Guy Dimond reviews

Hoi Polloi - 5/5

Thursday, October 17, 2013 - Pork cheeks, slow-braised to intense meaty tenderness, are suitably autumnal with their chunks of spiced apple and on-trend pickled carrots (every chef with a beard is fermenting these days). Potato dumplings (aka gnocchi) are served with tender baby globe artichokes and wild mushrooms. The size of this – and other savoury dishes – was modest, but prices are fair. Old-fashioned lemon posset is given a contemporary twist with a red berry puree. All our dishes were faultless.

Berners Tavern - 5/5

Saturday, October 12, 2013 - Head chef Phil Carmichael turns out tender pork belly with a sauce of sharp capers, golden raisins and apple coleslaw to cut through the fat. The flavours of this and a pan-braised halibut (perfectly cooked) with a little saucepan of savoury squid ink risotto were sublime...Any caveats? Sometimes dizzy service; too-frequent upselling of extras; lighting so low we could barely read the menu. But Berners Tavern is an utterly glamorous experience.

Sager & Wilde - 4/5

Saturday, September 28, 2013 - It’s unapologetically wine-led, with good bar snacks (cheese from Androuet, good salami) an afterthought. A score of excellent wines are sold by the glass or bottle, at a flat rate mark up of £20 per bottle (which, paradoxically, makes the more expensive wines better value). A Basque txakoli – edgy, slightly spritzy and bone-dry – vies for your attention with a fruitier, more voluptuous riesling from Mosel. (I had both.) All tastes are catered for, from a toasty sparkler from Kent (from Sugrue Pierre), to loud and proud American (Paul Draper’s Ridge Santa Cruz).

Union Street Cafe - 3/5

Saturday, September 28, 2013 - Chef Davide Degiovanni has a daily-changing menu that wouldn’t look out of place in a score of other mid-market Italian restaurants in London. The intentionally casual service and Italian style is undermined though by portion sizes which would be considered meagre in the boot of Italy...So is Union Street Café worth a three-month wait for a fixture? No. Back of the net? Definitely not. Good save? Only if you can get a table for lunch, or are lucky enough to score a walk-in table.

Prawn on the Lawn - 3/5

Saturday, September 28, 2013 - Fishmonger by day, seafood bar by night, this little café-bar has charm by the bucket- and spadeful...Like a proper seafood shack, little cooking is done on the premises, and most of the dishes are served cold – some in hanging-basket style platters which place the dishes at eye level. On our visit the seafood was fresh, the preparation up to scratch, but the portions were on the small side. This is a frequent problem in seafood bars: don’t arrive too hungry, or you can run up a large bill.

Boulestin - 3/5

Saturday, September 28, 2013 - The menu lists oeufs en gelée – a dish which, much like old-school St James’s, is preserved in aspic. Classic French cooking at its best shines in dishes such as daube of beef, which was slow-cooked and wonderfully tender...A few dishes seem almost daringly modern with their rocket and preserved lemons; but for the most part, this menu is as classic, French and retro as the grand setting. Rather than trying to impersonate an old master, this Boulestin is a sensitively updated reproduction.

Smokehouse - 4/5

Friday, September 13, 2013 - Trendy though the menu seems – it includes French bistro dishes, carefully sourced British produce, even Korean flavours – the mutton chops here come from the grill, not the barman’s cheeks. Fatty and full-flavoured, they were best enjoyed with fingers. Mullets are smoked, cut into translucent slivers and served with slices of white pickled clams, radishes and smattering of sea purslane.

Jubo - 3/5

Friday, September 13, 2013 - The options are boneless thigh strips, or messier, bone-in wings. The texture certainly beats the other KFC; the soy/garlic dressing was zesty, the hot/sweet sauce thick and syrupy. Steamed buns are firm rather than delicate, delivered with fillings such as slow-cooked pork belly, slow--braised beef, or a vegetarian mushroom version with hoisin sauce...Service was chummy, prices low. In Shoreditch, it should do well.

Plum + Spilt Milk - 3/5

Friday, September 13, 2013 - Now ‘Sarge’ is in charge, Plum & Spilt Milk should be on the right track. Many dishes are assembled, rather than cooked. Minimal intervention is a good thing when the ingredients are first-rate, for example in our starter plate of charcuterie. The celeriac remoulade that came with it was a nice touch, although the titular plum garnishing the plate made it resemble a ploughman’s lunch. Toast topped with broad bean paste, pea shoots and crumbled Caerphilly cheese was also a simple but much more successful combination – the best dish we tried, as it turned out.

Notting Hill Kitchen - 3/5

Thursday, August 22, 2013 - Portuguese food is not one of the great cuisines of the world, but this hasn’t stopped executive chef Luis Baena from doing his best to modernise this menu with good ingredients, small plates and innovative combinations. Squid rings were fried until crisp with a tender bite; the intense tomato sauce was also good, but together in a small bowl with chunks of beetroot, the combination was too busy...But stick to the simpler dishes and you’ll be fine.

Casa Negra - 3/5

Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - The tacos were the weak link: the pork pibil was missing the expected citrus tang, while the fish tacos tasted overwhelmingly of vinegar from pickled jalapeños. A main course of beef shortrib was the best dish: a big piece of meat had been slow cooked until it was on the point of falling from the bone; its smoky chipotle chilli heat beautifully pepped up with the sharp sweetness of the pineapple salsa. The result was a mariachi band of flavours.

Albion Grill - 3/5

Friday, July 19, 2013 - For outdoor dining, it’s truly a green and pleasant land. Indoors has a more shop-unit feel and look, softened by some displays of vegetable boxes...Prices are high, but so is the quality. Our kedgeree (£10.50) had imperceptibly mild spicing, but was turmeric bright, the rice nicely al dente and not mushy, the smoked fish also had a good firm texture...Later in the day the menu expands to include fish and chips, pies, bread and butter pudding, afternoon teas. It’s a perfect alternative to the Tate Modern’s own bustling bistro, away from the maddening crowds.

Grain Store - 4/5

Friday, July 19, 2013 - Vegetables are his current passion. Pretty colours and simple preparation made a platter of baked beetroots, pickled onions and a strained goat yoghurt labneh into an attractive dish; a dill oil dressing made the disparate flavours hang together well...Meat is also given serious attention, though used mainly as the sideshow. A cube of sticky pork belly was served as an accompaniment to a corn and quinoa tamale, the filling kept very moist by the corn husk wrapper while griddled.

Hutong - 4/5

Thursday, July 18, 2013 - Dan dan noodles had the recognisable ma-la (‘numbing, spicy hot’) combination of this Sichuan dish, but the dish was a bit overcooked and it was a little heavy on the peanut sauce, turning it into more of a soupy laksa than a Chengdu street snack...The service was good, the prices high, but then this is the Shard, not Chinatown. This London branch of Hutong shouldn’t be left to the tourists and the expats.

Picture - 3/5

Sunday, July 14, 2013 - Despite uneven dishes, Picture still has much to recommend it. The staff were charming and on the ball, and the wine list offers lots of interesting and unusual wines by the glass, such as a rosé pinot noir from the Loire. A five-minute walk from Oxford Circus, Picture is an appealing place to pop into for a glass of wine and snack. Coffee and drinks are served all afternoon.

The Miller - 3/5

Thursday, July 11, 2013 - Although it looks like a dodgy council estate pub on the outside, within, it’s been given a squat-chic makeover with playful contemporary art and comfy old chesterfields...J-Lo would be jealous of these buns, and the fillings range from pert pork sausages to hot-smoked salmon. The details, from dill pickles to skin-on chips, are all far better than the very reasonable prices suggest.


Monday, July 08, 2013 - Toasted is the latest in the Terroirs tradition; chef Michael Hazelwood has worked stints at a couple of its branches before taking over the former Green & Blue wine bar premises in East Dulwich. With business partner and manager Alex Thorp, he has transformed a once quiet venue into a buzzing neighbourhood bistro that’s already a local sensation. In a typical dish, fresh English peas are dressed with garlic butter and topped with raw egg yolk drizzled with lemon oil, then garnished with toasted almond. The result is dramatically colourful and savoury.

The Five Fields - 5/5

Friday, May 31, 2013 - Careful sourcing of good ingredients is one thing, skill in cooking with them is another. The Five Fields is equally as accomplished at both. The pan-fried veal sweetbreads, slow-cooked venison, and suckling pig five ways on one dish were presented like artworks with an array of colourful and complementary garnishes...The Five Fields is far from cheap – yet even at these prices it’s good value, and it’s the perfect special occasion restaurant.

The Three Crowns - 3/5

Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - The new owners have their priorities right: a big bar at the front, a good selection of craft beers, lots of appealing bar snacks, and quieter tables further back at the ‘smart end’ if you want a full meal...Salted duck was cut into clean slivers, the sharply pickled endive and watercress cutting the fat. Cod had been crisped on the skin side, but once sat on a watery stock of artichoke hearts and potato, the fish quickly went soggy; the garlic in a well-made aioli rescued the dish.

Oblix at The Shard - 3/5

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - Twenty paces back from the glass, seated at the no-bookings table, our succession of dishes almost made up for the absence of a view. The presentation was like that at Zuma, but the menu resembled a New York grill. A starter of tataki-style beef (£12) was a few tasty morsels while the main course of halibut (£28) was perfectly cooked, though rather oddly served with something resembling a dollop of lemon curd. Pork belly (£16) was perhaps the best dish – the meat pink and tender, the skin nicely crisped, served with a piquant apple chutney.

Bird of Smithfield - 4/5

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - A buttery small sole was topped with savoury brown shrimps and the slightly bitter leaves of foraged sea beet and sea purslane. Calf’s liver was trimmed into tidy tiles then pan-fried and topped with sage butter, crisped bacon and slow-cooked onions; the simplest flavours are still sometimes the best. Puddings that nanny would approve of included the irresistible pun of Bird’s custard with rhubarb; all that’s missing is the soft slipper for staying up late past bedtime, which is easy to do with such biddable service.

Jamie Oliver's Diner - 3/5

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - Within pick-pocketing distance of Piccadilly Circus, it’s squarely pitched at out-of-towners and families, yet in spite of the ‘easy audience’, it has resisted the urge to cut corners in the kitchen. We enjoyed our beef burger, with its proper patty (thick, nicely-charred outer, lipstick pink middle), toasted sesame bun, and old-school trimmings (a light burger sauce and shredded lettuce). Next up, though the tangy mustard marinade of the ‘dirty’ barbecue ribs wasn’t to our taste, the fall-off-the-bone meat was good quality.

Potato Merchant - 2/5

Saturday, May 11, 2013 - Tartiflette should have been a highlight – the reblochon cheese, lardons and onions give the dish a fatty attraction – but served in a tiny, paper-lined punnet, the portion was a little too meagre, and too dry. Fat chips, fried in beef dripping, were crisp on the outside, but disappointingly floury on the inside; chefs change the chip potato daily, and ours wasn’t one of the better experiments. The best dish was the one where the pink fir apples were a mere accompaniment to the centrepiece – smoked herring, which was firm, oily and of Scandinavian perfection.

Bageriet - 4/5

Friday, May 10, 2013 - A counter along one wall is lined with Nordic baked goods – rounds of crispbread, plump cream buns and almond tarts. The pretty vanilla hearts saw rich custard encased in perfectly light and crumbly pastry liberally dusted with icing sugar. The savouries were just as successful, although the range was far smaller...And the cinnamon buns? Delightfully light, buttery and aromatic. We'll be back for more.

Social Eating House - 5/5

Wednesday, May 01, 2013 - Smoked duck ‘ham’, egg and chips is a dish that’s typical of Pollen Street Social’s playfulness. ‘Ham’ is cured and smoked from duck breast on the premises, served with a breadcrumbed duck egg that’s molten in the middle, but with an aroma of truffle oil. Umami – savouriness, the taste that enhances other flavours – was also plentiful in a roast cod main course...Gone are the days of shouty chefs as role models; the quiet achievers who play nicely and play together are currently coming out on top.

Restaurant Story - 4/5

Tuesday, April 30, 2013 - The rapid succession of small dishes is playful, evoking childhood memories. The ‘bread and dripping’ is a loaf served with a lit candle made of beef dripping; as the tallow melts, you dip the bread as if it’s melted butter. Tiny ‘milk bottles’, served in a dolls’-house milk crate, contain a dessert of rhubarb, custard, and a hit of sherbet at the bottom, eaten through striped straws. A second dessert of ‘three bears porridge’ has one too sweet, one too salty, and one just right.

