing was fresh.  This was served in a bowl, with a mound of plain boiled rice in the centre.  Apart from the stinginess with the chicken this was quite good (1/10).  Potato curry was served with unannounced spinach i.e. sag aloo, and both components were fine, the new potatoes maintaining their texture, the spinach not over-cooked (1/10).  Chapatis were very small (just one chapati per order) and were a fraction hard with a slightly sour taste (0/10).  Stella had the thali, where there is a choice of the main dish.  This consisted of a prawn curry with slightly chewy small prawns (and a measly four of these) but a capable sauce that tasted of prawns, along with a reasonable, non-watery dhal and a vegetable curry of pumpkin, interleaved with long strips of lemon grass.  This maintained its constituents’ texture well and soaked up the spices nicely.  This also had the same plain boiled rice and sag aloo, as well as a popadom (1/10).  A side order of raita was fine (1/10).

 

Dessert was a cut above the norm, with shrikand i.e. strained yoghurt flavoured with saffron, in this case served on top of a few sliced bananas, raspberries and some grapes.  Shrikand is another dish not usually seen outside authentic Indian areas, and can be overly rich, but here the saffron was not overpowering and the dish had good balance (2/10).  Kulfi was home-made; I had caramel kulfi, the usual cone shape split down the middle and served with a solitary raspberry for decoration.  This was also well made, served at the right temperature and tasting of the caramel (2/10).  Espresso was just a little chalky but acceptable (1/10).  This could not be said of the Masala Tea (surely it would make sense to offer normal tea as well?) as this came ready brewed in a pot with milk, tasting too strongly of spearmint and aniseed (0/10).  Last visited May 2001.

 

 

Restaurant

Maze 

Food rating

5/10

Address

10-13 Grosvenor Square, London W1K 4AB

Phone Number

020 7107 1000

Nearest Tube

Piccadilly Circus

Open

All week noon – 23:00

Price

£77 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

You enter up a small flight of steps to the restaurant from Grosvenor Square. After passing the welcome desk you walk into an L shaped room.  On the right is a substantial bar, on the left various chairs and sofas, and it seems that you can also dine at the bar.  The dining room stretches beyond and to the right.  The flooring is wood, though there are a couple of carpeted stretches. The décor is unfussy, with plain white walls and ceiling, with no paintings or adornments at all on the walls.  The ceiling is quite low, with overhead spots carefully directed and producing a good level of light to the tables.  The upholstery is cream, with low modern chairs and also several runs of banquette seating, also with cream upholstery.  Tables have no tablecloths, but there are white linen napkins.  The room’s designer is David Rockwell, an American architect.  Overall the feel is modern and informal, and they have done a good job with a rather awkward L-shaped space with a low ceiling.  Pop music plays in the background, quietly initially though a little louder later on.

 

Crockery is plain white Limoges china, and wine glasses are Riedel.  Waiters are dressed in black trousers and light brown shirts with no ties.  Even four weeks after opening, service was very slick, with food arriving at a regular pace, wine and water topped up, and no trouble getting attention.  The maitre d’ is one of those “guest” ones who opens restaurants (recently seen at Pengellys) while the head waitress was formerly at Mossimans.  Chef Jason Atherton was chef at the excellent Verre, Gordon Ramsay’s Dubai venture.  I went there two years ago and scored the meal there 8/10, so this is someone who can cook.  Maze is already a success, with 90 covers at lunch a day (for a place seating 80) and they have already had a 150 cover evening.  Not bad for four weeks in operation.

 

The menu is ambitious.  It must be a lot of work in the kitchen, as there is an a la carte as well as the primary tapas style, with about 6-8 dishes per person the advice from the waiter. One feature I found rather odd was that your knife and fork are retained between dishes (until the main course stage) and a little silver rest is provided for this.  This seems to me to be taking the informality too far – I don’t like having to eat a course with tastes left over from the previous course; I think they charge enough here to be able to afford fresh cutlery with each course.  The menu is full of appealing dishes, though what is strange is that the dessert menu suddenly switches into El Bulli territory (where Jason spent a short stint) with a set of bizarre ingredient combinations without a single dessert that would be considered classical.  This seems odd given the pleasant and wide choice for earlier courses.  Peanut butter and cheery sandwich is one of the desserts, to give you an idea, and this was one of the saner choices.  

 

The wine list runs to 16 pages, and there was a helpful and knowledgeable Hungarian sommelier to guide you through.  The list covers the globe, with choices from Chile and even Greece as well as the usual classics.  JJ Prum Kabinett 2002 was a fair £42, while Mas de Daumas Gassac white 2000 was £58, to give an indication.  There are a number of choices under £30, though virtually nothing under £20 that I noticed.  At the other end of the scale, Vega Sicilia Unico 1962 was £840, and there were some even costlier French classics for those for whom mark up is no object.  Bread comes in just two varieties: a cylindrical white roll, and a similar granary one, which looked home-made.  The bread is well-seasoned and has reasonable taste and texture, but was not from the top drawer (5/10).  

