All reader reviews by sophie

Carnevale

I hate to cast aspersions on everyone's taste (maybe I just went on an off night) but this place was supremely disappointing. Everything was exceedingly overpriced for small portions and not-so-fresh ingredients. I could eat at the mind-blowing The Gate in Hammersmith for the same price and have my palate in an orgiastic frenzy.

The chef was late, the service was OK but inattentive (we were left waiting to order for absolutely ages and there was nobody else in!), my main was almost cold, the taste was muted and unsatisfying, the presentation was weak, the choice didn't overwhelm...

But I don't like to end on a down note, so I will say this: the decor had a 'front room' feel to it, but it was homely and endearing for its ranshackle charm. And the courtyard was adorable. And the bread and homemade lemonade was yum!

The desserts admittedly did look very good, but I didn't have the heart to be disappointed by then.

As a fellow vegetarian, PLEASE check out The Gate, Manna or Mildreds. If you don't live or work locally to this one, I really wouldn't bother.

Friday, May 16, 2008
Overall rating 5 stars
Food 4 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 5 | Value for money 4


Stockpot (Old Compton St)

Has everyone gone mad?

This is seriously some of the worst food that I've had for some time.

It all started well. Lured in from a freezing cold Soho by ridiculously low prices, we almost went wild with glee. Mains...at around the £4 mark? Puddings...at £1.60?

But this place proves the point that you mostly get what you pay for. The omelette was rubbery and unappetising. My boyfriend couldn't even finish his dinner. (Believe me, that is a first for him.) The fish was fine, but didn't taste as fresh as it could. The new potatoes were OK, but how wrong can you go with that? The House Salad was all right but failed to wow. The toppings were meagre, and there was no dressing to speak of. In short, everything tasted cheap. I really am not a food snob, but I personally would rather pay a little bit more and eat sustainable fish and free-range eggs that are not only less cruel on the animals, but also taste vastly better!

But don't knock it...if I was in dire need of food and relatively out of pocket, it's good to know that there's somewhere in central London that can give you some vitamins without bankrupting you in the process. It's just a shame that it compromises on the taste.

Puddings looked good though

Monday, February 18, 2008
Overall rating 5 stars
Food 2 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 5 | Value for money 5


La Petite Auberge

Service was shockingly show and indifferent at best. It was a shame as the place had real potential. The restaurant is sweet and unpretentious and really does feel like a French bistro. Not quite romantic though, if only for how packed out and loud it was, and also for the fact you'll be groaning under your weight of your heart attack food. Steer clear of the galettes or anything involving cream, cheese or egg: you'll never see your arteries again. There was also more than a hint of over-microwavisation! the plate was so hot it actually burned me, and the food tasted of boiling, inedible mush. Still, there are positives! The desserts were divine, and everybody agreed that the fish and meat were top rate. Giant portions at cheapish prices too! Not everyone was a winner, but some were. That's a better ratio than some restaurants...

I'd go again now I'm better informed of the hits and misses, but only if I had all the time in the world to wait for each course...

Thursday, November 08, 2007
Overall rating 5 stars
Food 5 | Service 2 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 6


Vantra Vitao

Absolutely gorgeous. The ingredients are combined together in interesting, exciting ways. Your tongue tingles at the end with all the flavours. I am vegetarian but a bit of a cheese-a-holic, but I didn't miss dairy one iota at this establishment. Yes, it's a cafe and not a restaurant, so lacks any real ambience: but if you're walking around Soho looking for a grab to eat, I would recommend this place wholeheartedly.

My only criticism? It's a little bit pricey for the budget end of the spectrum. But you do get quite a lot of food. And this is central London. And I am a cheapskate, after all...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Overall rating 7 stars
Food 9 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 7


Blah Blah Blah

There's something about this restaurant that fails to deliver, despite all the good indicators to the contrary. It's a real gem of a place: along Goldhawk Road's insalubrious stretch, this place is a tiny haven of candles and wood. The menu looks mouthwatering, with fairly original looking dishes...especially the desserts. My god. My head was spinning. Passionfruit brulee, plum crumble, homemade ice cream sundae, cheese platter... What to pick, where to start?

But then cracks started appearing and my heart was never won back. Service was slow, dawdling and indifferent. Tables were a little too squeezed together. What looked so promising on the menu was a bland, slightly cold dinner, with little thought for presentation. My dinner companion's £10 pasta could easily have been done at home better for a tiny fraction of their price tag.