Master & Servant - 3/5

Thursday, April 11, 2013 - Ox cheek was beautifully slow-cooked and unctuous, well-matched with a tangle of remoulade-like celeriac gratings and a light grating of horseradish on top: it was the best dish, with a good wallop of roast meat flavours. The chargrill is one of the features of this kitchen, apparent in a dish of quail which had been seared but not dried out...On our visit the service wasn’t exactly ‘Downton Abbey’ smooth, and the prices seem high for a restaurant that’s not proper gentry. But a major consolation is that the cocktails are provided by Happiness Forgets, the esteemed cocktail bar in the basement.

Little Social - 4/5

Tuesday, April 02, 2013 - Instead of replicating PSS’s success, he’s created a super-bistro, a luxe homage to Paris, but with a slightly Manhattan accent...Parmesan and squash soup also contained a poached egg, roasted mushrooms and croûtons; although busy, the dish was a riot of flavour. More single-note but equally excellent was braised ox cheek, served on a dollop of horseradish mash, propped up by a roasted ox bone complete with a tiny spoon for scooping out the marrow.

The Truscott Arms - 3/5

Tuesday, April 02, 2013 - The first-floor dining room looks smart and spacious, and the service was professional and smiling. Yet the menu sends mixed messages. A wagyu burger in brioche bun (£14) was merely adequate, the chunky chips crisp; but we’re not convinced it was worth the extra fiver to have a few slivers of bone marrow added, as £19 is a lot for a burger. Braised lamb belly (£15) was just a bit too tough and fatty. The best main course was the simplest: cod grilled on a hotplate, with cockles, baby artichokes and cauliflower purée. Desserts were also patchy; a panna cotta was set too hard.

The Dairy - 4/5

Monday, March 25, 2013 - Beautifully crafted rustic plates are used to present simple dishes such as a warm salad of new potatoes, sorrel leaves and a generous amount of fresh truffle, grated at the table. A fillet of mackerel is charred on the grill then placed on fennel, with its complementary hint of anise flavour; the plate decorated with a smear of cucumber and a fresh dill frond. Beef short rib is slow cooked for 24 hours before being served with grilled spring onions and bone marrow.This is fancy cooking: not what you expect in a neighbourhood restaurant.

Brasserie Chavot - 4/5

Monday, March 25, 2013 - Daube of beef was a tower of rosbif, slow-cooked to the firmness of a Ukip handshake, but with a depth of flavour that would make any Frenchman pine for grand-mère’s cooking. Slightly fancier was the duckling a l’orange, rescued from what could have been a 1970s sickly-sweet orange sauce by savoury pink meat and the slightly bitter contrast of caramelised endives...Brasserie Chavot is a smart, special-occasion French restaurant with appealing dishes by a great chef. But it needs to unbutton its collar a little bit.

Beagle - 4/5

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - James Ferguson was head chef at the excellent Rochelle Canteen for four years, and the same back-to-basics British ethos is evident at the Beagle. Grilled cuttlefish – scored and served like oriental squid – is served with new potatoes and a salsa-like coriander pesto, and shows that sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. Pork belly is brined, slow-roasted then seared to give tender meat with crisp crackling; a hugely successful method.

The Clove Club - 4/5

Thursday, March 14, 2013 - Leeks were poached to tenderness, slit, and then smoked mussels were placed in vitro, like peas in a pod. A chlorophyll-green spinach purée seeped from the side. The result looked disquieting, but will no doubt end up on lots of Pinterest boards. A pattern emerged: dishes seemed destined to be photographed and talked about, possibly more than savoured. The best dishes tended to be the ones that weren’t trying quite so hard to impress.

Graveney & Meadow - 3/5

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 - Graveney & Meadow serves sandwiches during the afternoon, a brunch menu at weekends, and a more extensive Spanish tapas menu in the evenings. But it's the baking here is the main draw...Although G&M is more café than bar, drinkers will find Sambrooks ales and Fuller's HSB among the generic lagers on tap; there are cocktails too. More effort seems to have gone into the coffee list, made using Workshop Coffee Co roasts...Among the pound stores, chicken takeaways, coffee chains and betting shops, G&M stands out as a place popping with personality.

Disco Bistro at The Rising Sun - 2/5

Monday, December 17, 2012 - The brief menu shows great imagination, and the chef is clearly talented, but the rendition is a little hit and miss. A starter of shrimps was a few morsels, while another starter of roast pumpkin was overly generous. Slow-cooking seems to be a strength: the short-rib beef was tender, served with autumnal vegetables. Foraged ingredients litter the menu: sea beets, dittander (a wild coastal plant) and ground elder. Yet some good cooking is sometimes let down by the details: an excellent rose-flavoured custard, served with cider-cooked quince, had its delicacy blunted by a granola-like crumble topping.

Electric Diner - 3/5

Monday, December 10, 2012 - The long, low-ceilinged brasserie now has the distressed warehouse/unfinished diner look that was fashionable in New York five years ago, and in London three years ago, making it already quite dated...There was little wow factor about the burger; there are many better in the capital right now. The fries were excellent, though: crisp, light, golden. A green salad was generously portioned in the American way. A breakfast menu is served until noon; an omelette with blue cheese, spinach and onion was exemplary.

Cellarium Cafe & Terrace - 3/5

Friday, December 07, 2012 - The menu is British-leaning, though not to the point of dullness. The most British dish, so to speak, simple steak and ale stew, was served with a slice of bread for just under a tenner - like wartime rationing fare. More interesting are dishes such as roast aubergine with tahini cream, pumpkin seed, chilli and fresh pomegranate, though sometimes the kitchen seems to get carried away: cold roasted parsnips in a salad is never a good idea...Cellarium is useful in an area that's a desert for decent places to eat, and because it's relatively hidden away, it doesn't suffer from the tourist hordes of most other cafés nearby.

Rosita - 4/5

Friday, December 07, 2012 - Rosita is Lola Rojo's new branch, just a few minutes' walk away. But rather than duplicating the original's menu, the husband-and-wife owners have produced a Madrid-style tapas menu with a more traditional approach - sherry and jamon are the stars...The cooked dishes are nearly as simple, such as the baked duck egg with spinach and goat's cheese. A Josper grill sears seafood and meats, like our slab of Iberian pork. Rosita uses good ingredients and the dishes are very fresh.

Naamyaa Cafe - 5/5

Monday, December 03, 2012 - Thai food enthusiasts will be thrilled by this menu, just as novices might be intimidated. Kanom jin - soft, thin rice noodles served at room temperature - are topped with a curry-like sauce of your choice. The side salads might include pickled morning glory, beansprouts, chinese leaves,starfruit and sweet basil to vary the textures and flavours to your own taste...The oddest feature is the smattering of Western dishes. Burgers with chips, caesar salad and salade niçoise might be truly international dishes, but they sit uneasily on this pan-oriental menu.

CHICKENliquor - 4/5

Monday, November 26, 2012 - We ordered the 'thighs', which turned out to be some of the tastiest chicken nuggets we've tried - breaded and crisp-fried, served in baskets lined with greaseproof paper, with either 'salt 'n' pepa' or a Thai-style drench of tamarind dressing, mint, chilli and chopped shallots. Other options include quarter or half chickens, buffalo wings with blue cheese sauce, Korean-style double-fried chicken, or a chicken sandwich...That's all there is to Wishbone - Taking junk food, and making it good.

The Quality Chop House - 4/5

Monday, November 19, 2012 - The tiled floor, booth seating and embossed wallpaper have seen many changes of chef and business, but the latest incumbents have chosen to keep it simple, primarily functioning as a wine bar. The 'best' of the two ground-floor rooms - the one with Victorian wooden booths - is reserved for diners who have a no-choice set dinner menu at £35. It's like smart Islington dinner party food; on our visit, mackerel pâté, a dense fish soup, roast venison and chocolate-and-chestnut cake, with cheese costing extra. Uncomplicated and competently done, but a bit pricey.

The GrEAT British Restaurant - 3/5

Monday, November 19, 2012 - Breakfast is the main meal of the day here: our full English cost £9.95 - nearly a Paul McKenna for a fry-up. But the bangers were properly porky, and the presentation pretty, with the baked beans served in their own little preservation jar. Healthier options include porridge, or grilled kipper with wholemeal toast. Sandwiches are the staple during the day, while hot dishes appear in the evenings (fish and chips, shepherd's pie). The cooler cabinet is filled with bottled beers and wines for diners not in a rush.

Bodo's Schloss - 3/5

Monday, November 12, 2012 - Bodo's Schloss makes more effort with the food than it needs to. The rye bread 'with traditional spreads' was excellent and soon had us yodelling for more. The wiener schnitzel wasn't the most delicate, but it was perfectly adequate. Less impressive was a beef goulash - cooked too quickly, the chunks of meat were almost inedibly tough...Prices overall are on the high side. This is a fun restaurant attached to a nightclub, but not a gastronomic destination.

Hawksmoor Air Street - 5/5

Monday, November 05, 2012 - The interior is wood-panelled and leather-upholstered like a gentleman's club, with understated art deco details. The entrance bar is a destination in itself...Good quality meat's not cheap, and neither is good seafood. A signature dish of 'Hawksmoor cut' turbot is, like its finer cuts of beef, priced by weight - in this case £12 per 100g. Therefore, our 300g portion - enough for one main course - cost a fork-dropping £36. But we've never had such good turbot: grilled over charcoal and served on the bone, it was succulent and tasted of both the sea and flame. Brixham crab on toast was another good choice.

Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack - 4/5

Monday, October 22, 2012 - A starter of Cornish squid was attractively presented with a cube of Cumbrian pork belly, pickled apple and endive; the priciest starter at £9, but a good choice with a very pleasing balance of textures and land-sea flavours. Fillet of grey mullet was perfectly seared on the skin side, quite beautiful with a dressing of cockles, cauliflower and a buttery sauce. Bonnie Gull does a decent job of evoking a seaside shack. All that's missing is warmth, sunshine, long days and a bucket and spade for the full effect.

Colbert - 4/5

Friday, October 19, 2012 - Colbert's love affair with French food is clearly an enduring one, not a passing fancy. Our favourite dish was the most rustic: a cassoulet. This slow-cooked casserole from south-west France had haricot beans dissolving into the mixed meats; as well as tasting of autumn, the thorough cooking of the beans ensured no unwelcome surprises from the south. Also good was a steak tartare. In more specialist establishments you might be asked how much Worcestershire sauce and shallots you'd like mixed in, but the hand-chopped beef was fresh and well-textured.

The Craft Beer Co (Brixton) - 3/5

Monday, October 08, 2012 - It's a small bar, not very pub-like, with plate glass windows making this slightly gentrified corner site highly visible from the market. The high stools perch at small tables. If you prefer a bit more privacy, there's space on the first floor. It's the beers that make this a destination. There are up to ten lesser-known ales on tap, another 20 on keg, and scores more by the bottle...There's no hot food. Pork pie £4.95; scotch egg £3.50. You don't come here to eat. The regulars are hopheads, work dodgers and plenty of ale enthusiasts - some even clean shaven - who have made a special pilgrimage.

Kaosarn (Battersea) - 3/5

Friday, October 05, 2012 - New additions include khao soi, a Burmese and northern Thai dish of egg noodles in a coconut and chicken soup, spiced like a yellow curry, which tasted - in a good way - mild and creamy with a simple spice mixture. Another new dish is best described as 'number 33' - a whole sea bass deep-fried then laced with a mixture of hot and sweet, salty and sour red onion and papaya that went well with some palliative coconut rice. The classic dishes that KaoSarn is known for are still done well...Not quite as 'scene' as Brixton, then - but the simple Thai dishes and BYO policy is a big enough draw.

Slider Bar - 4/5

Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - We were impressed by the detail of the brioche and sesame buns, the high quality of the juicy, fatty beef burgers within, and flavourful if slightly flaccid fries. Even a wildcard choice - the 'Fillet-O-Fish' - was realistically square yet fishy, though the low-rent American cheese was perhaps a touch too golden arches for some tastes. The pulled pork slider was exemplary, the 'Royale wit Cheese' (sic) a 'Pulp Fiction' reference that was no quarter-pounder, but a hell of a good burger anyway.