 

Tuna carpaccio was served as five discs of very thin tuna, alongside five discs of marinated daikon (Japanese radish), each topped with a little viola flower, served with a little olive paste.  The tuna seemed of good quality, though sliced so fine that limited taste could come through (4/10).  I am not sure that the flowers really added anything other than colour.  Scottish lobster was of the non-chewy variety, served with a little good quality green asparagus, fennel shoots and an “aigre doux” i.e. sweet and sour dressing that was fairly well balanced (4/10).   Artichoke salad had shredded leaves and a pleasant dressing along with a few slices of summer truffle, with artichokes that in themselves had rather ordinary flavour (4/10). 

 

Two Orkney scallops were roasted with spices and served with a little delicate cauliflower puree and a peppered golden raisin puree.  The scallops were of high quality and correctly timed, the spices adding a hint of interest without dominating the subtle taste of the scallops, while the raison puree was a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the scallops (7/10). 

 

Monkfish tempura was served on a salad of strips of Granny Smith apple and endive, the tempura quite delicate and the fish cooked through properly, offered with a mild mango and chilli dressing.  Though the components were pleasant, I didn’t think they worked very well together as a combination (5/10).  Piquillo red peppers encased a brandade of morue (a rather tasteless salt cod) alongside new season garlic puree and garlic chips (4/10). 

 

Risotto of carnaroli with peas, broad beans and wood sorrel worked very well, the flavour of the peas coming through strongly and the risotto working very well with the carnaroli rice (used in Piedmont and Lombardy instead of Arborio rice) giving a creamy texture to the risotto, which was topped by a little summer truffle – definitely not the “white truffle” announced by the waiter (7/10).   Honey and soy roasted quail was tender and pink inside, served with a sliver of silky warm Landes foie gras, alongside a chutney of peach and saffron (6/10).   The main course was a wild sea bass, fresh and nicely timed, with good flavour.  This was served with a little asparagus, a smear of tomato and lemon grass nage, and candied aubergine and a little caviar as garnish (6/10). 

 

My main course was squab cooked in a wood-fired oven, tender and pink and served on the bone.  This was served with celeriac cooked with spices, a puree of spring cabbage and an unusual idea, a “sandwich” of bacon and dates, the dates resting between two slices of bacon.  I thought that the flavours here worked well together, and the squab itself was of high quality (7/10). 

 

Cheese is from La Fromagerie, a popular source for London restaurants, and yet the condition of the cheeses sourced from there is rarely very good; tonight was no exception.  A Manchega was as hard as rock – I literally could not cut it with the knife provided.  A British goat’s cheese was pleasant, as was Forme d’Ambert and Cornish Yarg that was not quite yet at its best, but Epoisses was unripe.  I really don’t know why restaurants in London are incapable of producing a good cheeseboard.  I can literally buy better condition cheese from the delicatessen at the end of my road, as I did the following day.  The deli gets their cheese from Neal’s Yard and a French supplier i.e. there is no magic here, so if he can do it, why can’t the top restaurants in London?  In this case Maze didn’t even have a large board, but were selecting a few cheeses, so were in a position to pick the cheeses in best condition, so there is no excuse whatever here.  Perhaps 5/10 for the cheeses, but this is being on the kind side. 

 

For dessert a chocolate fondant produced a rare technical error tonight, the fondant being much too runny in the centre, though as it was made from Valrhona chocolate it still tasted pleasant enough, served with a sea salt and almond ice cream, which was as pointless and bizarre to taste as it sounds (3/10).  A passion fruit and rhubarb trifle was topped with an excellent granite and served with two high quality Madelaines (5/10).  Both filter coffee and espresso (a decent sized portion) were very good (6/10).  These came with a Turkish delight, a pleasant hazelnut chocolate and a terrible idea – a lapsang souchon tea flavoured chocolate, which tasted vile.    

 

I like the tapas idea – it works well at Atelier Robuchon in Paris (Jason worked for three weeks there prior to opening to learn about the tapas approach), and indeed also at Club Gascon in London.  The kitchen here seems capable of delivering courses at a steady pace, and there were no major technical errors in the dishes served.  Ingredients were of sound quality e.g. the Orkney scallops and the tasty squab.  There was a general tentativeness with seasoning, and the dessert menu seemed incongruous with the rest of the menu.  However these are fairly minor quibbles.  I think the kitchen can step up a gear beyond its current level, and I know that this chef is capable of better.  For now, 5/10 is the correct mark, but there is potential for a higher mark here in the future.  Last visited June 2005.

