All reader reviews by david ginsberg
Baby G is away at his grandparents at the moment which has allowed my lovely wife and I the rare treat of a night out in the West End. I had been working late so she popped up to meet me by way of Liberty's. There was some talk of a new handbag so I suggested we discuss this further over a bite to eat. As you may have noticed I have been a bit light on reviews so far this year so I was keen to try somewhere new. I suggested we try the Little Social , the little brother of the Pollen St Social. I can remember back when this site was the Black Lion & French Horn, a really dowdy Mayfair pub which had the worlds grumpiest landlord, smelly toilets and which was amazingly busy most nights. Fortunately the subsequent Italian restaurant gutted the whole place and started again, however there was little appetite for high end Italian food once Jason Atherton opened over the road so that closed quickly and he took over.
It's a small narrow room inside with enough room for about a dozen or so tables/booths but there is seating at the bar. It's all very much the dark panelling look inside but this is lightened up by a great neon light work on the stairs down to the kitchen. We tried for a walk in table but this place is very 'so hot right now' so nothing available for a couple of hours though we were offered a meal at the bar. As you may have noticed from my Electric Diner review bar stools can be a bit uncomfortable but these were fine so we took our perches and settled in for a very pleasant evening. We started with a cocktail, my lovely wife had a French Negroni and I had their Corner Collins, both good but at £12 a pop toppy! To start I had the steak tartare of the specials menu which was really top notch. Really tasty, great quality meat though I did feel the quails egg was a touch unnecessary. My lovely wife had the foie Gras Terrine which can be a bit dull but here was a wonderful slab of meatiness. We washed this down with a carafe of top draw house red. A great start to our meal and by now the restaurant was packed with a lovely buzz which probably made the background music redundant.
For mains we decided to go lighter so my lovely wife had a halibut dish with intensely flavoured stewed tomatoes and sweet bacon, she loved it. A clever combination that really worked. I went for the roast cod with butter beans and cabbage which was lovely, however again the cockles were an ingredient too much. It added nothing to the dish apart from a bit of grit. That apart a lovely dish. We shared a side of beautiful broccoli and poutine which is a mixture of chips, chorizo, mozzarella cheese in a spicy sauce. I liked it but my wife wasn't so keen, it was like something I would concoct with leftovers at uni. Lots of nice bits on the dessert menu but we opted to share the wonderful tarte tatin, probably the best I have had. I washed this down with a lovely glass of tawny port whilst my wife returned to the cocktail list with a Paloma Faith. A coffee and Armagnac followed and then to the bill.
Now here I was a bit shocked, it was a great meal, good food and wine but at £220 for two it was really very expensive, we were also sat at the bar which though very classily done up, it's still eating at the bar. I also queried my Armagnac listed as a 12 year old I was served 8 year old at the same price. They do a cheaper prix fixe menu at lunchtime but this is very pricey eating out so it's a treat only for us. However I would recommend this as it's a lovely place to spend a couple of hours in a convivial atmosphere. The service was professional yet friendly. This was the sort of places the late lamented Langan's Bistro and Odin's could have grown into. I will go back for lunch to try out the prix fixe as this is one place that lives up to the hype but it does also have very hyped up prices.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Food 9 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 6
A rare boy's night out prior to Easter saw Big Matt and I up in Brixton for the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club gig at the Academy. We last saw this band about 9 years ago when conventional wisdom was that there wasn't many decent places to drink in Brixton let alone eat. The cheap pints and sticky carpet of the Goose is now long gone. These days you can cross the road to spend over 4 quid on some fancy artisan beer at Craft Beer Co and you can wander in to Brixton market for some serious food. Brixton market itself is a really good example of a now trendy venue that still holds on to its roots as a market serving the community. In between the tapas bars and hip burger joints you can also have pick up cheap fish, yams, goat and religious memorabilia. It's quirky but not for the sake of it. So armed with some recommendations from Kate from London Eating Big Matt and I settled on pre gig food and drinks at Wishbone.
Wishbone is all about the chicken, fried and covered in various sauces or seasoning. Upstairs there is a sit down restaurant but downstairs opens up onto the market and features the bar and several tables with stools. This is paired back dining much like Meat Liquor though it's much brighter, livelier and more inviting in here despite the freezing weather. The staff are really very friendly, polite but obviously enthusiastic about the food and in particular the sours they may behind the bar. We start off with a couple of lagers which are fine but I tempted by the sours. I go initially for a bourbon with a choice of Woodford Reserve or Makers Mark (nice touch) and it's so good go for a classic brandy sour again lovely and at £6 great value.
The food is on a par with the booze. We are told the fried chicken itself isn't ready, disappointing but suggests they don't just send any old food out. Instead they suggest some hot wings, salt and pepper wings and chicken thigh bites. I'd also been recommended the deep fried macaroni cheese. These come after a decent interval suggesting they are cooked to order and first taste confirms this. Lovely moist chicken bound up in tasty seasonings and sauces. It's both moreish and messy. A really fun meal and all the better for the absence of a fried potato. I'm not usually a fan of hot wings but they are big favourites of Big Matt. However these are fantastic, so good we order another portion. We soon warm up around this chicken feast, the deep fried macaroni cheese goes down particularly well. These could be the new onion rings!
As we eat, the bar fills up and a really nice atmosphere permeates around. Like I said this place exudes friendliness and charm. It's a largely hip clientele but in a good way. Young people having a fun night out...with chicken. Our bill is about £60 for 2 but handily we get 25% off by showing our gig tickets, which is a real steal. We had a little look around afterwards and all the little eateries here were busy and buzzy, it's certainly a fun spot. If only I could report the gig was as good as the meal beforehand. Let's just say that BRMC made some pretty ropey Coldplay-ish anthemic music in the 9 years since we last saw them. However the old stuff was good to hear again. If only I had Wishbone back in the day when I was gigging up in Brixton every month, these youngsters will never realise how lucky they are!
Tuesday, April 02, 2013
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 9
And so it was the night of Villa Steve’s non stag do. After seeing many of us done over on various expensive overseas trips to celebrate upcoming matrimony Villa Steve was adamant he wanted something all-together more low key. Thus it was that on a bitterly cold December Friday we found ourselves in Dalston to eats barbecued meats, drink beer before heading to the NFT to watch a black & White dark comedy “Kind Hearts & Coronets”. I used to work near Dalston back in the late 90’s and was quite surprised to see how trendy it has become. It reminded me of how Brick Lane used to be before it sold its soul to the guys with trendy haircuts! So after a very cold cycle up there on my Bojo bike I came across Dukes Brew & Que. It’s right next to a neo-brutalist council estate but it is very welcoming once you step inside. I was a good hour ahead of Big Matt & Villa Steve so I took up a pew at the bar and sampled some of their really excellent Beaverstown beer. The place started to fill up with a pretty trendy crowd. The guys behind the bar were very much dishevelled posh but very friendly with it, letting me try different beers before picking one. The Neck oil proved to be the session beer of the night for us.
Eventually the boys turned up and we were led to our table in the now full dining room. The don’t have a proper full on open kitchen like The Electric Diner here it is tucked away in the back corner but open for the curious. It’s works well as the passé lights blaze into a fairly dark room. We order a mixture of mains and sides. Our favourite by far are the pulled pork sliders, in fact we ordered seconds of these. Lovely buns crammed full of juicy tasty pulled pork, just fantastic. The large beef ribs are also very good, all sticky and caramelised. The one dish we didn’t like were the pork ribs, these were served the same as at Pitt Cue, large ribs tasty enough but what we really wanted was a big slab of baby back. I wish this fad for doing the big pork ribs would end. A slab of the small ones are so much better. Unlike the pretty poor Red Dog Saloon, everything here was cooked to order and tasted fresh. The sides were also very nice, the fried pickles and okra and the smoked beans were particularly memorable.
The service was really very good, our waitress was friendly and fun. She ensured we weren’t hanging around for drinks. It had a really good atmosphere, helped by great food and drink. The bill was about £30 a head which we thought was fair. There are a lot of chancers in the American food market in London but Duke’s Brew and Que is the real deal. They just need to get some baby back ribs into the smoker. It’s a little bit of schlep for me to get there but it’s certainly worth passing through Hoxton Square to head here for a proper feed. And thus well fed and watered we set off into the cold winter night to watch a film in a very cramped NFT auditorium, Rock and indeed Roll….
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8
This was an odd experience indeed. I was getting some Christmas shopping in early whilst Baby G was at grandma’s and my lovely wife was getting her Christmas hairdo at Daniel Galvin. I finished my purchasing and had an hour or so to kill and was feeling in need of sustenance. The previous week I had a good meal at Casa Malevo and remembered they had a new place up in the West End called Zoilo. Apparently it was more tapas like so that sounded a perfect fit to my dining brief! I wandered in at about 2:30 through some very exclusive type curtains into a dark wood panelled bar. Now though I was greeted with a hello, it was quickly explained that the kitchen would be closing so I had to order quickly. I was a bit put out by this and about to walk out in search of a more welcoming hostelry but the manager prevailed on me to stay. So I sat at the bar and perused the menu. I ordered the prawns al ojo, which were prawns and pork belly, some bread and butter, a portion of empanadas and the lovely Papas Fritas Provenzal I had at Casa Malevo. The bread was very dry, I don’t think baking is an argentine forte based on this. The prawns al ojo was nice enough but it was a bit overcomplicated for me, I don’t go in for these over-elaborate show off tapas dishes. Empanadas was very tasty and the chips were great which goes without saying.
So I’m sat at the bar and though the manager was very friendly, the guy behind the bar is definitely not. I try to strike up a conversation being a lone diner but nothing doing. I finish my glass of wine and ask for a recommendation for another. He just points at the wine list. I’m getting really annoyed now but then in come the chefs to save the day. They pop up from the main kitchen downstairs to prep for the evening service. They see my discomfort and helpfully suggest a hearty white which they let me try. It turns out to be bang on and I’m happy. The manager would be better off leaving them in charge of the bar instead of the sullen waiter. The food they were preparing looked nice but again quite elaborate.
The bill came to about £30 which was OK if I take into account the wine but tapas is never as cheap in London as it should be. I really feel the service lets this place down. Whilst I was there, a couple came in obviously regulars from Casa Malevo and the manager couldn’t do more to accommodate them. 5 minutes later a family came in looking for a bite to eat and were told the kitchen was definitely closed. This is meant to be a casual tapas type café so all day dining should be offered. This sort of attitude has really put me off returning. Anyway I chalked it down to experience and went out to compliment my lovely wife on her lovely Christmas hairdo.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Food 6 | Service 3 | Atmosphere 3 | Value for money 6
I had been meaning to try this place for a while as it on Connaught St round where I grew up. It’s a funny street, lots of moneyed places come and go without really taking off. In fact the only shops to remain from my childhood are the coffee merchant and florist. However the local pub the Duke of Kendal does singalong round the piano nights! Anyway into the midst of this is Casa Malevo an Argentinian restaurant. I’d passed by a few times but it always looked very quiet much like the short lived Italian that used to be on this site. As it turns out outside appearances can be deceptive! I went there in November with Ketan whom I met on the NCT parenting course. He has 2 kids now so gets out a bit less than me and we look forward to our occasional nights out. We booked for 8PM and initially the restaurant was quiet. It’s quite café like inside with a front dining room leading round to more seating at the back and a semi open kitchen. As it turns out there is also a private dining room downstairs. We were shown to a table for 2 at the side which wasn’t that spacious and got cracking with some wine and looked at the menu.
Now automatically with Argentinian food the emphasis is on beef which Ketan doesn’t eat so we had to be a bit more creative. To start with I had some chorizo which was very tasty not as greasy as some of the Spanish stuff and came with a nice side salad. Ketan has some very tasty marinated prawns, so far so good and by now onto a proper bottle of Malbec. For main I went for the Corazon de Cuadril which is a marinated rump steak. It’s served rare and is really very garlicky. It was nice enough but due to the cut and cooking parts of it were quite a challenge to chew. With it I had some Papas Fritas Provenzal which were herb seasoned chips, really very tasty. Ketan had a pork chop they had on the specials board which he greatly enjoyed. By this time the initially quiet restaurant was packed full and very lively indeed. Even downstairs was full with a party. It would appear that it’s habitués like to eat later.
As it was a cold winter’s day we felt it was best to go for some dessert. I ordered the Dulce de Leche which is a sort of mash up of crème caramel and crème brulee. It was seriously nice. A big plate of lovely creaminess. Ketan had some very good chocolate cake and we washed these delights down with some nice Argentinian desert wine. The bill came to £70 a head which was pricey but we had gone through 3 courses and a fair amount of wine. Service was nice and they were very helpful with choosing wines. As mentioned the atmosphere got more buzzy as the evening wore on. So all in all a nice evening even if I wasn’t massively keen on my main. We rounded off the evening with a couple of whiskey’s at the Duke Of Kendal which mercifully didn’t have a singalong that night!
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 7
I’m a bit over the whole burger thing, you can get a decent burger pretty much everywhere nowadays. It’s beginning to resemble the famous Simpsons Flaming Moe episode when Homer reveals the secret recipe and everyone gets in on the act. However ubiquity aside the burger remains a good meal option. It’s filling, it’s relatively cheap and thanks to the trend most versions are tasty. Thus Monday I popped out for lunch with work and it was suggested we try “Brgr Co”. The foodie cognoscenti dismissed this place as another bandwagon jumper however I feel there is a bit of snobbism going on here and everywhere deserves a chance. So in we went to their Soho branch.
It featured a small open kitchen and a smallish double dining room done out in lots of dark wood, giving it a warm feel rather than the stark white aesthetics of “Byron”. By 1 on Monday it was busy only about 5 tables left and it was soon completely full. The staff are smartly uniformed and sat us down quickly. The menu is burgers and sides. I went for a large medium cooked 10 oz burger with a side of cheesy fries. I also ordered an oreo milkshake as I do love a milkshake. Milkshake came first and was very tasty, they also did a boozy version but at nearly £8! I thought I could manage with the unadulterated version. The burgers came after a reasonable wait but it was busy and it shows it’s all cooked to order. The burger are served deconstructed style so I was able to avoid the raw onion (why add that?) . Bun was nothing special but the patty was good, good flavour nice crisp outside and medium on the inside. The cheesy chips done in a mustardy cheese sauce were very moreish. The side sauces were a bit uninspiring, I was hoping for something a bit more authentic.
However for a meal in under an hour it was perfectly fine. Lunch came to £17 each with tip which was fine. Service was friendly, manager said thank you as we left, we were all satisfied. It's on a par with Byron and the like but I prefer the fact you get a choice as to the size of your burger. OK there was no crazy stuff on the walls or hipness on display but you know what sometimes I just want a burger and chips!
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Food 7 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 5 | Value for money 6
Just have to pre-empt this review by saying this is my favourite restaurant of the moment. It knocks the spots off a lot of the trendy pop up single dish places I tried in 2012. I wasn't a big fan of the previous Electric restaurant all style no substance. I've also eaten at a few Soho House group places in the past and been underwhelmed by good looking, nice sounding food that didn't live up to the hype. I think a lot of places play it safe with brasserie type food, add plenty of cream and butter and hope for the best. 'The Electric Diner' shakes up the mid-market dining scene by offering big portions of utterly delicious food at really reasonable prices. The fact I've been 3 times in two weeks speaks volumes.