Green Man & French Horn - 4/5

Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - The Green Man's Francophone staff are engaged, keen, attentive. The menu's reassuringly simple - rilletes slow-cooked in pork fat, served with sourdough toast and cornichons; moist black pudding with a pot-au-feu style vegetables. Yet it's the sort of food that leads you into temptation - a cep omelette was so oozingly suggestive it would be banned on pre-watershed television. And who could resist the little poached mirabelle plums, just waiting to have their skins burst? The characteristics of the accompanying wines are no less mischievous - flirty and at times even a little filthy, yet mostly just as companionable and sophisticated as the dishes.

Old Bengal Bar - 4/5

Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - The well-stocked and mirrored back bar is beautifully lit, displaying a fine collection of bottles; a far wall is also mirrored, with concealed doors leading to the loos. The music's not too loud and is suitably ambient. The cocktail list is long and well considered, divided by spirit. Service was leisurely on the quiet night we visited, but the drinks were well made: a tequila-based Easy Tiger, served in a martini glass, had a subtle dash of lime and ginger; while a New York Sour was nicely graduated from red (wine) at the top to yellow (whisky) at the bottom, in a girly-looking pina colada glass.

Chicken Shop (Kentish Town) - 3/5

Sunday, September 23, 2012 - As you descend the stairs it's clear you're in hipster heaven - low lighting, pressed tin ceiling, faux-factory fittings. It's like a little bit of Brooklyn, or a Shoreditch speakeasy bar, in Kentish Town...Half a chicken - enough for two people - costs £8. Side dishes include crinkle-cut fries, coleslaw, corn grilled on the cob. Apple pie is brought with a huge jug of cream, with lashings of nostalgia for a time that never was. There's a small bar, but most people sup while they eat.

Sacro Cuore Pizza - 3/5

Monday, September 10, 2012 - The low-salt dough puffed up quickly in the 400C oven, forming a crisp yet pliant cornicione that seals the moisture within; the result is a chewy, pliable pizza base. The intense heat also chars the base in a pleasing way. The toppings should also benefit from the high temperature, sealing in the flavours of the hand-crushed San Marzano tomato sauce - though in this case too much had been applied, making the base soggy. Yet the ingredients were good quality: just the right amount of scattered fior di latte (cow) mozzarella, plump and sharp capers, and aromatic herbs on our Napoli.

Camino (Monument) - 4/5

Monday, August 20, 2012 - The atmosphere in the bar was lively, without being cramped or too loud; the look was also suitably Iberian, with rustic furniture. In the dining room, we were surprised by the high quality of the dishes. Pan-fried black pudding was pleasingly moist and blood-flavoured, served on roasted red peppers, and a good portion size for under a fiver. Chipirones - battered and deep-fried baby squid - were crisp and not oily, served with aioli and a squeeze of lemon. Globe artichoke hearts were stuffed with a chickpea puree, topped with a nutty romesco sauce, all superior to the usual tapas bar fare.

Duck & Waffle - 3/5

Friday, August 17, 2012 - Duck's European menu is certainly on-trend - too many trends, perhaps. Offal seems strewn all over the menu, from lamb's tongues to porchetta di testa (a salami made from pig's head). A slider (high-five, NYC) is served with harissa (ahlan, North Africa). Some dishes are roasted 'in a brick oven', others served as large sharing dishes. Yet while Sushisamba's menu is a carnival of Latin and Asian influences, Duck & Waffle has British ingredients at its core. 'BBQ-spiced crispy pig ears' showed a flair for presentation, with the thin, chewy strips of cartilage presented in a brown paper bag, like a clandestine takeaway of pork scratchings. 'Chip shop cod tongues' also slightly overdid the styling.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - With the views and the fairground-ride of an entrance, it's easy to forget that Sushisamba is also a restaurant that likes to be taken seriously. The prices clearly indicate this...Dishes such as the ceviche were well-made with good attention to detail, down to little carved balls of sweet potato flavoured with star anise. Some elements of dishes were so inventive, we had no idea what we were eating...The sushi and sashimi are near London's dearest at around £2 per mouthful.

Dach & Sons - 4/5

Monday, August 06, 2012 - The small-eats menu also looks to the US for inspiration, with hot dogs, sliders (mini burgers) and witty side dishes such as devils on horseback (bacon-wrapped prunes) and bone marrow popcorn. Our trio of sliders and hot dog were juicy and appealing, both the frankfurter and the burgers having been made in-house. The spirits list seems limited to some American whiskeys and a mint julep, so cocktail connoisseurs should look elsewhere. Upstairs, in fact...Perhaps its un-hip location will be enough to keep the hordes away, and preserve its friendly, neighbourhood feel - we certainly hope so, because at the moment it's definitely the top dog in north London.

LIMA - 4/5

Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - A wide range of chillies are used imaginatively to give colour as well as unusual nuances of flavour, for example a pool of yellow ají pepper contrasting with the delicacy of thin slivers of raw scallops. The flavour pairings didn't cease to surprise us, even with the simpler dishes such as the suckling pig with 'Amazon cashew', tiny cubes of raw pear, and 'potato 4,000 metres'...To eat here you either have to learn a whole new vocabulary, or just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Shimogamo - 4/5

Monday, July 16, 2012 - The dish is brought to a beautiful tabletop hibachi grill, its sides decorated with poetic Japanese calligraphy. As the charcoal glows, the hoba leaf diffuses the heat. The beef is marinated in miso and grilled before being cut and placed to show the red meat inside. The scorched leaf is served open, to show the shimeji mushroom and spring onion garnish. It's a good piece of table theatre, with almost autumnal flavours. Simple dishes such as sashimi are also artfully presented, in this case on a bed of twigs over ice. The edges of the fish were razor sharp, the flesh firm not flabby. The most discerning Japanese diner would approve, as the quality was impeccable.

Saporitalia - 4/5

Friday, July 13, 2012 - The pizza dough was crisp and flavoursome, not soggy; the tomato sauce was light, and no more than molten mozzarella was required by way of embellishment. This 'Saporita', one of a score of traditional Italian pizzas, is the best I've eaten in London for years...The service on our visit was inattentive, and the atmosphere hectic: this is a popular place. The menu extends beyond pizza to simple grills (our sardines had nicely blackened skin) and salads from a buffet table. There are pasta dishes and other Italian classics, but essentially, this is a pizzeria - and an one excellent one at that.

The Gate (Islington) - 3/5

Monday, July 02, 2012 - The best of the mezze was the broad bean falafel, crisp-shelled croquettes drizzled with tahini and a dash of green schoog (Yemeni hot pepper sauce) on the side. Less impressive was the artichoke 'tempura', encased in thick, chip-shop batter that lacked any delicacy. The best surprise was a beetroot and chickpea salad, as colourful as a cranberry sauce and beautifully presented with a pea shoot garnish. Our 'corn cake' main course was an explosion of ingredients and colours, with polenta fried then served with a jumble of Mediterranean vegetables, and drizzles of red pepper salsa, chipotle chilli and even black beans; it certainly beats the 'vegetarian option' in many neighbouring restaurants.

Brasserie Zedel - 4/5

Friday, June 29, 2012 - The main courses were the highlights: choucroute Alsacienne was a big heap of finely shredded sauerkraut served with hunks of salted pork, charcuterie and sausages that would put a smile on the face of a Strasbourg eurocrat. And a steak hache - the French take on a hamburger, a fat patty of diced but rare beef, only without the bun - was another stunner, the meat moist and flavoursome, with a delicate jus...Despite the grand setting, Brasserie Zedel's simply not as glamorous as The Wolseley, or as customer-focused as the Delaunay. But with dishes at prices that would have seemed reasonable ten years ago, this is the sort of retro experience we can all afford to relish.

Shrimpy's - 4/5

Friday, June 08, 2012 - A glazed burger bun is filled with soft-shell crab that's deep-fried to give crunch, the aroma of the fryer, and a slight seafood taste; the result is evocative of an upscale fish finger sandwich. The layer of avocado makes it a little too squidgy to eat without making a mess; this is not the dish to order on a date. Meaty-textured monkfish was slightly scorched by the grill, the pallid flesh offset by crimson rings of radish and hits of lemon and chilli to zip it up. Less successful were the starters; the salt cod croquettes were mush-filled and oddly shaped, though the accompanying aioli was good. And the 'Peruvian ceviche' won't have London's new wave of Peruvian cevicherias quaking on their boots.

Mazi - 4/5

Friday, June 01, 2012 - Benchmark dishes such as Greek salad (horiatiki) were near-perfect: the only problem was that the tomatoes in ours were not as ripe and fulsome as they would be in Greece, but then they never are...Folegandros is one of the few Cycladic islands I've not been to, so I've not had the local speciality of matsata - rabbit stew with fresh pasta - in situ. But the version at Mazi pulls the same trick as with the meze dishes - proper cooking, correctly rustic flavours, but a dish presentation that's incongruously modern, the thick coils of pasta spilling over a black slate like a Gorgon's hair.

Petersham Nurseries - 4/5

Friday, May 11, 2012 - Malouf has not replaced Gyngell's menu, he has supplemented it. So the bright, Mediterranean colours and flavours, with lots of Italian ingredients, remain...A 'bisateeya' (pastilla) of duck is one of the few Arabesque touches, and a Malouf signature. The warka pastry wraps the meat parcel tightly, while the dusting of icing sugar gives the Moroccan combination of sweet and savoury. The tender duck meat inside - moist from an egg custard with almond, coriander and parsley - adds to the flavour explosion.

The Bull Steak Expert - 3/5

Friday, May 04, 2012 - We tried the rump, which arrived rare as requested, the outside nicely browned yet the interior tender; the meat was full flavoured and well seasoned. Order steak, and that's all you'll get. The golden-hued, crisp chips are listed as a side dish, as is the chimichurri sauce (similar to salsa verde). A steak burger was similarly spartan: no bun, just a patty of moist beef, though this dish did at least come with chips on the side and a slice of cheese on top. The menu's brief, the grilled meats being the main draw. But other Argentinian specialities are also done well.

Briciole - 4/5

Thursday, April 26, 2012 - The dishes derive from many regions. Pizza fritta is a Neapolitan street snack of deep-fried pizza dough pasties with a filling of savoury ricotta cheese and tomato. Then we travel further south to Sicily, and meatballs cooked in the Palermo style; that is, with no breadcrumbs to make the cured meat a firmer texture, but served with onions cooked down with vinegar to give the pleasing 'agrodolce' or sour-sweet flavours that are so distinctive in Sicilian cookery...It is a guilty pleasure, like wearing nonna's fur coat, or finding nonno's Pirelli calendars. It doesn't blow the doors off, but it's like having Italy right here in London.

Sticks 'n' Sushi (Wimbledon) - 4/5

Friday, April 20, 2012 - The sushi rice was excellent: warm and of fine quality. The sashimi, too, was fresh enough to serve in Japan. Presentation was consistently beautiful, with excellent use of colour contrasts. The details, such as the dipping sauces and the miso soup, were good quality and made with care. Perhaps it was just us, but something seemed missing - that sense of adventure, that immersion in another mindset that real Japanese restaurants have. But for sushi novices, this is still a terrific place to start.

Cinnamon Soho - 3/5

Thursday, April 05, 2012 - Our waiter didn't warn us that the main courses were the size of side dishes, or that the desserts resembled petits fours. So I'm warning you now - order plenty if you're hungry, because everything we tried was delicious, and we were left craving more. Vivek Singh has balls. Crab-cake balls, tiny potato bondas, moist beef shami kebab, even tiny scotch quail eggs, all perfectly moist and marble-sized. These were encased in different batters, each served on delectable chutneys; a sensational starter.

Bubbas Restaurant - 3/5

Thursday, April 05, 2012 - Filo pastry was again used to create a 'top hat' brimming with goat curry. This was a masterpiece of slow-cooked flesh with Indian-style spicing, a nod of respect to the huge influence of Indian immigration on Trinidad and the Caribbean generally. Okra balls were similar to bhajias, though in this case, fripped up with more swirls of those coloured coulis and a baby preserving jar of papaya chutney...We liked Bubbas for bringing ambition to Tulse Hill. We were less convinced by the atmosphere - both staff and customers seemed ill at ease with the formality of the restaurant - or with the look of the place or the dish styling, which both seem stuck in the 1990s.