 

 

Restaurant

Melati 

Food rating

1/10

Address

21 Great Windmill Street, London W1D 7LQ

Phone Number

020 7734 6964

Nearest Tube

Piccadilly Circus

Open

All week noon – 23:30

Price

£30 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

This is a long established fixture of Soho, churning out authentic and reliable Malaysian and Indonesian dishes.  Beef rendang is excellent here, as are the classic satay dishes.  The long menu has plenty of vegetarian options, and the service is pleasant.  Last visited June 2000.

 

 

Restaurant

Mirabelle

Food rating

4/10

Address

56 Curzon Street, W1jJ8PA

Phone Number

0207 499 4636

Nearest Tube

Green Park

Open

All week 12:00 – 14:39, 1800 – 00:00

Price

£60-£70 a head with wine

Web site

http://www.whitestarline.org.uk/

Map

Click here

 

The most assured of Marco Pierre White's restaurants.  The designer has done wonders with the basement setting, creating an atmosphere that buzzes but does not deafen.  The menu is extensive and very appealing, and the kitchen is extremely consistent in its delivery.   Fish and seafood dishes are is excellent here, but the kitchen hardly puts a foot wrong with any dish.  Risotto and pasta are well handled, and desserts are very good e.g. a good lemon tart.  Recently a few signs of inconsistency have crept in, which is a little worrying.  Rare for a Marco restaurant, the service is civil.  For private functions, there is a private dining room that can be hired which is decorated with exquisite Chinese wallpaper. 

 

My notes on one meal follow.  Stella’s starter was a crab salad, the crab in a cylinder shape on top of a “Russe” salad i.e. cold peas, potatoes and carrots with a thin later of mayonnaise over the top, garnished with three half quails’ eggs, a little caviar and some tiny sprigs of fine chives.  The crab was delicate and the salad had very good quality ingredients (6/10).  My starter was less successful: a few scallops were cooked in a leek and champagne veloute inside a very large scallop shell sealed with a little pastry.  The problem was that the scallops inside the shell had become waterlogged and soggy.  The champagne veloute is very bland once cooked inside the shell, and the leeks add little, so the overall effect of the sauce is not particularly effective.  It is fair enough not to try and put in a strong flavour that would overpower the scallops, but then you need to cook the scallops properly if they are to be the focus of the dish.   This is a new dish here and one that they need to fix or avoid, in my view (2/10).  Main courses were back on track: haddock was carefully timed and served with a grain mustard sauce, on a bed of sliced Jersey potatoes.  On top of the fish was a single poached egg (6/10).  Stella’s Dover sole was served on the bone and was cooked just right, offered with home made tartare sauce and a good pomme puree garnished with a tower of broccoli and a half-lemon in muslin (6/10).  My lemon tart was worryingly off-par, as this used to be a regular dish here for me.  The pastry was fine but the filling did not have enough acidity, too much sweetness coming through (3/10).  Stella’s dessert was fine: summer fruits in a translucent champagne gelee, surrounded by a few individual strawberries and raspberries, and slivers of citrus fruits and blueberries.  This was surrounded by a practically invisible film of passion fruit coulis (6/10).  Coffee was good (6/10), breads cooked a little too hard and with not enough salt for my liking (4/10).  Service was merely adequate, with a long gap before ordering and then the dishes arriving in a rush.  Still, service was always Marco’s weak point.  Overall, I feel a slip in standards from when I was eating here regularly.  Some dishes are identical, but the Mirabelle used to be a model of consistency, and the problem with lemon tart is especially worrying given that this is one of their old standards.  The menu is still long and there is the usual long list of expensive wines.  The excellent Alion is £59.50 here compared to £48 a La Trompette, for example. 

 

Last visited June 2002 – it was distinctly below its previous level, so it may be on the decline.

 

 