The old joint was all about crowding the bar and being seen, the new layout is all about seeing the food! Down one wall is the bar knocking out great cocktails and a fantastic selection of draft beer along with a big open kitchen. This has an open charcoal grill, hot plate, grills, ovens and prep space. There is a small washing up station/larder area out of sight out back. The rest of the space is taken up with leather style booths. However if you want to really experience this place sit along the kitchen. The big brigade of chefs work tirelessly as a team in a well organised, clean space. You order your dish and can watch it being prepared. I've had breakfast, lunch and dinner here and was quite simply knocked out by the food. Imagine your best meal in the States well you can get that standard of food in London. I'm not talking deep fried rubbish I'm saying the sort of well crafted tasty food you would get at say 'The Spotted Pig' in New York.
The onion soup was amazing, a rich deep oinion soup topped with heaps of cheese and crouton, when it came out I thought it was a souffle! I also tried the honey soy fried chicken which was pretty much a whole chicken portioned and fried in a deliciously tangy glaze. I also had the broiled chicken in garlic sauce which was marinated spatch-cocked chicken breast grilled on the charcoal and served with a punchy garlic jus, lovely char but so moist and juicy when I tried it. With hearty tasty dishes like these it kills off the boring fashion for the dreaded sharing plates. Instead here you are encouraged to share the huge sides, lovely hash browns, tasty broccoli and huge salads. Breakfast was also great and very child friendly for baby G. I had a lovely open fondue with fried egg, whilst by lovely wife had a spicy egg and avocado concoction. The bottomless house coffee was so smooth. No room for desserts so far but hoping to rectify that next time.
Service was friendly and professional, a couple of staff were greener than others but that will sort itself out in time. It doesn't take booking but each time I've been I've got a table straight away. There is a slightly silly rule about not giving booths to couples after 7:30 but I think they will end up changing that. One issue they do have is the stools at the kitchen aren't that comfortable as you can't adjust the height. They may want to address that one for the shorter ladies! Prices were really reasonable, breakfast came to under £40 for the family, lunch was about £80 for 2 courses and a couple of beers, dinner was £100 for cocktails, 2 courses and wine. I've paid a lot more than this for a far inferior experience (Brasserie Zedel). It cannot wait to go back and try more of their menu. Go before the trendies take it over!
Tuesday, January 08, 2013
Food 10 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 10
And so the Festive season is upon us which this year has signalled a slightly less hectic work schedule and the opportunity for lunching with friends. I caught up with my old uni housemate Tazza on Friday. Tazza has known me since the days where putting cheese in my bacon sandwich was the height of my culinary ambition. We are both a lot wiser and sophisticated nowadays and can afford to eat out at better spots than the Chamon balti house in Selly Oak. I choose “Mash” for our catch up as my default choice “Goodman” was full. I had passed by it earlier in the week and was keen to see where it fitted into the “Goodman/Gaucho/Hawksmoor” scale of steakhouses. I booked for an early 12 lunch but though I was nicely greeted upstairs and coat taken once I eventually got downstairs (long stairwell) it looked like they were still setting up as no one to greet me. Eventually someone popped out to show me to their bar. This is where it all took better shape though not before the same lax reception staff had told Tazza they absolutely must have the table back in 2 hours! We stayed for 3 and the restaurant wasn’t full. Had this problem at Hawksmoor Air St, rude or inexperienced reception staff can really put you off a place.
Anyway back to the bar, it’s really nice and the two guys working it were charming! They mixed me a lovely bourbon concoction, a Benedict Arnold, and we had a good chat about the Rip Van Winkle bourbons (for my money the best in the US). Tazza turned up after her two hour table warning and had a ginger highball which she enjoyed. Whilst sitting in the bar I got a feeling I had been here before and the barman confirmed that this was the site of the non-lamented “Titanic”. A real white elephant of 90’s excess that sometimes had more bouncers than punters but could be quite fun. Somewhere to drink rather than eat! Well so far it was obvious that you could drink very well in “Mash” but how would the food fare?
We were shown to our table by a friendly waiter who looked a bit new but was very enthusiastic and talked us through the menu which is basically lots of different steaks. We skipped starters and Tazza went Uruguayan fillet and I tried the Danish ribeye as it was dry aged for 70 days which should give it good flavour. We ordered normal and spicy fries & onion rings for sides and sauces came with the steaks (it really annoys me when you are charged extra for these). After the cocktails we needed some wine to wash down the steaks. However the wine list was huge, very reminiscent of the sort of tome you get in a New York steakhouse. However the sommelier was very helpful. She picked out a nice Californian Syrah for us and again later helped us out with an American apple brandy as they don’t do French after dinner drinks. The steaks came and were good but at 300g a bit small. However the red wine sauce they gave me was wonderful. Really tasty, Tazza found her peppercorn sauce needed more heat. On the subject of heat everything was served at a perfect temperature so no cold red wine and congealing steaks like at “Hawksmoor”. The sides were nice onion rings tasty rather than greasy like the last lot I had at “Meatliquor”. The straight up chips were very good.
No room for dessert to follow but we did have the coffee (in a proper cafetiere), petit four and brandy. I got confused by the salt pig on the table which I thought was sugar. I was touch embarrassed but the very friendly Maitre D replaced my coffee and assured me I hadn’t been the first guest to put salt in his coffee! The room filled up and there was a nice buzz. Despite the silly warning on entry we weren’t rushed and stayed 3 hours in all. It wasn’t full but it was busy. This is a huge space to fill but I much preferred it to the other giant restaurant near here “Brasserie Zedel”. The bill came to just under £100 a head which is expensive and though our wine and drinks were very good I did feel that we were charged £30 for steaks that would be £25 elsewhere. Service was very nice though, friendly but professional. As a restaurant it’s nowhere near Goodman but probably not far off Gaucho and certainly gets more of the basics right than Hawksmoor. I would happily go again.
Monday, December 17, 2012
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 6
Work has suddenly got really busy which has necessitated a bit more travelling on my part. I usually drive up to my Midlands customers and subsist on terrible service food or if I’m lucky a great fry up at the legendary Rugby Truck Stop. However speed was of the essence on Friday so I took the train. I had some hanging around on my journey home at Rugby, but the food options there are severely limited. I decided to hang on until I got to Euston and grab something quickly from their food court. The inside of the station is still very much an 80’s monstrosity of over-priced coffee and fast food joints. However outside the concourse they have at least made an effort to dress up the concrete by putting up some tables and building some restaurant units. One of these is an outpost of long standing burger chain Ed’s Easy Diner.
I grew up in London so Ed’s was very much a fixture growing up filling a void that the Chicago Rib Shack left. Their long gone outlet on the Kings Road was a big favourite of my schoolmates. It did American style burger, fries and shakes back when Pizza Hut was considered exotic! I was keen to try it again to see how it measured up to all the burger newcomers like “Byron” and “GBK”. It’s not a big place inside and the rock and roll posters look a bit half-hearted these days compared to the OTT interiors of the likes of “Meatliquor”. However it was as I remembered the old place on the Kings Road.
Service was quick and friendly, I went for a cheeseburger and a premium oreo shake. The less said about the burger the best really. Cheap patty and fillings, reminded me of a Wetherspoons burger, not good. The milkshake however was very nice though, lots of it and very tasty. In fact I noticed people coming in just for a milkshake, they are worth a detour (maybe milkshakes could be the next foodie trend?). However what I really appreciated was the rock and roll music playing in the background and the opportunity to take 5 minutes. For a train station restaurant it is really quite relaxing in there. I wasn’t the only one “chilling out” it had a nice vibe. It’s not a destination to seek out but if you find yourself hanging around at Euston, it’s a pleasant option.
Monday, November 26, 2012
Food 4 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 6
Maybe it’s just me! As you perhaps have seen in a previous review my first experience of Hawksmoor (Seven Dials) wasn’t entirely successful, nice place, great bar but cold red wine and luke warm steaks hampered my enjoyment. I complained they responded nicely so I thought I would give it another go. My next attempt was Sunday when my lovely wife and I thought we would see if we could get a walk in at their new Air St branch. They were full but the receptionist was a touch snooty in brushing us off which was a bit out of order. Never mind we went to Burger & Lobster and had a great meal. As it turned out I was fated to try their Guildhall branch on Monday anyway. Damian was back over from Oz again so Shandy Andy had arranged for a few of us to catch up for a meal. He had used Guildhall before so got us a table in the bar.
I got there first and had a very friendly greeting from their very chatty manager. Like Seven Dials, the restaurant and bar are in a basement. This is smaller though so I felt it worked better as a space especially with all the wood panelling, it was a bit more intimate. He led me down to my table sorted me with some water and the waiter took my order for their Pete’s brew alcoholic ginger beer. It was lovely, a really nice cocktail to kick off the meal. The bar was about half full being a Monday night but it had a nice buzz. They allow non-eaters in here which is good as the cocktails and booze selection is top draw. The other 4 arrived and we settled down to the important job of eating. We eschewed starters for steaks all round and a selection of sides.
I ordered my usual ribeye medium rare. The steaks all came together but the sides were another few minutes. This concerned me as the my steak plate was only just warm and I had visions of the same problem as last time. The sides turned up and were lovely, lovely chips, creamy spinach and huge onion rings. The bone marrow gravy was very nice as well. But what of the steak? Well the medium rare came rare but properly rested so no blood. However they had made the same mistake as last time, it was luke warm, first few bites lovely but it soon lost temperature and the last 100gm weren’t pleasant. I also rushed eating it as I didn’t want it to get cold. Is it too much to ask that they serve the steak hot on a hot plate? Goodman manage it everytime! There is something wrong with their passe system, the steaks need to go out to tables as soon as there are ready. For the most part everyone is having steak so this should be easy to achieve.
Anyway disappointing steak dealt with we had dessert. I had the chocolate tart with salted caramel and popcorn ice cream. It was really rather nice. Not too rich and very tasty, it made up for the steak. I washed it down with a very nice glass of tawny port. The bill came and it was a fairly whopping £350 which for 2 courses a few drinks and 1 modest bottle of red is really going some. So I spent £73 on a dinner in a very nice place with good service, nice drinks but cold steak. The others were happy enough but Hawksmoor just can't get it right for me. As they are fond of saying on Masterchef, if you play it this simple then it needs to be perfect everytime! Based on this I will give Air St a miss!
Wednesday, November 07, 2012
Food 4 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 5
We were shamelessly out on a school night and a Monday night at that! Gordon had found that Oxford near legends “A Silent Film” were playing at the Hoxton Square Bar & Grill so off we strode to East Central London hoping to pass muster amongst the skinny jeans and the ironic pork pie hats. We could have eaten tex mex at the venue but instead we decided to go for ribs at the “Red Dog Saloon”. I’ve been keen to try one of the new breed of ribs places that have popped up to see where they rank alongside the yardstick that is Bodeans. There has been a lot of big talk from various news places about authenticity and smoke pits but can they turn out consistently good food? Red Dog Saloon is on the corner of Hoxton Square I was there early so took a pew at the bar. I was questioned about whether I was dining before they would give me a drink. On the whole the staff seemed a bit wrapped up in themselves rather than engaging with the customer. Anyway you don’t see Sam Adams on tap everywhere so I was contented to while away the time until Big Matt and the perennially tardy Gordon turned up.
Once the other members of the expedition had arrived we took to our booth and ordered a bucket of lone star lager, it took a while as the manageress forgot the order the first time. The waiter took our food order, without writing it down but credit due he got it all right. Now as you can imagine the menu is very meat based, ribs, pulled pork, chicken wings. There are a few more unusual sides such as burnt end pie, links as well as the familiar fries and onion rings. Big Matt the wings aficionado went for 8 buffalo wings and a cheese burger. He praised his wings but was underwhelmed by the burger. Gordon and I went for the St Louis ribs dinner. It came out looking the part but there were problems. It wasn’t very warm, now I’ve had that issue at Bodeans before as generally the ribs are cooked in a batch and heated through to order. However this little piggy had been hanging out too long. Also the cooking was uneven, the top of the rib were fine and juicy but under the ribs the meat had dried out. Not good enough really, if you are going to invest in a pit then cook the meat properly. My sides were fine, I liked the burnt end pie which was like mini shepherd’s pie with burnt ends. Gordon enjoyed his food though.
It’s not really a place to linger so we ate up and paid up £26 each which is more than “Bodeans” for inferior food. The place was really filling up as we left with smart young things from the city so it obviously has it’s clientele sussed. I think you can get away with charging a premium for this type of food off a limited menu but it has to be spot on and the ambience right. This place didn’t really work for me. I noticed in a nod to “Man v Food” they do a couple of eating challenges but for that to work you need a bit more charm and authenticity. Based on this visit and being similarly underwelmed by "Pitt Cue Co" I think "Bodeans" is still my go to place. Anyway with full tums we went off the gig to see some cracking indie rock courtesy of “A silent film” and the very good support from “Casablanca”
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Food 4 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 5 | Value for money 4
I was catching up with my cousin Simon for lunch on Friday and after hearing good things decided to try Brasserie Zedel up in Piccadilly. I wasn’t quite sure where it was but after wandering through the upstairs café and down the 1920’s inspired sweeping stair case it suddenly hit me. This was the site of the old Atlantic Bar which had featured during an epic night out celebrating my 30th birthday! As we walked down Simon who is a big jazz fan noticed they have a cabaret lounge which seems to be back in vogue nowadays. I choose Zedel because I heard it was reasonable and held back a good number of tables for walk ins. It was good to the hype in that upon walking into a huge busy dining room we were shown through with reservations to a spacious table for 4 by the unoccupied piano looking out onto the room. Now décor wise it’s a mixed bag, the chandeliers, ornate cornicing and sheer scale of the room is impressive however I was less taken with pink colour scheme which felt a bit tacky, it was a bit like a 1960’s large provincial hotel dining room. Also the size of the room and hard surfaces actually made it quite hard to hear conversation.
We skipped starters and had a couple of lovely refreshing Pineau de Charentes to kick off proceedings. Simon decided to go for a classic French Steak Frites whilst I thought I would give the Dish of the day: Marmite de Poissons a go. Simon’s steak came and he really liked it. A nice big piece of ribeye cooked a perfect medium with lovely chips. However my dish was a real disappointment. I had the expectation of a little copper pot of fish stew what I got was a stainless steel dish of rice and stew which had more potatoes than fish in it. It wasn’t particularly warm (when will restaurants learn to cover food like this at the table) or tasty. This was dish of the day - it should be one of the best dishes on the menu, you wouldn’t have seen anything this bad at a the humblest brasserie in France. Fortunately I ordered a side of nice frites. We washed down the meal with a Carafe of Bordeaux which was good.
To follow Simon had a very nice rice pudding, it was titled “riz de grand mere” which translates as grandmother’s rice! I had the lemon tart which was perfectly nice. To follow we had filter coffee which thankfully came in a proper cafetiere. I can’t stand restaurants that only do you a cup of Americano. I still get a childish thrill of pushing down the plunger. The bill came to just under £70 which I thought was a bit toppy. A couple of critics have banged on about how cheap this place is based on their £2.80 soup but for £70 for two you can eat better than this. The service is pretty good though we had about 4 different members of staff look after us. Some of the food going to their tables looked very nice but I was let down by my meal. I would like to go back to try some of the other bits on the menu but my first impressions were this is a bit of a victory of style over substance. Someone has taken a lot of time and effort recreating a bustling French brasserie but not quite understood what makes it work.
