All reader reviews by Edward

Hawksmoor Spitalfields

Far and away the best steakhouse in London. I've been coming here since shortly after it opened and have been to the others in the chain, and really this is just superb. Yes it's expensive, and i admit that i'm shocked every time we come here, but the meat is the best i've found in London, the service is ok, not phenomenal, but better than average, the cocktails probably are some of the best in London, they have BYO wine on Monday for £5 and £25 during the week,. .It's a relaxed atmosphere and there's a great bar downstairs. I've been to Goodman, Mash and a few others, and every time i come back to Hawksmoor because it's so damned good.

Sunday, January 27, 2013
Overall rating 8 stars
Food 10 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 6


Ajiichiban

Went for the 3rd time today and had a consistently good experience. We've had a mix of Sushi and ramen etc here and it's all been superb. The quality of the dishes is really good. No it's not the best in London, but for my money as a local it's much better than i'd have expected. They have all my favourites, Hamachi, Agadashi Tofu, Spider Crab etc, and they're cooked to a great standard. Very pleased to have it as a local and will be back frequently.

As an aside, I'm not sure why the reviewer below thinks the Sushi/Sashimi is expensive - Good fish is expensive and frankly if i paid less than the amount they charged, i'd be suspicious. It's not expensive - We paid £56 today and had Sake, Sashimi, maki, tempura, and ramen for 2 and were stuffed!.. That's good value for money in my book!

Sunday, January 27, 2013
Overall rating 6 stars
Food 8 | Service 5 | Atmosphere 5 | Value for money 6


Bocca di Lupo

A visit here has been a long time coming. Every time I've tried to visit it's been full. Sure i could have booked, but that would have required a degree of preparation quite beyond me. I was very nearly denied this time. I arrived with a friend, only be told we would have to wait 1.5 hours. We politely declined and set off down the road. Nearly at the end of Archer Street, we were stopped by the girl from reception, who had literally run after us to tell us of a cancellation she'd just received. Of course we were delighted and very thankful for her going the extra (quarter?) mile to allow us to eat there.

We ate at the bar, and it was absolutely fab. It's similar to Polpo, but the food is arguably better. Everything is Italian, including the wine list, more of which later. We had the Smoked Mozzarella, which while interesting, i felt was a waste of good cheese - A beautiful soft ball of mozzarella shouldn't need anything done to it, but we were curious, so we tried it anyway.. We then had a salad with great, fresh ingredients, Pigeon and Pork tagliatelle, Foie Gras sausage, and grilled John Dory.. Nearly everything was absolutely superb!

My only gripe is with the sommelier - The wine list is entirely Italian, so if you aren't comfortable with Italian wines, which i'm sadly not, the somellier will happily recommend one for you. However, with both the wine over dinner, and the dessert wine/grappa, my friend and I both felt we were being upsold to. I appreciate that the somellier has to justify his salary, but given the very large wine list, I find it slightly irritating to be suggested a choice of the top 3 most expensive wines, on both occasions. Sure i could have just plumped for the cheapest wine, but I love my wines and wanted something that would go with what we'd ordered. Upselling is a common problem with wine, and it's a shame that an otherwise good value (if not exactly cheap) restaurant feels the need to do this. Maybe it's not policy, and it's just him, but i've eaten at plenty of more expensive restaurants and been given a real choice of wines at different price points.

Overall, quite the nicest staff i've ever met, some wonderful food, great atmosphere, just spoiled slightly by an overzealous Sommellier.

Saturday, October 22, 2011
Overall rating 9 stars
Food 8 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 7


L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

I have mixed views about this restaurant. On the upside the dťcor is pleasant, if a bit dated now, the food is exceptional without being epic (compared to other Michelin star restaurants I've been to), and the service is ok, without being anything special (they messed up an order as the waiter "forgot" to tell the kitchen, despite the kitchen being half a metre away - They did then make up for it by giving me two foie gras burgers, and a free dessert, which was really very nice of them - The sommelier must have been on a fag break because it took forever for him to turn up, but when he did he was at least knowledgeable about the wine list. )..It's also massively expensive (£200 for 2 small dishes, 1 starter, 2 mains, a £45 bottle of wine + service), but then that was to be expected. Overall, I'd say it's somewhere to go with your wealthy mates for a relaxed time, and forget it's a Michelin star restaurant you're in, and pretend it's somewhere like Asia de Cuba, but with substantially better food.. It's definitely not a destination restaurant in the classical Michelin mould, but then if i'd gone with different expectations, maybe I would have enjoyed it more.