Restaurant

Mint Leaf  

Food rating

3/10

Address

Suffolk Place, London SW1Y 4HX

Phone Number

020 7930 9020

Nearest Tube

Piccadilly or Charing Cross

Open

Lunch 12:00 – 15:00 Monday-Friday only

Dinner all week 17:30 – 23:00 

Price

£70 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

The restaurant is tucked away at the bottom of Haymarket, and is a basement.  It is very reminiscent in its décor of Hakkasan, though the design is in fact done by Julian Taylor Associates.  If I was the designer of Hakkasan, I would sue, as this is a clear rip-off of its design.  The effect works very well, with an intimate feel.   It is a very large (4,000 square feet) venue that can seat 140.  The dining split up by hard-wood screens into more manageable areas, each with a few tables.  There is also an extensive, attractive bar.  The lighting is superb, the directed hanging lamps and spots illuminating the tables very well while retaining a dark, romantic overall feel.  No popdoms here, but methi murgh was a dazzling starter, four delicate pieces of chicken flavoured with fenugreek around a central compote of onions, with a drizzle of mint sauce in a ring.  The meat was extremely tender, the fenugreek in careful balance.  This was one of the very best chicken dishes I have eaten outside of India (5/10). Also excellent was tandoori salmon, the fish carefully cooked (4/10).    The only blemish was two jumbo tandoori prawns cooked in their shell.  Although correctly cooked, there was a faint hint of chlorine, the tell-tale sign of farmed prawns, and none too well-farmed at that (1/10).  Better was jeera aloo, though the texture of the potato suggested just a hint too much softness, though the cumin was well judged (2/10) while tarka dhal had a good, thick consistency and nicely judged spices (3/10).  My duck was excellent, wild duck slices lightly cooked (still pink in the middle) and served in a pool of tamarind sauce, the slight sweetness of the tamarind an excellent foil for the duck; this was served with a cylinder of competent peas pulao (4/10).  Naan breads (the only choice) were pleasant rather than inspired (2/10).  Desserts are also much better than one expects in an Indian restaurant, with panacotta flavoured with passion fruit having excellent texture and nicely judged flavour, served with a fine tuile. Halwa was in itself excellent, and probably did not need to be stuffed into filo pastry cases, but was served with excellent ginger ice cream in a firm biscuit tuile (4/10) desserts.  A comfortable 3/10 overall.  Service was brisk and efficient, if not very friendly.  The problem is the price, with Hildon water at £4, a glass (half) of Cobra £4 and the main course prawns at £28, with service of 12.5%.  Last visited May 2006. 

 

 

Restaurant

Mister Kong 

Food rating

3/10

Address

21 Lisle Street, London WC2H 7BA

Phone Number

020 7437 7341

Nearest Tube

Leicester Square

Open

All week noon – 02:45

Price

£30 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

It is surprisingly hard to get a decent Chinese meal in Chinatown; both the Royal China and the Mandarin kitchen in Bayswater (“little Chinatown”) knock the restaurants in Chinatown proper into a cocked hat.  Part of the problem is that the ones in Bayswater cater mainly to Chinese people, whereas the trade around Leicester Square is dominated by western tourists.  Perhaps the best of the Chinatown places these days is the long-established Mr Kong in Lisle Street (parallel to, and one street south of, Gerrard Street, which is the heart of Chinatown).  Don’t go for the décor: scruffy green carpet, toilets with bare wires hanging out of the wall, harsh lighting.  However the food is consistently good.  The menu is vast, which is rarely a good sign, but the kitchen seems able to deliver across the range.  Steamed scallops are excellent as a starter, while pork belly cooked with yam in a hot pot results in tender, moist pork and yam slices that have absorbed the cooking juices of the pork.  Rice is excellent, as are Singapore noodles, while vegetables are generally handled well.  Service is fairly brisk, but not rude as in so many Chinatown venues (in case you thought this frequent trait was put on for tourists, it isn’t: try eating in Hong Kong).  Last visited April 2001.

 

 

Restaurant

Miyama 

Food rating

4/10

Address

38 Clarges Street, Mayfair, London W1J 7ES

Phone Number

020 7499 2443

Nearest Tube

Green Park

Open

Monday – Friday 12:30 – 14:30, all week 18:00 – 22:30

Price

£50 a head with drinks

Map

Click here

 

A very peaceful Japanese restaurant, with discreet little booths as well as conventional tables.  A wide range of dishes is executed effectively here, from very fresh sashimi and sushi through to the grilled teppanyaki and fried tempura choices.  Service is extremely courteous.  Stick to beer and sake to drink.  There are many trendier Japanese restaurants in London, but there is a reason why a mainly Japanese crowd returns year after year to this establishment.  Last visited May 2000.

 

 

Restaurant

Morgan M

Food rating

6/10

Address

489 Liverpool Road, Highbury, London N7 8NS

Phone Number

020 8609 3560

Nearest Tube

Holloway Road

Open

Tuesday – Saturday  19:00-22:00

Wednesday-Friday & Sunday 12:00 – 14:00

Price

£65 a head with wine.

Map

Click here

 

Morgan M (after the chef Morgan Meunier) is situated in a desolate part of North London that has been optimistically labelled “Islington” when it is very clearly a dodgy bit of Holloway (first clue: nearest tube Holloway, second clue the postcode).  The number of police sirens coming past made you feel as if you were in an episode of Miami Vice, and when we came into the restaurant we were advised to move our car from just around the corner on to the main road, as there had been “problems” with cars parked in the quiet street next to the restaurant; we are not talking about parking tickets here either.  It is an unlikely setting for a serious restaurant, but I guess the rent is cheap.  Morgan came to the UK under Max Renzland and cooked at Monsieur Max for four years before moving to Admiralty.  Max has a gift for picking out talented chefs (cf Bruce Poole) and this ability showed up in much of the cooking this evening. 