La Bodega Negra - 4/5

Friday, March 23, 2012 - In the first fortnight there were the inevitable teething problems. Our order of quesadilla 'with black corn, truffle and artichoke' wasn't. Instead, we were brought a substitute filling of mushrooms, with no warning. This same substitution happened on our second visit, again no warning. Warm banana bread was undercooked in the centre, the accompanying ice cream served half-melted. Service was well-meaning, but a bit hapless. But these details should improve - and we liked the vibe a lot.

Cotidie - 4/5

Thursday, March 15, 2012 - The traditional highlights included a dahl-like lentil stew served with the starters, and Borretane onions in balsamic vinegar. Those pickled onions were a world apart from supermarket jar versions: firm, distinctly flavoured, and pleasingly sour-sweet, the agrodolce flavour combo the Italians do so well. The more modern dishes seemed to be more self-consciously fiddly and less confidently executed. We weren't entirely convinced by the runny texture of lightly scrambled eggs served in their shells, but the added hazelnut and Gorgonzola flavours gave the flavour a lift, if making the texture disconcerting.

Ceviche - 3/5

Thursday, March 08, 2012 - We tried three ceviches from the restaurant's list of seven. The best was the sea bass with the distinctive yellow chilli, called aji amarillo, and red onion. This was bathed in leche de tigre ('tiger's milk'). The fish was flavoursome and firm, the lime juice mixture thick, the chilli piquant, the onion gave crunch. Anticuchos are a Peruvian street food of barbecued skewers, usually of meat. Ox heart is the traditional cut, and Ceviche's version would do any vendor in Lima proud...Ceviche has a menu that's refreshingly different, it looks cool, the service is friendly. We were less impressed by the small plate sizes and the steep pricing, particularly of the desserts.

Orchard - 3/5

Thursday, March 08, 2012 - Orchard's more casual, cheaper, more everyday, and the food's less show-off than its big sister. The interior's been decorated in a homely style, from the mismatched crockery to the vintage recipe cards pinned to the walls...Despite the retro look, the quality of the cooking is far superior to the Crispy Pancake years. A 'mug of soup with a sarnie' had freshly-fried croutons and chive oil garnishing the leek and potato soup; the sandwich bread was wholemeal and well-textured, filled with sharp cheddar, chunky chutney, and the red shock and crunch of baby beetroot leaves. The puddings are even more impressive.

Karpo - 3/5

Thursday, March 08, 2012 - We started with a Scandinavian snack - smoked eel on dense Finnish bread, topped with an onion garnish. Horseradish gave it an appealing kick. Better still was another starter of carved slices of salt duck. Unlike the dry, cured versions of the meat, this one was tender, fleshy and pink, served with tiny pickled mirabelles. Grits are a Southern US dish, a porridge-like staple of ground then boiled cornmeal. Here the neat block of starch is topped with shelled 'shrimps' and a buttery mushroom sauce...Karpo might look like it was created by someone who kept changing their mind, but the cooking's good - and you can always ignore the confused aesthetics.

Bistro Union - 4/5

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - The bar snacks include on-trend dishes such as 'duck ham' that's cured then dried on the premises, which was salty and slightly overcured, but nicely matched with a sharp, own-made piccalilli. Sharp slivers of raw fennel were mixed up with buttery little grey shrimps and radish, served on a chewy Bread Company sourdough base...The jokey dish names parody the absence of junk food. The actual children's menu (served at lunch and early dinner) includes a huge bowl of mussels, which a young girl at the table next to us was tucking into with the panache and prowess of a true mademoiselle.

10 Greek Street - 4/5

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - The place has a low-lit ambience that makes Soho strollers stop and stare through the plate-glass windows. Service was notably charming...We liked the smoked eel starter, served with a slightly sweet horseradish sauce and beetroot; and carved Gressingham duck breast was correctly pink and tender, served with pancetta. Smoked haddock pie reminded us of old-style pub grub a little too much - the pastry top, the uniformity of mushy textures. But the puddings were nicely rendered: a clementine brulee with a chewy sugar lid, and a wintery almond and quince tart.

Enoteca Super Tuscan - 3/5

Thursday, February 16, 2012 - Best among the several dishes we tried were the panelle - small deep-fried discs of chick pea flour, with soft centres, a perfect bar snack to go with wine. The Tuscan bean soup was also excellent, in this version layered over a base of cool ricotta, topped with an Italian chicory (cicoria) but with a slight fennel tang. Even the dishes we called in from the subs bench were on perfect form...The cooking here would make any Italian nonna proud. A bit more choice by the glass, and a bit more space - it's very tight-packed - and this would be a destination wine bar.

The Heron - 4/5

Monday, February 06, 2012 - Our waiter did express concern that we'd like the dishes, but we had no complaints about any flavours, not even the oddly sour flavours of the north-eastern sausages - fresh and perfectly cooked, nicely porky. Sour orange curry (gaeng som goong kai cha om) is a street food dish often sold in markets, the tartness of this thin curry imparted by shrimp paste, tamarind water and fish sauce. The Heron version contained chunks of Chinese leaf and squares of omelette containing the fern-like bitter leaf with no English name, called cha-om in Thai.

Dabbous - 5/5

Wednesday, February 01, 2012 - Some of the meats are cooked using the slow, temperature-controlled sous-vide method; used with goose breast, the result is perfectly cooked meat, then pan-seared and served with quince that had been poached in wine and honey, giving it a mead-like quality...Ollie Dabbous is clearly a very talented chef. Yet his restaurant is not immediately loveable; it's stark and has an industrial feel, not helped by the acoustics which allow the sound of the basement cocktail bar to leak upstairs. But the extraordinary dishes, with their sometimes earthy or even metallic flavours, are as cutting-edge as you'll find anywhere.

Pitt Cue Co - 4/5

Friday, January 20, 2012 - The eat-in meals are served in oblong enamel dishes suggestive of prison ration plates - in real life, not quite as prettily styled as our photographer's pulled pork, pictured above. But a death row last meal never tasted this good: baked beans made using black turtle beans in a hammy stock, braised sprout tops with the kiss of garlic, or a side order of shiitake mushrooms which had been pickled in cider vinegar, then given a panko crust and crisply deep-fried. Desserts might include a stout glass tumbler of ginger-poached rhubarb with peanut meringue and a rich, lemony ice cream.

34 - 4/5

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - The menu concentrates on doing essentially simple grilled dishes very well. Some of the prices are eye-watering...Every dish we tried was top quality and beautifully prepared - but most of the menu is very safe and conservative. The cheapest steak, an Angus rump at 19 pounds, was flavourful and moist, the accompanying basket of chips (4.25 extra) crisp and dry. Seafood ceviche was possibly the most daring option on the menu; the scallops were cut pencil-shaving thin to translucence, the prawns fresh, but the flavours bland. Not even a coriander-sprout garnish gave it some lift.

East Street - 2/5

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - Noodles feature prominently. Singaporean-style laksa, and the Burmese/northern Thai dish called khao soi used remarkably similar-tasting spice mixes, and the yellow noodles used in both dishes were the same. Nasi goreng tasted mainly of the fried rice, yet contained much the same colourful hotchpotch of ingredients found in many of the other dishes: boneless chicken, shiitake mushrooms, lime leaves, spring onion, red capsicum pepper - a jabberwocky of nations and ingredients unlike any version I've had in Indonesia...I liked it enough to visit three times, even though it's not the 'The Real Thing' - but if that's what you're really looking for, you'll need to buy a long-haul ticket going east.

Soif - 4/5

Friday, January 06, 2012 - Soif's food menu is a brief page, changing daily. Little sections of bone marrow were served like squidgy scallops that dissolved in the mouth; cooked with ceps and a crust of garlic, parsley and fried breadcrumbs, the result was very autumnal. Clams were simply served in the shell with lemon and coriander leaves. Offal and meaty cuts are well represented...Soif's split-level room is slightly rustic, vaguely Continental and a little louche, in just the way you'd want a wine bar to be.The service was informed, prompt, smiling. Of course, the place is already packed.

Pizarro - 4/5

Thursday, December 22, 2011 - Once seated, the brief menu makes the wait worthwhile. Among the highlights of our meal were duck livers served with capers and fino sherry, a clever combination of feral flavours cut with acidity. Spatchcocked quail was moist, served with a slick of nutty romesco sauce. The meaty texture of hake had its metallic sea qualities underlined by clams and some spinach...The wine list is a delight if you like Spanish wines, and the service knowledgeable; besides the sherries and interesting producers you'd hope for, there are also seldom-seen Spanish digestifs such as the Basque Patxaran, which is similar to sloe gin.

The Delaunay - 5/5

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - Tarte flambee is a dish from Alsace, called Flammkucken by the border region's German speakers. The version here is as thin as a crispbread, but topped like a pizza with smoked bacon (not the more usual lardons) and shallots cooked to softness; piping hot, it's a great appetiser. Choucroute is another Alsatian dish, a generous helping of warm sauerkraut served with German-style sausages, salted meats and pork charcuterie, a hearty, wintery dish with salt and pork the dominant flavours...Part of the joy of The Delaunay is that you're treated with equal decorum if you're a big spender, a celeb, or just popping in for Welsh rarebit or hot chocolate. It's a real treat of a place.

Cabana (Covent Garden) - 2/5

Monday, December 05, 2011 - The theory is that a constant stream of skewers of freshly cooked meats circulate the room, from which you take your pick. But on our visit it was a quiet night, so many of the advertised skewers failed to appear. Our chimichurri rump steak was a little dry and overcooked; in contrast, a rack of lamb was succulent and spicy. Pastels (pastries) are a deep-fried fast food served well-stuffed in Brazil, but the version here was a disappointingly near-hollow shell with hardly any cheese. Moist chicken croquettes and a hearty black bean soup were better...The staff were upbeat, the room good- looking, the music suitably up-tempo. But if you're after a more authentically Brazilian experience, look elsewhere.

Kahve Dunyasi - 4/5

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - Kahve Dunyasi is a huge coffee bar chain in Turkey, with 200 stores. If you imagine Starbucks melted into a mid-range chocolatier, you're on the right track...It's all just too choc-tastic, but the ones we tried - a brownie, and a mozaic cake - were both excellent quality, and also incredibly well priced at under 3 quid each. The coffees are another strong card in their hand. The Turkish coffee was strong, dark and bitter, as it should be; and the huge mug of milk coffe with salep, a thickener made from a type of orchid root that's popular in Turkey, was rich and viscous, like a good quality hot chocolate.

Granger & Co - 3/5

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - If you're visiting off-peak, you might get a better chance to try dishes such as semolina-crusted calamari (ours was good if slightly underdone), chilli pork ribs (fatty but tasty), or spatchcocked chicken smothered in pink grapefruit slivers, fresh herbs and shaved fennel. It's the sort of comfort food any keen home cook can make, especially if armed with one of Granger's excellent books...Once the kitchen kinks are ironed out and the service is as sunny in the evening as it is in the day, we might have reason to be as smiley about this all-day, no-bookings brasserie as Mr Granger is himself.

The Balcon - 3/5

Monday, November 28, 2011 - If you think 'Welsh charcuterie' sounds like it belongs with Dutch wine or Greek sushi as 'things to avoid', you'd best try a platter of the Trealy Farm charcuterie, from Monmouthshire - the air-dried hams, game salami and lomo (pork loin) match or better anything coming out of Italy or Spain. A dedicated charcutier keeps it all tip-top. We were less impressed with the burger, in a too-sweet brioche-style bun; and by the cassoulet, which contained good meats, but in meagre portions and with the beans overcooked. The chips were pale, insipid, and undercooked. Cornish brill was better, garnished with brown shrimps and capers.

Aurelia - 3/5

Monday, November 28, 2011 - A little basket of deep-fried courgette strips that would make a nice bar snack in Italy, the thin straws of the courgette cooked nicely crisp, is served here for 8.50. Both a pork chop and lamb leg were moist yet properly cooked, the pork flavoured with fennel, the lamb with a salmoriglio-style pesto; both very good. But the best dishes were the desserts: a creme brulee with a scoop of melon ice-cream, and a semifreddo that resembled a deconstructed Strawberry Mivvi...Arjun Waney seems to have the Midas touch, having been the financier behind Zuma and Roka - both first-class restaurants. Yet we felt a little disappointed with Aurelia.

