Charmaine Mok reviews
Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - The whole lobster (fat, juicy creatures from Canada) can be ordered steamed, or steamed then finished off on the robata-style charcoal grill; we recommend the latter, as the subtle smokiness really emphasises the sweetness of the lobster. Can't decide between plain clarified butter or butter jazzed up with lemon? Alternate your unbridled dunking and order both, as our waitress insisted...This is an easy-going sort of place, so if you're wanting the burger (a whole ten ounces of pure, freshly ground beef) with cheddar and/or bacon you can have it for no extra charge. Go for it - the smoky bacon is snappy and crisp without being dry, the cheese adding an extra indulgent tang.
Salt - 4/5
Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - The coffee blend is from Square Mile, and the cuppas from Waterloo Teas. Tea enthusiasts will clock the tasting notes and recommended brew times written out on the menu. But food is where Salt also excels; the owners run an artisan bakery, Seven Seeded, so the bread is excellent...Chorizo, cabbage and chickpea stew - a steal at 3 quid - came generously loaded with sausage, and was a perfect winter lunch. Sandwiches are on the small and pricy side, but are loaded with great ingredients.
Busan - 3/5
Monday, December 19, 2011 - We loved the description of the sundubu jijae (soft curdled tofu stew), the experience likened to 'eating a spicy cloud'. Indeed - the soft tofu curds were gloriously silky and light, suspended in a rich chilli- and seafood-spiked soup, mellowed by the addition of a sunny egg yolk. Good, but not better, was a galbi tang (beef shortrib stew), a peppery, milky broth laced with slippery glass noodles, chunks of tender daikon radish and pieces of (not quite as tender) beef...Service demonstrated a solid sense of hospitality - commendable, as it seemed it was Mrs Lee who was singlehandedly working the room on our visit. Welcome back, Busan.
ICN Cafe - 3/5
Wednesday, December 14, 2011 - Foodwise, the cafe doesn't do many hot dishes - apart from miso soup and pre-packed udon noodles - as everything is pre-made and displayed in chillers in the style of the Wasabi or Itsu chains, but with more of a home-style quality. We liked the nimono (simmered dishes) of lotus root, burdock, konnyaku jelly and carrots, and the marinated deep-fried chicken; staff will microwave the food for you. The gallery features its own brand of high-quality Japanese teas from Shizuoka in Honshu, under the AOI brand. We loved the toasty sweetness of their genmaicha (roasted rice with green tea). Come for a chinwag, a brew and perhaps a small wagashi (Japanese confectionery) after some art appreciation.
Birdhouse - 4/5
Thursday, November 10, 2011 - The wait was worth it - Birdhouse is one of the best cafes to open in a while...A smooth but punchy flat white (the beans are from Climpson & Sons) and a bittersweet hot chocolate came crowned with neat heart-topped rosettas. Lunch was limited on our visit, but the mushroom, feta and pesto toasted ciabatta sandwich, served in army mess tins, was skilfully balanced in flavour and texture. As it was the only choice on show, they even rustled up a second sarnie for us, of chorizo, black olive tapenade and roasted red pepper; both excellent. Still, we had room for toasted banana bread (own-made), served with softened butter for spreading.
Okan - 4/5
Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - This pared back cafe specialises in Osaka-style okonomiyaki (a sort of savoury Japanese 'pancake') as popularised in London by venues such as Abeno Too in central London...All are topped with the requisite Japanese mayonnaise, sweet okonomiyaki sauce (a bit like a thickened Worcestershire sauce), dried aonori (green seaweed) and tissue-thin dried bonito fish shavings. Crisp and golden-brown on the outside and packed with the advertised ingredients, there isn't a better okonomiyaki to be found in the capital.
La Gelateria - 3/5
Thursday, August 11, 2011 - The staff have an infectious enthusiasm for their product, encouraging patrons to try as many flavours as possible before making their selections; the highly recommended pistachio (made with nuts from Sicily) was indeed very good, with a deep buttery flavour and an addictive salty tang. Sea-salted caramel is sure to be another favourite, but the mellow sweet potato has an unexpected allure, too. Less successful was the white sesame, which frustratingly lacked any distinctive nutty flavour; the black sesame version fared far better. We'll be looking out for other promised offerings too - pear sake and bellini, say.