 

The room itself is unprepossessing, with bare wooden floors, plain white walls (apart from opposite sections that are, rather oddly painted green – see diagram) and ceilings, and no distracting music (the bare boards ensure it is noisy enough). Lighting is pleasantly bright, from overhead ceiling spots.  On the walls there is a wood-framed mirror on one side and two shelves of Michelin Guides on the opposite wall (a none-too subtle hint).  Otherwise the decoration is restricted to several pieces of art, a couple of which one would describe as abstract landscapes; the eagle-eyed will recognise the signature on the paintings as Morgan’s own.  Chairs are much too narrow, low backed wooden chairs with green upholstery that are uncomfortable unless you are a dwarf.  Windows surround the front of the building (top of the diagram) and these are frosted at the bottom, clear at the top, with white blinds.  A reasonable amount of natural light comes through.   Tables have white linen tablecloths and napkins, and crockery is plain white.  The cutlery is an unusual style from Robert Welch.  The tables are uncluttered and indeed are not that large, with no distractions like flowers, candles or condiments. 

 

The wine list is entirely French except for a lonely bottle of Rioja, and I have to say that the prices are steep but the choice of growers and balance of the list leaves something to be desired.  This is a long, eight page list only from France, yet there is just one wine from Alsace, a Gewürztraminer from an obscure grower.  There is very little under £30 (just five whites and seven reds) with the cheapest white at £19 and the cheapest red at £18.  There are three white and three red wines by the glass (and three dessert wines) with either obscure growers, or good ones that are very costly e.g. Mas de Daumas Gassac white and red is a chunky £54 while Ramonet 1997 Chassagne Montrachet is £180.  A wine list this expensive could at least spell the best dessert wine in the world correctly: “Chateau Yquen” is just careless.  Water is Hildon at £3.50 for a 75cl bottle. 

 

Waiters are smartly dressed in dark suits and ties, with the solitary waitress in a nice black suit with a red tie.  Service was very good, attentive and friendly.  Our dishes arrived at a steady pace, though the people at the next table were getting restless.  Three types of bread are offered: classic baguette slices, or slices of either soda bread or multigrain.  The baguette was ordinary, but the other two breads were excellent, with a nice crust, good seasoning and flavour and fluffy texture; they are actually bought in, but you could easily think they were made on the premises.  7/10 for the multi-grain bread, 6/10 for the soda bread and 3/10 for the baguette.  The menu is enclosed; you will see that it has very few choices, though there is a complete vegetarian menu (though you cannot have a dish from one of the tasting menus if you are ordering a la carte, which seems unnecessarily restrictive).  Mr Meunier has a very French style of writing.  On the menu is printed a line which is beyond parody: “Only when a guest is touched by the spirit of my dishes have I succeeded – Morgan M”.  Maybe this works in “Islington”, but don’t try this in Yorkshire.

 

An amuse guele was rather odd: a blob of crème fraiche laced with horseradish on a smear of balsamic vinegar and topped with finely-cut chives, around which was poured a warm beetroot sauce.  This lacked any real substance to get one’s teeth into, so was an odd conception, though the sauce itself was fair though a little over-acidic (3/10).  A ballontine of foie gras was a tasty cylinder, the ballontine silky smooth and topped with a little Sauternes jelly, the liver taste coming through well but not as intensely as the very finest examples of this dish.  Served alongside was a leg of tender quail, grilled but still pink inside and resting on some strands of what were essentially noodles which turned out to be made of celeriac.  This is an excellent example of kitchen over-technique.  The strands were cut so fine that I would challenge anyone to identify them; even such a strong and distinct flavour as celeriac was entirely lost.  A correctly-toasted slice of brioche (which could have been warmer) was served with the ballontine, which had a smear of rather superfluous “fig caviar” next to it.  Overall 6/10, as the quail and foie gras itself were pretty much 7/10. but the tasteless celeriac deserves to be punished.

 

Stella had four grilled langoustines served with an aubergine and red pepper caviar.  This was accompanied by a salad of herbs without dressing, and a “shellfish cappuccino” i.e. sauce, that had good flavour.  The langoustines themselves were cold, yet were cooked in their shells extremely well; they tasted fresh and had a delicate flavour.  The “caviar” of vegetables worked well, bringing an earthy contrast to the shellfish, and the salad lightened the dish.  The components here worked well together (7/10).   A squab from Anjou was cooked carefully, the pigeon grilled perhaps a little longer than was strictly necessary though still tender, served on a bed of excellent puy lentils. These rested in a smear of “soubise sauce” i.e. an onion sauce that was capably made.  However braised lettuce was disappointingly soggy, while a decorative slice of fried “pomme anna” seemed just irrelevant (6/10).   Turbot was fresh and timed well, but was topped with a rather hard raviolo of crayfish.  Moreover a few small crayfish as garnish were distinctly chewy.  A puree of celeriac was smooth and at least did taste of celeriac, while a champagne veloute was light and worked well with the turbot.  The fish rested on a bed of delicate spinach.  The fish itself was excellent, perhaps 7/10, but the hard pasta and rubbery crayfish bring this down to at most 5/10.