Union Jacks (St Giles) - 4/5

Monday, November 28, 2011 - Oliver's influence is clear in the choice of ingredients - many of them British, with their provenance clearly spelled out. The fish used in the own-made fish fingers starter was not only fresh and good quality, it was also 'by-catch' - nice one Jamie. The combinations are creative, without straying into 'sashimi with hoi sin sauce' territory. The Gloucester Old Spot pizza included morsels of crackling, quince puree, slivers of raw apple, stinky Stilton and watercress; it worked.

One Blenheim Terrace - 3/5

Monday, November 07, 2011 - 'Lobster thermidor' was another 1960s classic, in this case deconstructed into a large raviolo, topped with a bisque-flavoured foam and microgreens: lovely. The deconstruction of heritage dishes continues through every course, with 'leek and potato soup' - blobs of starch in a consomme - to an 'apple crumble' that was a corral of fried doughnut batter balls. The cooking at One Blenheim Terrace is fun and of a high standard - but the catch is that you pay the price, with most main courses in the 15-25 pound range, and some starters just under a tenner.

The Deli West One - 3/5

Monday, November 07, 2011 - The core items, mainly for takeaway, are the salt beef or pastrami sandwiches, in white or rye bread. These are simple dishes, but ones you need to get right. Our pastrami and salt beef were initially hard to tell apart: both thin-sliced, both generously stuffed, though the pastrami was fattier. They were both good meat, though kosher prices are always high because of the supervision required: 8.50 is a lot for a sandwich, even if it does come with big pickled gherkin. 'The Deli Half & Half' is a better option for variety: half a sandwich (still huge), with a starter or side dish. The chicken soup had a wonderful rich stock, and can be ordered with either noodles or a matza ball - this version bigger than a golf ball, yet light.

Hawksmoor Guildhall - 5/5

Thursday, November 03, 2011 - We can recommend everything. The steaks are among the best you'll find anywhere, but be warned, the portion sizes are huge; even the steaks 'for two to share' can actually feed three. Our 'D-Rump' - the innermost muscles of the rump, aged for 55 days in this case - was cooked medium, just enough to make the fat melt, with the meat tender and beautifully flavoured. The triple-cooked chips are blanched, then fried twice in vegetable oil to give an appealing crunch to the surface, but maintain a yielding texture within. The side dishes and starters are just as good. The grilled bone marrow is huge, the lengthways-cut revealing disturbingly visceral pink marrow inside - but it melts in the mouth.

Copita - 4/5

Monday, October 31, 2011 - The tapas portions are correctly Spanish-sized - that is, tiny nibbles. The plates are so tiny, in fact, I could cover one with my hand, so you'll need at least three dishes per person even for a light lunch...Baked duck egg was served with aromatic girolles, smoky peppers and tiny shavings of summer truffles; simple, but perfect. Own-made 'botiffara' - the Catalan sausage - was unctuous and faggot-like, but lip-smacking and luscious, the fattiness of the pork cut with big caperberries. Ajo blanco - the Andalucian white soup made from almonds - was barely enough to fill an egg-cup, but the flavours transported us to Seville. Razor clam - singular - and chervil root was a stroke of genius, the contrast of textures a delight.

De La Panza - 2/5

Thursday, October 27, 2011 - Escabeche of mackerel was the best dish, the fish fresh and the marinade not too acidic. Our 'bife ancho' - 300g/10oz of rib-eye steak - would have been better if we had ordered it medium rare instead of rare, as it arrived heavily striated with inedibly uncooked fat. De La Panza looks charming, with lots of high stools, bar counters, with a rustic, tavern-like look that evokes Argentina. The wine list is brief, but the wines by the glass - especially the Zuccardi malbec - are good.

P&P - 3/5

Thursday, October 27, 2011 - Ingredient quality and the cooking were impressively good, even though the advertised 'beef ragu' with our crisp, saffron-rich arancine turned out to be a speck of mince in the centre of these deep-fried rice balls. Another good dish was the agnolotti - a type of ravioli - with a rich, sweet beef sauce. The prices seem reasonable - 'stuzzicare' ('teasers') cost around the 3-4 pound mark, while the larger 'per mangiare' ('for eating' - as opposed to 'for steadying the table legs'?) cost 6-9 pounds or so. However, portions are smile-flatteningly small, best described as varying from mini snacks to big snacks.

The Lawn Bistro - 4/5

Thursday, October 13, 2011 - The menu is fixed price, which keeps things simple. Slivers of venison were tender and pink, served as starter on a little round of celeriac, with fresh blueberries as a garnish and a flick of horseradish cream; a beautifully executed starter. Flavours are adventurous, without being too crazy, so sea bass was served on a risotto with crayfish and chorizo, the advertised 'coriander' restricted to a seed-sprout garnish, so the pungent flavour didn't overwhelm the rest of the dish. Braised ox cheeks received a more conventionally French treatment, the beef braised in red wine and served wwth a sauce flavoured with bacon, mushroom, and pearl onion; the meat tender and richly flavoured.

The Rookery - 3/5

Wednesday, October 05, 2011 - The menu's brief, but very modish. A starter of Bath chaps - the cured lower half of pigs' cheeks - were served hot, with slivers of pigs' ears, crisply deep-fried (good) with hairs still visible (not so good). Beetroot, crumbly white cheese, walnuts and well-dressed spinach leaves formed the vegetarian alternative. A main course of duck breast, attractively sliced then served on a borlotti bean stew with a piquant salsa verde, was the best dish...The Rookery's a very appealing neighbourhood bar - although, as a place to eat, the service can seem a little brusque at times.

Bread Street Kitchen - 4/5

Thursday, September 29, 2011 - The burger, at 11.50, seems typical of the demographic this Gordon Ramsay restaurant is aimed at: food loving, but not poncey. The bun is made from shiny, brioche-style bread - slightly too sweet and pappy for our tastes, but it looked pretty impressive. The meat patty uses short rib beef, with a molten topping of a local cheese made in a Bermondsey railway arch...The obvious comparison to this joint is with Jamie Oliver's Barbecoa restaurant, as the two face each other across the One New Change concourse. But despite being a year late, and reportedly costing 5 million, my money's on the Ramsay operation being the one which gets repeat custom.

The Alice House (Queen's Park) - 3/5

Thursday, September 29, 2011 - Good use has been made of a corner site which has seen many restaurants come and go, but this is by far the most comfortable, decorated in a comtemporary chic of bare brick walls, exposed designer lightbulbs and their cables, leather sofas and elk antlers on the walls...To eat there are platter-style dishes such as a a simple flank steak - nicely cooked, and a generous portion, served with good hand-cut chips. If you find the main bar a little too noisy, through the back is a slightly quieter area.

The Abbeville Kitchen - 4/5

Tuesday, September 27, 2011 - There's a school-of-St-John terseness to the menu - 'cauliflower and bacon soup' or 'grouse breast, Beenleigh Blue and hazelnuts'. The connection is via the Anchor & Hope pub in Waterloo, where chef Kevin McFadden spent a few months working with St John alumni Jonathon Jones. However, other influences - France, Spain, Italy - creep in too, such as Spanish cured ham or hare lasagna...It's good to see less obvious British ingredients used to good effect, such as the pickled walnuts served with braised ox cheek, or the damsons used to flavour the ice-cream.

Elliot's Cafe - 4/5

Thursday, August 25, 2011 - The daily-changing menu starts with nibbles such as shining Turkish olives, 'red cow' parmesan, and heaps of shoestring fries - the latter very on-trend in New York. Tomatoes a la Grecque was made with notably summery tomatoes, nicely soused and served warm; the olive oil and vinegar really sparked the already appealing summer flavours. Brandade was less of success...The bottled beers champion London's best microbreweries, namely Kernel and Meantime, both based south of the Thames. Now that's the sort of localism we can all support.

SUDA Thai Cafe & Restaurant - 3/5

Thursday, August 18, 2011 - This som tam set the pattern for a good meal: well-made, beautifully rendered dishes, squarely aimed at farang tastebuds, in a lovely setting. Those bitter notes, the fermentation flavours, the chilli heat were absent from a roast duck red curry, which was full-flavoured but didn't merit the chilli heat warning on the menu. One of the best dishes was an eggplant salad - not made with bitter Thai aubergines but with the mild European kind, the delicate flesh perfectly complementing the scallops and mint dressing.

Manchurian Legends - 4/5

Thursday, August 11, 2011 - '54: braised pork with glass noodle' was actually red-braised pork belly, a slow-braising technique in a dark reddish-brown sauce. The meat is then used to top the highly elastic, translucent noodles. The bite of this spaghetti-shaped pasta is surprising, and the rich, warming flavours transport you to Dongbei with its long winters. Suan cai is the Chinese version of Korean kim chi, used in stews and hotpots to pep up the starch and meat combos, for example in a big bowl of pickled vegetable with pork belly; another hit. Wide, translucent starch noodles over julienned cucumber with red-cooked pork could also pass as a Korean dish with the pleasing chew of the noodles and crunch of raw vegetables.

Ben's Canteen - 2/5

Monday, August 08, 2011 - The coffee is a significant draw, as it's Rob Lockyear of Brewed Boy (the name of the coffee cart he used to run in Soho's Rupert Street) pulling the shots...Service on our visit was painfully slow and forgetful, if well-meaning. We're not entirely convinced it was worth the half-hour wait for our Full English, or the 9 quid charged, even though decent quality ingredients had been used. In the evening the menu stretches to the likes of charcuterie boards, grilled swordfish or mushroom stroganoff at restaurant prices.

Honest Burgers (Brixton) - 4/5

Friday, July 29, 2011 - One of a score of new cafes in 'Brixton Village', this burger joint occupies a former shop unit and retains a shack-like feel and appearance...Aged beef from Ginger Pig is used for the patties, which are cooked medium rare unless you request otherwise. The buns are firm with good bite, but we found our hand-cut, triple-cooked chips to be excessively salted. Service was slow, but genial.

Nardulli - 3/5

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - This small, simply decorated ice cream parlour is handily located on the northern perimeter of Clapham Common. It's a low-key, traditionally Italian affair, with a score or so of the more traditional flavours made by Lorenzo Nardulli and his small team. We've found the ice creams here smooth-textured and clean-flavoured - just like a proper Italian gelato should be.

La Du Du - 2/5

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - A green papaya salad was perhaps the high point of our meal, for its sharp, refreshing flavours; but other dishes, such as the bahn cuon, were flabby in a way that suggested the rice casing was not freshly cooked to order. Fillings were also a bit meagre, betel leaf rolls small and a poor version of the ones we've encountered in Vietnam. After a long wait, our main courses arrived but the special pork chop rice was no better than the sort of fare you'd expect from a mediocre Chinese caff in Chinatown. Although the food was disappointing, Ladudu attracts plenty of custom, and the staff were charm itself.

Hedone - 5/5

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 - Theatrical presentation runs just the right side of silly; gazpacho was brought in a dish resembling a goldfish bowl with a lid on. Pungent of ripe tomato, a chilled cream of dill flower created a slick of contrasting colour. Although Jonsson rightly claims a Mediterranean sensibility to his food, he's successfully introduced some Swedish notes, the dill being one of them. Foraged ingredients are another, such as sea aster, in this case matched with some lightly seared wild salmon, freshly skinned white almonds and a streak of pureed cucumber...Hedone's not perfect, but it's one of the most interesting and accomplished restaurants to have opened in London for a long time.

Bishopsgate Kitchen - 3/5

Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - It's all a bit funky: primary-coloured Dualit toasters, potted herbs on the tables, rustic tables made of reclaimed wood. A large, refectory-style central shared table helps keep the feel casual...The menu's very straightforward. Porridge, bacon sarnies and fry-ups from 8am; assemblies of cheese and cured meats,for lunch and dinner - plus a few cooked dishes. Ratatouille topped with poached eggs, toasted sourdough and a grating of manchego cheese was a winner of a dish. The component vegetables of the stew were sauteed separately, then the sauce was added prior to serving to keep the textures firm. If you're after booze, there are wines by the glass, carafe or bottle, plus a few bottled beers.