Friday, August 05, 2011 - Handmade on site each day and with more than two dozen flavours are on show at any one time, the selection should sate even the pickiest of gelati connoisseurs. If you're eating in, the coolly decked-out interior offers swivel stool seating all along the glass frontage, as well as a range of ice-cream sundaes, like the 'Picasso' (6.70), combining seeded vanilla and wild strawberry ice-cream with fresh strawberries, whipped cream and raspberry sauce.
Polka Gelato - 4/5
Thursday, August 04, 2011 - Refreshing fruit-based concoctions steal the show in their number and variety, from peach and pineapple to black cherry and pink lemonade sherbet. We were impressed by the creamy, slightly bitter matcha (a type of strong green tea) and a sweetly herbal rooibois; more on-trend flavours in the 'super sonic' range (their description for flavours made with 'super foods') include pomegranate and mango, lime and goji berry. The texture of the gelati is thick and chewy, without being cloying or melting too rapidly. We'll be back to try more flavours, and have a pop at their 'polka pop' ice lollies.
Shoreditch Grind - 3/5
Wednesday, July 06, 2011 - The smooth, well-textured flat whites don't need much tweaking, though we found ours perhaps overly milky. The staff are guarded about the origin and blend of their beans, and all roasting is done by a third party. The food selection on our visit was sandwiches and a few cakes. Lunch might include organic ciabatta filled with salami, mascarpone, tomatoes and rocket, or baguette with prosciutto, parmesan and tomato. The owners aren't so quiet about their plans for the space, which includes serving alcohol in the evenings, an expanded menu and alfresco seating.
New Cross House - 3/5
Friday, June 17, 2011 - The newly expanded ground-floor space is light and airy, with bentwood chairs and cosy leather booths. You could spend many an hour bending an elbow here, with good brews and cider from Sharp's, as well as the company's own Bonobo or Weasel beers. Taking centre stage among the food offerings is a large wood-fired pizza oven, with thin-crusted choices including a super collar of pork, mozzarella, tomato and garlic mushroom, though a well-intended chorizo, fennel salami, mozzarella and pecorino version was far too salty. Better are the small snacks, such as breaded halloumi with a parmesan and cauliflower dip, or the light salad of smoked chicken with a poached egg.
Kimchee - 2/5
Friday, April 15, 2011 - The best dish of the night was a big bowl of humble budae jjigae (also known as Johnson tang or army stew). Ours was a good reflection of this unusual marriage: spam, frankfurters and baked beans swam in a hot spicy stew, with some ramen thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, the other dishes disappointed. Barbecued pork belly came cold and dry, not sizzling; skewers of beef tongue (also cold) varied in thickness, and were overseasoned with cumin. Mixed namul, consisting of pickled radish, seasoned beansprouts and spinach, were bland and watery.
Beijing Dumpling - 2/5
Friday, April 08, 2011 - Xiao long bao, which originate in Shanghai, are lumped under 'Beijing dumplings' on the menu - and the ones we tried were unworthy of the name. The skins were dry and thick instead of moist and thin; the filling of pork was good, but the soup was scant. Much better were the vegetarian dumplings, stained light green from vegetable juice, filled with a flavoursome filling of carrots, wood ear mushrooms and vermicelli, served in a light-tasting broth...Beijing Dumpling is not the worst place to dine in Chinatown, but it needs to do much better to be worthy of its name.
Keu! - 3/5
Friday, April 08, 2011 - On our first visit, the bread was tough and gum-scrapingly hard; it took some effort to first cut the sandwich in half, then eat it. We had opted for a classic combo of ham terrine, spiced pork belly and chicken liver pate - all excellent ingredients, though the accompanying pickled carrot and daikon definitely needed more zing and crunch. So close, and yet so far. A second sandwich a week later - filled with juicy Cantonese-style roast duck - was better, the bread lighter and fillings more generous.
The Icecreamists - 4/5
Tuesday, March 01, 2011 - Everything is bonkers, from the hospital drip-bags full of absinthe to the 'Toast Mortem' dessert of molten chocolate and frangelico gelato served with toasted panettone...Our Sex, Drugs & Rock and Roll was a high-standard milk chocolate number, while Caramelted (dulce de leche) was top notch, both dense, creamy and full-flavoured. It isn't cheap, though - a regular tub with two flavours of your choice clocks in at a very cheeky 5.90. We couldn't resist a naughty Miss Whiplash either; part of the Vice Cream Cocktails list, it's a martini glass of Glastonberry (raspberry sorbet) whizzed with plenty of vodka and topped with orange zest for a powerful punch.