 

A limited selection from the nearby La Fromagerie is displayed on a board, just nine cheeses this evening.  St Maure was not at its peak but still in reasonable condition, while Mont d’Or was suitably creamy, St Nectaire was not quite ripe and Epoisses was very young.  Pont l’Eveque was in better condition.  With a limited choice and a good supplier I felt that these cheeses could have been closer to peak condition (4/10 for the cheese).  No biscuits or bread were offered, which was rather odd, but they brought bread after I requested it.  A pre-dessert was a rice pudding made with Tahitian vanilla served in a cylindrical orange tuile surrounded by raspberry coulis, topped with a raspberry sorbet and garnished with a sliver of vanilla pod.  The sorbet had excellent texture and flavour, and the vanilla flavour came through well in the rice pudding (5/10). 

 

Raspberry soufflé was very well made, even in appearance and fluffy inside, served with a strawberry coulis and a smooth rhubarb and Jurancon ice cream, garnished with a slice of strawberry.  The only criticism could be that it seems odd to mix the strawberry flavour with the raspberry soufflé, perhaps one effect too many.  However the execution of the dish was excellent (7/10).   I had an orange tarte served with an orange and vanilla sauce.  The tart had good pastry while the filling had reasonable orange flavour, but could have been a little more acidic for my liking. It came across a little too creamy, although the sauce was good.  A capable chocolate ice cream was served on a tuile and actually was made with a little honey, decorated with a triangular wafer of marbled dark chocolate.  The ice cream in itself had good texture but I am not sure that such a creamy ice-cream made sense with the creamy filling of the tarte, and Stella perceptively noted that a chocolate sorbet would have worked better, in order to reduce the overall richness (6/10). 

 

Filter coffee was pleasant, as was espresso, though the beans used here were good rather than top class (5/10).  Petit fours included an orange jelly that was unrecognisable as orange other than its colour, a competent shortbread biscuit, a good white chocolate coated with coconut, a dark chocolate, a slightly too crisp tuile and a very capable raspberry tart.  These were variable but 6/10 overall would seem fair.

 

In summary, I was impressed overall by the standard of cooking this evening.  There were blemishes e.g. the chewy crayfish and the tasteless celeriac noodles, but generally the kitchen showed good technique, while ingredients were excellent.  One lingering issue from the chef’s days at Monsieur Max is the tendency to want to add too many components to the dish, which even if they are each well made can make the dish confusing: Morgan seems to have forgotten his early training at Michel Guerard, who is a master of understatement and simplicity.  Nonetheless, the restaurant is cooking at 6/10 level, and would compare well to some other places at this level in London.  I think he has the potential to go up a notch, though it will interesting to see whether he can iron out the odd slips in the cooking that occurred tonight.  Last visited May 2004.

 

 

Restaurant

Nobu

Food rating

5/10

Address

19 Old Park Lane, Metropole Hotel, London W1K 1LB

Phone Number

020 7447 4749

Nearest Tube

Hyde Park Corner

Open

Lunch Monday-Friday 12:00-14:15

Dinner all week 18:00-22:15

Price

£80 a head with wine.

Map

Click here

 

I feel this is still a step up from Zuma.  Terribly fashionable, bordering on pretentious – staff now shout out a greeting in Japanese as you walk past them (is this really necessary?) and the dining crowd has settled into a mix of hotel guests and the well-off (Zuma had a more crowd).  There are no starters and main courses here – things come as they will.  A highlight was a “rock shrimp” tempura that was served on a green salad and given a heavy dose of lemon: this worked very well indeed (6/10).  Conventional tempura of carrot, broccoli and prawn was good, though the batter was a little heavy compared to the very best tempura (I ate at a famous tempura place in Tokyo a few years ago which had truly gossamer-like batter).  Teriyaki scallops served on a skewer were of good quality and carefully cooked, while sushi toro (the fatty and prized belly of tuna) and normal tuna was very good.  Blackened cod was very tasty, though £24 for a none-too-large piece of cod is scarcely a bargain.  Salmon teryaki was pleasant (though the salmon was farmed – surely at these prices they could get wild?).  Service was attentive, and there is a good wine list though we stuck to beer at £4.50 for a small bottle of Kirin.  With no wine, no dessert and no pre-dinner drinks the bill was still £75 each, so this is hardly a bargain, but it certainly works well overall.  Last visited September 2002. 