The Lobby Lounge - 5/5

Friday, July 01, 2011 - The finger sandwiches and tiny scones, although present and correct, are not the point of the afternoon tea. It is the Clark-perfected cakes that make the Lobby Lounge a destination. For example, the gateau opera, a traditional French confection made from layered almond sponge cake and soft chocolate ganache, was so perfect and petite it might have been assembled by elves. An eclair was the size of a ring finger, with suspiciously lavender-coloured icing, but it melted in the mouth with the flavour of violets. Even a millefeuille had been restored to the delicate French fancy it truly is.

Quince - 3/5

Thursday, June 23, 2011 - Staff encourage you to order a selection of 'small dishes', which makes sense as the portions are indeed small, but the high prices do not reflect this. So that fattoush salad costs 14.50, and nibble-sized starter portion of lamb boreks (pictured above, though ours came without the garnish of flowers) cost 7.50, or 1.50 per mouthful. But this is Green Park, not Green Lanes. It's worth paying the price for dishes such as the crisply fried squid, spiced with chilli, cumin and cardamom; or the tomato and fennel side salad which came with a dressing of pomegranate, tahini and mint.

Massimo Restaurant & Oyster Bar - 4/5

Monday, June 20, 2011 - An appealing dish of grilled octopus legs were wonderfully tender, but 14 pounds is a lot to pay for a starter of this inexpensive seafood. Red mullet: a small piece, beautfully cooked, for 24 pounds...All delightful, and all agreeable to a wide range of international guests. We couldn't fault Massimo on looks or cooking (though service showed an irksome tendency to upsell), but London has many very good and expensive Italian restaurants already, and with such a crowded market there are many equally good, and more affordable, alternatives for the discerning diner.

Medlar - 5/5

Friday, June 17, 2011 - This Provencal vegetable stew had been pimped up with little blobs of rouille and mussels prised from their shells. Wood pigeon showed chef-patron Joe Mercer Nairne's considerable skill with meat cookery: tender but not bloody, served with tiny potato cakes and delicately flavoured with new-season garlic. Dish after dish wowed us with its balance of flavours and sublety of expression, such as a dessert of buttermilk panna cotta topped with English strawberries and crumbed pistachios - delicate and restrained, and all the better for it. Much the same can be said of the service.

Cay Tre (Soho) - 4/5

Friday, June 03, 2011 - The soup stock was clear in the Hanoi style, tasting intensely of beef marrowbone. The rice noodles were sheer; herbs decorated the surface. A side dish of saw-leaf, Asian basil, fresh chilli and beansprouts was provided to stir in. On an evening visit the pace in the restaurant had shifted up tempo, but the standard of the dishes had not dropped. A highlight was the slithery grilled aubergine topped with ground pork and nuoc cham, the orange-hued, sour-sweet dipping sauce...Cay Tre successfully captures the excitement of Vietnamese food, yet does so in a setting suitable for a special occasion.

The Gilbert Scott - 3/5

Thursday, May 12, 2011 - Of the main courses, the 'jugged steak'was the best - the featherblade cut slow-braised until very moist and tender, in a rich jus with tiny pork dumplings. Dumplings also feature in 'The Queen's Potage', a seventeenth-century recipe from John Nott - though this time the capon or partridge had been substituted by chicken breast, resulting in a rather dull dish despite the sprinkling of raw pomegranate arils...It is the building that had the wow factor, not the meal. And if you just want to admire some Gothic arches, the appealing Gilbert Scott bar, next door, allows you to do just that.

The Riding House Cafe - 4/5

Wednesday, May 04, 2011 - The dishes read like a progressive gastropub menu - 'small plates', steaks, Mediterranean influences...We were so impressed we returned for lunch the next day. The burger is another winner, served is a seed-studded bun, oozing juices and with fine, thin French-fry-style chips. There's either a cheese burger or the burger with foie gras, which adds to the appealing, slithery, extra layer of fattiness of the dish. Service was unfailingly enthusiastic on our two visits, though not always very coordinated. But most importantly Riding House Cafe has a lively, fun buzz to it.

Kateh (Maida Vale) - 4/5

Friday, April 15, 2011 - The staff at Kateh are international, service atttentive and understated. The high-ceilinged room has candlelit tables and even a small outdoor dining area. It's perfect for dates, or small groups...The dish called koofteh berenji should be more familiar to anyone who likes Indian food. This, the original version of the kofta, are balls of rice and minced beef; this particular version is stuffed with plums. It's served with a sauce of yellow split peas resembling an Indian dahl, so you might expect hot spice notes, but instead the sauce flavours are delicate and herbal.

St John Hotel - 3/5

Friday, April 08, 2011 - It was on a second, 'supper', visit that St John unravelled. Our booking was lost - possibly a result of a single booking line serving three locations with the same name. Service, slow on the lunch visit, lurched into bottom gear; our starters took more than an hour to arrive. The pricing of the wine list is very steep, starting at 26 for some very ordinary own-label French plonk (which retails in shops at 7.30), then escalates rapidly. Our main courses were fine but pricy, and certainly not worth a two-hour wait. The high prices are hard to justify when ingredient costs are cheap: for example, tripe and onions at 16.50.

Spuntino - 4/5

Friday, March 18, 2011 - The rusting speakeasy-style entrance is as discreet as can be; inside, tattooed bar staff are mixing drinks. Small plates of bar snacks or bigger dishes are slid across the wide, steel-topped bar to customers...'Sliders' are trendy, starter-sized tiny burgers, often served more than one at a time. There's surprising delicacy to some dishes. Eggplant 'chips' had a crisply fried exterior, studded with sesame and a hint of caraway, and were served with a fennel yogurt dip. Other creations are far more tongue-in-cheek. We loved the 'peanut butter and jelly sandwich', that staple of US childhood, here reinvented as a playful dessert.

Bennett Oyster Bar & Brasserie - 3/5

Wednesday, March 16, 2011 - Front-of-house service is charming, the muzak is soothing jazz. Looking around, the place has a timeless, Anglo-Continental brasserie feel and look...A starter dish of razor clam was served in a large shell, the succulent flesh chopped into pieces and mixed with pieces of unctuous boar meat and the grainy texture of butter beans. A sensational start...A steamed steak-and-oyster pudding had a crust with the appealing aroma of piping-hot suet, while the meat inside was tender and of good quality. Roast duck breast was very slightly overcooked, but also sourced well, though the fruit-bowl of chunks of orange, fennel, and beetroot on the plate might have been overdoing it.

The Clarence - 3/5

Monday, March 14, 2011 - The new Clarence is now like a set from one of those 'cash-in quick by tarting up your home' TV shows, with bright colours, more light, better loos, table lamps shaped like ceramic dogs (really), and a huge gas-fired pizza oven. The pizzas are thin, crisp and come with an interesting choice of toppings, and are arguably better than those at Ciullo's just up the road...Yet The Clarence is still, at heart, a bar. The beers include their brews such as the light-bodied Bonobo ale (brewed at sister pub The Florence in Herne Hill), the golden ale called Weasel, and a wheat beer called Beaver.

NOPI - 4/5

Friday, March 11, 2011 - It was the simplest dishes that worked best. Chunks of kohlrabi were cut like an apple and served raw, with a simple dip of mint-flavoured soured cream. Thin slivers of cured halibut were dressed only with lemon-infused olive oil, garnished (for effect) with shiso sprouts and samphire shoots...'Our dishes are designed for sharing,' the menu says. 'We recommend three savoury dishes per person.' Yet most of these tapas-sized dishes hover around the ten pound mark, and puddings add 6.50 or more. But to experience mastery of culinary fusion, Nopi is currently the place to be.

The Fox & Grapes - 4/5

Friday, February 25, 2011 - Highlights included a chunk of roast pork belly. The skin looked dense but was as crisp as fat Pringles, while the meat below was full-flavoured and not too fatty; masterfully cooked. This was accompanied by some rich, dark black pudding on a golden cider sauce. Another dish that impressed was a fillet of pollock, also with perfectly crisped skin, but with the flesh just-cooked past translucence: perfect...Service and bookings in the first weeks were still muddled, but the place has a nice vibe.

The Manor Arms - 3/5

Friday, February 25, 2011 - A pewter-clad bar dominates the ground floor of this art deco pub, behind the bar there's a big and busy open kitchen. Original 1930s oak panelling lines the walls, yet it's light and refreshingly modern in look...A salad of mixed beets, soft goat's cheese and pickled walnuts was a good start. Rib steak was a cut above, and as you'd expect at 21 pounds, correctly rare, moist and flavoursome. Chips were of the skinny, french fry variety...It's the congenial atmosphere and friendly service that are the real draw.

Lantern - 3/5

Friday, February 25, 2011 - Lantern's a cosy neighbourhood place: part wine bar, part bistro, simply but thoughtfully decorated with blackboard-paint walls, bare floorboards, Ercol chairs, all low-lit...We were disappointed by our hanger steak (onglet, 9 pounds), which was barely a few starter-sized morsels of beef in salad. Yet the other dishes were generous: the pork terrine served in a ramekin, for example, or 'Camille's daily soup', in this case a very rich but gently spiced roasted pumpkin puree,topped with flaked almond. While most dishes are generically European in origin, 'braised tofu and curly kale' was a simple stew which, Camille told us, was African in origin - though it tasted like hippy food to us.

Made Bar & Kitchen - 4/5

Friday, February 18, 2011 - We were struck by the presentation, colourful and artfully constructed with garnishes, pretty blobs of purees, and herby sprouts. It wasn't all show either, as the ingredient quality hadn't been forgotten. Deep-fried balls of 'crab and sweetcorn cake' were more crab than corn (a good thing), well-matched with a zingy salad of tarragon leaves and a garnish of lime mayonnaise. Koftas of lamb were imbued with rich spice flavours and nuggets of prune and walnut, served with a pearl barley tabbouleh...Don't be scared to come here even if you're not going to the Roundhouse - it's a destination diner in itself.

The Perseverance - 2/5

Friday, February 18, 2011 - This pub was recently spruced up by new tenants with culinary ambitions. It looks good, nicely understated to the point of being spartan, with chummy staff and a simple printed menu on the bar...The pricing is a bit steep for pedestrian cooking. A venison wellington had a pastry shell that was doughy and undercooked; filleted mackerel was harder to get wrong. Puddings include prune and Armagnac tarte, or chocolate pecan torte. We'd pop into the Perseverance for a glass or two of wine, but on the basis of our visit, there are many gastropubs doing a better job, at a fairer price, to make this a culinary destination.

Ariana II - 4/5

Thursday, February 17, 2011 - Dishes unique to Afghanistan include aushak, delicately translucent ravioli that are filled with a julienne of leeks, then topped with spicy meat sauce and a drizzle of yogurt. This is served with a disc of tandoor-cooked Afghan bread - not like Indian naan but the dryer, frisbee-like version of Central Asia. Mantu is another style of dumpling dish that's superficially similar to aushak, though these dumplings are lamb-filled...So the food's unusual and wonderful, the prices low. But there are just a few caveats. Ariana II is not licensed, so you need to bring your own booze.

Opera Tavern - 4/5

Thursday, February 10, 2011 - It's low-lit, looks on-trend and is immediately appealing...The hams are selected by the Mullins from a producer in Spain; the pata negra's aged for five years instead of the more usual three. There's a good selection of Italian cheeses, but there are also nods to New York fashion with dishes such as mini pork-and-foie-gras burgers. The cooked dishes, also quite small as is the current vogue, are put together with aplomb. A little tower of sweet-tasting braised short rib of beef was balanced on a disc of polenta, with some cavolo nero as a garnish and fried sage leaves on top.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal - 4/5

Wednesday, February 09, 2011 - Some dishes exceed expectations, others can raise false hopes. Yet all the dishes are beautifully plated, in haute cuisine style...The main courses, although good, had less wow factor than the starters. 'Powdered duck' was actually two plump legs - from a fat duck, of course. They looked like comice pears, garnished with tiny fennel sprouts, served with a shard of smoked and cooked fennel and a bowl of butter-and-potato mash. Good, but not a stand-out dish. A slow-cooked chunk of tender beef rib also had a fairly orthodox appearance, but the surprises were in the accompanying flavours and textures.