Monday, October 15, 2012
Food 4 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 5
Now I know I’m not the only one around that thinks the “Royal China” has gone off the boil of late. Last time we had a family meal there, they ran out of high chairs which made feeding Baby G tricky as he wanted to explore, the food wasn’t as wow as it used to be and the service wasn’t particularly friendly. It also seemed like the prices were creeping up, maybe this is the curse of Gordon Ramsey! So I was firmly in the market for a Dim Sum joint. Luckily our NCT pals Ketan and Sunita suggested Sunday Lunch at the “Phoenix Palace”. They now have 2 little boys but like us try and eat out a fair bit. I consider myself a moderate connoisseur of Chinese restaurants so I was surprised I hadn’t heard of the Phoenix Palace but very glad I made it’s acquaintance.
We met them down at the Phoenix Palace which is in a side street by Baker St station. We entered through an impressively ornate lobby and were shown to our table. Ketan and Sunita being regulars had secured the coveted table by the fish tank. this was a big hit with the boys. The restaurant is really very big inside like a tardis. I liked the layout as it curves around the building so despite it’s size it still feels intimate. We ordered a selection of Dim Sum and mains which were delicious. I can confirm that in most cases it was better than the “Royal China”. Service was efficient, they didn’t rush us to order and were very nice with the boys. Also a big plus was that we had plenty of room for a pram and for the boys to play. 2 year olds will only sit at the table for so long so as they were happy playing, not disturbing the other patrons or staff we could get on with some serious eating.
We were able to enjoy a friendly relaxed family lunch in nice surroundings. The boys loved their food and there was a good variety on the menu. We really felt at home and vowed to come back soon. The bill was really very reasonable for the quality of the food and the amount we ate. I still salivate at the thought of their lovely sesame prawn rolls!
Monday, October 08, 2012
Food 9 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 9
Baby G was away for the night so my lovely wife and I decided to go for an old school date night. This invariably involve a drink at the “Hillgate”, a bite to eat and a movie at the Coronet. After a nice pint and the very buzzy “Hillgate” we decided to wander down to “Chakra” the newish Indian down the bottom end of Notting Hill. We’d been wanting to try it for a while as we are bit limited in Notting Hill for indian food. “Malabar” is nice enough but it does get really very busy so it’s not quite right for a nice catch up with the missus. I’ve wanted to try Chakra for a while but was a bit put off by the lack of menu outside (thankfully that has now been rectified) it is fine looking all cool and exclusive but you do need to show people what sort of food and prices you do. Anyway a quick look at their website showed that prices were more than “Malabar” but not barking so we thought we would give it a go.
It does look very cool indeed inside, studded and padded white leather walls at the front of the restaurant and a dark wood area at the back. Nice comfy chairs in the same colour scheme. The welcome was friendly, it wasn’t that busy so we were offered a choice of tables. To be honest I was hoping for somewhere a bit more lively but I thought I would let the food do the talking. We skipped starters in favour of a mini feast so we went for some tandoori chicken, a lamb curry and also a prawn one. We ordered some rice with this and their mixed nan bread tray. We also had some Saag Aloo. The food came up and it was very nice indeed. Really nicely cooked, good clean flavours, well sized portions. I was a real hit with us. They also had a good wine list so we eschewed the usual beer in favour of a lovely Albarino.
It was a very nice meal and a nice space like this deserves to be a lot busier. I noticed that they do a weekend brunch so I will try and give that a go soon. The service was very nice, unobtrusive so perfect for a date night. The bill wasn't exactly cheap but I thought it was fair for the quality of food we had. After such a nice meal I was sorry the film we took in wasn’t better. Ted really was like a poor Family Guy episode.
Monday, October 08, 2012
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 7
My old Uni mate Damian was over on a flying business visit from Australia so I caught up with him last night for a beer and a bite. Damian travels a lot with work so I let him what sort of food he was missing most! As a good ex Brum Uni boy he went for Indian so off we set for Roti Chai. I had heard good things about this place serving Indian street food up behind the M&S at Marble Arch. We were pleased to see that on a Sunday night it was packed but after a short wait they found as a table. The dining area is best described as paired down. Small tables and chairs that seemed to have been saved from my old school! However it is bright and warm in there and being full it had a nice buzzy atmosphere.
We ordered some banana chips and sticky tamarind coated chicken wings, the chips were just like crisps but very moreish but the chicken wings were very tasty, nicely cooked as well. For main I ordered the Bengal fish curry whilst Damian went for a northern chicken dish. I have to say my fish was fantastic. I do like fish curry's but this had a perfectly cooked piece of fish in a fiery but deep tasting broth. One of the nicest curry dishes I have ever had. I tried the chicken dish and it was OK but even Damian agreed not in the same league as the fish. Both dishes came with rice so no pressure to order sides.
There was room for dessert so we both had a glass of lovely Chai and Damian went for pudding whilst I had a mango kulfi on a stick. Again very nice. It was busy but nobody rushed us so we could catch up properly. A really top notch meal with great flavours. It came to £25 a head which was great value. I can't wait to go back.
Monday, October 08, 2012
Food 9 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
I had really high hopes of visiting here as I heard this was the steak chain to rival “Goodman” but based on our visit Saturday this isn’t really up to scratch. Having said that we had a very nice leisurely lunch with groomsmen for my brother’s forthcoming wedding. We headed down to Seven Dials after getting measured up for our suits. The restaurant is in a large basement area and you enter through the rather nice bar. We stopped there for a sharpener. I had a really nice ginger beer concoction whilst the others had various variations on the Bloody Mary. All excellent, the bar staff were really top draw which sets you up expectantly for the main event. We were shown through to the main restaurant which is very similar to “Joe Allen” nearby. Exposed brick work, plenty of tables. Looked like the place to have a birthday based on our visit.
Our waiter was good, professional, not overbearing and looked after us during all our meal which was a nice touch. I ordered the bone marrow and onions to start with as I had been told this was a speciality. It came with loads of soft fried onion and some bread to spread it on. If I’m honest it’s not really my thing, I didn’t care for the taste or texture. It tasted like congealed fat. I’ve tried it now and I’m happy to proceed through life without bothering again. The others enjoyed their starters though so all in all a happy group.
Main course was of course steaks. Here is where it all went a bit wrong. I cook steak at home and the basics are simple, you get the best bit of meat you can, season it, grill or broil it, leave it to rest and serve it hot. I ordered a 400g ribeye and it came to the table under seasoned and it had been resting for too long so half way through the steak it had gone cold. It also meant the fat congealed, really not nice and a bit of an ordeal to finish. The sides were also a bit disappointing, beef dripping fries luke warm at best, Macaroni cheese tiny portion, tomato salad laughable portion. Most of the others enjoyed their steak but as I was munching on my cold fat I couldn’t help thinking “Goodman” do this a lot better.
I don’t think the temperature of the food was aided by the vigorous air con which caused another problem. Apart from if you are sitting out on a summer day in the South of France or the Italian lakes red wine needs to be served at room temperature. However when a restaurant has the air con set to artic then all the wine is too cold and can’t be appreciated properly. Hawksmoor has a great wine list but the 3 bottles we tried all tasted underwhelming. These were at about £50 a pop so should have been served correctly. Fortunately the half bottle of tawny port we had with dessert was fine served air con chilled! Dessert was fine, I had a sticky toffee sundae. The double expresso I had after though was awful, burnt beans so really horrible. Fortunately the end of the meal was saved by a truly lovely Blandon’s cask bourbon which I would return for alone.
My brother kindly picked up the tab for us 5 but it came to £700 which was going some, for that sort of money the drinks, food and wine should have been perfect and really only the drinks were in that class. Hawksmoor can only get so far on it’s cool dude hype, I hope for their sake the new Air St is a lot better than Seven Dials as this really wasn’t in the same league as “Goodman” or “Gaucho”.
Monday, October 08, 2012
Food 4 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 6
One of my oldest friend’s Emir popped in to my office yesterday to say hello. Back in the 80’s Emir, my brother and I were the trio to know around Edgware Rd and Bayswater, well if you were under 10 that is. Emir may have taught me how to master my bike and manic miner on the Comodore 64 but he was also central to an important part of my culinary upbringing. His parents took me out for my very first McDonalds, I remember it well it was from the McDonalds on Edgware road and they then drove us into Hyde Park where we sat on the grass by the barracks and ate a cheeseburger. An addiction to junk food was born, so in that youthful spirit I suggested to Emir we pop out for a quick lunch at “Pitt Cue”. Emir lives in Switzerland so I was trying to explain to him what has changed in the London restaurant scene. The super star multi Michelin restaurants are out and instead the fashion is for smaller places, concentrating on a limited menu with no booking so creating a sense of excitement.
I had tried to get into Pitt Cue a couple of times before but been deterred by the lengthy queue. Yesterday being early lunchtime we walked and got the last couple of stools along the wall in the bar. To be honest this wasn’t the most comfortable option as there is really not a huge amount of room. “Bodeans” have stool seating but you get a lot more room around you. I said to Emir forget the paired down surroundings, places like this are all about the food. The waiter explained a bit about the menu and I went for pork ribs with a side of beans and Emir had beef ribs with coleslaw. We waited a little while for our food so enjoyed an Oki-ish house draught beer. The food arrived and I was a little let down I was expecting some tasty tangy little baby back ribs and instead I had 3 big fore ribs. They were tasty enough mainly of garlic but it wasn’t what I had in mind. They also weren’t cooked that evenly and the beans weren’t quite on a par with the “Bodeans” ones. Emir fared better his big beef ribs were perfectly cooked and extremely tasty, he also loved the coleslaw.
We didn’t stay for dessert as we were quite full and it’s not really a place to linger. The bill came to £40 but that worked out at a quid a minute based on the length of our visit. If I’m honest this place has a touch of the emperor’s new clothes about it. It doesn’t look special inside and sat on a small stool against a narrow bar you certainly don’t feel special. This is possibly tempered by feeling smug for bagging a spot in this hot new place. However in my case I was expecting a lot more from the food and really it didn’t deliver. Maybe I should have gone for beef ribs like Emir but in a place with only a few dishes on the menu it should all be spot on. I may pop back again for the beef ribs but it’s no destination place for me. The memory of that first cheeseburger is in no danger of being topped!
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Food 6 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 6
Back from holiday but not yet back to work, my lovely wife out having her hair done and baby G swimming I was at home at a loose end. It was lunchtime and after a morning doing various chores I fancied treating myself to a local lunch out. I had seen that greek cheap eats place “Costa’s” had gone to be replaced with bright new white walled greek place “Mazi”. I had walked past a couple of times and seen what a good facelift they had given the space. On the day of my visit I lingered a little longer in front of the door and saw they did a lunch deal, about £14 for 2 courses and if I remember correctly a few quid extra for a glass of house wine. The stuff on the menu was a little unfamiliar but I thought let’s give it a go. I was warmly greeted by one of the owners and shown through to the brilliant white dining room. They do have an outside courtyard but the weather was terrible so I stayed inside. Despite the possibly stark white interior there was a cozy atmosphere about half the tables were taken and there was a chilled out buzz about the place. The waitress bought me a little shot of Ouzo as way of a freebie and it was very nice, certainly better than some of the stuff I have had in Cyprus.
The owner came over and asked if I was clear on the menu I asked about a couple of dishes and settled on the fried filo pastry parcels with greek cheese and greek sausage which was meant to be spicy to be followed by the angels hair dessert. I also ordered a glass of house white which was fine but with hindsight I should have gone red. The fried filo pastry arrived and was indeed tasty and with a nice burst of heat but not a huge portion though the dipping sauce it came with was hearty and I finished that off with the bread. I liked it but sort of wish I’d had a big salad with it. With fried food you need something to counter act the oil. So a pass on the main but then came dessert. Wow possibly the best dessert I have ever eaten. It was angel hair which is thinly spun pastry covered in honey and syrup however this was combined with lovely unctuous greek yoghurt and sugared roasted hazzlenuts. It was delicious, sweet but with lots of nice texture. Some real pride had gone in turning this out. After polishing off every last bit I had a greek coffee to send me on my way.
All throughout the meal the service was warm and friendly. I’ve walked past a few times since and “Mazi” seems to be getting some good trade and some good write ups on here which is nice to see. I would like to pop back again and give the menu a wider try. We have certainly got a bit more variety now in Notting Hill.
Thursday, August 02, 2012
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
Date night for my lovely wife and I so we decided to go old school with a trip to the cinema. However as these night’s off from being dutiful parents are few and far between so we upscaled our night out by watching a film at the Lounge in Whiteleys. As a teen the newly done out Whiteleys was the de rigeur hang out place in West London. It was busy, fun and the cinema offered a nice change from the west end flea pits of the 90’s. These days a lot of the sparkle has worn off, the Westfield is the new Whiteleys and though Queensway had been threatening to gentrify itself it has now reverted to cheap Chinatown with random shops selling tat. Whiteleys has tried to re-brand itself as a more upmarket shopping/leisure experience so you have a branch of All Star Lanes and half the cinema screens have been converted to the upmarket Lounge format. When looking at the in movie dining option for the Lounge I was reminded that “Le Café Anglais” provided all the food. It’s on the same floor as the cinema so I suggested we give it a go.
The off street entrance and lift up to the second floor restaurant is possibly a touch unnecessary but possibly an effort to separate the restaurant from its surroundings. However once you step into the dining area you cannot help but be impressed with a beautiful airy room with a great view out over West London. The evening we went was quiet but it didn’t detract from being sat in somewhere that felt special. We passed on a meal in the café where a vigorous game of backgammon was taking place in favour of the main ding room. We had a nice table with a view, starched table cloth and a slightly uncertain waitress. I was taken with seasonal spring set menu so went for a Coronation chicken salad and roasted cod with samphire, my lovely wife when for old school parma ham and melon and cod and chips. It had a good wine list but we settled on an Austrian Gruner Vertliner. We also ordered a side of onion rings to go with the mains. It was a rare sunny evening so it was great to relax with our nice crisp wine to take in the view in a light cool atmosphere.
The starters were very nice, the parma ham that came with the melon was top notch, really tasty - a sign of good sourcing. My salad was light and tasty a good set up for the mains. My roast cod was excellent a good substantial piece of tasty cod perfectly cooked, really very nice indeed. However the fish and chips were a big let down. I am always suspicious of pieces of fish that come surrounded in huge amounts of batter, it often hides a small or bad quality piece of fish. Alas here this was the case, the piece of cod was big enough but badly filleted and cut off near the bone so it was all gristly (if you can get that with fish) my wife left a good third of it. However what saved the situation was the afterthought order of onion rings which were incredible. No stodgy rings in batter here but thin individual slices of onion tempura fried in a chilli batter, simply wonderful. We skipped dessert in favour of something whilst we watched the film. The bill was about £80 for two which was OK-ish but possibly not great when I consider that one of the mains wasn’t up to standard. However on the whole we liked the restaurant and are keen to come back, in fact our neighbours mentioned how good their seafood bar there is. It’s obvious a lot of effort has gone into getting this place looking and feeling right, they just need to ensure they don’t cut corners in the kitchen.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Food 6 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 7
It has been quite a while since Big Matt and I had been gigging but we decided to take a chance of The Temper Trap at KOKO. Not my favourite venue in London but relatively cheap, intimate and it afforded us the opportunity for a couple of beers and a bite to eat. From my point of view it was fortuitous timing as I could regale/bore big Matt with my trip to Munich to see the mighty Blues triumph. We met up at the ever excellent Toucan off Soho Square. After a fairly average pint of cider we fancied something to eat before going to the gig. If there is one fact I have learnt in the amateur restaurant reviewing game it is never eat in Camden, it’s a drinking area only. So bearing in mind that life lesson we thought we would try something in Soho. I considered “Pierre La Victoire” around the corner but Big Matt had been enticed by an Italian place handing out free pizza on his walk up from Piccadilly circus. So off we set to “Fratelli La Bufala” on Shaftesbury Avenue. It has to be said that it’s not a road that inspires culinary confidence, rough round the edges Chinese restaurants that didn’t make the Gerrard st auditions, a couple of chain places and fast food places after the tourist money are it’s staple. Fratelli La Bufala is right down by the Trocadero and we were greeted by a couple of waiters enticing punters with stone baked pizzas.