 

P.S.  Avoid Nobu Berkely, which is a poor imitation of the real thing, but with the same high prices (visited October 2005)

 

 

Restaurant

1 Lombard Street 

Food rating

6/10

Address

1 Lombard Street, London EC3V 9AA

Phone Number

020 7929 6611

Nearest Tube

Bank

Open

Dinner 19:00 – 22:00

Price

£75 a head with wine

Web site

http://www.1lombardstreet.com/

Map

Click here

 

Situated by Bank tube, the premises consist of a large airy bar and casual dining area, with the fine dining room tucked away at the back.  We were booked for 21:30 and arrived just a few minutes late (parking is a nightmare here) but it became icily apparent that we were in fact the last diners by some margin.  There was a caucus of managerial staff as it was decided as to whether the kitchen could actually accommodate us, despite us being more than 15 minutes prior to their official closing time of 22:00.  Eventually they grudgingly conceded that they could serve us provided we placed our order “immediately”.  Not the start I was expecting.  There were just four other diners, one couple on dessert and one couple lost on a haze of alcohol.  My mood was improved by the superb celeriac veloute amuse bouche, with superb texture and intense flavour (7/10 easily).  My starter of tuna carpaccio was beautifully presented, circular slices of tuna presented as a flower petal, with a central lime and a circle of toasted sesame seeds, around which was a ginger and lime vinaigrette.  The tuna was excellent and the dressing a perfect balance (7/10).  Salad of crab was presented n three forms, the central one being a tian of crab with a red pepper top and a red pepper sauce, along with two caramelised langoustines and a gazpacho sorbet (6/10).  A palate cleanser of red berry granita had perhaps slightly large ice crystals yet had good flavour (5/10).  My main course of blackleg chicken was nicely cooked, with a few dried morels, good peas and young leeks in a vin jaune sauce (6/10).  Better still was monkfish, extremely tender, with a superb ginger coriander and wasabi sauce that was bold with wasabi but still in control, served with a risotto of Thai crab that was slightly mushy.  The monkfish and its sauce were 8/10, let down by the 5/10 risotto.  Chocolate pyramide had dark slabs of chocolate encasing a quite light yet rich mousse, with a tuile cage of almond milk granitee (7/10).  Chocolate, whisky and coffee praline “Lombardo” also had intense flavour (7/10).  Presentation was dazzling throughout, while ingredients were excellent and technical execution hard to fault.  This to me was actually borderline 7/10 meal rather than 6/10.  Service, after the initial hostility, was efficient and, eventually, pleasant.  This visit was in October 2005, but a more recent visit’s notes follow.

 

It was pretty quiet here on a Monday evening, and although we sat down at 19:30 we managed to be the last people left in the whole restaurant by the end, though admittedly we did have the tasting menu.  At £45 for nine courses seems remarkable value.  Carpaccio of tuna with oriental spices had three very thin slices of merely pleasant tuna, served with ginger and lime vinaigrette, and black radish; tuna was sliced so thin it rather lacked taste (4/10).  Better was feuillete of smoked haddock, served with a quail egg and a little mustard sauce (made with Colman’s English mustard). The sauce was nicely judged and was not too strong, giving a nice lift to the high quality haddock (7/10).  Salad of artichokes, wild mushrooms and French beans had good components, served with a dressing of pumpkinseed oil and balsamic vinegar (5/10).  A slab of seared foie gras was carefully cooked, offered with parsnip cream and a little white truffle oil.  Perhaps something acidic or even earthy here would have been good to offset the richness of the liver, but it was well made (6/10). A single scallop was fat and slightly sweet, grilled lightly and served with a little pile of provencal vegetables and pesto and a little saffron jus (7/10).  Noisette of lamb was served pink and served with a good celeriac confit, carrot fondant and a little black winter truffle jus (6/10).  Pave of Angus beef was cooked correctly but was harder to cut than one would wish, and I fear this was not the fault of the knife.  This was served with a smear of morel sauce in vin jaune cream and a beer reduction, with a single baby leek (5/10). Whiskey jelly with raspberry and bitter chocolate mousseline had good texture, served with sugar roasted coco beans and a coffee sauce (5/10).  A feuillantine of caramelised Granny Smith apple was better, served with tasty glazed hazelnuts and smooth Guinness ice cream (6/10).  Coffee and petit fours were fine (6/10).  The wine list here is excellent, with some fine producers.  Service never seems friendly here, and indeed my wife was unable to try the tasting menu because she did not eat meat, and the kitchen refused to substitute alternative fish or vegetarian dishes for the meat course.  I found this extremely unfriendly, and indeed I cannot ever recall this happening.  Helmut Berger, who was around this evening, should learn something about pleasing the customer

 

Last visited November 2006.

