All reader reviews by Anonymous

Spuntino

I'd wandered past Spuntino a couple of times this week and decided to go for an early lunch today, not really wanting to stand in line at peak time.

I had, also, read alot of glowing reviews for the place, in blogs and print and was quite excited, I guess, at trying something different.

My first impressions were great. I really like the approach to decor in the venue and the relaxed atmosphere and music. It's very much an idealised 'dustbowl' version of the American diner, crossed with a nod to Little Italy along the way.

I started off with the aubergine fries with fennel dip and a beef and bone marrow slider, both delicious and gone within five minutes.

I followed it up with the truffled egg on toast; Good, but not so good I'd wax lyrical about it like some others. I'm sitting here dealing with the aftermath of that slab of fat and carbs.

Being midday, booze was off the menu for me, but the selection looked good, nice and short and not pricey, which fits the schtick of the place.

Overall, the place lives up to expectations, I'd go again, in the evening when I imagine it would be very noisy and probably bags of fun, especially after a couple fo the classic cocktails on offer.

Worth it.

Friday, May 20, 2011
Overall rating 7 stars
Food 7 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 6


The Foundry

Living locally, I'm always on the look out for a new place to have lunch of a Saturday or Sunday. I love Market, but too much of a good thing etc....Friends had suggested Caponata a few weeks back but events had conspired to keep me away until yesterday.

Winging it, we wandered into the downstairs osteria, a lovely space with three distinct areas, including a performance area. This place recently featured in the architectural press and I can see why.

Each Sunday they have a different band to accompany diners, and yesterday a really good jazz four piece kept us going while we ordered.

The fennel sausage and orange and fennel sald were excellent, as was the deep fried risotto ball with mozzarella and ham. The cheese board was good, though I would have liked a description of the cheeses I could order (but I didn't ask, so partly my fault). Of especial note was the chestnut honey that came with the chesse, delicious, as was the bread and olive oil.

I had a couple of glasses of Sicilian chardonnay viognier which hit the spot also, and all wines are available by the glass, a real plus.

All in all this was a great Sunday lunch, made all the better by the very friendly and helpful staff, especially as we had a very youn child with us.

Any sticking points? No, I'll be going back. But one mystery. This place should be full given the food and atmosphere on offer. Camden, what is wrong with you?

Monday, October 19, 2009
Overall rating 8 stars
Food 7 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 7


Camden Brasserie

Awful, simply awful. Sixty quid for a centimetre thick sirloin, mostly gristle, a tepid piece of haddock and some stringy fries, not proper chips. Given that that sort of money gets you quite alot of Argentinian beef at the Gaucho, this is a rip-off. I am unsure why anyone thinks this place is any good.

There is much much better in the area now and this place will need to up its game to survive.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Overall rating 1 stars
Food 2 | Service 2 | Atmosphere 1 | Value for money 0


L'Absinthe

I am amazed at the glowing reviews this place has been getting, both here and recently in the press. Truly dumbstruck.

On my visit I was really excited about the place, it's setting and it's look are great. It felt really good to be welcomed into a busy and bustling neighbourhood venue.

What a pity the food was so lack lustre. I had almost exactly what Matthew Norman had in his recent Guardian review (I went before this came out), and my take on the quality and value leaves me questioning Mr Norman's taste buds.

My duck confit was flabby, not crispy. The onion soup was way oversalted and frankly the serving size was ridiculous. I rarely want to drink a pint of soup before my main course, and in this case would have ingested three days worth of salt into the bargain.

Coupled to the interminable wait for my first course, and a total bill of 137 quid for three course and a bottle of wine for two, and I left feeling so disappointed.

If I were a cynic, I would begin to believe in conspiracies over the esteem this venue seems to be held in.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Overall rating 4 stars
Food 3 | Service 4 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 2


The Bull & Last

I have known the Bull and Last since I came to London 16 years ago. At first my knowledge of it was little more than a glimpse and the thought it looked like a decent boozer as my minicab sped from some hellhole in Soho to my pied a hellhole in Finchley.

I moved to the area a couple of years ago, well, Kentish Town to be exact, and have watched as the gentrification of the area gathered no pace whatsoever. The Bull stayed the same. I used to pop in for a beer after wandering over the heath or walking back from Hampstead.