And do you know what? We didn't even bother with dessert. We couldn't stand the possible letdown!

Nothing is terrible about this place, don't get me wrong. You'll probably be satisfied. Maybe even content. But I wouldn't rush back.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Overall rating 7 stars
Food 7 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 6


Palm Grove

The staff here are just so nice and friendly! Absolutely faultless. The menu read like a dream but just didn't really deliver. Curry was lukewarm, portions were small, flavours were dull. Everything was very average to below average, which is a shame. I'd want to go back just for the service, but I'm not sure I would based on the quality...there are so, so, so many better Indian restaurants out there.

Sunday, March 25, 2007
Overall rating 7 stars
Food 5 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 7


La Porchetta (Clerkenwell)

I am going to be generous and begin with the positives. The ice cream was delicious: it transported me back to Italy. Proper, gooey, wondrous stuff. The food and drink here is cheap, which can only be a good thing in an area where prices usually escalate to the height of inter-planetary constellations. On the whole, I thought service was good. Smiley, unobtrusive, willing and polite.

But the pizzas were shocking. I mean, truly, truly shocking. You wouldn't think you could go too wrong with a bit of dough and cheese, but this proved me wrong. The pizzas were so salty (I'm talking you got the feeling that tablespoons of salt had been chucked all over it) that I was necking back bottles of water the entire evening. The pizzas were overcooked and dry (I had to pour olive oil over mine to make it edible). The crusts were so hard and overcooked, and the knives they give you so inadequate, and everyone on the table ended up having to tear it with their fingers as best they could. It was hard work. The cheese was just - once again, overcooked - burnt cheddar, and blobs of mozzarella (not great quality) were here and there. The artichokes and sundried tomatoes had obviously just been yanked from a jar in a fridge and plopped on to it. They were still really cold. All in all, I was really disappointed. If I hadn't have been out in a group and didn't want to cause a scene, I would have complained.

My advice would be: don't go. Only afew minutes down the road is Strada on Exmouth Market and although, don't get me wrong, this isn't the best pizza in London, it's a damn sight better than this stuff and would be a good nearby alternative.

Sunday, March 25, 2007
Overall rating 5 stars
Food 3 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 4 | Value for money 5


Andy's Taverna

Don't hold your breath - this isn't a 'find'. But, tucked away only moments from Camden tube station, this little Greek restaurant offers big portions and nice touches, such as very lovely Greek salads and bread inbetween courses. The food was more than adequate and although it didn't make you faint under the weight of spouting superlatives, it was done well, no-nonsense. Only drawback is the service, which verges on scary and irritated on occasion.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Overall rating 6 stars
Food 7 | Service 4 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 7


Rasa W1

A very pleasant meal, and a lovely surprise to have something different than the usual run-of-the-mill dishes on offer in your typical Indian restaurant. It's a pity that this place isn't 100 per cent vegetarian anymore, because I was hoping to be bowled over by gallons of choice. It's all reasonably priced but I did feel that the waiter was a bit disapproving that we weren't obscenely hungry and eager to spend gallons of money (this is mayfair, after all). Anyway, the food was nice enough, but nothing outstanding. In fact, it was so nice but nothing more that I can't even really think of much else to say. So sorry if this is a pointless review but there you are. The decor is warm and interesting and the patrons are varied and gregarious, and this is a good place to come if you are seeking something different from this kind of cuisine - but don't come expecting anything TOO different. This won't make you fall on your knees in undiluted rapture, squealing "I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy". Shame.

Sunday, February 12, 2006
Overall rating 7 stars
Food 7 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 7


Busaba Eathai (Wardour St)

I'm sorry to puncture the bubble of deliciousness that all previous reviews of this place suggest, but I've got a figurative pin held aloft, so be careful.

To be blunt, the food just wasn't very good. Okay, okay, if I was in a good mood, I'd say it was so-so. But having read these reviews only the day before, perhaps my expectations were justifiably soaring, and so the dish I was served up only seemed glaringly what it was: bland, average, lukewarm, uninteresting.

This has nothing to do with the cuisine, believe me. I have tasted some exquisite thai dishes in my time. Being a vegetarian, my choice is sometimes limited, sometimes not. Between two items on the menu, I settled for the pad thai jay. Not a difficult dish to master, but here it fell flat on its plate. It was so salty both my partner and I kept having to gulp down the juice we'd ordered (which, incidentally, was very nice, although I suspect it wasn't freshly squeezed but from a bottle).