Hakkasan Mayfair - 3/5
Tuesday, November 30, 2010 - A new dish of black truffle roast duck with tea plant mushrooms comprised of beautifully cooked duck breast, moist and tender with crisp skin, but the truffle element was muted and failed to add anything to the plate. Braised pork belly in double soy sauce with osmanthus flower on the menu made us think fondly of Dongpo pork, but it was barely recognisable when it came to the table...It's telling that the simpler dishes seemed to work the best, as though the kitchen were not quite au fait with melding certain ingredients and techniques together. But there is no doubt that Hakkasan will do well in the area.
Yashin Sushi - 5/5
Wednesday, November 24, 2010 - At the bar we watched as various nigiri were very lightly brushed with a soy sauce mixture before being blow-torched; shavings of chilled foie gras atop glistening raw botan (spot shrimp, a hefty prawn from the north Pacific) were transformed into a decadent molten topping, while salmon and tuna belly take on even silkier textures by the melting of the fat in the top layer...It has been a long time since a truly good sushi restaurant has opened in this city. And one that brings something new to (or rather, takes something away from) the table is all the more exciting.
Ceena - 3/5
Friday, November 05, 2010 - Ceena is pretty good, no worse (or better) than many other Korean places in central London, offering dishes (barbecued and otherwise) that are not dumbed down for its City location. Most of the selection is reassuringly classic: excellent bibimbaps (rice served in awesomely hot stone bowls), mung bean pancakes and pungent kimchi. The signature galbi (marinated beef shortribs) were cooked to order on a grill at the end of the U-shaped bar counter. The tender beef emanated a sweet smokiness that was commendable. Pan-fried vegetable dumplings (mandu) were flavoursome despite oddly stiff, plasticky cases.
Mino Kitchen - 2/5
Friday, October 15, 2010 - Some of the staff manning the charcoal grills at Mino Kitchen still seemed a little green. Fundamental errors included the bamboo skewers being burnt to blackness at the tips, imbuing the morsels that slipped off them with a bitter taste...The grilled dishes may offer better value for money. Salmon teriyaki may be a cliche, but here it looks mighty tempting - three fat, small steaks slowly grilled over the charcoal grill and brushed with sweet and tacky teriyaki sauce, served with grilled vegetables. Likewise, a whole sea bass on long metal skewers is equally impressive.
Koffmann's - 3/5
Monday, July 26, 2010 - The food, a hearty representation of Koffmann's Gascon background, is devoid of pomp and circumstance. Much is made of the informal, rustic French dishes, including several of La Tante Claire's signatures: scallops with squid ink, stuffed pig's trotter and pistachio souffle. We had all three of these and found them faultless: the scallops crispily seared and just-cooked within, the trotter rich and gelatinous, the pistachio souffle proudly risen and light as air. Snails and girolles in a creamy, truffle-scented parsley garlic sauce and mash was sublime.
Le Wei Xiang - 3/5
Monday, July 12, 2010 - From the 'Genuine Chinese Tastes' section, we sampled refreshing, ginger-tinged shredded potatoes, shredded pigs' ears in chilli oil and best of all, a generous, wobbling plateful of silky chilled tofu in a vinegared soy sauce base and chopped, creamy preserved duck eggs. In close second was a large claypot of sliced sea bass stew in a milky, intensely flavoured broth; large chunks of suan cai (pickled Chinese cabbage) lent the stew a refreshing sour note, as well as a curiously smoky undertone.
Cafe Luc - 2/5
Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - The crab meat in our tian of Cornish crab had strands that were sweet and tender, laced with dill; we could have done without the thick puck of gluey cream cheese on top though, and the messy streaks of tomato sauce and too-grassy avocado puree were superfluous at best. Chicken supreme with black trompettes and pappardelle did not come with the distinctive trumpet-shaped mushrooms, but bog-standard caps...For quality that matches the cost you might be better off strolling over to Galvin Bistrot de Luxe, which has similar aspirations, but is a brasserie de luxe of established reputation.