Thursday, October 20, 2011
Overall rating 5 stars
Food 5 | Service 4 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 3


Polpo Covent Garden

It's been a few weeks since i came here, so my memory is not entirely fresh, but having been to Russell Norman's 3 other restaurants, and having enjoyed them enormously, i was eager to visit this one. My overall impression was unfortunately poor. Unfortunately this is going to be one of those unhelpful review where i can't give specifics, other than to say I didn't feel the quality of the food was as good as the others, i didn't think the menu was as interesting as the others, I didn't' think the atmosphere was as exciting or congenial as the others, and I won't be going back to this one on that basis.

Thursday, October 20, 2011
Overall rating 5 stars
Food 5 | Service 5 | Atmosphere 5 | Value for money 6


Hawksmoor Guildhall

I'm a huge fan of Hawksmoor, so this review is in any case biased. My friends tell me Goodman is even better, but i refuse to go in case they're right. I really can't get enough of Hawksmoor. So, that being the case, my girlfriend and I trotted off to the new Guildhall site last night, on day 3 of their soft opening.

The Good - The steaks never fail to amaze me. I really can't imagine a steak being any better than this. We were both grinning from ear to ear as we tucked in to our wonderfully tender fillets.

The service, despite only being the third night was very good. They've pulled in staff from their other sites to help smooth the opening, and it shows. The sommelier was extremely knowledgeable, and helpful, the waiting staff friendly, and generally everyone was on good form.

The Bad - The only bad thing I can say about Hawksmoor in general is the cost. It was expensive before, but they've now put their prices up. Not much, but on a 700 gram steak between 2, it'd be an additional £7, and on the Chateaubriand, you're looking at an additional £14. Their argument is that it's the best you can buy, and that may be the case, but I also know they get their meat from The Ginger Pig, and if you go to their site in Borough market, you certainly aren't paying those sorts of prices. True, you'll never cook it as well yourself, but it does grate on me that they appear to make such a margin. I say appear, because the rent on their sites can't be cheap, and i'm sure in reality their margins are razor thin. .but in a time of recession, i'm more likely to go to Borough market and try to cook it myself than pay £30 upwards for a steak..

The other thing specific to the new site is the sheer size of the development. I don't know how many covers they have, but it's huge. I'll be interested to see how it is when it's full (they were running on 1/3rd for the opening few days while they bed things in). I strongly suspect it'll be unbearably noisy, particularly if they get a lot of city folks in there, and the number of covers means that both the staff and the kitchen will have their work cut out. This will be the real test, and a clear sign of whether they've over extended themselves. In any case i'm sure it'll be full every night.

I've already booked a return visit, which should say it all really.

Thursday, October 20, 2011
Overall rating 8 stars
Food 10 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 6


Les Deux Salons

Took advantage of the pre-theatre menu last night, and couldn't have been happier. From the front door to getting the bill, the service was impeccable; the staff friendly and attentive. As for the food, it was superlative. For £15.50 for 3 courses, this really is the best set menu in town. The quality of the ingredients, the subtlety of flavours, and the beautiful presentation make this for me a destination restaurant. It's not quite as good as La Chapelle, but it's probably not far off, and when i have some more cash in the spring, we'll return to sample the full A la Carte..

Friday, December 31, 2010
Overall rating 9 stars
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 10


North Road

Visiting on Saturday, the overall impression was positive. The food is of a high standard and showed considerable creativity. The restaurant although only half full, felt vibrant and had a buzz to it. I suspect this place will really shine during the week, and leading up to Xmas; It's a beautiful space!