On entering we were offered a choice of tables and settled in for a brief bite to eat. The room itself is bright and airy. In one corner you have a huge pizza oven with chefs working on the bases. Over by the other window is a big fresh/raw bar with lots of nice looking salads meats and cheeses. This is definitely a step up from the norm. We order a couple of beers and a pizza each, the pizza comes before the Peroni! However the pizza is lovely, you can really taste the freshness of the ingredients. After a really average effort at “Pizza Metro” the other day it was nice to taste proper pizza. Big Matt went old school margarita which he thought was spot on. Mine had mushroom and ham along with some really creamy mozzarella. Top effort. Service was friendly but a bit confused. It took a while to pay which is a pet hate of mine. The bill was about £15 a head which was perfect, with these places what you lose on the booze you make up for on the food. They do a lot more than pizza and if the other produce is of such a high standard then this is a real find.
This is a really big restaurant, they have a floor upstairs as well so they need a lot of punters to stay in business. It was busy the night we went but not sure how they can cover what must be a huge rent flogging £10 pizza’s. It is heartening though to see a place as good as this in a traditionally poor area for eating out. We felt we had great value for money and a tasty meal. It set us up nicely for the gig which was pretty good though KOKO decided to shut the bar 10 sharp before the gig had even finished! I will definetly go here again.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Food 8 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 9
And so it was on our third attempt we succeeded in gaining entry to the place everyone wants to go! We had tried to eat here a couple of times before on Friday evening’s where the waiting time ranged from two and half hours at 7:30 to an hour and a half at 6! I like places that don’t allow you to book, it’s the great attraction of the impromptu evening out. Being parents now where every minute is planned around Baby G the odd lunch out is about as spontaneous as life gets. We had enjoyed a particularly nice morning with him around Holland Park but needed to drop him at his grandma so we could go shopping for his birthday present. I had formulated a plan to try and secure the elusive table but didn’t mention to my lovely wife as she had been annoyed at missing out the last two times. So on the bus up to the West End I suggested we go via Shepherds Market for a wander. As it was midday I suggested we grab an early lunch before all the shopping and give “Burger & Lobster” one last try. We pitched up at 12:30 and it was already full, however we were given the option of waiting an hour or eating at the bar. We rapidly agreed to the bar seats.
It actually worked quite well as the bar is shaped rather than straight so I we were partly sat facing each other which gave us a bit more of an intimate experience to our informal lunch at the bar. I was heady with the success of getting into this legendary Shangri-La that I ordered us a bottle of bubbles whilst we took in the atmosphere. I remember this site was once a dowdy Mayfair boozer and though you can tell it’s origins they have done a nice job tarting it up. The panelling gives it a clubby feel but it is far from stuffy. There was a nice buzzy atmosphere all through our time there. It reminded us of a trip to the “Spotted Pig” in New York. Well the menu doesn’t take much explanation, burger, lobster or lobster roll. We both went for the grilled lobster though my lovely wife was erring to the lobster roll. However when the lobster came out she wasn’t disappointed. A beautifully grilled lobster, a tin of fries, a side salad and a big saucer of garlic butter sauce. It tasted really very nice, though if I’m honest some bits were better cooked than others, the claw meat better than the main carcass. However this might be down to the grilling, I may try steamed next time. But all in all very nice dish especially once you dipped the lobster into the sauce. Some attention deserves to go to the side salad which was really very good and a nice counterbalance to the sweet lobster meat. We both thought that with such a limited menu it needs to be spot on and really this was. A lovely messy tasty lunch.
Lobsters seen off we still had a fair bit of champagne to finish so we were offered dessert. Just the two choices, we shared a deconstructed cheese cake which was cheese cake mix with the biscuit base added in. Served simply in a tub. Very nice, nice and light after our lobster and sharing a tub like this made us feel at home. Service was very friendly, the Goodman group always employ nice friendly staff and the guys behind the bar were very engaging. They made us feel special despite dining at the bar. They had a serious set up of booze going on so I’d be keen to try their cocktail list on my next visit. If I did have a criticism it would be that though this place is popular it really very small. The bar is not really big enough to have people eating and people waiting in it. A couple of times the bar got swamped and we felt a bit jostled. Most of the time it was fine though. Maybe they should only have waiting/casual drinking at one part of the bar. Overall though a very positive experience, top quality food at very competitive prices. The atmosphere was great in there, it felt new and exciting. It needs a bit of planning to actually get in but well worth a visit.
Monday, April 16, 2012
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 9
And so up to the City for lunch with my old Uni housemate Tazza. She is finally getting hitched later this year so being a gallant chap I offered to take her out for a celebratory lunch. Now “Gaucho” and “Goodman” apart I have struggled to have a good meal up in the city. It’s a nice area for a drink but the restaurants veer between unsatisfying soulless chains and very high end eateries. Finding the mid priced places can be tricky hence a lot of people head over to Farringdon and Clerkenwell. However amongst the usual suspects a few new places are popping up. Some of the city developments deserve a pat on the back for at least trying to get in some different tenants. “Brasserie Blanc” is a case in point, part of redeveloped block but offering something a bit more refined than the “Corney & Barrow” and yet affordable to most budgets. So after getting a little bit lost on my Boris bike I finally got to the Bank of England museum bay and wandered around to “Brasserie Blanc”. It’s on the corner of an alleyway running down off Old Broad St. As such it has a cake slice shape so big windows running down the side that narrow as you get to the entrance in the alleyway. The entrance has a small bar with some seating, you then walk up into the main restaurant with it’s high ceiling, additionally there is a sort of mezzanine level over the back that I imagine serves for spill over or private dining. As you can perhaps gather they have made good use of a rather odd shaped restaurant unit. The kitchen is on the opposite side of the room from the windows. It’s not open as such but it has a big passé so you can see the chefs finishing off the dishes.
I was a bit early so I sat in the bar waiting for Tazza, the staff were busy setting up for lunch but a few other people were already in the bar waiting to go through. It had a nice feel to it, I like to see restaurants like this just before they open, it creates a sense of anticipation. Despite their being plenty of staff milling around nobody offered me a drink which was a bit remiss but I didn’t have to wait long for Tazza to turn up and we were shown straight through to our table. As I pointed out the main restaurant is nice and open, it created a nice buzzy atmosphere without it becoming too loud even as it soon filled up. I think the intention here is to re-create the classic Parisian brasserie and to be fair they make a good stab at it. The menu is very much in that mould, lots of French classics. Tazza started with a mixed salad which she very much enjoyed. As I had cycled from the West End I treated myself to the cheese soufflé which was really very good, light but with lots of flavour and garnished with a nice salad. To follow we both had moules and frittes. The mussels were very nice, really sweet tasting, nice broth not too salty. The chips were a bit disappointing, they had skins on to show they were fresh cut rather than bought in but they lacked crunch. Another minute in the fryer would have helped. We washed this down which a perfectly nice Carafe of Sauvignon Blanc.
We were enjoying catching up and the restaurant had a great atmosphere so we decided to stay for dessert. I had a very nice lemon pudding which was drenched in a lovely lemon sauce with pieces of cooked off lemon. It was refreshing and again like the soufflé not too heavy. Tazza went for the cheese which was presented nicely and cut at the table for her. However some of the cheese itself had been left out too long and had got dried out. Not ideal might have been better to start the new week with fresh pieces. Anyway a couple of niggles aside we enjoyed a very nice lunch in a very nice restaurant. It was nearly full on a Monday lunchtime and I can see why. Service was friendly, professional and unobtrussive. Dishes came out, were served up and we were left to enjoy them which is all you really want. The bill came to about £100 with tip which was OK in my book. It was nice to see the brasserie concept done well like this.
Tuesday, April 03, 2012
Food 7 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 7
Friday night had gone a bit wrong, we were meant to be going to “Burger & Lobster” for my sister in laws birthday. Despite meeting up early at the nearby “Ye Grapes” when we went round to get a table the wait was an hour and a half which was not our idea of a fun Friday night. It’s the second time we’ve struck out there, maybe lunch is the easier option. So there we were relatively early on Friday evening trying to figure out what to do. My brother then suggested going off to “Ripe Tomato” on All Saints Road. He sold it to us as offering hearty rustic italian food. I was more geared to a night out in town but this sounded a decent option so off we went. All Saints Road itself has come a long way since the early 90’s when it very much no go after dark unless you were looking to buy drugs. Nowadays it is on the cusp of gentrification with a couple of smart eateries and trendy interiors places but also some of the original shops which gave it a bit of edge. “Ripe Tomato” probably belongs a bit in both camps. It’s the local Italian and the menu and look is rustic however some of the clientele is pure Notting Hill darling! A girl on the next table to us came in looking like resistance leader from Allo Allo and didn’t remove her beret or raincoat all meal.
We were celebrating a birthday so there was plenty of booze to go with our meal. We kicked off with a bottle of Prosecco which the others enjoyed but I found too sweet. We were very hungry so we shared a lovely cheese and tomato garlic bread with our starters. I had a starter portion of one of the blackboard specials which was a cheese and asparagus risotto, it was very tasty. My lovely wife has some calamari which were very well cooked, light batter and a soft texture. My brother had the lobster spaghetti which he wolfed down and the birthday girl had whitebait which I tried and found just OK. Onto mains and we went for a nice bottle of Amarone which was very reasonably priced. I had the seafood special which seemed to be a sort of boullabaise but with a pasata instead of broth. It was tasty but some of the shellfish was better than others, a few of the mussels could have done with more of a rinse as they were gritty and the prawns were overcooked. However as a whole the dish was nice and as it came with plenty of grilled bread it was fun to eat. It’s a dish I would like to try at home. The other mains lobster spaghetti, lamb steak and meatballs with spaghetti were all enjoyed. The portions were generous and the food hearty. The restaurant which had been empty when we came in soon filled up mostly with regulars. By the time the mains came out there was a nice hubbub in there.
The dessert selection was distinctly non Italian though I went for the Tiramisu which was only OK, I prefer mine with loads of booze. In my opinion it needs to be drenched in Massala like a Italian Rum Baba, the cream is only there for decoration. The others went chocolate cake which was very good, sticky toffee pudding which had a proper sauce made from treacle and a crumble with custard which my brother knocked back. This was all washed down with 2 lots of a pretty nice Vin Santo and a round of Limancello. The service was pretty good though it appeared the two male waiters were doing all the schlepping around whilst the two ladies (whom my brother thought were the owners) seemed more interested in staying behind the bar. It did mean we had to wait a while for the bill though we still left a cash tip as the two guys had looked after us well. The bill came to £75 a head with tip which seemed more than I expected but then we had consumed a fair amount of booze. On the whole I was happy with the meal though some of the dishes were better than others. It is definitely hearty and rustic food on offer here and by the end of the meal I felt stuffed and really needed to walk home to digest it properly. It’s a friendly lively little restaurant and it is thankfully free from the Notting Hill attitude of a lot of the places near here. It’s a good local Italian for the area but just a bit too far for us to use regularly. All in all a nice night out.
Monday, March 26, 2012
Food 6 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 7
And so to Putney with the chaps on a rare Friday night out, now that we are fast approaching middle age our drinking needs to be done sitting down and preferably with some food. Big Matt and I had done some scouting out for venues on our last trip and the Prince of Wales seemed to fit the bill. A nice old style boozer that has been tarted up and does gastro influenced food. We checked in advance and it had the ubiquitous £11 burger so that was us sorted. We met at 7:45 which was a good time to arrive, the post work drinkers were beginning to drift home and other revellers hadn’t made it here yet. Being Friday night it was a young crowd in but unlike a lot of places there was nothing to put off the more mature drinker. With some good bar skills we bagged ourselves a table near the bar and settled in for the night. We could have gone through to the main eating area which is around the back of the pub but it was nice being in amongst pub buzz.
Ordering at the bar was a bit of a struggle at times as it isn’t very big and they had seats at it so the serving area was a bit crushed. Having said that the staff were good at getting through the punters but I do prefer to have something to prop against whilst I’m waiting to be served. Anyway a couple of pints in I went up to put in our £11 burger orders, was pleased they asked about cooking (2 mediums and a well done) The burgers arrived with napkins, cutlery and condiments about 20 minutes later and I have to say I was impressed. It was a good size with very tasty patty, a nice amount of relish and good portion of gherkin. The bun was really good seeded fresh and crisp. An extra bonus were the chips, not fries, which were triple cooked so really crispy and tasty. Big Matt ,who is just wrong, doesn’t like good chips like this so I polished his off. We all agreed very nice and very filling also at £11 terrific value for money.
Our appetites sated we could relax and sup our drinks and discuss the important matters in life like why king Kenny bought Jordan Henderson, why one of our employers insists everyone reverse into their parking spaces and why Villa Steve doesn’t like the Matrix. It was a fun night out in a very good pub. It is well worth a detour to check out. I imagine the food in the main restaurant is good but you know sometimes it is nice to go to a lively pub for a drink and the food is an incidental bonus.
Monday, March 19, 2012
Food 8 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 9
2012 is a massive year for London, so many visitors will flock here and yet I fear for what impression they will take away of the capital’s food. Especially if they find themselves in Baker St and go into the enticing “Canteen”. To be fair Canteen looks the part, it is in the old M&S building which I think now houses offices and a hotel. Footfall is not an issue whilst we were there yesterday a steady stream of custom came in. The entrance is grand through big glass doors up a ramp and into the restaurant, smart looking bar on one side, booths at the back. Lots of subdued strip lighting. However when you get to your table the problems start. The long canteen table is fine but the stool like chairs without backs are not. I’m wearing a jacket so nowhere to hang it. There are some coat hooks by the table but you know this is central London and I want to keep close watch on my jacket and it’s contents. We were meeting up with some of the old NCT crowd so 6 adults and 3 nearly 2 year olds. To be fair the highchairs were very good. Baby G was happy in his for most of the meal. The menu is quite big with plenty of choice we had turned up at 11 so were able to avail ourselves of breakfast items or lunch. My lovely wife went for the eggs benedict, we ordered a kids portion of Macaroni cheese for the noisy baby G and I went with a big childhood favourite of mine eggs, bacon and bubble & squeak. The others went for a mixture of cooked breakfasts and eggs.
Drinks came first and though my mocha looked pretty with a solid layer of foam, the drink however was lukewarm at best, which is really not on. If you can’t make hot coffee you are in the wrong game. Our waiter though very willing was new to the job and London so I did feel for him slightly. So tap water came by the glass instead of just giving us a carafe so we could help ourselves though he did rectify this later on. I tried to order the kids a plate of twiglets to keep them occupied but the bar had run out which was lax of them. When the food came the disappointment really set in. I think the eggs dishes were fine but baby G was less than impressed with his Macaroni cheese. He absolutely loves cheese so I was surprised, I tried it myself and it was lukewarm and they seem to have added undercooked onion to it giving it a bitter taste. My dish was also poor, again not terribly warm, eggs fine but lacking taste, bacon was cut thick but not properly grilled off so it was rubbery and as for my bubble & squeak it was too heavy on the potato, no seasoning, no flavour. Just awful, I’ve had this out before even the local pub in my in-laws village manages to make their cash & carry bought version taste nice.