Tsuru (Bishopsgate) - 4/5
Thursday, June 03, 2010 - The eight-hour katsu curry (with crisp breadcrumbed pork) is one of our staple orders, but the small plates of Japanese classics, such as spry nuggets of tori karaage (fried chicken) are also worth trying. Other bitesized dishes such as gyoza (pork and vegetable dumplings), creamy potato korokke (the Japanese answer to the croquette) and sea-fresh sashimi and nigiri are all excellent, and fairly priced. Japanese beer is available on draught as a refreshing way to wash down the umami-rich food.
Ottoman Palace - 3/5
Thursday, June 03, 2010 - 'Palatial' isn't quite an overstatement in this joint, where intricate wood carvings, velvet-cushioned seats and high ceilings in a collection of rooms set over an expansive space do well to mimic Turkish opulence...Silky aubergines cloaked in a tomato, green pepper and garlic sauce was delightful, and the houmous had a pleasant coarse texture and notable garlic and lemon zing. Mains here turn out to be rather epic in size, and a recommended lamb sarma beyti used good-quality, well seasoned hand-minced meat cooked over charcoal grills. Sharing is a great way to keep the bill down.
Lumen Cafe - 4/5
Thursday, June 03, 2010 - The menu is reassuringly brief, though varied, taking in salads (such as bright shards of fennel or Tunisian-style lentil), hearty sandwiches (made with good-quality Born & Bread loafs), fat tortillas and a hot dish of the day. It's clean, vibrant food that tastes all the more virtuous for its commendable provenance. A salad of roast chicken comprised tender meat with golden-brown skin, atop dill-speckled new potatoes and spring lettuce; seasonal sprigs of roasted asparagus completed the dish. Our Spanish tortilla was perhaps erring on the rubbery side, but the accompanying aioli was big on garlic, in a good way.
Koya - 4/5
Wednesday, May 05, 2010 - Cold 'tenzaru' udon (served with prawn and vegetable tempura) was artfully arranged on a bamboo mat in a meticulous manner; the tsuyu (a sweet soy, dashi and mirin mixture) dipping sauce was intense and savoury. There are small plates, too, and we slurped up dishes of onsen tamago ('hot spring' eggs), slow cooked in their shells at a low temperature to give the whites a silken quality and the yolks the rich texture of a soft chocolate ganache. The food speaks for itself here and news will spread fast.
Caravan (Exmouth Market) - 4/5
Thursday, March 04, 2010 - The all-day menu encapsulates the sort of polygastronomy you find in New Zealand and Australia. The weekend brunch menu only has a slight nod to the Antipodes, with fry ups, eggs on sourdough toast and fruity porridge among the offerings. The 'Caravan fry up' is one we'd return for: a plateful of crisp streaky bacon, sweet roasted tomatoes, two eggs cooked to your liking, sourdough or wholegrain toast and, curiously, 'creamy soy mushrooms' that packed double the umami factor. Just as good was a metal dish of baked eggs in a tomato and red pepper ragout topped with tangy Greek-style yoghurt.
Angels & Gypsies - 4/5
Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - Camberwell has never had before is a destination eatery. Until now. Although it appears to be a tapas bar, the menu of Angels & Gypsies is peppered with a range of influences, from Sephardic to Basque cooking...Standout savoury dishes included a tender, milky roast pork belly with a cool cox apple salad and a spoonful of rum and plum jam. Scarlet curls of intense Iberico chorizo cooked in Basque cider would put any Brindisa creation to shame. Roast cod was curiously lacking in flavour, although expertly cooked and presented. Best of all, the service was sweet, boisterous and accommodating.
Franco Manca (Chiswick) - 3/5
Wednesday, December 23, 2009 - The pizzas? Well, they're good - but not quite as good as those at the original. We love a bit of blistering on our crust, but some parts were simply just burnt. We plumped for a number 4 (a tomato-based pizza with an ominously salty combination of capers, olives and anchovies) that was truly an as-salt on the palate...However, a variation of an old favourite, with gorgeous Brindisa chorizo (releasing squelches of paprika-heavy flavour), tomato and mozzarella, was the best pizza; a reminder of how great ingredients are central to the Franco Manca experience.
Amorino - 3/5
Monday, December 21, 2009 - Top-quality ingredients are used for the ice creams - organic eggs, full-fat milk and no artificial colourings or flavourings...Pistachio gelato (dotted with whole nuts, a nice touch) was spot on â€“ the richness of the pistachios simply sang. The warm interiors and slightly old-fashioned decor is a change from the ultra-modish gelaterias and frozen yoghurt shops as of late. Amorino is actually the first British branch of a chain that has already 30-plus outlets in Paris. For now, at least, it feels like one of a kind.