The Restaurant at the Royal Academy of Arts - 2/5

Thursday, February 03, 2011 - The menu's proudly British, seasonal, and far more avant garde than it needs to be, judging by the conservative-looking Mayfair-on-Friday diners on our visit. Starters included a tangle of shaved fennel and celeriac, served over a poached egg with a citruous dressing; for us the flavours didn't quite gel. A starter of pumpkin souffle was granular and dense, more like a muffin in texture...If the dishes cost two-thirds of the price charged, this could be a contender. But - and not for the first time - Peyton's place is trying a little too hard, then expecting.

QV Bar - 3/5

Thursday, February 03, 2011 - Past the door staff and cloakroom, this club-like ground-floor bar is beautiful, with a chiaroscuro of Soho passers-by through the stained glass. The tan leather seats are sumptous, every surface is polished, the service impeccable. It feels comfortable and luxurious. The brief cocktail list (mostly 8.50 each) includes some of their own creations, and jolly good they are too...The bar menu's brief, the dishes pricey. The burger and chips was fairly pedestrian, the grilled quail a morsel, and the dish called 'monachelle gratin' turned out to be a tiny dish of pasta shells in a simple sauce costing 9.85.


Thursday, January 20, 2011 - Our burger lived up to the accolades - big, a bit sloppy, made with prime ingredients. The minced 'chuck steak' (braising steak) is 28-day dry-aged, and minced daily. The sourdough buns are baked daily to Yianni's specifications. The result is like the sort of burger you'd find in a first-rate diner in the US, even down to the processed sliced cheese oozing down through the bun. Our chips were a bit disappointing - skinny fries in the McDonald's mould, but a bit limp by the time they arrived. The onion rings were exemplary - crisp on the outside, soft in the core, and huge.

Brunswick House Cafe - 3/5

Thursday, January 13, 2011 - The cafe's run by Jackson Boxer - brother of Frank who runs Frank's car-park-rooftop cafe in Peckham, and son of Charlie, who owns a charming Italian deli in Bonnington Square called Italo. The menu's brief, seasonal, and well-sourced. Weekday lunch options might include a simple parsnip-and-carrot soup, drizzled with olive oil; or a slice of goats' curd and spinach tart, served with a handful of rocket. Kale-and-chickpea stew is ladled onto bruschetta, with some parmesan grated on top. Sandwiches include a doorstep of focaccia filled with air-dried ham and melted cheese, with some pickles and rocket on the side.

Indian Mischief - 3/5

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - The best dishes were the simplest, namely the shaaks - vegetable curries - such as the okra stir-fry or the black-eyed bean dish served as part of the Gujarati thali. These were fresh and made with obivous care. We noticed that our fellow diners were tucking into the South Indian dosas and bhel pooris with great relish. We were later told that Mischief also has a Gujarati chef, so it's worth asking who is cooking on your visit and then ordering their specialities accordingly.

The Fish Place - 2/5

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - The rooms have as much personality as an office equipment showroom. The menu's pricey, and a little old-fashioned; appetisers appeared unbidden, even sorbets between the starter and main course. But to the chef's credit, the cooking's very good. A starter of king prawns was pan-fried and served with puy lentils, bacon and a vinaigrette which tied the elements together. A fillet of brill was nicely grilled, and attractively presented with baby clams in the shell, baby leeks and a lemon beurre blanc. The wines by the glass are good, the service was nice and solicitous.

Cassis Bistro - 4/5

Thursday, January 06, 2011 - The food at Cassis is pretty damn good, fairly expensive, and with few surprises. The wine list is stacked full of fantastic wines at prices which aren't rapacious, though a sommelier is on hand should you wish to up your game...Some aspects of the meal stood out - the breads were a highlight - while others struggled to make an impact. The pates were perfectly correct but lacked the depth of interest, flavour and verve of the selection of Bar Boulud just down the road. Pan-fried red mullet with fregola (Sardinian couscous) would have been a bland dish without the addition of little brown shrimps.

Kopapa - 4/5

Tuesday, January 04, 2011 - Our favourite of the many tapas-sized dishes was a dish of pork, chilli and 'gapi', the pungent flavour of the fermented shrimp paste (ngapi), served on fresh betel leaves to make a finger-sized wrap. Other dishes possibly suffer by trying too hard, or having a couple of ingredients too many...Kopapa is not the sort of place that will suit traditionalists. Plate sizes are small, the hard caff seats at odds with the precocious pricing and small portions. But for the bungee jump of flavours and textures that is Peter Gordon's cooking, Kopapa is unmissable.

The Grazing Goat - 3/5

Tuesday, January 04, 2011 - We loved the 'Country Living' interior, and the chirpy service in the first-floor dining room. We were less inspired by the menu. Although simple British food is a fine thing, there's a thin line between a simple menu and a dull one...We chose the steak pie, which contained good quality chunks of soft beef and had a crisp pastry lid; and a rib-eye steak, aged 35 days on the bone to add flavour. They were nicely prepared, but not impressive enough in themselves to make Grazing Goat a destination eaterie.

Verru - 3/5

Tuesday, December 21, 2010 - Icelandic cod was a smallish portion for a main course costing 16.50, but the flesh was firm and attractively seared on one side. Colourful garnishes included little melon-scoops of courgette and a mussel shell, for effect. Venison meatballs had a stronger, gamier flavour than their pork or veal cousins, tender and moist, the plate garnished with a yellow blob of pureed sweet potato, baby carrots and swiss chard...The cooking at Verru is nowhere near as good as places such as Pied a Terre or Maze, where Lesment has previously worked, but then prices - although far from cheap - are also much more modest.

ORA Restaurant - 2/5

Wednesday, December 08, 2010 - At first glance, the menu reads like the usual Thai Top Fifty. But the dish presentation is modern and stylish, possibly helped along by the chef's background at Busaba Eathai, and the manager's experience at Mango Tree and Awana.Som tum was a decent version, the zingy salad made with plenty of grated green papaya - no carrot or cabbage substitution here. Overall though, our meal at Ora was a disappointment. Portions were small, prices on the high side, service a bit fumbling. For us, it just lacked the essential wanna-go-back factor.

North Road - 4/5

Wednesday, December 01, 2010 - North Road restaurant is understated, elegant, sophisticated. The chairs, I noticed, are the classic (Danish) Moller design used at Noma. Service is smooth, the atmosphere grown-up...New Nordic Cuisine is very much about the things you don't do to the food. Sauces are not heavily reduced, butter is virtually absent, cream is used only in some desserts. Meats are not slow-braised. The aim is to reduce the amount of 'cooking'; it's about the supremacy of ingredients over technique. Dishes are lighter and healthier than their French equivalents. A main course of deer loin in a beetroot sauce was a big surprise. The texture of the meat was even, and although perfectly cooked and moist.

Antepliler - 4/5

Wednesday, December 01, 2010 - The dishes are true to the flavours of south-eastern Anatolia. A mixed plate of mezze will include good versions of the more familiar dishes, from tabule or grilled aubergines to beans cooked various ways, but also more unusual dishes such as mercimek kofte - spiced lentil koftes. They all had the vibrant flavours of fresh herbs and freshly ground spices...Diced lamb filled with spiced butter was rich and tender. The sogan kebabs - ground lamb with chargrilled shallots topped with pomegranate sauce - had the pleasingly sour-sweet flavours which you can find along the Silk Road from Anatolia to Central Asia.

The Georgian - 3/5

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - Although The Georgian does borshch, blinis and even grape pudding with walnuts, it also serves croissants, scrambled eggs, club sandwiches and toast with Marmite. Of the Georgian dishes we tried, khachapuri - cheese bread - was the highlight, the pastry soft and flaky and the cheese within soft, warm and oozing. The pelmenis - ravioli-like dumplings - were also hearty, wintry food, filled with minced pork and beef and served in a minted yogurt sauce. Ask for ajika - a spicy relish - to pep up the stodge.

Broadway Bar & Grill - 3/5

Thursday, November 11, 2010 - Our T-bone steak was disappointing. While the centre was chewy and red, the edges were tough and overcooked...Grilled pheasant, also curiously cut into slices as if we were invalids, was a better choice, but came with no side vegetables; grilled fennel and a bowl of triple-cooked chips each cost 3.50 extra. Starters were a bit unremarkable for the prices charged - 6.50 for some slices of limp beetroot with ricotta, for example. A dessert of 'payn per dew' (an old English spelling of the French 'pain perdu', aka 'French toast' was off, so we had the 'warm chocolate cake' which was actually more of a fondant.

Hawksmoor Seven Dials - 5/5

Friday, November 05, 2010 - Tearing into it was a primeval experience. Porterhouse steaks comprise the two most choice cuts of beef - short loin and fillet - on each side of a huge T-bone. It was so delicious that we chewed the meat straight from the bone, like cavemen...All the other details are proper and correct too. Big bones are split lengthways and roasted to bare the gelatinous bone marrows, topped with melted onions; you can have this as a side order or starter. Both Stilton hollandaise and anchovy butter added their own twists to the murderous flavours. The beef dripping chips were crisp, fat and tasted of the land.

The Owl & Pussycat - 3/5

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - The menu's ambitious and stoically British, if immodestly priced. Game is currently a highlight, with partridge and rabbit among the options. These main courses hover around the 18 pound mark; side orders, such as chips or green salad, cost extra. Lamb's tongues were barely recognisable as such, the plate garnished with a puree of swede and crisp rosemary leaves. A main course of duck was very salty, even allowing for the fact it was salt-cured; the same mistake of oversalting was apparent in the slow-cooked ox cheek, though the meat itself was very tender and flavour-packed.

Les Deux Salons - 5/5

Friday, October 22, 2010 - Trim, well-turned staff brought a succession of orders in single-portion, cast-iron pans and dishes, all with perfect timing. Every sign indicated a kitchen running like clockwork. Simple dishes, done well, don't need much elaboration. Unfussiest of all was a starter of bacon and Herefordshire snail pie with a flaky pastry crust, pub-style. Showing more of executive chef Anthony Demetre's Michelin-star pedigree was a starter of warm salt cod brandade, served with a 'cromesqui', which turned out to be a tiny croquette filled with a deep green parsley liquid which exploded over the dish once cut.

Samarqand - 3/5

Monday, October 04, 2010 - Samarqand in Marylebone celebrates the food of contemporary Uzbekistan, and does it in some style...Plov is prepared the Uzbek way, correctly glistening with so much fat it resembled stir-fried rice more than the delicate, aromatic lamb and rice dishes of Iran or India. The lagman noodles were exemplary, freshly made and served in a simple beef and vegetable broth. Meat-filled wheat pasta dumplings is another dish that crops up from Korea to Poland, with remarkably similar names, but this manty - minced lamb dumplings, served with yogurt dips - is distinctively Central Asian.

City Caphe - 4/5

Monday, October 04, 2010 - Owner Julie Vu has made great effort to make the tiny interior boutique-like. But above all, the Vu family have made a greater effort with their banh mi - Vietnamese-style filled baguettes - than some of their competitors...The fillings are assembled to order. The classic pork version, consisted of a smear of pate, a slice of pressed ham, roasted pork and the usual salad trimmings of pickled slivers of carrot and daikon with lettuce. Although not filled as generously as, say, the renowned version at Baoguette in New York, this version would pass muster in Hoi An market.

Otto Pizza - 3/5

Friday, September 03, 2010 - The result is a deep-based yellow pizza base with an appealing granular texture, not the thin, slightly elastic base of the Neapolitan version. Otto's also chosen to use a few offbeat toppings. We're not sure the pizza purists would approve, but we enjoyed our toppings of vegan 'cashew cheese', and the roasted aubergine with blue cheese...The friendly, but amateurish service became patchier as the pace picked up. Try to visit on a quiet night, if you can.

Tinello - 4/5

Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - There are so many alluring antipasti and 'small eats' it's a wonder anyone ever makes it to the secondi piatti. A traditional Tuscan crostini of toasted bread topped with a coarse chicken liver pate is typical of simple Tuscan food, though here it has the distinctive aroma of freshly-grated truffle on top...A more experimental approach is shown with zucchine, shaved into zest-like strips then deep-fried. The result, served piping hot, resembled Japanese tempura, the effect enhanced by beautiful serving bowls.

Polpetto - 3/5

Tuesday, August 31, 2010 - The attraction of a place like Polpetto is undoubtedly the buzz - our fellow diners, many of them Soho media types, were dressed up and in party mood. But the food should also live up to the promise, and our meal was patchier than we'd have hoped for. A dish of prawns in a chilli and tomato sauce would have been better if the prawns had been deveined, and you can get a better cherry tart at the Curzon cinema around the corner. Better, though, was a simple salad of finely-cut fennel with mint, ricotta and peas.