And then, at the tale end of the boom that gentrified areas in London that should have been wiped from the face of the map with a tactical nuke (you know who you are), the Bull and Last had what fancyapint would call the full gastro makeover. This time however, even the bearded suppers at FaP have given a vote of confidence in the result.

There is a formal dining room upstairs, but this seems to miss the point somewhat. The downstairs bar is a wonderful place to filter into after an hour or so on the Heath (thus avoiding the crapulant wares of the Freemason's arms over in Hampstead). Time your entrance though. It's first come first served and I found myself in a short queue at 12pm on the Sunday I tried it out.

Firstly the booze, because this is still a great boozer. There are usually three reral ales on tap and a well priced and interesting wine list. I think the most expensive red, a chateauneuf, is around 36 quid. Cocktails can also be had but this would be too, too primrose hill for me.

My smoked mackerel pate and roast beef were excellent, really the best gastropub food I've had to date.

The service was cordial, and tap water is distributed as a matter of coure. I could have sat there getting quietly stewed all day.

I didn't have space to fit in dessert, but may wander in over the crimbo period to have another go, not it's not quite my local but close enough to justify the walk.

Seriously, if you live in the area and tend to go the junction tavern, go here instead.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Overall rating 9 stars
Food 9 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8


Wahaca (Covent Garden)

Tried to eat here last night. I waited 15 minutes in the line to get to the front to then be asked to give the chap my phone number so I could be rung when my table would be ready in an hour and a half.

So, the place doesn't have a reservations policy, but gets horrendously busy, then you have to reserve a table. Almost Orwellian in its absurdity.

Sorry no food review, but I left wondering why you couldn't just book a table in the first place.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Overall rating 0 stars
Food 0 | Service 1 | Atmosphere 0 | Value for money 0


York & Albany

I'd like to prefix this review with the point that I've never eaten in a Ramsay backed eatery before, and was entirely preconception free.

I was, as a citizen of the People's Republic of Camden, however, very excited by this little drop of apparent glamour landing at the top end of Parkway, and headed off there on Saturday evening very much looking forward to the food, wine and overall atmosphere.

The initial feeling is that of pitching up in a hotel bar, pretty much anywhere in the world. No surpise, given that it is a hotel bar in London, but any trace of the building's historical roots have been eradicated by an interior design job that redefines the dictionary definition of the word bland. It isn't objectionable, nor irritating, just forgettable.

Sitting ourselves at the bar fifteen minutes before our reservation time we ordered a couple of drinks. The cocktail, a French 75, was well mixed, but lacked the citrus bite that I like in the ones mixed in the less rarified surroundings of places like Milk & Honey .

The first sour note came on the stroke of 7.30 when the front of house announced to us our table was ready for us and would we please like to go to it. She clearly saw we were deep in conversation and mid-drink, and a degree of flexibility would have been appreciated. We felt hurried and like we were part of a process, not what I was expecting.

On being seated, our table clearly wasn't ready as we then had to wait ten minutes, and finally ask for, a menu. This wouldn't have been so bad were it not for the fact that the first words out of the waiter's mouth were to sell us mineral water. Sour note number two.

Our starters of vegetable soup and fried duck egg were very good, though if anything underseasoned. Unfortunately we were half way through these when our waiter noticed we had not received our amuse bouche of hot foie gras and brought this to us as were were tucking in. I would have preferred they had just not followed the script and scrubbed that and thought up another way to make us feel at home. But again, following the script seemed to come to the fore. There were things that had to be done, and they would be done, even if the situation no longer called for it.

Our mains of steak and braised neck of lamb were good, but again I think could have stood up to a little more seasoning, and indeed been just a little warmer. I don't subscribe to the need for piping hot food all the time, but these did seem as if they had been sitting round a while.

We skipped dessert, and concentrated on enjoying the wonderful Clos de Los Siete wine.

So, overall we left kind of perplexed. The food and wine were good, not exceptional, but for a hundred quid all in very good value for money. The downside is you don't feel you have had a great meal. The atmosphere is transient and impersonal, the staff feel like they are following the training video. This may be teething troubles, but I don't think I'll be trying again later to see.