Roka (Canary Wharf) - 3/5
Thursday, November 26, 2009 - The cavernous room is decked out with perforated wood panels and the aroma of chargrilling from the robata grill greets diners as they make their way past the moodily lit bar...Tataki of butterfish served with a sharp yuzu and shallots, was more than the sum of its parts, the tang of the dressing complementing the rich, milky, raw fish. Fried baby squid lightly seasoned with punchy shichimi togarashi (a chilli pepper spice mixture) and served with a simple lime cheek was understated, greaseless and delicious.
Kitchen W8 - 3/5.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - There is a pleasant air about the slightly dimmed dining room, with comfortable banquettes, dark oak flooring and various nooks and crannies; it's an inoffensive but not entirely memorable space...From the a la carte, a seafood-heavy ravioli stained with squid ink was surprisingly light and exquisitely balanced, and a touch of lemon gave the dish a Mediterranean freshness. Stuffed with red mullet and crabmeat, the pasta was al dente; likewise pearl-sized pieces of cuttlefish, squid and octopus scattered around were sprightly and well-cooked.
Taste of Beijing - 3/5
Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - At Taste of Beijing, there are the ubiquitous steamed dumplings, all fluff and warmth, filled with juicy, umami-rich minced pork and vegetables. Springy, fat wheat noodles are slathered in fermented soybean sauce flecked with pork, and topped with slivers of crisp carrot and cucumber: an agreeable version of the Beijing classic zhajiang mian...This place - small, with three large communal tables - might not take the gold medal, but it's different and a very good option for a cheap and filling feed.
Kam Tong (Soho) - 3/5
Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - Hot, flaky roti prata (the thicker and fluffier Singaporean version of Malaysian roti canai, an unleavened flatbread) was deliciously buttery and had a proper chewiness, while the accompanying curry had a good kick. Likewise, kari ikan (literally 'curry fish') loaded with aubergine, tomatoes and okra was pleasantly spiced. However, char kway teow was bland (not a patch on that of its sister establishment, then), and Nyonya laksa was one-dimensional.
Wilton's - 4/5
Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - The coffee is easy-drinking, with both a macchiato and flat white made perfectly agreeable with beans roasted by Climpson & Sons; the modest cafe menu features quality nosh for under 4 quid using ingredients from purveyors such as Brindisa and Neal's Yard Dairy. Our avocado on sourdough toast with olive oil, spicy red pepper flakes and a wedge of lemon for squeezing looked stunning, but could have done with a touch more seasoning.
Nam - 2/5
Sunday, October 18, 2009 - All the pho dishes cost 4.90, though the serving is smaller than most. The light, beefy broth was agreeable and had a certain level of depth, while the raw beef slices were tender. However, the rice noodles had a strange grainy texture instead of the silkiness of proper banh pho, and the serving of beansprouts and herbs was miniscule - a tiny sprig of holy basil and less than a handful of beansprouts were offered between two of us. For a quick pho fix, Nam isn't a bad choice; however, the meek flavours and small servings are in contrast to the fresh tastes and hearty nature of Vietnamese cuisine.
Cocorino - 2/5
Wednesday, October 14, 2009 - It may look good, but in gastronomic terms, Mazzei and Yau may need to go back to their blueprints, because our food just wasn't up to scratch...Everything is pricey, and the several dishes we tried were all uninspiring; our spinach quiche tasted of egg and little else. We avoided the cramped focacceria and moved to the empty and spacious gelateria for scoops of consolatory ice-cream. A striking score of flavours winked at us but like the food, the flavours we tried were all muted.
Kaffeine - 3/5
Wednesday, September 16, 2009 - Peter, ever the proud proprietor, has printed off a stack of favourable comments from the internet. They're well deserved, judging from the expertly made flat whites on our visit...A combination of roasted peaches and peppers, caramelised onion, watercress and toasted coconut was light and summery, ditto a toasted focaccia with smoked salmon and plenty of cream cheese and dill. But at 4.50 a pop (for both sarnies and small salads), it's a touch expensive for a cafe.
