London-eaten. Things we've scoffed and swilled

The terrorist attacks obviously had an effect on London life with many launches, parties etc understandably cancelled and rescheduled. Those that gamely carried on were subdued affairs. Restaurants now are concerned about the effect on trade from tourists, with talk of many visitors changing their minds about visiting London. Hopefully we locals will not let it put us off eating, even if we face the occasional prospect of a difficult journey home afterward.

Restaurants reviewed this month

Barcelona Dulwich. Tapas, tapas and tapas. Oh, and paella.

Chapter 1 Farnborough. Great food, great prices. Book.

Fire & Stone Covent Garden. Hey Luigi! Another plate of the red stuff! No seriously, this is seriously good pizza

Shangai Blues Holborn. Designer Chinese in a converted Victorian library.

Joanna's Crystal Palace. A rethink of the menu has yielded very positive results

Barcelona .There are three Barcelona tapas restaurants. So take your pick Senor

Sticky Fingers. Hyde Park Corner.It's an institution, of sorts

Maxwells Covent Garden. Kid friendly if your kids aren't gourmets

Zaika Knightsbridge. An up market Indian designed to impress

OQO Islington. Chinesa Tapas? Well it's an interesting idea

Dover Street. Soho on the rocks?

Roadhouse Covent Garden. Still a sound place for a fun evening

Navajo Joes. Covent Garden. Native American cuisine (like pan-fried sea bass with queen scallops and green tea noodles)

Matsuri. Holborn. A modern sushi/teppan-yaki bar with both style and substance

May we as usual take this opportunity to remind you that if a restaurant really gives you a bad time, please talk to them and allow them a chance to explain/make amends before you trash them on the website!

 

Ping Pong - excellent service

It’s becoming more and more common these days that a restaurant opens but doesn’t ‘launch’ for a month or so, this gives the restaurant time to iron out the kinks before the press appear. Such is the case at Ping Pong and our impressions were they need not have bothered ‘launching’ at all as the main restaurant was so full there was a line almost out the door.

So what are they already doing right? We sampled a fantastic lychee, white wine, grape and martini cocktail that really was delicious, and a range of steamed dumplings and spring rolls. Everyone must try the dumplings with snow Peas, shitake mushrooms, king prawns and chicken.
It was a nice quiet launch, until all heads on the inside balcony turned towards the bang coming from the main restaurant. Now that the chef had our attention he proceeded to make noodles which entertained the whole restaurant, or so it seemed.

All in all a smart looking restaurant with a nice open feel. This in conjunction with the owner’s history at Hakkasan should guarantee great success for this lovely Chinese restaurant ‘serving up little steamed parcels of deliciousness’.

J.H.

 

Benares - parties on

There's nothing worse than being the detached wheel at a cocktail party. I don't care what they all say, but these functions are all about one thing: fitting in so you can make small talk and establish connections with people you'll probably never see or hear from again. If you don't manage to do that, your only goal is to get out of there quickly before the 5 Cosmopolitans sink into your bloodstream and you accidentally insult the CEO of Amalgamated Consolidated by suggesting that he may have gotten dressed in the dark that morning. The next day you wake up and realize you've lost your job and thousands more children are starving in Africa. But of course, this is all speculation.

So when Benares down in Mayfair invited me to a special evening of 'drinks and delicious canapes' prepared by Chef Atul Kochhar, I found myself rather on edge. This was increased when upon my arrival there was absolutely no indication of my name on the entire list. After discussing life with the receptionist for ten minutes, I was formally escorted to the darkly lit romantic Indian restaurant upstairs and handed a lovely bellini topped with a honking slice of mango. Much to my embarrassment, I figured out later that the mango was supposed to be consumed before the bellini. This was after I spent ten minutes maneuvering my nose to the left, right, bottom and on top of the slice while I drank, peering out from behind the exotic fruit like a misplaced jungle child looking for its mommy (who just so happens to be a spotted leopard.)

After all that jazz, I thought it best to take a back seat and blend into the crowd. Unfortunately because of the bombings in London that day, the crowd ended up being not a crowd at all, but about ten people all sitting in a circular row of couches, talking adamantly to each other in small groups. Somehow I managed to fit in with a group of ladies who didn't mind me ravenously grabbing at the huge selection of delicious canapes every time they came around. I don't want to go on an on about a little prawn on a tooth pick, but if Benares's main courses are anything like their flavourful apertifs, I wouldn't mind paying a hefty load to come back and eat dinner...even if I would have trouble fitting in.

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