 

 

Restaurant

Notting Hill Brasserie

Food rating

5/10

Address

92 Kensington Park Road, London W11 2PN

Phone Number

020 7229 4481

Nearest Tube

Notting Hill or Holland Park

Open

Check

Price

£62 a head with wine

Map

Click here

 

In the old Leith’s premises, this feels a little like the Lindsay House in style; they have gone for the dark look with just a small candle on each table, which may create a romantic mood but also means that the menu is unreadable without a torch.  There is a live jazz duo playing in the bar, and it works well as it is not intrusive and they play easy listening jazz.  On one vist, amuse bouche of parsnip soup was excellent, the soup having strong parsnip flavour, creamy and frothed up, with little bits of parsnip to add some texture (7/10). Bread was very good, either rolls of white, brown, olive or walnut and raisin, served hot (6/10).  Scallops with herb gnocchi and shallots featured unusually delicate gnocchi, nicely seasoned with herbs; this in itself was nearly as good as Zafferanos gnocchi, which is sublime.  Unfortunately the scallops, which were certainly divers scallops (from the Shetlands) were slightly overcooked, and though moist and sweet were a fraction chewy.  4/10 due to the scallops, but otherwise this would have been a higher mark.  Red pepper was roasted and marinated, spread out in a flat circle, topped with goats cheese, pine nuts and a garnish of rocket – an unusual idea with good quality ingredients (5/10).  Sea bass was timed well, wild sea bass served with Provencal vegetables, pesto and some very good spiced aubergine (6/10).  My venison was excellent, pink and sliced thin, served on a bed of good quality red cabbage that were cooked in alcohol, served with an intense parsnip puree (7/10).  For dessert, a mix of red berries, blueberries and blackcurrants were served on a layer of home-made vanilla yoghurt with berry compote – this had excellent fresh fruit, and was a well-conceived dish (6/10).  My tarte tatin of apple had reasonable (though bought) pastry but apples that had not sufficiently caramelised; they were Braeburns, and the chef should try using Coxes, which are easier to caramelise (3/10).  A side order of chips were wide in girth yet had excellent flavour and texture (6/10).  Coffee was good, without petit fours.  The wine list is rather esoteric, though service was pretty good throughout.  Prices are fair for cooking at this level. 

 

Here are notes from q recent meal.  This evening there was a pianist and bassist playing live jazz, which was pleasantly relaxing and unobtrusive.  Amuse guele was a mini tuna tart with a baby artichoke on top, alongside a cup of lobster ravioli in a shellfish broth. The pastry and tuna were high quality while the lobster and pasta were tended and the shellfish veloute had great depth of flavour (6/10 for the tuna tart 7/10 for the veloute).   Bread was either white, olive or walnut and raisin rolls, served warm.  They get the bread from a small supplier, an ex chef at Mirabelle; it is quite soft bread but with good texture, is well seasoned and has plenty of flavour (5/10).  Scallops were sautéed and served as four rectangles of scallop, of good quality though seared on one side a fraction longer than necessary.  This rested on some genuinely top class herb gnocchi, which had lovely texture (gnocchi was at least 6/10, overall 5/10).  Stella’s gazpacho was the weakest dish of the night, pleasant and made with good ingredients but a little thinner than is optimal (4/10).  A middle course appeared from the kitchen of three slices of roasted magret of duck with caramelised onion puree and a little duck confit; the duck was served pink and had lovely flavour (6/10).  For the main course Stella had halibut, which was pan fried, with baby artichokes, a little pancetta as garnish and the roasting juices (5/10).  I had neck of pork, cooked slowly and served on a bed of puy lentils, alongside a slab of pork belly and good celeriac puree.  Served alongside was a little cup of cassoulet, which was perhaps one thing too many and in any case was a little watery, though it had good beans (5/10).  For dessert a chocolate fondant had good quality chocolate and a rich liquid filling, though the fondant base itself was a fraction crisp when it should be barely solid, due to just a little overlong in the oven (5/10).  Cocoa cream crème brulee had good texture though I am not sure cocoa beans are the most interesting thing as the flavour; here they were rather subdued, though coffee and white chocolate ice cream had great depth of flavour and smooth texture (5/10). Coffee was of good quality, both filter and cappuccino (6/10).  The wine list runs over two pages and is mostly French with a few new world choices; it is not a great list but there are plenty of wines in the £30-40 range.  The female sommelier (from South Korea) was pleasant and knew her list.  Service was excellent. A charming place; no wonder it is full even on weekdays. Overall this is 5/10 bordering 6/10. 

 

Last visited July 2006.  It should be noted that there is a new chef in August 2006, from the Great Eastern Hotel.

 

 

Restaurant

Oottupura

Food rating

2/10

Address

206 King Street Hammersmith, London W6 0RA

Phone Number