So I sat there staring out of the window looking at all the happy people sat outside “Galvin” who were no doubt about to eat decent food and thinking that down Baker St is the “Royal China” where we could have all ate like kings. Instead I was sat in the soulless hanger of a restaurant paying £30 for terrible food. I could see into the kitchen here and it looked professional yet to me it seemed like they were merely turning cheap ingredients into something worse. Chain places like this don’t need to be bad. I went to “Cote” the day before and had a lovely lunch. I know that with somewhere like this they get a steady stream of one time customers so don’t need to try that hard but that shouldn’t be the case. As I walked out unsatisfied with a hungry toddler I feared for what tales some of London’s visitors will tell of our capital’s cuisine.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Food 2 | Service 3 | Atmosphere 3 | Value for money 2
Well our search continues: Chelsea’s for a decent run of form (beating Bolton at home is like giving the Angus Steak house a bad review) and the West Stands chaps for somewhere to have a pre-game meal and drink. “Frantoio” was a good option but the fact it is nowhere near the tube makes it tricky for when Carl brings his son. I thought that maybe the way forward was to go chain after all Bodeans is part of one. Therefore we booked the new Cote by Parsons Green. It fitted a number of criteria: near a tube station, near the best pub in West London (The White Horse), pretty straightforward walk to the ground from it. There were some fears it would prove pricey but I checked online and they had a number of well priced weekend specials. Booking was very easy online as well. So I set off Saturday with high hopes.
It has to be said on the whole we weren’t disappointed. The restaurant was packed out but our table was ready and waiting with the complementary filtered water, always a nice touch. We all went for the special so 2 steak and chips and 3 half chickens with beans and potato gratin, all priced at a tenner. Carls son went for beef bourgignon off the kids menu. We also ordered their version of garlic bread, beer and wine. Now the drinks and garlic bread came up quickly but the mains did take a while. However we were actually sat right by the passe so we could see how busy the kitchen was but everything coming out looked very nice. When our own food came it was good. My chicken was perfectly cooked, lovely and moist which a nice rich cream sauce, I liked my beans but maybe the gratin wasn’t top draw but overall impressive. The others enjoyed the steaks which though thin were tasty. The beef bourgignon was wolfed down so another satisfied punter. My only complaint was that as we were pressed for time it meant that the delay meant us having to bolt such nice food. Mind you have we booked in 30 minutes earlier I think lunch would have been a bit more convivial.
The bill came to £20 a head which was very reasonable in terms of the food but I did think £18 for a bottle of very indifferent Fitou was a bit cheeky. It does annoy me how restaurants overcharge customers on wine and chain restaurants despite their bigger purchase power are some of the worst with their mark ups. Service was good and we were kept topped up with the complimentary water. There was a good mix up of clientele in here, football fans, families having lunch and friends catching up. I much prefer this to the one in High St Ken which is very touristy. It’s not the most spacious inside, they have managed to pack a lot of tables into what was a very small pub “the Novello”. However it works well as a restaurant and I think the chaps would be happy to come back again.
Monday, February 27, 2012
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 7
Now back to the serious matter of football in general and Chelsea in particular. It has not been a good season at all and I put it firmly down to “Langan’s Bar & Grill” in Earls court shutting halfway through last season. How we loved our pre-match meals before wandering down to the Bridge. Since then we have struggled to find a regular haunt. “Bodeans” is decent enough but getting a table is a lottery, “Butchers Hook” is too busy, “Sophie’s Steakhouse” too pricey. None has been a consistent choice so our pre-match ritual has floundered much like the team this season. However just recently we have been going to Frantoio on the Kings Road. Now location wise it isn’t ideal as it is nowhere near the tube and stupidly the Boris bikes don’t cover that area. From the outside it doesn’t look much and in fact inside is a bit of a mish mash of styles. However the welcome is warm and pre-match it is busy with a nice mix of footie fans and regulars.
Beardy Marc knows the owner well so we do tend to get looked after. The menu is standard Italian trattoria but without the pizza. Last time I had some very nice deep fried seafood in a very light batter followed by a seriously tasty and wafer thin escalope of veal. It was really very nice indeed, good portions of nice tasty food. You can’t really ask for more. Desserts were a bit hit and miss, the tiramisu needed a bit more booze but all the guys really enjoyed their food. It has been very busy during our last two visits but the staff have got all the food out in plenty of time and of course you can have a nice drink whilst you wait.
What really helps the place is the nice staff particularly the owner who wanders around his very busy joint entertaining the customers. A real character and a nice change to the sterile and soulless vibe of most London chain eateries. You don’t get the manager of Carluccio’s parading around in a customer’s fur coat! Food always seems to come to about £25-£0 a head which is good value for a hearty feed and a few drinks. So all in all the chaps were impressed and this is worth a walk out of the way. This sort of place shows that an expensive modern look and cutting edge faddy food can only get you so far you need a generate a good atmosphere. Frantoio delivers that in bags, nice to have a fun place to go to pre-match again!
Thursday, February 02, 2012
Food 7 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 8
Big Matt has moved to Brentford or Hounslow by Thames as the locals refer to it so alas no more nights out in Ealing with its fine pubs and organic food village. However based on my first few forays under the road in the Sky Brentford has a lot to offer. Having said that we didn’t get that far this time and were out in Northfields. We started off at the Plough where the plan had been to eat but unfortunately it was packed in there so no chance of seat to eat. We conferred over a couple of beers as to what to do and Matt sensible chap that he is suggested we try Northfields Chinese Maxim’s. He had tried the takeaway from there before and pronounced it good so in we went.
Northfields seems to have a fair few nice restaurants and Maxim’s fits the bill, a nice reception area as you enter and then into a smart dining room. The restaurant was pretty busy with the locals of Northfield, despite a couple of tables being free we were shown to the rear room. I got the impression you had to earn the right to sit in the main room. However service swiftly followed with a couple of Tsing tao’s and some prawn crackers. All very nice and the rear room filled up giving it a bit more atmosphere. We ordered a selection of Chinese 101 and it was really very nice. Well cooked and tasty. It reminded me of meals at “Lam’s” on King st though this was much more grown up as sadly are Big Matt and I. The bill came to about £30 each which was fine in my book. This is a nice busy local chinese restaurant that deserves to do well. I am keen to return soon.
Monday, January 30, 2012
Food 8 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 8
It was that awkward week between Christmas and New Year when London is half shut and there isn’t a great deal to do. We were keen to do a bit more with baby G than the usual trip to the park or shopping so we caught up with Big Matt and his family for a play in a park in Chiswick and then lunch. The park didn’t quite work as we parked in the wrong place and once we got to the park it started raining. Baby G was most upset at being dragged away from the slide. This didn’t fill us with great hopes for his behaviour at lunch. However in choosing “Sam’s brasserie” Matt and Kathy had made a sound choice. It’s tucked down a little lane off Chiswick High road by Turnham Green so nice and quiet. Inside is industrial restaurant refit 101 but it works well as there is loads of space. We were shown to a big round table with lots of room for the boys to play at the table without knocking over anything.
The menu is classic brasserie style with some old favourites and some with a new twist. I decided to go a bit alternative and go for the fish curry which came with rice and pickles. The curry sauce was very nice as were the rice and pickles but the fish less so. One of the drawbacks of London at this time is some of the produce is not that fresh so alas my fish tasted a bit old. Having said that everyone else enjoyed their meals and it all looked nice with good portions so I think in this case I chose wrong. Baby G in particular loved his pasta, which was nicely seasoned and tasty. He also liked the bread pinching most of mine. However when it came to dessert Sam’s really won me over with a superlative banana split. I shared it with my lovely wife and it was delicious, top stuff. Baby G was kept busy with some ice cream.
The food wasn’t that quick coming out which is usually a problem when dining with our boy but it didn’t matter here as all 3 boys were really well behaved. Happy to be in a big spacious restaurant with lovely food. In fact a party of elderly diners at the next table came up to us and complemented us on the behaviour of the children, I can tell you that’s never happened to baby G before. The chaps were driving but the girls got through bloody mary’s and a bottle of wine so by the end of our lunch there was a very happy atmosphere. The bill was about £80 per family which wasn’t bad. All in all a very successful lunch in very nice surroundings. It offers hope that the long leisurely lunch may not be an activity of my past.
Monday, January 23, 2012
Food 7 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8
It should have been a glorious celebratory lunch, my mate Shandy had turned 40 and he had invited 10 of us out to “Mews of Mayfair” to eat good food and quaff good wine. Baby G was happily around at grandma’s. So my lovely wife and I set off to partake in that long forgotten glorious pre parent cultural phenomenon “The boozy Sunday lunch”. We had been to “Mews” before for drinks and it has the same very cool for school atmosphere of other places on Lancashire Court like “Hush” and “Rocket”. Shandy had organised some champagne for us which we happily quaffed whilst we waited to be shown up to our table. This did take quite a while but we weren’t in a rush though we were quite hungry by the time we were seated at 2PM for a 1PM lunch. The dining room is very different to the fashionably clubby bar downstairs, it’s like going from a Bret Eston Ellis novel into Brideshead revisited. So we were shown to our table in a very bright pristine dining room with an older clientele. it was actually a nice contrast and a great use of the period house.
As there were 10 of us we had a separate menu which I have to say didn’t grab me that much. There seemed to be a surfeit of beetroot on the menu which though seasonal I cannot stand so I went for the last refuge of a scroundel: “soup of the day”. Actually it was very nice and it had a quails egg in it which I hadn’t seen before. Good as it was it took a very long while to reach us which meant we probably had more wine than usual. The mains were a problem for me, only 4 options, a very expensive steak which the birthday boy had and really enjoyed, a veggie option (no thank you) a baillotine of pheasant which was again seasonal but I’m not a big fan of game so I went for the prawns on samphire…. For my £24 main I got a plate with a little mound of samphire and 3 yes 3 jumbo prawns. Luckily we ordered some sides for the table. Now biting into my first prawn something didn’t quite taste right but being a gung ho and hungry sort of fool I proceeded to eat the meagre offering. My wife’s ballotine was also not well cooked parts of it being dry and tough and others almost raw I noticed she was not the only one in our party who left part of her meal uneaten. Desserts were fine though I was feeling a bit queasy by this point so stuck to ice cream.
Now Let’s not say I am not fair, I did inform the restaurant the following day about the problem with the meal and to their credit they got back to me swiftly, offering a meal on the house, explaining how the dish is sourced, prepared and priced. They also offered to investigate matters further if I wished. I thought that was very professional but I’m reluctant to return there again. All in all we didn’t feel the food warranted the very pleasant surroundings or the hefty prices, they would be better toning down the menu and getting the cooking right. It also took them 4 hours to serve us lunch which I thought was more about encouraging us to drink more. Having said that Shandy really enjoyed his 40th and everyone seemed happy. However I really can’t see myself eating here again. The Olympics are happening this year which means a lot of visitors in central London which means higher end restaurants like Mews need to raise their game or London will regain it’s reputation for bad expensive food!
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
Food 3 | Service 5 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 1
The day was not going well, my lovely wife was back to work, baby G was with his nanny so I decided to go shopping. I could not have picked a worse day, the weather was catastrophic, the sales staff in John Lewis largely disinterested and the fancy paper bag holding my two new fancy shirts did not repel the rain. This led to the shirts falling into a large puddle, my newly shined leather shoes being ruined and all my clothes getting soaked. I took refuge in the excellent Young’s pub “The One Tun” and over a lovely pint of Winter warmer dried out a bit and tried to plan the rest of my day. I was supposed to meet my lovely wife for lunch at “the Salt Yard” but it was shut. She suggested “Navarro’s” but added the caveat that it was a bit ordinary which didn’t fill me with confidence. So I wandered down to her office in a generally damp fashion thinking lunch would also be a washout. However I then spotted the “Gaucho” on Charlotte St and thought possibly a bit extravagant but why not.
We entered and the nice receptionist took my sodden coat and purchases off me and we were lead down to the basement restaurant which was empty but very welcoming. I do admire Gaucho for giving a touch of the nightclub to their restaurants. I like the kitchy cowpelt chairs and furry walls, it makes a change from the rather austere decoration elsewhere. We were seated and some lovely bread and pimento oil turned up. They don’t do a special offer lunch menu like “Goodman” which is a bit of a shame but the standard menu has plenty of choice. My wife needed to be back at work in an hour so it was just mains and a carafe of house Malbec for us. She went for the medallion fillets which she always choses but I decided to go off piste from my usual rib-eye and try a rump steak. We ordered some chips and spinach as sides. The steaks turned up and were very good. I was initially disappointed with my portion which was small but the waiter explained the rump I had chosen was cut thin so they actually came back later with seconds as dishing all up at once would lead to it getting cold. A nice touch I thought! The chips were very good, thin and nicely seasoned. However the spinach was far too garlicky. However the main attraction is the steak and these were well cooked, seasoned and delicious.
There was no room or time for desert but we did have coffee which rounded of a nice meal. Lunch came in at £90 with tip which is expensive for lunch for two consisting of one course and wine. However we did enjoy ourselves and the service was very friendly. So overall we were very happy that this was our refuge from the rain. I do like Gaucho as a chain, it’s sleekness and uber professional approach may not be for everyone but I really think the food speaks for itself.
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 7
It was my lovely wife’s birthday last week so as a treat we decided to go out for an early family dinner with Baby G. We have taken him out for meals a bit more recently but you do need to pick your venues and timings carefully. My wife had actually tried "Granger & Co" a couple days earlier for breakfast and had been very impressed. She got chatting to Bill himself and he had recommended we return for a family meal. He suggested 5PM was a good time in there for families with young children. So up we pitched a little before 5 to the new kid on the Westbourne Grove. The restaurant is very sleekly kitted out, a symphony of cream furnishing. Unlike its neighbouring competitors this is a restaurant pure and simple, no deli counter , no home furnishings, the focus is on the diner and the food to order. They were still getting organised for evening service when we came in but we were quickly shown to a spacious table and a high chair attachment was found for baby G. The manageress came over and said that they could do a child’s portion on any of the mains for baby G. So far so good.
However it all went a bit wrong after a promising start. Our waiter who was obviously new to the restaurant, appeared to be new to waitering as he gave us the wrong menus. As it turned out the dinner and lunch menus are very similar but it did result in a couple of the dishes turning up very different to what we envisaged. Also the whole child’s portion promise didn’t seem to have been communicated to the kitchen so baby G got an adults plate and portion. Fortunately the food was good. I had the fish curry which was very nice though for £14 I was expecting a bigger portion. The rest of the food looked and tasted nice. The restaurant soon filled up with a mix of families and people out for a post work bite. This made a nice change from our default early evening place “Pizza Express” which can be like a mausoleum at this sort of time. We did see Bill Granger pop in a couple of times whilst we were there keeping an eye on proceedings.