Shaka Zulu - 2/5

Friday, August 13, 2010 - Everything about Shaka Zulu is as subtle as a vuvuzela. You enter the first basement via a descending escalator, the passage lined with cowrie shells and gaudy carvings...The best dish was a simple 7oz fillet of springbok, the meat of the antelope tender and moist. Less impressive was the South African national dish, bobotie. This bowl of spicy minced beef was overcooked and consequently dry, the egg-based topping shrinking from the edges of the pie dish. The rice and sambals promised with the dish didn't materialise, and staff appeared inexperienced and ill trained.

Bond & Brook - 4/5

Monday, August 09, 2010 - The staff were charming, courteous, attentive, discreet. They even seemed to be relaxed and enjoying themselves...A cheese souffle is served in an individual ramekin, so small you need side orders and other courses to turn it into a meal; we opted for the iceberg wedge with ranch dressing. Other options included sole veronique, chicken a la king and vitello tonnato. It struck us that this menu from decades past might be nostalgic comfort food for the many silver-haired ladies sitting around us. We left still hungry.

Dishoom (Covent Garden) - 4/5

Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - The pau bhaji is spot-on, as is its non-veg cousin, the keem pau (made with spicy minced lamb). The chilli cheese toast here is far superior to any I've eaten in Bombay, as it's made with good quality white bread and cheese - both hard to find in Bombay. The house black daal is rich and earthy, nearly a meal in itself when paired with breads or rice. Less impressive are the biryanis, which Irani cafes are normally renowned for. Some crunchiness is good, but not this much - the rice was too dry and overcooked.

Gelupo - 4/5

Friday, July 09, 2010 - The ten or so ice-cream flavours transport you straight to Italy: chestnut, hazelnut, even the liquorice-hint of fennel and pine nut. Smooth and perfect-textured, just as they should be - unless you order the rice gelato, which has an interesting, almost crunchy texture. Plan B is the sorbets. Blackberry, melon, peach, even espresso - all appealing choices. The best is still to come: the granitas.

Brasserie Joel - 3/5

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - Meat cookery is a strong point, from the dark pink and tender slivers of quail in a starter salad, to the high-quality beef used in a '12oz grill prime NY steak'. Roasted lamb shoulder was also simple, but perfectly cooked to tenderness and full-flavoured...The menu descriptions of bistro-style dishes didn't actually match what we were brought, most noticeably a 'home made pork terrine', which arrived without the advertised cornichons and toast. We couldn't help thinking things would have run much more smoothly if the chef had been in the kitchen instead of chatting with his pals for the latter half of our meal.

28-50 (Fetter Lane) - 4/5

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - So how is 28-50's wine list? Delightful. It's a real joy to be able to sample three or four distinctively different, high-quality wines, matched to food, and come out blinking into the daylight still sober...The food menu is just as enthusiastically prepared as the wine list, with ingredients of high quality, served at City prices in portion sizes which are not especially generous. But we enjoyed our three little fillets of pan-fried red mullet, served with a bouillabaisse-like sauce of clams and neatly diced veg; and a plate of charcuterie, Spanish and Italian, which gave a range of flavours and textures as varied as the wine list.

Nottingdale - 2/5

Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - The month-old Nottingdale Cafe has River Cafe aspirations, at first evident in the striking architecture: a modernist wave of glass over concrete, overshadowed by the (also new) Monsoon and Talk Talk offices...The menu reads well: brief, Italianate, changes every ten days. The wine list has lots of carefully considered bottles from Spain, France and Italy, mostly, at reasonable mark-ups.The staff are welcoming, upbeat, accommodating. It's just that the dishes, on our visit at least, were of such variable quality and such steep pricing that we're in no rush to go back.

Abu Zaad (Edgware Rd) - 4/5

Thursday, June 03, 2010 - In many ways the newer Abu Zaad is a generic Edgware Road Middle Eastern restaurant - no alcohol , tiled interior, big ornate lanterns, Arabic satellite TV, nutty music - but the menu lists many brilliantly executed Damascene dishes seldom seen in London. A bowl of fattet hommos comprises chickpeas, crisp fried pieces of flatbread, and garlicky yoghurt, garnished with paprika and chopped parsley, served warm. Another vegetarian, main-sized starter is the hara isbah, pasta strips cooked up with tamarind and lentil, mixed up with more of that crisp fried bread, then topped with fresh coriander leaves and big chunks of red-hued radish pickle. Of course, the grilled meats are good too.

Bar Boulud - 5/5

Thursday, May 13, 2010 - The terrines and pates are served too fridge-cold, but once they warm up a little, what a treat. A small board gives you a big taste of chicken liver, foie gras, duck, beef cheek and lots of other bold flavours combined in many mouthwatering ways...Coq au vin was a very superior version, the red wine sauce reduced to almost syrup consistency, the meat tender...The 'Frenchie' burger used beef chopped on the premises, almost rare and of sublime quality; under the brioche bun was also a wafer of pork belly and a slice of Morbier cheese, which gave the dish a not unpleasantly 'ripe' aroma.

Platform - 2/5

Monday, May 10, 2010 - The farm may well supply many of the ingredients - presumably not the chorizo or chickpeas - but we're not convinced the kitchen makes best use of them. A Ruby Red (Devon beef) pie was no better than standard pub grub, and the meat filling meagre below the pastry. Beetroot-cured salmon was okay, though pricey at 7.50 for a small starter portion. The best dish was a starter of whitebait, as the fish were soft-boned, fresh and not oily, though the poached egg served with this dish was overcooked to hardness.

The Summerhouse - 3/5

Monday, May 10, 2010 - Blandness seemed to be a keynote of many ingredients, from those used in a prawn and avocado cocktail 'with bloody mary sauce' to a 'mango salsa' accompanying a swordfish steak ciabatta. It was the simplest of dishes that were the best exectuted: beer-battered cod and chips with plump chips and mushy peas, and a sirloin steak, which was juicy and not overcooked. Puddings include include retro delights such as knickerbocker glory or crepes with banana and chocolate, both echoing the seaside theme of the interior. The well-heeled locals were lapping it up.

8 Station Terrace - 3/5

Monday, May 10, 2010 - The brief menu is modern without being slavish to fashion, and more Nigel than Jamie. A salad of lentils, spinach leaves, green beans, hazelnuts, roasted beetroot and feta perhaps had one ingredient too many, but the result was nonetheless pleasing and, at 7 quid for a generous portion, good value. The rest of the menu follows the simple-but-satisfying route: steak sandwich, lamb rump with rosti, grilled sea bream fillet with salsa verde and roast tomatoes...The real appeal of 8 Station Terrace is that it's affordable and has a good atmosphere, helped along by smiling but rather amateur service.

Zucca - 4/5

Friday, April 16, 2010 - The front of house staff are Italian. The design looks starkly but stylishly Italian, from the lustrous white chairs to the red glow of the Faema coffee machine. And, with echoes of the River Cafe, the food is more Italian in spirit than some of the food you find in Italy...A starter of 'speck with pigeon crostini' comprised soft folds of the lightly smoked ham, with the minced pigeon spread like a tapenade over rounds of toasted ciabatta. Pasta is of course made on the premises, and although our pappardelle was slightly overcooked beyond al dente, the flavoursome ragu had meat - pigeon, veal, guinea fowl - in distinct chunks.

Hix Restaurant & Champagne Bar (Selfridges) - 3/5

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - Throughout the whole meal we were torn between thinking: This is great food, and checking our arms and legs were not going to be removed on departure to settle the bill. Chicken kiev was fried, spry, crisp and dry, the meat favourful and the buttery centre boasted with wild garlic (16.75). A tiny side dish the size of an ashtray contained steamed spinach for a rapacious 3.95...Hix in Soho remains Mark Hix's flagship restaurant. In contrast, this store-hours brasserie is very much the diffusion line - the T-shirt bearing the logo, rather than then tailor-made suit.

Banyan on the Thames - 2/5

Thursday, February 25, 2010 - A starter of seekh kebab was the best dish, worthy of a passable Punjabi restaurant: herby, juicy, fresh. It was served on a bed of rocket, which was also the backdrop to a starter of diced mango and sauteed king prawns, a flavour combination that worked surprisingly well. Lamb biryani was correctly served with a raita, and tasted rich and spice-imbued, just like the real thing. Perhaps the least visually appealing dish we tried was the fish and chips, chunks of monkfish deep-fried in an indelicate batter. Desserts included a chocolate Bailey's cream cup. Service throughout was a smiling shambles.

Manson - 4/5

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 - Manson is that rare thing in London: a place where the sophistication of the food easily outstrips its casual, bistro-style setting...The fish and meat cookery was flawless. Rump of lamb was perfectly pink, yet tender, served on a black slate with garnishes evocative of Morocco – some chick peas, plus a samosa-like pastry with a lamb confit filling. Braised ox cheeks were surrounded by herby green risotto and jus, with flavours that brought to mind the countryside.

Er Mei - 3/5

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 - Bear's paw tofu' comprised of thin slices of pan-fried beancurd mixed with slivers of velvety pork. The sauce was pleasingly slithery with a moderately hot and savoury effect on the palate, with just a hint of ginger and shards of spring onion; the puckered appearance of the tofu lends the dish the 'bear's paw' name, while black fungus (cloud ear mushrooms) adds both contrast of colour and texture. An excellent dish. Bitter melon had been cut into celery-like moon-shaped slivers, then dry-fried until tender; the bitterness of the gourd was not unpleasant once tempered by the wok. Another winner.

Wallace & Co - 3/5

Wednesday, January 27, 2010 - There are no 'Masterchef' touches on this menu - it's simple caff food....The Mediterranean slant to the menu is balanced by British classics. The scotch egg revival has become an epidemic across London. The quartered scotch egg served here might not be star material, but it's a decent one, with good quality pork encasing the egg. Puddings are the sort nanny might approve of, such as apple crumble with custard. Our treacle tart with clotted cream was a good version, though the portion size was small; in fact, all the portion sizes were on the small side. Order accordingly.

Itadaki Zen - 3/5

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 - Our nigiri-zushi were cooked and pressed to the right consistency, though slightly more vinegar would have brought out the rice flavour. An udon dish featuring peanuts and sesame oil should, we thought, pep up the palate a bit, but even in this dish the dominant flavour was the soft, thick wheat noodles, plus some seaweed...Itadaki Zen is affordable, purely vegan, and has many commendable ideas behind it. It's a nice, calm space for a simple lunch or dinner. But the cooking, like the concept behind it, needs to taken with a pinch of salt.

A La Cruz - 2/5

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - A cut of beef flank was cooked so dry and tough it was the consistency of rope, and therefore remained barely touched on the plate. Better was the beef flank on the bone, which although well-cooked, was nothing extraordinary. Maybe they were still getting to grips with this new asado...Empanadas had good, crumbly pastry and simple fillings, but came with no salsa accompaniment. Black pudding was the tastiest dish, though again was just that - a sausage-sized pudding on a plate, moist and well-flavoured, with no accompaniments, salad or garnishes.

Iskele - 3/5

Thursday, January 07, 2010 - Highlights of the procession of small dishes included creamy houmous topped with broad beans and sprinkled with sumac; a warm salad of grilled aubergine, smoky from the char-grill; kisir, the salad of fresh parsley chopped with tomatoes, crushed wheat, onion, olive oil and lemon juice; and boreks, deep-fried pastries filled with cheese. Zingy, fresh flavours typified the dishes, and a light hand was used on the deep-fat fryer. The Turkish grill is much in use in the evenings, with a varied assortment of lamb and chicken kebabs being ferried to the tables by the sweet Turkish staff.

Seventeen - 3/5

Thursday, January 07, 2010 - A popular Cantonese ingredient, stone fish, is used in a classic Sichuan dish called shui zhu yu ('water-cooked fish'), where trim fillets are served in hot oil, flavoured with hot red chillies and the numbing flavour of Sichuan pepper. Dong po pork is still the best I've had: the fatty pork belly is first pan-fried then 'red-cooked' (slowly braised in a dark soy sauce); the fat becomes the texture of set custard, but imbued with rich soy, ginger and garlic flavours, and headily aromatic.

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