While I'm glad it's there, I think I'll continue to go to Market or Odette's as the atmosphere in both, and the more personal style, is more my kind of thing.

Monday, October 06, 2008
Overall rating 5 stars
Food 6 | Service 4 | Atmosphere 2 | Value for money 6


The Diner (Camden)

Went here for impromptu dinner last night after some drinks in the city and off the back of the Evening Standard saying the food was good. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Whilst I'm not expecting haute cuisine, I wasn't expecting the 'fat chips' to be frozen, and the chilli dog to be lukewarm and served in a stupid plastic basket. The chicken burrito of my companion was ok, but with a weird synthetic tang in the aftertaste.

Service was ok, even if the waitress did admit she didn't eat the food on the menu (because she only eats well sourced organic meat apparently - not a ringing endorsement). Not even a decent selection of US beers on the menu. This is almost insulting.

So avoid this place, it reeks of high turnover bog standard stuff. rGo to Hache on Inverness St. instead.

Thursday, July 03, 2008
Overall rating 3 stars
Food 2 | Service 5 | Atmosphere 3 | Value for money 2


The East Room

Having been a member of Milk and Honey in the past and not renewed membership as I'm so seldom in the West End these days, I had forgotten the joys of good cocktails in good surroundings.

Went to the East Room last night, having just rejoined the membership, and thoroughly enjoyed everything about this place. The members only schtick means that there is a nicely balanced and mixed crowd. Few city boys, nobody swilling cheap booze and the room nicely full, not overflowing. Even the music was judged just right.

Drinks were, as to be expected, fantastic, especially the hot buttered rum and the French 75. Service was unobtrusive and very helpful, just the way it should be.

Food was the best surprise. My only minor grumble with the food at M&H was that I felt that what you got for the money was somewhat meagre if well executed. Here the food is excellent given the very reasonable prices. The oysters (from Wright Bros in Borough Market) I had to start were fresh & salty and the lamb cutlets were beautifully tender. The cheeses were well selected and complemented each other well. All in all a very very enjoyable experience.

I am looking forward to my next visit.

Friday, May 30, 2008
Overall rating 9 stars
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 8


S&M Cafe (Spitalfields)

I work close to S&M Spitalfields and have frequented it on a fair few occassions over the last three to four years. Up front I should say that since my firt visit I don't eat the sausages there, meaty or veggie. On the porky side I find them somewhat underdone for me, not brown enough. On the veggie side they appear to be deep fried and somewhat squidgy, not my bag at all.

That said, the choice of toher mains is reasonable enough, and the quality is about what you'd expect for a faux fifties caff. My main gripe is really with the quality of ingredients. The fish pie I sampled today was mainly white sauce and mash. I was assured there was 'fish and shrimp' in the mix somewhere, but encountered not one prawn , nor more than the most fleeting shard of Cod. I had no idea it was that scarce.

Apart from that, all is as you'd expect, just nothing to rave about.

Service is perfunctory, and the atmosphere is basic.

Nothing to write home about.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Overall rating 3 stars
Food 3 | Service 4 | Atmosphere 3 | Value for money 3


Skylon Restaurant

This was without a doubt, the worst value for money I have had in a long time.

Had Sunday lunch there yesterday, and you can't fault the location in the Royal Festival Hall. But there the accolades end.

A small glass of 2007 Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc was £7.50. I'll repeat that, £7.50. For a wine that costs eight quid in the offie.

To compound matters my starter of gravadlax was ok, but small and the accompanying soda bread was both nothing of the sort and stale. The main course of potato ravioli was slop, simply slop. A tin of Heinz best would have been better. The icing on the cake was that these mains arrived cold, and when taken away came back the worse for around three minutes in a microwave.

The creme brulee for dessert was bland and cold too.

So, all in a lunch that would not pass muster as prison food cost us 90 quid.

This place is a disgrace and D&D should take a long hard look at itself over allowing food of such low quality out of its kitchens.