So we having had our meal I was feeling slightly ambivalent towards this new venture but they then rescued the situation by the waiter turning up at the table with a birthday cake, lighted candles and a quick rendition of happy birthday. Baby G’s nanny had gone in earlier today to see if they were happy to present a cake which they were so dessert came courtesy of M&S. It was a nice touch that not everywhere does nowadays so my opinion improved considerably. So all in all I’d say that Granger & Co is a work in progress, good food but they needed to get the service right. I am always wary of places with too many waiting staff. I always find more can be achieved with fewer but better trained staff. So though not entirely successful, we did enjoy our family birthday meal and we will be back again.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Food 8 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 7
After reading so much about Meat liquor I was very keen to give it a go, especially as my diverted bus passes by it every morning. It is under the NCP in Welbeck st on the site of what was the Spaghetti House many years ago. My father used to come for lunch here every week back in those days and had his usual table. Since then it has gone through many different guises though no one has lasted long. Maybe a burger and booze place could turn the site round. There is no obvious branding on the outside and the painted over windows really make you think it is an abandoned space. So on entering you are all the more surprised to see it packed. We popped in at 12:30 on Thursday and it was already busy. The décor is eclectic to say the least, lots of graffiti type murals, an assortment of odds and sods furniture, a loud rock soundtrack playing. It reminded me a bit of the old Rib Shack.
In between trying to figure out where my dad’s table was in the rejigged interior we scanned the short menu and ordered a couple of beers, a cheese burger for me and my lovely wife had the chicken burger. The beers came up quickly and were very nice. The bar was certainly busy, all the cocktails are served in jam jars to give it the shebeen sort of atmosphere. By 1PM the restaurant was packed and I think orders were backing up in the kitchen as from what I could see half the restaurant were waiting for food. The young service team seemed eager to please but did seem a bit taken aback by how busy it was on a Thursday lunchtime. However just as I was about to get annoyed our food turned up and was well worth the wait.
The food came on a tray with no plates so we got involved in the whole casual atmosphere and ate off the plentiful kitchen roll they provided. My burger was absolutely delicious. Really tasty, loads of filling, moist and messy. It was so good I didn’t mind that it splattered over my shirt. We also ordered a side of fries and some onion rings which were generously portioned and cooked in fresh oil which makes the difference. My wife’s chicken burger was also superb. Often this is a bit of an afterthought but it was again moist and coated in a hot seasoning which made it really tasty. All in all we really enjoyed our food and it was worth the wait. This place probably isn’t for everyone and I can’t imagine bringing baby G here for a while but it is different and it is fun. Our bill came to just over £30 which was good value. I look forward to returning and working my way through a few of their cocktails.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Food 9 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
I went here a while back with Big Matt’s parents who happened to be up in the West End and popped in to the office to say hello. They were down in London for shopping and a show and invited me along for a quick bite if I could recommend an Italian. I was a bit stuck as my favourite non chain place “Il Pizzaolio” was away in the wrong direction so we wandered into Soho where I hoped that inspiration would grab me. As it was as we turned into Beak Street I saw Polpo and suggested we try for a table. It was busy inside but we were seated straight away so none of the queue rage/table envy experienced by many other reviewers on this site.
We picked a fair few items off the menu to try but I wasn’t bowled over. I realise that this is essentially Italian tapas but I did think there were too many bread options on it which aren’t a great challenge for the kitchen. We ordered a couple of fish dishes, one meat and a pasta dish. All were nice but nothing superlative and due to the piecemeal nature of them arriving it never really worked as a proper meal for 3. I think Tapas and to a greater degree Chinese work so well because the kitchens tend to get everything out together. I also felt that the pasta dish which was the best of our selection was very small, personally I think for pasta to work as a sharing dish you need a decent portion so you can use it as a side. The carafe of white wine we had however was very nice, it wasn’t too punchy so I didn’t spend the afternoon fighting off sleep. As I said the restaurant was busy so there was a nice buzz from the room which made up for the so so food.
All in all not a very successful meal out. It has to be said I am getting a bit fed up with the fad for sharing plates. I know someone is going to tell me that Italians have been doing sharing plates for years and this isn’t an example of the emperor’s new unimpressive wardrobe. I don’t think a lot of Italian food lends itself to this concept and it showed in the menu. If I want to share Italian food in future I will stick to my pizza at “Pizza Metro”. I didn’t pay for the meal but I know the bill was high for what we had. I think there is obviously some good money to be made giving the gullible smaller portions and calling it tapas.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Food 5 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 4
Saturday was a very busy day with lots of running around but amidst all the various chores we managed to catch up with some NCT friends for a brunch with babies. Our friends had recommended the Alice House in Queens Park as a good spot for the boys to run around. For us it worked very well, it was easy to find and there is free parking on Salasbury road at the weekend. Baby G was very happy to see his little friends and the 3 boys proceeded to make plenty of noise which was ironic as we were sat in a part of the restaurant called the library!
The Alice house is a big space but very nicely done out with lots of nooks so you can have a more intimate time, well as much as you can with three 18 month old boys. At the rear of the space is a rather impressive wooden bar. Despite a busy Friday night the whole place was spotless. Our friends had popped along one evening when it is very much a bar for young trendies yet during the day it is transformed it a nice eatery. I do like restaurants that can do this yet maintain a separate identity for each, it's a neat trick to pull off.
We got down to ordering our various breakfasts and drinks from the very friendly staff. They bought us over goodie bags for the boys which were very handy as the stickers kept them amused and quiet for a good 10 minutes. I was very impressed with my mocha and my lovely wife really enjoyed her freshly squeezed orange juice. My breakfast was equally good, really first class sausages and bacon, very well cooked. I get used to so many bog standard cooked breakfasts that it is a real pleasure when you are served up something exceptional. My lovely wife had a lovely eggs on toast with a side of house made hash browns again very nice. All the others cleaned their plates.
What set this place apart as well was the very friendly happy staff. A real contrast to some of our local places in Notting Hill (yes you daylesford). They wanted to help us and also allowed the boys to have a good time. As I mentioned before the space is big enough to do that without disturbing other customers. The bill came to around £30 a couple which I thought very reasonable for a top breakfast in such a nice restaurant. So after about an hour and a half we set off well fed and happy ready to take on the petrol queue at the Sainsbury's on Ladbroke Grove!
Monday, November 14, 2011
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 9
Long time no review! Big Matt has moved house so the Notting Hill, Ealing nights out are no longer so easy. However he can get a pretty fast train to Putney and that works well for me as well so we met up last night for drinks and food. It's been years since I have been out around here so I was keen to see what was on offer. After passing a very very empty tapas bar we happened upon Wallace and Co. The menu looked nice enough so we popped in and were shown to a booth table by the friendly manager. It's a nice enough room though quite bare, I think the design and layout are geared to the daytime trade but I think with a bit more effort they could give it a bit more of a bistro feel for the evening. There were some nice options on the menu so I went for the braised lamb shoulder following a recommendation from the manager and Big Matt had the duck leg confit. We skipped starters but ordered some bread and dripping.
The bread and dripping arrived though I wasn't a big fan, the bread was excellent but the dripping just tasted like congealed fat. Perhaps they should have served it warmer. Luckily my bottle of Adnam's got rid of the taste. The mains took a while to arrive though the manager was apologetic as their was a large group to cater for. I think one of the problems in here is though some dishes come from the kitchen others come from the deli counter which can lead to delays when putting together the service for the table. Anyway when our mains came they were very nice. Big Matt loved his duck leg which looked lovely and my lamb and beans were very tasty. Suprisingly my big disapointment was our side of veg, in the menu it said it would be enough for two. What we good was some decent cauliflower cheese, a couple of carrots and some overcooked broccoli. I was expecting a lot more quantity and quality bearing in mind this place is owned by a greengrocer.
The bill came to just over £20 each which I thought was fair. It's not expensive for the food you are getting though I was expecting better from the veg. The service was very friendly though I did feel they were struggling slightly. There does seem to be some work in progress here. I think it is only a couple of steps away from being a very good all day eatery. I'd be happy to try it again possibly day time as I think with the outside seating and big glass frontage it could be a very pleasant spot
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Food 7 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 8
Was up in the city a few weeks ago to meet up for a crafty Friday pint with my old friend Stuart. After spending a very long time locating the hidden Boris bike bays, we caught and enjoyed a nice couple of pints in Leadenhall market. The beer had made us both peckish so we decided to upgrade the after work pint to dinner. We wondered around the city a bit aimlessly until I remembered Goodman had a city branch which turned out to be close by. We tried to secure a walk in table but they were full but asked us to wait at the bar and they would try and get us a table. As it turned out we only had to wait 30 minutes and the time was well spent having a couple of drinks.
We were then shown to our table and ordered a couple of house rib eyes and a nice bottle of cab sab. The food was a good as the Mayfair branch, perfectly cooked steaks served with the best chips in London. This is bigger than the Mayfair branch so a bit more is made of the bar and the meat hanging room is visible. I think with a bit more room they have added to the theatre of eating a steak. It is dark and atmospheric with light of the open kitchen at the rear. Service was very good our waitress was very friendly and helped us choose a desert wine that would go with our cheese we greedily had after our steaks..
We weren't rushed and really enjoyed our meal. It was a more mixed crowd than Mayfair which is very male. The fact it was full on a Friday night when the city usually thins out is testament to it's quality. Goodman steaks are so good I won't order steak at any other restaurant they never come close. Stuart kindly treated me to dinner and I know it isn't cheap here but you do get a fantastic meal for your money.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Food 10 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 9
Met up with an old uni friend Tazza for a spot of lunch in the city. As it was short notice she suggested the Corney & Barrow near her office. I cycled up there from the West End on a Boris bike which was fine except that finding a bike bay in the square mile is tricky. they're not as obvious as up in the West End. Anyway I got there finally a bit hot and bothered and ordered myself a lager shandy. Inside it's basically an upmarket All Bar one. A lot of clean lines and chrome, you do get table service but food and drink was slow coming, you'd get faster at a normal restaurant. Tazza had a beef sandwich which she liked. I was a bit non plussed by the menu so went for the burger with bacon and cheese. I asked for medium and got dried well done. It was a shame as the burger was good quality and very meaty. the chips were good though.
Half way through the meal we were looked after an extremely profesiional and friendly waiter who recommended a couple of glasses of wine for us to try. He was good and deserved to be working somewhere better than this. Even his effort with the wine was spoilt by the bar taking so long to get the order out to us. Not sure what it cost as Tazza paid but I don't think I would be in a hurry to head back. It had a nice enough atmosphere but more corporate than I'm used to. It does seem with the city that if you want anything half decent you have to pay top money. At least in the West End you can casual dine relatively inexpensively.
Monday, July 11, 2011
Food 3 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 5 | Value for money 5
Popped in here last week for a quick bite with a work colleague and a nice lunch was had by all. I've been here before many years ago and remember the food being good. It's a Youngs pub so I know the beer will be top notch. The speciality here is pies so I went for a classic steak and kidney whilst Dave went for the chicken pie. We settled down to enjoy our pints and about 15 minutes later out came our pies, properly cooked through with a nice helping of chips. My pie was great loads of meat and kidney, a tasty gravy and perfect chips. At just under a tenner for a pie of this quality I thought it was great value. Dave was less convinced by his pie which he felt had too much tarragon but he admitted it was a generous helping with no shortage of meat.
This being a mayfair pub the clientele is very much suited with a bias to the older punter looking for a slice of yesteryear. It is perhaps not the most attractive boozer in the West End but it is clean and the food is great. It certainly gives some of the more expensive restaurants in the area a run for their money and this is the best pub food I have had in a while. The bar staff were friendly and the food when ready was bought to us promptly. I will definitely pop back though you need to go early as it was full by 13:15 on the day we went.
Monday, July 04, 2011
Food 9 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 9
On the way back from a customer last week and rather than race back for the usual pret sandwich we decided to stop here for a quick bite. I've often passed this branch of the Good Earth and was keen to compare it to it's Knightsbridge stable mate. It was absolutly tipping it down so once we had negotiated the very strange one way system around the outside of the mill hill roundabout we parked up and ran into the restaurant. The staff were very friendly on entering and I readily took up their offer to hang up and dry out my jacket. I wasn'y massively busy inside but several tables were occupied by regulars. We sat down and ordered a dish each and a couple of portions of rice. The menu is the same as Knightsbridge with the same toppy prices. I stopped going there a few years ago as I found it expensive especially if you had a drink. As I we were working we just had soft drinks but the bill was still fairly expensive especially for Mill Hill.
Having said that the food was very nice indeed. The lamb cooked with chilli was very tasty as was my chicken dish. Nice flavours not too greasy and it didn't leave me thirsty all afternoon. The service was very good and I could tell the staff here make a real effort to cultivate return business. The regular who forgot his wallet was told not a problem and to pay when he came in next week. Similarly the couple with a young baby were shown to a nice table and well looked after. The interior is pretty standard chinese restaurant 101 but then who wants to stare out at the A41? Not sure I would make a detour to dine here but it's worth negotiating the one way system for and it was a good refuge from the driving rain.
Monday, July 04, 2011
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 5
Popped in here a few weeks ago when we were staying at the hotel opposite. We arrived late Saturday on a balmy afternoon so having skipped lunch we thought a well timmed mid afternoon snack would see us through to dinner at our friends. The outside section was extremely busy we lots of people enjoying drinking in the sun. We got a table inside and ordered a couple of Mojito's and meje platter. We actually fancied some other bits on the menu but I noticed there was a deal on the mezze. It turns out that didn't apply on the weekend which was a bit misleading.
Our drinks were well made, lots of fresh mint with accent on being refreshing rather than loading up on booze. I was less convinced by the mezze which was underwelming and came with some poor bread. The Merguez mini sausages should have been denounced as an affront to mediterranean cooking . Houmus was OK, there was some aubergine stuff I didn't care for and an OK tabouleh salad. As I said underwelming!
It had obviously been busy all day like the one in Fulham so it looked a bit untidy inside. The staff though efficient looked a bit spent. I also wasn't very happy how they responded to my query about the mezze non offer. The interior is nicely laid out and that and the menu promises an deep culinary and cultural experience but the food didn't really deliver. I really wish we had tried some of the other nearby places. Not somewhere I wish to return.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Food 3 | Service 4 | Atmosphere 5 | Value for money 2
Popped in here for lunch with my lovely wife a few weeks ago and we had a pretty good meal. I wouldn't say it was enormously memorable but we enjoyed it. The food in Pho is very fragrant and fresh tasting though I personally prefer oriental food with a bit more oompff! It's not the most attractive site in the world, very functional like our favourite "Ramen Seto". Service was organised and the focus is on turning tables. It got very busy at lunchtime which gave it a nice buzz. I did enjoy the Vietnamese beer I had. The bill was reasonable but not cheaper than any other no thrills eatery. All in all it does a good functional lunch. My wife is a bigger fan than I!
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Food 7 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 7
We wanted to go through a few bits at work over lunch and being a Monday we thought we would give Pollen St Social a go. It certainly looks the part from the outside and is a vast improvement of a site that used to be the Pitcher and Piano. The two very tall girls behind the desk were able to find us a table in their large bar as the restaurant was full. Our first table was assembled from two round tables so a bit difficult to manage so they moved us to a corner seat with square tables. We settled in and ordered some drinks. I noticed the drinks menu came before the food menu the accent is very much on upselling. Our beers were very pleasant and my over colleague enjoyed his glass of house wine.
We decided to go for the set menu though one of us had a starter and main whilst we went for main and desert. The waitress helpfully suggested that if we were in a hurry they could bring the starter and two mains together followed by the main and two desserts, this worked well. they bought out some nice sourdough bread with butter and olive oil and butter concoction which was delicious. The first courses arrived, my coleeague enjoyed his salmon which was a sort of sushi reworking but a decent portion. We went for the lamb chop and lamb shoulder which was very nice. Not a massive portion but just right for lunch. Lots of nice meat, sauce and mash. I wanted to pick up the bones and clean them off like I do at home!