There is nothing much more to say. The decor seems almost like something out of New York: trendy, funky, big low lighting. Even the communual tables are done nicely, and nothing seems obtrusive. The toilets are worth a visit just for themselves: baffling icons representing the toilets of opposing genders caused people to nervously wait ouside, hoping for somebody of their sex to exit and show them the right door to enter.

In short, there is so much better thai food out there, for much better value than even the low prices of this place suggest. However, if you're in a large group, with average expectations, you could do a lot worse than this Soho joint. And hopefully maintain that bubble.

Monday, January 09, 2006
Overall rating 6 stars
Food 5 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 5


La Fromagerie

Marylebone is beautiful, in that sort of posh, Dickensian, could-never-afford-to-live-here-in-a-million-years sort of way.

So it is probably no great surprise that La Fromagerie was filled in every nook and cranny with greatly extortionate goods. You didn't want to even look at a stick of bread in case somebody put a twenty-pound price-tag around your neck.

Yet I'm sure the lovely residents of Marylebone are not as deterred by this as I was. For La Fromagerie is extremely popular, and we queued for quite some time to get a seat. Squashed together on a communual table, we felt like we must speak in hushed tones. People appeared to be frozen, utterly still, holding up forks of cheese as if in reverent worship of the Dairy Cow, or goat, or bacterium.

Now, I love my cheese. I love it so much in fact that I wouldn't think twice to have it in some form for breakfast, lunch and dinner if I could (and I sometimes do). But I did feel a little uncomfortable here. You would think I'd feel delightfully at home, surrounded by such fellow cheese lovers. Yet there was a detectable tang of snobbery in the air - no, it wasn't the cheese. Perhaps it was just paranoia on my part, or perhaps it was the communual table (though there are tables for two available but these are v. popular). But service was slow and unattentive and being a vegetarian, there is a LOT of meat served in this restaurant. Raw drapes of it were everywhere. Less meat, more cheese, would be my mantra.

Onto the cheese. It was all lovely, very delicious. There wasn't much bread but what there was was good. But none of the cheeses really grabbed me, really surprised me. And I'm quite a conservative cheese eater. But it all tasted like lots of things I've tried before. It would be good if they intermixed really surprising, adventurous cheeses with the more people-pleasing ones. Nevertheless, the cheeses, as I said, were very very good.

And the decor was pretty nice too, in a rustic sort of way. Informal, cafe-esque, and with a nicely cluttered feeling, surrounded by bottles of wine. It's just a shame this didn't abet the ambience.

Monday, December 12, 2005
Overall rating 6 stars
Food 8 | Service 5 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 6


Fire & Stone

I don't know how this place could have gotten the negative reviews it got below. I would summarise Fire & Stone as the perfect restaurant for group dining. Large and funky open space, a real buzz (but not too loud that you can't hear yourselves speak) and a place that creates conversation: discussing whether garlic, rosemary-sprinkled roast potatoes or chicken curry can work on pizzas is an ice-breaker like nothing else.

What I liked about this place was primarily its hit-and-miss approach. Maybe that's because I got a 'hit'! But the pizza I chose, with sour cream and potatoes and other bits and pieces, was so gorgeously delicious. Perhaps it was the novelty. I mean, these aren't pizzas to fall into THE WORLD'S BEST PIZZA category but they are definitely hovering around the top end of theleague table rather than the bottom end. It was so wonderful to be presented with such a cocktail of itnriguing flavours and you certainly got your money's worth (not that these pizzas cost the earth - cheap for c london!) : after finishing my plate, as usual, I felt downright stuffed. But oh-so-content.

What gripes do I have? The service was quite slow. They had an irritating policy of charging £25 per head to somebody's credit card for people who didn't show up as booked, which I considered a bit harsh. They changed the time that the group was going to sit down last-minute (hence lots of people in aparty group just standing around, waiting for a table). However, if they sorted out their service a little bit, and became a bit more relaxed about things (but not any more relaxed with delivering the food!), this would be a top-class venue.

Oh, another warning: avoid starters and desserts, they're nothing on the pizzas and a waste of money and fat-gaining.

Enjoy - and be adventurous!

Thursday, November 24, 2005
Overall rating 7 stars
Food 8 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 8


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