The Shiori - 4/5
Thursday, September 10, 2009 - With only room for nine diners, it seems slightly resigned to catering for the takeaway crowd. But sit in and you'll be rewarded with fresh, meticulously crafted sushi and exquisitely presented sashimi. Nigiri topped with Zuwai-gani - also known as tanner crab - was lightly cooked and meaty, yet sweet and succulent, though not as good as the milky scallops...A sprightly wakame (a brown seaweed) salad with a dressing pepped up with a mixture of ponzu (a citrus-tinged soy sauce) and Korean chilli paste, as well as an intense red miso soup with wakame and yuba (dried tofu skin), were both faultless.
Thursday, September 03, 2009 - The coffee on our visit wasn't without fault - the flat white was a little bubbly, the mocha overly sweetened - but our smoked ham, cheddar and 'beer mustard mayo' on sourdough was delectable, and all the better for being freshly toasted. A wodge of Victoria sponge, was a moist, springy rendition with lashings of thick, sweet cream and ripe strawberries...Cor blimey, guv - a good British coffee shop, and one as British as bully beef. Who'd have thought it?
Le Provence - 2/5
Wednesday, August 26, 2009 - The menu is features dishes predominantly from the south of France but there are some concessions to Mediterranean flavours, too. We enjoyed a risotto of peas and sorrel topped with fresh sea urchin, a textbook-perfect version. But our mains faltered: the steak was well-presented with a Jenga block of chips and a fragrant, sweet, roasted garlic bulb, but the meat was grossly charred and bitter. The bouillabaisse, with a garlicky rouille and even-more-garlicky croutons, was generous with the seafood but the only other concession the broth had to tasting like the sea was its overwhelming saltiness.
St Clements Cafe & Bar - 4/5
Wednesday, August 12, 2009 - The cafe, with its high ceilings and posh-rustic elements (tattered cookery books and novels on the shelves, a vintage Bush stereo, plush pastel armchairs mingling with wooden tables) is spacious, yet welcoming. The menu, too, lists dishes which are each a perfectly arranged composition of colours, flavours and textures. Our English golden and red beetroot salad with ripe vine tomatoes, peppery rocket and pumpkin seeds was a burst of sunshine. Equally, juicy grilled Yorkshire lamb burgers with a coarse, ludicrously good houmous and creamy, refreshing tzatziki was faultless.
Caphe House - 3/5
Wednesday, August 12, 2009 - The Vietnamese baguette (banh mi) is quickly becoming one of London's trendiest imports. At this new cafe (which also doubles as an independent art gallery), the baguettes (white or brown) are baked in-house and filled with the requisite own-made pate, pickled carrots and oriental radish, roasted meats, fresh chillies, coriander and a drizzle of special 'pork sauce'. There are also spring rolls and various rice dishes to choose from, while the Vietnamese coffee is from the esteemed Ca Phe VN.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009 - Youssef used to work in Piccadilly's Fakhreldine restaurant before moving onto Kenza in the City, but one can't help feeling that he's finally at home here, where he fashions honest, fresh food from a surprisingly extensive menu for an appreciative Soho crowd...The mains were exceptional. Our chargrilled lamb skewers (lahem meshoue) served with a buttery vermicelli rice was only bettered by Ilska's offerings of a creamy garlic-yoghurt dip and hot harissa, while a hearty lamb shoulder stew with seven-spiced rice (which they simply call a lahem casserole) was long-flavoured and fragrant.
Keelung - 2/5
Friday, July 10, 2009 - A trinity of Taiwanese restaurants have sprung up within Chinatown over the past year. Leong's Legend was the pioneer, followed by Leong's Legend Continues, both serving nearly identical menus. Keelung is but a mere polished-up version of the first two, but with a bigger emphasis on seafood...Still, thick fingers of sea-sweet razor clams served with a peppering of hot chillies, were steamed just enough to retain their juicy springiness. On the other hand, grey clams, stir-fried with ginger and spring onion, are equally fresh but overwhelmed by its starchy sauce.
Friday, May 22, 2009 - The Serpentine Bar & Kitchen has a prime location, perched next to the glorious Serpentine lake in Hyde Park. With the sound of lapping water and the clinking of wine glasses and happy chatter, you wouldn’t dream of being anywhere else on a sunny London day. .. The menu reads well, with plenty of appetising seasonal items – on our visit, the asparagus and broad bean risotto had sold out quickly, and other options such as whole roasted mackerel with green beans or courgette and feta croquettes with purple sprouting broccoli go well beyond the park café norm…The café is about two-thirds there. Visit off-peak and perhaps you will enjoy the kitchen’s full attention to detail.