We were in the mood for another drink so decided to get a bottle of the house white which was OK but not amazing. The main and desserts followed. My colleague really enjoyed his hake which was served in a bowl with an emulsified sauce. He got the ever helpful waitress to pop back with some more bread which helped his dish go down nicely. My lemon meringue dessert was OK, it looked very nice and the finish on the plate was beautifull but it didn't pack enough punch for me. If you are using lemon and lime I really like to taste them. The owner/chef Jason Atherton popped in half way through our meal so it was nice to see he is on site.
We followed up our meal with some nice coffee and the bill. The meal for 3 came to £140 which I thought was toppy especially as we had eaten two courses each off the set menu. It turned out the house white weighed in at a hefty £33.50 which is going some for house wine. Actually all the drinks were expensive which pushes this place out of the realms of casual dining for me. I can eat and drink around the corner at "Wild Honey" for less. All in all a nice place though and worth a return visit but special occasions only.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 6
Big Matt was up in town last week for a job interview so he popped into the office to see if I fancied grabbing a bite. We couldn't really go to our normal hang out Bodeans as we thought rib sauce and interview attire might not be a good combination. We fancied something quick and easy so I remembered my mate Thommo had suggested I try Kua'Aina which a friend of his had opened. It is a hawaiian themed burger place. I had a bit of trouble finding it but then realised it was where Soho institution "Thanks for Franks" used to be. To be fair they haven't really done much with the interior from it's previous incarnation, some seating outside, the counter and grill along one side with some seating at the back and downstairs for eat in customers.
We sat at the back on a very small table and ordered our burgers at the counter. We both went for cheeseburgers mine with a grilled onion. The food was freshly cooked but came quickly in a basket. It had a bit of salad with it and a lone carrot which was a bit random. The burger was good and in a nice fresh bun. We finished up pretty quickly but were slightly at a loss to know what was hawaiian about here. They were certainly busy with takeaway food but the eat in area needs some more work. At the moment it is about as Hawaiian as Francois Mitterand. I would go back though as sometimes a good honest burger is what you need.
Monday, May 09, 2011
Food 7 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 3 | Value for money 7
Good Friday being a glorious day we decided to catch up with some friends and their son who is the same age as baby G. We initially thought of the trying the "Electric Brasserie" but they were extremely snooty and awkward on the phone when we tried to book so we decided to give the Diner in Kensal Rise a go. We parked up outside the restaurant and I was shocked to see that despite it being a bank holiday the local council charges for parking on bank holidays. What scrooges! Anyway we were switly indoors where our friends were waiting at a large booth table. They have these very cool baby chairs that clip onto the table so baby G and his mate were comfortably seated. We were the only customers to start with but the place started to fill up as those who don't get woken at 6AM went out for breakfast on a gloriously sunny day. The Diner is actually very well set out. It has a central bar, a kids play area, a outside seating area at the back as well as seating out the front. This gives it a nice uncrowded feel. The menu is very comprehensive with all the various American and tex mex favourites on offer.
However the big problem Friday was that that they only had on one waitress who was very good but clearly pushed. I did feel for her working by herself in a pretty busy place with patrons sat all over on a bank holiday. Anyway she did good and the food got out to us after a little wait.The emphasis is on quantity rather than the highest quality here so plates pilled high with food came out and some of it was better than others. The kids meals in particular were plentiful. I had the special breakfast which was tasty though I think the ranch potatoes could have been done with being cooked in fresher oil. The rest was very good though and set me up nicely for the day. The boys enjoyed their meal, baby G was very taken with the sausage which he wolfed down.
The meals came to £30 for each family which was very good value. OK the food wasn't the best you can get but unlike other places I have visited like "Sticky Fingers" and "Byron" it wasn't pretending to be something it wasn't. There was lots of loud 80's music blasting away which was a nice way to start the day. they needed more staff on but they managed. I'd go back it was really quite fun.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Food 6 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 8
After a number of sucessful trips out to eat with baby G and mindful that he might be getting bored with porridge for breakfast at home we decided to take him out for breakfast. Saturday is also my day to do the farmers market so we decided to relocate up to Pimlico so we could eat and avail ourselves of their cracking little farmers market. My lovely wife had visited the Daylesford before and pronounced much superior to the Notting Hill one. I have always been a bit sceptical about the chain but have been won round by a couple of the ready meals my wife has bought back from there. The red thai curry is very good indeed. So we pitched up early with baby G in tow and proceeded upstairs to the cafe.
I have to say the space itself is lovely, spacious open and very light. It had a real calming effect which is a good way to start the day. We were seated and a very good high chair was bought out for baby G. My lovely wife order herself french toast. I went for buble and squeak with eggs and baby G had hard boiled aggs with soldiers and a plain croissant as a back up. The food cooked to order came up after a short wait and we tucked into a lovely meal. Baby G enjoyed his first hard boiled agg and his soldiers. He was quiet and quite content to feed himself. This allowed us to enjoy our family meal and an unfamiliar unhurried pace. My dish was very tasty though perhaps I could have done with a touch more bubble and squeak. My lovely wife lover her french toast. We washed it down with some coffee and fruit juices which were good.
I was really impressed with this spot. In particular the service was top notch, very helpful and friendly and not at all flumoxed by the baby. The meal wasn't cheap but I didn't mind as we were able to take our time and relax which reminded us a pre baby days. The other diners some with children looked equally chilled. A german family next to us were so impressed with their food (burgers! a bit early for me) they were buying up much of the store downstairs as we left. After a lovely breakfast we completed our morning with a great stroll around the farmers market. So well worth a visit and my new favourite for breakfast!
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 7
Another free night out with my lovely wife and this time we were much better organised. A friend had tipped me off about a new Chinese just off High Street Kensington so with Baby G being looked after by his grandparents we had a rare Saturday night out at "Naga". It is on Abingdon Road which is a bit of a culinary hotspot and based on our evening here it can definetly hold it's head high. The restaurant definetly makes the most of it's odd layout. You enter through a small bar area and then down into a stunning long corridor conservatory with an added balcony mezzanine level. It is a wonderful layout and gives you the impression you are miles away from High St Kensington. We arrived at 7:45 and the restaurant was already busy. The manager showed us to a nice round table at the back and handed us an interesting looking cocktail menu. They specialise in asian cocktails here which again gives the place a holiday feel.
The restaurant is actually vietnamese but also covers some of the chinese favourites like crispy duck etc. It also explained on the menu that their selection is limited as everything is cooked fresh to order. With a couple of nice cocktails on the table we ordered some mixed starters to kick off. These were very nice, succulent ribs, some very sweet mawish seaweed, vietnamese spring roll with dipping vinegar and some lovely lightly battered squid. All of it delicious and indeed fresh. To follow we had some beef Ho fun, crispy duck in five spice sauce, jumbo tamarind prawns, rice and chinese broccoli. It was seriously good. The prawns were the star of the show, big juicy and coated in a delicious sauce. I also really enjoyed the duck, we usually have the shredded duck but this had the crispiness but with the added tang of the five spice. My lovely wife washed this down with a delicious lychee concotion whilst I had a very interesting chilli savoury cocktail.
They don't have a dessert menu as such but do do ice cream so we shared a bowl of lychee and mango ice cream which was really refreshing. All in all it was lovely evening at a restaurant I can see becoming a firm favourite. By the time we finished our meal the place was packed. This did lead to one problem as the table next to us of bonus boys on a night out took exception to waiting for their meal and walked out. They had been sampling extensively from the cocktail list which might explain their reaction to the wait. The other tables I must say looked very happy and well looked after. I don't think this place has been open long but it looked like it already had regulars which is a good sign. Our meal for two came to just over £100 which was high but we had been drinking cocktails. I thought it was a fair price for our evening it such a nice place.
However they did let themselves badly with the bill. It wasn't properly itemised but they did staple on the order counterfoil so you had an idea of what you were charged for though not the amounts. However the really big problem was they tried to double tap me for service charge, 12.5% on the bill and then asked about adding a gratuity when I paid by card. A real no no in my book. I really hope they read this and stop this practice as this is a really nice smart restaurant and it's customers deserve better. All in all a superb night though and I really want to go back. It's a real asset to Kensington and I can see why it has done well so quickly.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Food 9 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8
Grandma was in town so we had a rare free weekday evening to go out whilst she looked after Baby G. Problem was we had both had busy days so despite the babysiting we would rather have stayed in. However a free night is a free night so we struck out from home with no clear plan of where to go or what to eat. High st Kensington has lots of chain restaurants (Cote, Strada, brasserie Gerrard, Pizza Hut) but nothing was grabbing us. We had a look at Aubaine but nobody looked particularly happy in there. We then looked over the road to bright lights of Wagamama and decided it was the least worst option.
After a bit of confusion where the restaurant actually was in the building it was two flights up (the lift was broken) we walked into a relatively busy buzzy canteen. We were seated on one of the big tables with only one other party near us. We were quite hungry so ordered some of the special duck gyoza's and some chicken yakitori to start on. the gyoza's were very nice, good taste and texture. The chicken skewers a bit bland, they looked the part but lacked taste. To follow I went for an udon noodle dish which was very tasty and hearty whilst my lovely wife had a curry. She really enjoyed it as it had big pieces of chicken and veg in the sauce along with plenty of fluffy rice.
To wash the meal down I had some green tea and a bottle of Asahi black which was seriously nice, it went a treat with the food. Service was pretty good, the waiter who looked after us was genuinely friendly which is always nice to see in a chain place like this. The bill came to £46 including tip which wasn't too bad. All in all we had a nice time, perhaps not what we envisaged for our free evening but perfectly nice food.
Thursday, April 07, 2011
Food 7 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 7
Last week Big Matt who is in to the whole Twitter thing found out about a free gig comic Chris Addison was putting on at the Tabard theatre in Chiswick. It was a run through for a new Channel 4 series called "My favourite year" a sort of look back at the funniest aspects of recent times. I'm not hugely aware of Chris Addison's work but any excuse for a night out on the beer with Big Matt. If you haven't been to the Tabard it is worth a visit, it is a really nice old pub with great beer and a theatre up top. The gig was pretty funny but it was nearly 2 hours long and even the video of Paul Burrell doing a bush tucker trial was getting me hungry. After it had finished we swiftly sought out somewhere to eat.
Matt used to live in chiswick and 10 years ago we would often wander down Chiswick High Road doing all the pubs and ending up at "Lam's". It was always good fun but the best places were up by King St. I've not been down here for a while and it had certainly got more upscale, the new "Chiswick House" in particular looked really nice. However after a couple of beers and it only being a Monday night we decided that pizza was the best option. Matt suggested we try Franco Manca. His pitch was that it was an upmarket version Pizza Express. On walking in the first thing you see is the pizza counter with the large wood fired oven. For a Monday night it was reasonably busy and the tables were quite well spaced out unlike a lot of other places.
The menu itself is quite limited and trades heavily on the quality of the ingredients. Now I know this sort of thing impresses people but when I'm having pizza I don't really care that much that my ham went to Eton and the Mozarella used to sing free form jazz. I'm more concerned with taste, variety and price. I know I'm like everyone else and always order the same pizza but it's nice to know there are another 10 choices on the menu I don't want! Anyway we ordered some sausage type starter which was basically sausage in passata which was OK but without any bread not easy to eat. The pizza's came shortly after and were very good. A good portion plenty of topping and a crisp base. What was good was the price only about £7 per pizza which was great value I would have expected to pay nearer 10. Service was OK, not as personable as I hoped from an up and coming place like this. With beers the whole meal came to under £30 for two of us which was fantastic value. So in conclusion nice food but I'm not totally sold on the concept but the value will bring me back.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Food 8 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 10
Finally it had arrived, the weekend of the joint Wonderstuff/Levellers gig at the Brixton academy. These don't come up every day and some effort had gone into planning a good boys day out around an evening of indie fiddle! I had sucessfully seen off my lovely wife and baby G who were heading back to the inlaws so big Matt and I had an afternoon's drinking planned. The Oxford boys were due to meet us at Victoria at 4 so after a quick pint in the ever excellent "Churchill Arms" we headed over to that area for a late lunch. Now Victoria is a tricky area, it does have some very nice places nearby like my absolute favourite "La Poule au Pot" but there are also a fair few places whose aim is to part an unsuspecting tourists from their money. As we were planning an evening jumping around we needed something substantial but relatively quick. The pubs around Victoria are not the best but that goes for the pubs near any London mainline station. However I then remembered my lovely wife had recommended the "Thomas Cubitt".
After a bit of aimless wandering we found it and were surprised to see it still pretty full at 3PM on a Saturday. Mind you I can see why it is bright airy and inviting. There is some seating outside but the large glass front makes the inside very light as well. My heart did sink a little on entering as it was very busy with a well heeled crowd. However the manager quickly introduced himself and found us a table at the back without delay. we perused the menu which is very much upmarket gastro. A lot of people seemed to be enjoying the seafood platter. We kept it simple and went for the burger which came with cheese and bacon washed sown with a nice pint of Adnans.
Now sat at our nice wood table with proper serviettes I was a bit worried that we might have a wait for a food and I had seen other people burgers which looked on the small side. However as soon as we finished our first pint the food turned up. The burger was indeed small but appeared to have a tardis like properties. It was actually very substantial and filling served along with some very nice hand cut chips. Big Matt and I really enjoyed and along with a second pint it set us up nicely for our long evening ahead. The place was busy but the service was really professional, our waitress was new but got everything spot on. It was really nice to see somewhere so busy getting it right. It wasn't the cheapest burger around but it was very nice and eating in a grown up gastro pub is a very nice way to spend a sunny afternoon. I will certainly be back again to try more of the menu and to linger a little longer.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8
Just a quick review as we didn't actually get to eat here today though I have eaten there before. My lovely wife decided to pop up to the West End to have lunch with me without baby G. We fancied something special we thought we would give Patterson's a go. It was early so the chances of getting a walk in table were good. We wandered in to the quiet restaurant and were greeted by a nice young lady who said she would check what they had available. She had a look on there system and there was a table left that she needed back for 2PM which was fine for us. At this point the manageress zoomed up asking her in a quite abrupt manner what she was doing. She then informed her in a very rudely that the table was Mr so and so's who was sitting at the bar, making us look and feel like social undersirables. We asked if they had anything else, the unsmiling manageress said that the only other table they had they needed back at 1:30. I didn't really want to spend £80 on a rushed lunch so we left never to return. There are ways of handling this sort of situation properly and the attitude of the manageress at Pattersons was very poor indeed. We ended up going to Wright Brothers for a lovely lunch with impeccable service.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Food 0 | Service 0 | Atmosphere 0 | Value for money 0
A rare night out to the cinema with Big Matt gave me the opportunity to try another of Notting Hills new eateries. I had often run past "Pizza Metro" when they were refurbishing it and I was impressed by how much work was going into the restaurant. Certainly when you enter you can't fail to notice the huge wood fired oven, the authentic floor tiles and the extremely cheery murals. Having said that it has a lot of competition along Notting Hill Gate as their are at least 4 other italian restaurants. The restaurant was quiet with just a smattering of patrons but it was Tuesday night. We settled in with a couple of Peroni's served in ice cold glasses, a nice touch. Big Matt had a italian sausage pizza whilst I went for a ham and rocket concoction.