Monday, March 10, 2008
Overall rating 2 stars
Food 0 | Service 2 | Atmosphere 4 | Value for money 0


St John Bread & Wine

I have always been a great fan of the St. John 'method', and am very happy to see the influence that Fergus Henderson has had on the style of british cooking over the past decade or so. The now emerging british style of restaurant is nothing but a good thing.

I think the problem now lies in the fact that many other places do this style so much better than the original.

My visit last Thursday to the Spitalfields branch was terrible. Crab toast was barely more than an insipid brown sludge spread sparingly across over toasted bread. I feared for my front teeth with each bite. Whilst you know what you are signing up to with the spare menu descriptions, the stinking bishop and jersey royals was a disappointment, especially as half the potatoes were inedible.

The smoked mackerel and horse radish was fine, but to my taste the mackerel could have tasted, well, more smokey. Our other dish of boiled eggs and monks beard arrived halfway through the meal.

Desserts were better, though the trifle was too large and had no identifiable flavour apart from vanilla custard.

Our wine, a cote de roussillon 2004, was ok, I guess foer the money.

Service was good, though not particularly helpful.

I am very disappointed that what should be a consisitently excellent experience is so hit and miss.

Thursday, February 28, 2008
Overall rating 4 stars
Food 4 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 4 | Value for money 3


Market

Strange place, Camden.

Hundreds of thousands visit it each weekend, yet it appears none of them want much more than a kebab or a foil tub of 'market food' to sustain them as they are pierced, tattooed and whatever else one does up at the lock.

For those of us who live in the area, this is not good enough.

Apart from a couple of decent gastropubs a fair walk away, and Hache on Inverness street, the place is a culinary no go area. And yes, I am aware of the Camden Brasserie, essentially an Angus Steakhouse for the middle classes.

So to see Market opening up on Parkway is something of a godsend. Why should the rest of London enjoy such places whilst we have to make do with poorer rations?

As is the new trad-British fashion, Market is spare of decor and menu. A handful of starters and mains give enough choice but suggest the emphasis is on quality.

Our Sunday lunch of gnocchi with jerusalem artichoke, and loin of pork were beautiful, both in execution and presentation. The potato cake accompanying the pork, layered with sage leaves, was a star in its own right.

And this with prices the local 'gastropubs' would struggle to compete with.

Service was very good, though the place was quiet and I would wonder what a full house might do to that. The wine list, a good mixture of old and new world is keenly priced, with I think the most expensive red at under forty quid.

My only regret is that this restaurant will become so popular I may struggle to get a table in future.

I hope this is the start of something great in Camden.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Overall rating 9 stars
Food 9 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 10


The Prince Albert

Given that the Prince Albert is very close to home, I decided to visit it a couple of times beofre putting my thoughts down. The initial appearance as you enter the pub is good, the refurb seems to have been done with sympathy to the old place, leaving an inviting ground floor bar area. If only I could say the same for the local environs, but ho hum.

It would be quite easy to be put off by the standard of service on the ground floor and turn tail and run for another gastropub ( though they are a little sparse in this neck of the woods). Confusion, occasional blind ignorance and a reluctance to clean up dirty glasses mar the overall aesthetic.

Persevere, go upstairs, and you find yourself in one of the nicest dining rooms hereabouts, really well laid out spacious and very very welcoming. The staff, too, seem transformed by ascending the stairs and service is attentive. I like the touch of putting bread and olives on the table as soon as you sit down.

Foodwise, I haven't had a bad dish here. Mallard was succulent and gamey, scallops were perfectly done, and the various fish dishes cooked beautifully. Try one of the wine and food matching menus and you are in for a treat, given the price range we are talking about here.

There are a few negatives. The menu doesn't change often enough for my liking. Also, sometimes the combinations of food don't quite work, but I do value the thought that has gone into their prearation.

Finally, and this is not about the food, the atmoshpere upstairs is dire. On my numerous visits, there have never been more than a couple of other diners in the place, whilst downstairs is usually quite busy. So, though the place looks great, the lack of a buzz leaves you feeling somewhat cold.

I hope this does get better as it would be a shame if this welcome addition to the otherwise moribund dining options in this part of Camden were to shut due to lack of custom.

Thursday, February 21, 2008
Overall rating 6 stars
Food 7 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 3 | Value for money 8


Odette's

We went to Oddete's on Tuesday 4th September for our wedding anniversary.

