All reader reviews by Owen Clipsham

Hakkasan

The food is very reasonable, although lacking the punchy flavours that more authentic dishes might have. A few very questionable things on the menu: chilean sea bass (a.k.a. patagonian toothfish - has been almost wiped out in only a few years of commercial exploitation), australian lobster (flying lobster all that way, you have to be kidding me...), sharkfin soup (major ethical concerns).

Service generally poor. Bar has excellent, keenly priced cocktails. The experience is totally spoiled by the very loud, unsophisticated crowd it seems to draw from The City - almost all of whom seem to be chainsmokers. The latter is a real problem .... on the two occasions that I've been it was enough to make one's eyes water. The bar area tends to be much less fug-filled; so until the smoking ban is in place I'd avoid eating there.

Thursday, February 08, 2007
Overall rating 5 stars
Food 6 | Service 5 | Atmosphere 3 | Value for money 5


Automat

Greatly disappointing. First the decor - the middle section particularly is a great success, looking somewhere between what an old-fashioned dining car on a train might look like and an inter-war era New York brasserie.

The food is something of a let down. The (single, tiny) crabcake for starter was delicious but hardly enough to feed a mouse, and the salsa with it was mainly composed of avocado - which I feel is generally the first recourse of any culinary scoundrel. Black cod was seriously overcooked, and the prawns in the potato and prawn hash which accompanied it were almost certainly of the cheap, farmed variety - which one wouldn't expect at this price. Sides of roasted vegetables and salad were ok (dressing for the latter tasted of nothing whatsoever) but the frites were excellent. Given that the place is an undoubted homage to New York, one would imagine that the 'New York' cheesecake would live up to expectations - sadly not ... wet, sweet and not worth eating.

Service, although friendly, was rather haphazard and seemed to lack a managerial overseer. However, if you're bored with The Wolseley and Bentley's and you're eating late, last orders are at or just before midnight. Oh, and the menu states that they use US beef, which has apparently not been reared using hormone supplements but is maize-fed, which is very likely to be GMO - people, myself included, may want to avoid the beef for this reason.

Thursday, February 01, 2007
Overall rating 5 stars
Food 4 | Service 4 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 4


Salt Whisky Bar & Dining Room

I visited this place in October, not knowing that the original proprietors had sold out and upped sticks some time ago. I can only imagine that almost everything about it - barring the range of whiskies / whiskeys - must have been different under the previous management. On a thursday night at 8pm, it was practically empty, and this was during their 'happy hour'!

The mint julep was very disappointing ... lots of whiskey diluted with ice and almost as much sugar syrup as alcohol, mint could hardly be seen or tasted. The cheap, plasticised menus resembled those at a JD Wetherspoon's or Slug & Lettuce; i.e downmarket chain pub / bar. The resemblance didn't end here - chicken wings and other favourites straight from the freezer and into the microwave were listed. Delicious, I'm sure!

The layout made very little use of the space available - I'm almost certain that an interior designer's services can not have been retained. Rather sad really, given the plaudits it might once have merited. Avoid.

Thursday, January 04, 2007
Overall rating 4 stars
Food 1 | Service 5 | Atmosphere 3 | Value for money 7


Salt Whisky Bar & Dining Room

I visited this place in October, not knowing that the original proprietors had sold out and upped sticks some time ago. I can only imagine that almost everything about it - barring the range of whiskies / whiskeys - must have been different under the previous management. On a thursday night at 8pm, it was practically empty, and this was during their 'happy hour'!

The mint julep was very disappointing ... lots of whiskey diluted with ice and almost as much sugar syrup as alcohol, mint could hardly be seen or tasted. The cheap, plasticised menus resembled those at a JD Wetherspoon's or Slug & Lettuce; i.e downmarket chain pub / bar. The resemblance didn't end here - chicken wings and other favourites straight from the freezer and into the microwave were listed. Delicious, I'm sure!

The layout made very little use of the space available - I'm almost certain that an interior designer's services can not have been retained. Rather sad really, given the plaudits it might once have merited. Avoid.

Thursday, December 21, 2006
Overall rating 3 stars
Food 1 | Service 5 | Atmosphere 2 | Value for money 5


Cecconi's

I've been to Cecconi's twice, once for cichetti - tapas type dishes - in the middle of the afternoon and once for a late dinner. On both occasions, despite seemingly very efficient, speedy and polite service, the wrong food has been brought to me. In the first instance, this was rectified when they were notified; on the second occasion I made no complaint, as the tagliatelle with a tomato and bacon sauce was fairly serviceable, if plain, and the pasta a smidgeon overcooked. Wild boar ragu was the dish asked for. Main course of chicken paillard with caponata would have been better if the former were marinated and the latter included dried peperoncino. The chicken itself could, one suspects, have been of better quality. When I asked for some lemon to pep it up a bit, the waiter returned with a half – already swaddled in muslin – and proceeded, unsuccessfully, to squeeze it between a fork and spoon. Some things are better left to diners. On the other hand, zucchini fritti as a side dish was excellent. The only cichetti that I can recall were the octopus salad, which was tasteless, chewy and unseasoned, and some small, spiced sausages which were passable but little more. Not having looked at it, I can't really comment on the wine list's price or variety, but a lot of Perrier Jouët Belle Epoque was being consumed.

The most probable and main attraction of this restaurant for most of its customers lies with the pleasant atmosphere and the reputation it has garnered for attracting 'stars'. Said gossip column subjects were evidenced by the miserable, itinerant-looking groups of paparazzi huddled in the shadows under the facade of Burlington Gardens. Their targets were Madonna (Ciccone or Cecconi?) & Guy Ritchie, who were in residence. Those keen to bask in the warm, reflected glow of celebrity may even be snapped upon leaving, as photographers check their setup – cueing an anxious and ultimately disappointing wait to see if they have become an unlikely target for the tabloid press.

I do like the restrained, understated décor & ambience of the place, but the menu on offer and the food itself is very dull. I wouldn't find a drink at the bar disagreeable, but eating for its own sake appears to be a lost cause. Most of the clientèle that management really want to pull in are likely to be very unfussy about the food and more concerned with being seen and quaffing champagne. Faux-Tuscan-villa design aside, Daphne's does everything better.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Overall rating 6 stars
Food 5 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 5


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