Campania Gastronomia - 3/6
Wednesday, May 06, 2009 - Campania Gastronomia, opened by Benito Montorio and Emma Lantosca, who hail from southern Italy, is one of the best-looking places in an area already overrun by rustic charm. Legs of ham hang from the ceilings, while a table heaves with all manner of delicious antipasti – marinated aubergine, anchovies, pickled mushrooms and sacks of freshly-baked ciabatta– as well as ownmade tarts and biscuits. A communal table and benches takes up half of the shop, while a smattering of tiny tables are hidden at the back. All very stylish.
Thursday, April 23, 2009 - The Whitechapel Gallery Dining Room is a good-looking place, if a bit cramped… The menu’s a far cry from the ‘Modern British’ slant currently so popular in other museum and gallery eateries: rich spicing and Mediterranean influences feature strongly here, in combination with local and seasonal British ingredients. We started off well, with a delicately mousse-like smoked eel pâté paired with tangy marinated beets and a few firm pieces of eel…
Ba Shan - 5/6
Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - It arrived by stealth, but created a tempest of interest. Ba Shan is the third opening by the same team who launched Sichuanese and northern Chinese cuisine into the spotlight…While it may be tempting to fill up with the rice and noodle dishes, we’d recommend filling the table with the likes of tiny bowls of dumplings, plates of steamed ‘lotus leaf’ buns, dishes of fish-fragrant broad beans... it might not hold a candle to xiao chi restaurants in Chengdu but this is likely to be the closest we’ll find in London.
Rasa Sayang - 4/6
Tuesday, February 24, 2009 - Newbies to this rich and varied cuisine will do well to order from the ‘Straits Culinary Favourites’ category, which includes popular delights such as smoky char kway teow (wok-fried rice noodles), beef rendang (beef slowly simmered in coconut milk) and nasi lemak (coconut fragrant rice, served with various accompaniments including dried anchovies, cucumbers and pickles)…Each item on the concise menu is worth trying – there are no fillers here, and no dumbing down with the addition of familiar Cantonese dishes to fit in with the surroundings.
Fish & Grill (Croydon) - 4/6
Wednesday, January 21, 2009 - While John’s decision to launch a fine dining establishment in the suburbs might have seemed overly optimistic, it seems the gamble paid off – the area’s denizens seem only too happy to swap southern-fried chicken for coq au vin, and greasy chips for steak-frites. But will Croydoners swap fish and chips for Cornish line-caught sea bass at his new Fish & Grill restaurant? The answer appears to be yes.
A Taste of McClements - 4/6
Thursday, January 01, 2009 - If you thought the days of elaborate tasting menus had just gone down the plughole, grab your nearest and dearest and head to Kew, where John McClements’s (of Ma Cuisine Le Petit Bistrot et al) newest endeavour is set. At once his most ambitious and most modest project, the 16-course tasting menu is yours for a relatively bargainous £29. Seating just 20 and open only for dinner, it’s a tiny restaurant rather more akin to a posh and slightly fey uncle’s dining room than a plush Michelin-starred boudoir.
Bob Bob Ricard - 3/6
Friday, December 12, 2008 - Already, BBR cuts a fine figure in old-fashioned quirkiness – we half expected the staff to be wearing shoulder pads – but unfortunately when applied to the menu, the result is more dowdy than delicious. There has been a trend of late to hark back to ‘classic British favourites’ and BBR has many retro dishes, from a good hearty fry-up (the most inviting of menus, though we couldn’t bring ourselves to break tradition and have breakfast for dinner) to roast partridge with savoy cabbage, or shepherd’s pie.
The Exhibition Rooms - 5/6
Friday, December 12, 2008 - The Exhibition Rooms’ menu represents a sobering return to the classics – at first glance, that is. We were unfazed by the daytime menu of BLTs, mushrooms on toast and chargrilled steaks; our eyebrows might have involuntarily twitched at the somewhat incongruous Moroccan lamb tagine, but it was the dinner options that piqued our interest. Executive chef David Massey offers tantalising treats that err ever so slightly from the realm of ‘playing it safe’.