What worked? The food - Reminds me somewhat of Galvin La Chapelle, but rather than French, it's taken influences for a number of different places (given the chef, this isn't really a surprise..). The Vegetable starter was particularly good, and the Scallops which I had were good, but not quite perfect; slightly overcooked as they were. The mains were phenomenal. We had Dorset Brill and Lamb loin; both cooked to perfection, adequately seasoned, and a real delight. Also the wine was incredibly reasonable., and the overall bill was less than £120 for two, including aperitifs

What wasn't so great? To be honest, the service while friendly and effective was unpolished; but then I think that's reasonable given it's only been open a short time. I'm sure their Maitre D', Jasper will have the place ship-shape in no time at all.

I can't wait to go back and try the rest of the menu!

Monday, November 29, 2010
Overall rating 8 stars
Food 9 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8


Clos Maggiore

Went here 26th May for my girlfriend's birthday. We were sat in the conservatory. We've been to a lot of very very nice restaurants, but this place takes the biscuit. Everything about it was perfect. I honestly can't fault it. The service, food, decor, wine list. Even the price was entirely reasonable. Just wonderful!

Thursday, May 27, 2010
Overall rating 10 stars
Food 10 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 10


Viajante

I was a huge fan of Bacchus, but never made it to the Loft project, mainly due to my aversion to dinner parties, so I have been dying to go to Viajante since I first heard it was opening. We were lucky enough to go during the soft opening period, so the comments below may not be reflective of where the restaurant ends up once it's bedded down.

The good:

- The food is genuinely innovative and experimental, but without any of the pretension that Heston brings (I draw the comparison only because they both have long tasting menus and a tendency towards "molecular gastronomy"). I should also say that it is very good!

- The service was friendly, informed, and interested.

- The wine list was still being drawn up, and therefore only had 2 red wines on it, but both for what it's worth were exceptional, and they were happy to let me try before deciding. By the glass prices were also reasonable.

- Nuno Mendes himself came and served one of the dishes, which was a great treat. He comes across as likeable, and unusually for a chef, very humble. It was a nice touch, and much appreciated.

Room for improvement:

- We were in the back space, and Iím not sure the atmosphere was as enjoyable here. Unfortunately I think there must be a supporting wall between the spaces, as i can see no reason why they haven't knocked it through, unless the given the small number of covers, the intention is to create the equivalent of 2 small lounges, to make it more intimate..

- Not all of the food was great, and out of the 13 courses, there were at least 1 or 2 which were just not up to scratch. Nuno is still experimenting with the menu, so we'll see how these fair.

- You all have to have the same number of courses. I wanted 9, my girlfriend 6, and i unfortunately ended up having to eat 3 of hers. I understand why this symmetry would be important to Nuno, but I do feel i wasted another tenner unnecessarily..

- It's expensive - 12 courses with matching wines would be close to £250 a head including service!!

Itíll be interesting to see how successful it can be in an area like Bethnal Green Ė Itís a brave move, but all in all a very welcome addition to the London restaurant landscape, and great to see a "new" chef on the block, with the opportunity to demonstrate his skills in a more commercial setting.

Friday, April 16, 2010
Overall rating 8 stars
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 7


Galvin La Chapelle

The brief version: I love this restaurant. It's stunning to look at, the food is fantastic, and the service was just perfect. It is however very expensive and the portions are small.

The longer version: I went here on a Friday night with my girlfriend and another couple. We were immediately struck by the beauty of the room. The high, vaulted ceilings, the columns, and the chrome. It really is a great space, and extremely welcoming (although in a way, it's not as impressive as The Boundary, although my memories of that place are a bit hazy after rather too much celebrating this time last year).. We sat down and were given food and drink menus. The 1st thing that struck me was how short the menu is. There are no side dishes (more of which later). The wine list is very impressive, with plenty of wines under £50, but others up to £3.5k, so it should cater for most budgets. We started with a glass of house champagne, which was really very good, an followed with a fairly low priced pinot at £32, which inevitably was slightly better on the nose than it was on the palette, but more than drinkable.

Then came the ample bread. They were very generous with this, and if i were being cynical, Iíd suggest it's to fill you up so you don't miss the side-dishes.