The room itself is high camp, thought the subdued lighting softened it somewhat.

Service was pleasant and not at all stuffy, just right for a local eatery with higher aspirations.

Foodwise the starters of ceviche of scallop and ballotine of pigs head and black pudding were good, thought the pig head could have taken more seasoning.

Mains of duck breast and roast saddle of rabbit were excellent, especially the little shepherds pie of rabbit leg that came as a side.

The cheese selection, whilst nothing out of the ordinary, was served at the right temperature and with no fuss. who wants grapes , wlanuts etc. etc.

The wine list is smallish, but has a good selection and price range. The 2004 Domaine Combier Clos des Grive Croze Hermitage we had was fabulous.

All in all a top notch local restaurant, well worth the extra on the bill.

Thursday, September 06, 2007
Overall rating 8 stars
Food 7 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 7


The Junction Tavern

It's difficult to get past the waiting staff at the Junction Tavern.

Whilst the food I've had on the number of occasions I have been there is fair to above average, the service has always been either absent or downright rude.

On my last visit, after being seated, I was moved as, apparently, another diner had specifically requested the table I was at. In a gastropub?

At other times I have had to ask for plates to be cleared and for further service I'd expect as normal, such as the dessert menu and so on.

It's a shame as on most other counts, including the wine list and real ale selection, the Junction Tavern is a winner.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Overall rating 4 stars
Food 6 | Service 2 | Atmosphere 4 | Value for money 4


Daphne

Came here on a rainy Monday evening after work.

The first impression, a full restaurant of contented diners, was good.

The food, classic greek restaurant fair, was very good. Char grilled quail was succulent and not dried out, the lamb shashlik tender and pink in the middle.

Service was excellent, friendly and unobtrusive.

All in all a great place to know in Camden which, despite the number of eateries, has precious few worth returning to.

Daphne will become a regular haunt.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Overall rating 8 stars
Food 7 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 8


Camino (King's Cross)

Excitedly went to Camino with my wife on Friday 8th June, after reading a few mixed reviews.

First impression is that if the gentrification of Kings Cross proceeds with more establishments like Camino springing up, I for one will be delighted. The space is light, airy and attractive, though maybe a little bland.

Dishes are presented in the form of a meandering journey through Spain, with wine suggestions to match up to each course presented in the little concertina booklet of a menu.

An aperitif of Asturian cider reminded you how cider should taste, all green apples, tangy and fresh, unlike the alcopops that proliferate today.

Starters of Jamon Iberico Bellota and Octopus over crushed potatoes were exemplary, the octopus melting in the mouth, and the ham served at the right temperature to savour the sweet nutty flavour of the acorn fed pig it came from.

On mains, I was somewhat perplexed. For a restaurant like this, there seemed curiously little choice, being limited to steak or a couple of fish dishes. Doesn't a spanish restaurant have a little more to offer in the way of choice (Moro manages it)? The Charolais beef we were presented with was cooked well, and came in huge amounts, but after a rather meaty starter some variety would have been welcome.

The suggested wines to accompany the beef were the highlight of the meal, both the Valmoro and the Gine Gine were beautiful and a reason in themselves to return.

The service was good throughout, with a number of waitresses attending to us throughout the evening.

All in all, very good with the question mark remaining over the choice of mains. More variety there and Camino finally gives you a reason to head to Kings Cross.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Overall rating 8 stars
Food 8 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 7


The Fox Public House

I was always a fan of the Fox Dining Room. So I was in turn nervous and excited to hear that it had changed hands in the autumn and went along on the first opening night last Friday. Gone are the eclectic tablewares, the set price menu, the mirrors and, thankfully, the rather revolting toilets. However, much of what made the place good has been taken away too. In the past the menu was always spare, two to three ingredients at most on each plate. But these were usually put together well, and at the price, was exceedingly good value. Prices are up, and the food, well, I don't really remember. Ok I guess, just a bit boring and run of the mill. I loved the Fox for not being just another gastropub. It seems it now is.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Overall rating 3 stars
Food 3 | Service 4 | Atmosphere 1 | Value for money 3


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