Kettners - 4/5
Tuesday, November 11, 2008 - From flailing pizza-parlour prototype, beautifully baroque Kettner's has gone under the Ilse Crawford knife to re-emerge as the properly seductive Soho brasserie it always had been, under all that quattro formaggio and tomato sauce. Now, the pizza pie has gone, replaced by somewhat retro French elegance - ie Kettner's original style. Indeed, the swaggering Soho execs couldn't help but take a second look as they passed; designer Crawford has successfully brought Parisian glamour to the Big Smoke.
Yum Cha - 4/6
Thursday, October 23, 2008 - Good dim sum can result in diners waxing lyrical about the restaurant responsible for days. And in the Chinese community, word of mouth travels quickly. Within weeks of Yum Cha opening, local families and savvy Chinese students had laid claim to the tables at prime dim sum time (12-2pm), despite the restaurant's less-than-shiny-and-new facade. (Inside, it’s a different story, with handsome wood detailing and a golden Buddha statue reclining in the centre of the room.)
Tapas Brindisa (Soho) - 4/6
Thursday, October 16, 2008 - There’s something a bit too civilised about this tapas restaurant. Instead of finding raucous, happy punters knocking back mouthfuls of sherry around an upturned barrel, you find muted – almost solemn – diners picking away at their jamón with dainty knives and forks, with thick linen napkins on their laps. For most Spaniards, the very idea of booking ahead for tapas seems absurd.
Inamo - 3/6
Thursday, October 09, 2008 - For the most unsociable of diners, Inamo is the ultimate experience whipped straight out of cyberspace. Interaction between diner and waiting staff is virtually eliminated by way of individualised computer screens set into the tables and projected by giant, silkworm-like monstrosities looming above diners' heads; staff cruise about, stopping only to plonk down the desired dishes.
Soseki - 3/6
Wednesday, October 01, 2008 - Some might say the interior’s evocative of a temple, as it’s embellished by intricate vintage trinkets from Kyoto. The surroundings are suitably poetic in the way that Soseki himself might have approved of; for example, the smell of cedar wood and the rustle of a young waitress’s kimono as she quietly led us through the restaurant. It certainly sets the scene for exploring classic Japanese gastronomy.
Buddha Bar - 3/6
Thursday, August 28, 2008 - Buddha Bar has taken the mystique of the East to new highs; the brand's iconic buddha statue dominates the ground floor restaurant, where svelte European waitresses glide about in their clingy cheongsams... The restaurant buzzes but this is the kind of place where food takes a backseat, try as they may to convince us that pan-Asian cuisine is back in fashion. We settled for a perch on the upper balcony bar, where the service seemed more amateur and less polished; the bouncer was the most gracious employee on our visit.
Thursday, August 07, 2008 - There’s something conspiratorial about the whole thing. Just when you thought the Chinatown dining scene was torpid, two outstanding restaurants – first Baozi Inn, and now Leong’s Legends, both boasting relatively unknown regional cooking – burst on to the scene with the stealth and cunning of bandits. Which, if you think about it, is a fitting metaphor for the title of this Taiwanese newcomer.
Cha Cha Moon - 4/6
Thursday, May 29, 2008 - Cha Cha Moon is Hong Kong-born restaurateur Alan Yau’s take on a mein dong. But instead of focusing on the myriad of noodle dishes found just in his home town, it’s a culinary journey careening around all corners of China, plus neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia for good measure. There are beef noodles from Taiwan and prawn noodles from Penang, while Sichuan dumplings and Singaporean char kway teow sit alongside spring onion pancakes from the north. To the moon and back, indeed.
Franco Manca (Brixton) - 5/6
Thursday, April 17, 2008 - We have a confession to make: after our excellent meal at Franco Manca, the staff (jokingly) made us swear to keep the place to ourselves. It has the feel of a secret rendezvous, the sort of place you'd walk past while ogling at the exotic Afro-Caribbean goodies on show in the surrounding stores (tropical fish, bootleg reggae tapes and stacks of yams line this part of the market).
Calma Lounge - 3/6
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 - The concept of 'Mongolian hot-pot' has dubious origins, with fanciful tales of Genghis Khan and his soldiers boiling broth in their warrior helmets before battle. Nevertheless, versions of this dip-and-eat cuisine have proved to be a hit across China and the US. Little Lamb - not to be confused with the better-known Little Sheep chain - has opened this first branch in the UK.