The starters were superb - Between us, we had Yellow-Fin tuna and Lasagne of Dorset Crab (3 starters), and for mains, the Tagine of pigeon, The Fillet of Boeuf, and 2 Venison. Everyone agreed it was some of the best food they'd ever had, with one minor issue - There simply wasnít enough of it. The venison was extraordinarily good, but would have been even better with even the smallest bowl of mash, or additional veg. Not a massive problem, but would maybe make the difference for some people. Desserts were equally good, with 2 cheese platters (from a massive selection of cheeses), a Rhubarb Mille Feuille, and the largest slice of Apple tart Iíve ever seen.. (maybe that's why they don't do sides, to leave room for dessert!!), plus a bottle of Pedro Ximenez, which was delightfully thick and Figuey..

Finally, the service. From front of house to our waiter, and the sommelier, everyone was extremely professional. All of them we friendly, available, but unobtrusive, and with a couple of very very minor exceptions, didn't put a foot wrong. This is really how restaurants of this calibre should be staffed. Not stuffy or pretentious!

So, how much did 3.5 hours of exceptional food (3 starters, 4 mains, 4 glasses of champagne, 1 red, and 1 sticky wine, 2 cheese, 2 desserts, and 3 coffees) cost? £300.. A bargain for this level of quality and sophistication. I've no doubt this place will be up for a Michelin star by the end of the year, and it's well worth it.

Go there before you can't get a table any more!

Monday, March 01, 2010
Overall rating 10 stars
Food 10 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 8


Bacchus Pub & Kitchen

I was taken here as a birthday treat, so I should probably be careful what I say. That notwithstanding, however, I can still hopefully give a balanced review.

First the environs. Given it's about 3 minutes from Hoxton square, I think anyone who finds themselves nervous in this part of town needs to get out more. Having said that, if your idea of an edgy area is Fulham Broadway, you'd probably be better to get a taxi to and from the restaurant.

The restaurant itself looks like a pub that's been gutted and replaced with tables. Unfortunately, being a Tuesday night there were few other covers, and therefore I would think the atmosphere was not at its best. Nevertheless, it was pleasant, if not slightly too open for my liking.

As for the food, this is the first time Iíve ever had a 'tasting menu', and while I believe other restaurants offer such menus as a way of sampling the best of their kitchen, restaurants such as Bacchus specialise in offering only the tasting menus, without being able to order individual dishes as mains. To this end, I think Bacchus serves very well as a laboratory. Not only did we have the 7 course + wines, we were also treated to 2 additional starters, and an additional main; clearly destined to be future menu items, given the feedback requested by our waitress. The dishes themselves were of a very high quality, however, as the menu changes once per month, I think it's probably pot luck as to whether there'll be enough on the menu for you to enjoy. Personally I hate oysters, and found myself presented with 2 courses of oyster, served in different ways. As it turned out, the first (the additional main mentioned above) was not that nice, but the 2nd, with a delicate bread, and onion soup was delicious.

The wines also were good. Frankly we were staggering out by the end, and that was without consuming anything but the accompanying wines (bonus point - they served tap water without asking). There was only one wine pairing that didn't work for me, which was a powerful aussie shiraz with the slow cooked ox cheeks, but otherwise it's worthwhile to go with the matching wines.

The service was also exceptional, and we had a very knowledgeable waitress, even going so far as to put a birthday candle on my dessert. Having said that, however good your knowledge of food, I can guarantee there will be plenty of ingredients you've never heard of. To that end, they could have been serving pretty much anything, and we would have nodded and smiled. Some might call that pretentious, but Iíd prefer to think of it as a learning experience (not least as Iíve kept the menu and can now go away and work out what exactly it was we were eating).

Overall, I think this is an experience best viewed in retrospect. Looking at the menu and talking with friends, I realised that almost all of the dishes were in fact superb, and I would gladly have ordered any of them on their own as mains; however, the sensory overload of the entire menu is just too much. This for me is where the Bacchus experience falls down. I'd quite like to go back there and select the Red mullet and liquorice, or the succulent Ox cheeks, but I know Iíd have to fork out a small fortune (over £100 a head) and have the entire menu instead. As a result, Iím very glad for the 'tick in the box', but Iím not sure I can justify a return visit.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Overall rating 7 stars
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 4 | Value for money 6


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