For the unitiated the pizza's here are not the conventional round affairs but baked together lengthways which lends itself to sharing. This is quite a fun way of serving pizza and I can imagine it is a hit with families at the weekend. Both varities were very nice, you could tell the ingredients were fresh as I was able to taste all the components of the pizza. the chilli oil I asked for was not needed to mask an inferior product. A couple more beers followed and we spent a very pleasant time chatting away mostly about the form of Fernando Torres.
We were offered desert which instead of the menu they bought round a tray mocking up what the deserts would look like. A clever idea, I had not seen before. We were full from our pizza so declined. The bill came to £20 each which was fair for 2 beers and a pizza. The service had been friendly and helpful. I noticed lots of child seats ready and waiting so I think I may well return with baby G in tow. So off we wandered to see "Animal Kingdom" which though superb was no advert for Melbourne!
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
My lovely wife was out with friends on Saturday so I had sole charge of baby G. He had been fed and watered and with the sun poking through the clouds I decided to take him out for a walk and a trip to the swings. About 5 minutes into the walk he had fallen fast asleep. This presented a dilemma, I could continue on my walk until he woke up or I could use the baby downtime to grab some food. As I was still feeling a bit jaded from Friday night at the Churchill I opted for the food. Unfotunately I was near High St Kensington which is a bit chain tastic. I was in the mood for a burger and chips but after a very poor meal at "Byron" last year I avoided there. Then I remembered "Sticky Fingers". I walked past it and was a bit worried that the loud music might wake baby G. However hunger ruled and we rolled in.
The head waiter was very helpful, I explained the baby was asleep and I would prefer to keep him in his pushchair so he gave me a big table for 4 to myself with plenty of room for the pushchair. The menu came promptly so I had the rock and roll burger (bacon and cheese) and a shandy. The restaurant itself is very old school burger joint, none of the stark austere decor of the new breed but lots of booths, some great Stones memorabilia on the wall and a rock soundtrack. Quite good fun really. The clientelle was a mixture of familes and tourists who seemed to be enjoying themselves. The food itself was a bit average. The beef burger was very dry but the toppings were nice enough. My chips were very bog standard and went cold very quickly. the side salad which is usually a real afterthought was actually very nice. all in all I've had a lot better elsewhere. I wished I had had the ribs which from looking at other tables seemed to be the dish to have.
Service was friendly but didn't really go the extra mile. It would have been nice to be offered a selection of sauces with the burger and a towelette after the meal would have been handy. Most places serving this sort of food provide it. The bill came to just under £17 which was not great value, i've eaten better for less. Having said that I was very comfortable sat there and the baby slept through lunch so he obviously enjoyed it. It looks like the place to come with kids so possibly I will be back but they do need to up their game here. With a bit more effort it could be a really good spot. I think the lack of competition has breed a bit of complacency.
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Food 6 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 7
The search for the pre match Langan's replacement continues! Last night before the Lazarus like ressurection of our season my brother and I decided to give the Best Mangal a go. My brother had take home kebabs from here in the past and said the food was very good. As you walk into the restaurant you pass the takeaway counter and the huge open charcoal grill which was laden with some lovely looking meat. We were shown to a spacious table and given a choice of menus. There was the standard a la carte as well as a special prematch menu which gave you a mixed starter, a choice of main grill and unlimited beer or house wine all for £20. We didn't have a huge amount of time but we still went with the Chelsea special. Our bottles of crisp Efes turned up quickly and the staff were great about bringing us refills during the meal.
In terms of decor the restaurant won't win prizes but it is comfortable and clean. They have a little heated outside smoking/shisha patio. There is a bar ar one end where you can eat as well as watching the Turkish football. Our starters came after a little wait and we tucked into fresh houmus, taramasalata, tzastiski, baba ganuch and a bulgar wheat salad. It was all very nice especially the hot flat breads it came with. The mains were equally good, we both went for lamb kebabs which again came with a lovely fresh salad and bulgar wheat. The meat was nicely grilled still very moist on the inside. a simple meal but very tasty. I really like Turkish food as it is good quality ingredients cooked simply but well.
We were pretty full after our dinner but the ever helpful waiter pressed yet another cold Efes into our hands and we decided to order a medium turkish coffee before we faced the cold of Stamford Bridge. The coffee was seriously good and rounded off a very pleasant meal. We enjoyed our trip to the Best Mangal and it has potential as a pre match eatery. The service was nice and friendly and everyone was enjoying themselves. It set us up very nicely for a cold evening watching the Mighty Chelsea triumph. We will definetly return.
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 8
I've got seriously bored with my Pret sandwiches recently so I've made a conscious effort to grab lunch out at least once a week. There are a few new places near the office though my faves like Goodman and Ramen Seto are still top of the bill. However after my visit to Yalla Yalla this week I can see this going into heavy rotation. My lovely wife had visited the original one in Soho and had recommended it to me, we used to live near Edgware rd so I'm a big fan of lebanese food. I like the focus on simplicity and high quality ingredients. I noticed that they had opened another branch near Market Place which is short walk from the office. I had a few things to go through over lunch so I popped out with a colleague. It took a little while to find as it is down a very non descript side street/lane of Oxford st. However when you go in your are greeted by a busy but airy restaurant.
We were shown to a breakfast bar type table which we had to ourselves though the rest of the restaurant was busy. We were quite pressed for time so we skipped the delicious sounding starters and went for mains. I had the lamb swarma whilst Dave went for the chicken version. Both came out quickly but were pipping hot and delicious. The lamb came with a beautiful salad, flavoured rice, a flat bread to keep the lamb warm and a pitta bread. The lamb itself was wonderful, crispy but moist. In fact the food was so nice we soon forgot about the boring piece of paperwork we were meant to be discussing. The waitress was very helpful bringing us refills of iced tap water. The food coming out for other tables looked really nice, big mounds of humus, taboulet and the like.
Lunch was both tasty and satisfying so no room for desert but I did order an arabic coffe which is their version of the turkish coffee. It was very nice and had a lovely aftertaste possibly cardammon. Lunch came to a very reasonable £27 for two which for the quality of food we had was great. I really can't wait to go back and try out the rest of the menu. This is one chain that deserves to do very well.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Food 9 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 9
Well the food was a lot better than the football! Ever since the late much lamented Langan's coq d'or shut down last year we have been trying to find somewhere to go pre-match for a bite. We are currently taking it in turns to pick out a place so yesterday was Beardy Marc's turn and he picked the Butcher' Hook which is just over the road from Stamford Bridge. I had often wandered past but just assumed it was standard footie pub. However a wander in showed that though the bar was heaving there was also a bustling open kitchen turning out lots of food for hungry fans. We had a table by the kitchen which was nice enough which plenty of room. A few people bustled past as at times but really nothing to worry about. The menu was fairly straighforward but I can could tell we were in for a bit more than the usual Sunday roast.
The boys all went for the Sunday ribeye roast but as I was having a steak later for dinner I opted for the slow cooked shoulder of lamb with flagolet beans and cabbage. The waiter was very helpful with the wine list he advised to try a Malbec they had been sent in error by their supplier which was going at a steal at £21 a bottle. It went particularly nicely with the roasts which came out looking very good, nice big yorkshires, lots of gravy and potatoes. My dish was nice but I felt they were a bit mean with the portions. I was expecting a lot more lamb and cabbage. The dish felt a bit unbalanced. Baldy Mark who went for a very nice pasta dish asked if he could have a yorkshire on the side, again the waiter was very helpfull and gave him one without charging extra.
The lovely wine was flowing, there was banter aplenty and being so close to the ground we even had time for dessert. Mopst of the guys went for the crumble which looked very nice and was served in a minature pan. I went for the hokey pokey ice cream which tasted nice but sadly there was no hokey pokey crunch. The guys all had a good lunch thoufgh I perhaps should have chosen better. The bill came to £40 a head which was reasonable for the high standard of food and the drinks we had. The service here was very good, the place was rammed but the kitchen and waiting teams were working hard to keep everybody fed and watered. This is a place I would like to visit on a non match day to see what they can turn out as it appears a very accomplished gastro pub. So in conclusion a good debut for the Butcher's Hook which is more than I can say about Torres!
Monday, February 07, 2011
Food 7 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
Another day another lunchtime trip to Kingly St. This time I decided to give the new Wright Brothers place a go. I had passed it a few times and was pleased to see they had taken one of the older buildings in Kingly St and with a very sensitive makeover given it a stylish but authentic feel. You walk in on the ground floor but all the proper action takes place downstairs in the basement. Here they have an open kitchen with rows of comunal tables with bar stools. It all done very well so you don't feel too packed in. We were intrigued by the lunch deal of main and glass of wine for £10 but when the waitress went through the options neither of us fancied them so instead we both went for Moules. She did explain that the specials change daily and that often the mussels were on the deal. The menu itself isn't massive and obviously mostly fish and a lot of it raw, it did look very good not quite what you get in Paris but getting there.
We both had a glass of the house white which turned out to be a very good fruity chardonnay. The young guy who brought us it described really well and obviously knew his way round the wine menu. The mussels arrived and though I had ordered a large portion I did feel it was a few shellfish light. My colleague had a small portion which seemed about right. The mussels themselves were good but not amazing, however the broth was very good. We were given plenty of bread to help us enjoy it. As we ate the basement filled up with a mix of ladies what shop and business people, upstairs seemed to be more for courting couples.
Mussels finished, we had a couple of nice filter coffees before heading back to the office. The meal came to a very reasonable £35 and I added a few quid on as a tip. The service was good and friendly, obviously a new team but happy to help. It is quite a large place so they will need to watch that everywhere is being looked after when busy. all in all I was very satisfied with my first visit and I look forward to taking my lovely wife here. Obviously I hope to try something more adventurous off the menu next time but this nice looking restaurant is a definite asset to Kingly st.
Monday, January 31, 2011
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8
Kingly St has just had very protracted facelift to turn from a grimy back alley of Regent St to a pedestrianised lane more in keeping with it's neighbour Carnaby St. It has always had several restaurants down it. In fact one of my firm favourites "Ramen Seto" which is fantastic value can be found there. There are also a few more upscale places along there as well. I had a few work bits to go through over lunch with a colleague so we decided to pop out and give "Dehesa" a go. I had frequently passed by and the hams in the window always looked enticing. The restaurant itself is quite small with seating in booths or up on shared tables. We were shown to a shared table but there was still plenty of room. I was a bit surprised no one took our coats there were certainly enough staff milling around.
Once settled we ordered a classic tapas 101 selection: cured meats, croquettes, fried chorizo, tortilla, pattatas bravas, bread and a couple of glasses of the house wine. The food was passable the croquettes were very nice but the meat was a bit insipid, the patatas were more like chips seasoned with parika and after a long wait a very poorly seasoned tortilla turned up. It really wasn't as good as I was expecting. I do worry that places that don't get this right will get into an awful mess with some of the more esoteric offerings on the menu. They need to cover off the classics before trying to be "El Bulli". It is a shame as the room itself is nice, the dark interior gives it a classy but cosy feel. The two guys next to us were well into their second bottle of wine when we left.
The service was a bit hit and miss our waiter was a bit unsure, he didn't know a lot about the house wine he served us and he called me mate at one point. Our bill camd to £44 which was OK I suppose but we hadn't had loads. I was hoping this could become a new tapas haunt but I think I will stick to my trusty "El Piratas de Tapas" in future. I still have reservations in general about eating in Soho. The restaurants tend to be small so you can imagine even smaller kitchens which will affect what they can get out.
Friday, January 28, 2011
Food 5 | Service 5 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 6
Yesterday we were having a big sort out at home. Baby G is now crawling and climbing so we urgently needed to tidy the numerous bits and pieces he might want to eat. He was round a grandma's for the day and after a hard morning sorting we thought we would make the most of it and head out for a quick baby free lunch. As it turned by chosing the Mall Tavern we had found the one of the most baby friendly pubs in the area. It was busy with families enjoying Sunday lunch, in fact the dining area was fully booked so we are in the bar. The Mall Tavern has for many years been a bit of a white elephant, I remember going when it had a good wine list but a largely egg based menu. It is slightly tucked away behind Notting Hill gate but it is near the main bus stop so plenty of people pass by. I was always put off in the past as when sat on the top deck of the bus you could see into a very grim kitchen above the pub. However last year they had a complete refurb and the new place looks spotless from the top of the bus. I'd been in for a beer on a few occasions but this was my first time eating.
The bar itself is traditional with a good selection of beer, I had a bitter (Wandle) shandy and my lovely wife a Bloody Mary. They had a good selection of quirky bar snacks which the girl sat next to us was enjoying. We had to get back to our house jobs so we just ordered a main. I had the cow pie whilst my lovely wife had cock a leeky pie, so basically a beef pie and chicken pie. We also ordered some chips and cabbage. The food arrived and the pies were huge. Unfortunatly my wife's chicken pie was not warmed through properly so it went back upstairs for longer in the oven. I tucked into mine which was very nice but I could have done without the bone marrow stuffing in the middle. It was really oily and detracted from an excellent meat pie made with succulent pieces of beef. My wife's chicken pie re-appeared properly heated through and with a bowl of roasted veg by way of apology. She enjoyed the pie a lot, I tried it and it was very tasty and fresh tasting. The sides were a mixed afffair the cabbage was lovely and perfect for soaking up the remnants of my pie. The chips were poor they looked rustic but tasted cold and uninsteresting. the bowl of roasted veg was very nice again all fresh.
The meal was very nice despite an early hiccup however we weren't wholly comfortable. With big dishes and sides were were struggling for space on our tiny bar table. They do seem to have crammed these in which may be fine for bar snacks but if you are having a proper meal you need some space. I think next time we return we will book a table in the back which looked a lot more spaceous. The service was nice and friendly. Our drinks and food were all ordered through our waitress and the drinks came very quickly. We were also give a carafe of tap water without asking, a real bonus. All in all a good lunch, quick and pretty reasionable. They were very accomadating to a couple next to us with a baby so I can definetly see us coming back with baby G. I'm glad to see this nice little pub serving some good food and obviously thriving after a bit of TLC.
Monday, January 17, 2011
Food 7 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 7
Shopping with a baby can be a tricky business, you can't linger for too long in one place, you need to plan your route there and back and you get about self conscious about having public one sided conversation with a eight month old who gurgles back. However on the plus side I do find it quite handy hanging shopping bags on baby G's pushchair and I do get to try some places lunch/brunch/breakfast. Inspired by a very sucessfull Christmas shopping trip where we found a lovely top for my lovely wife and we had a incident free boys lunch at the excellent "El Pirata De Tapas" we popped up to the Westfield on Saturday morning to pick up a few bits. Unfortunatly we hadn't timed our journey up that well and at 9:30 most of the shops were still shut. I thought I would chance a spot of breakfast first and thus we went into the Westfield's branch of Balans
We were warmly greeted by the staff who were setting up but we were shown to a nice round table and plenty of room was made for the pushchair. The room is like a long rectangle with all the tables running down the length of the open kitchen and bar. It was very bright and light and there was plenty going on to keep the baby amused. I ordered myself a nice creamy mocha and went a bit leftfield and ordered a stack of pancakes with fresh fruit. Once my food turned up Baby G decided his pushchair was not to his liking so he sat on my knee and did the best to try and grab my pancakes. The waiter seeing my predicament turned up with a highchair attachement for one of the chairs and baby G was quite happy in that. Breakfast saved! the pancakes it has to be said were gorgeous. Thick but light and fluffy inside, they were quite sweet already so I didn't need to go mad on the syrup. I gave baby G some to try and he liked it. The fruit with it was less good. I think with fresh fruit you are always best to go seasonal. The rather bland melon on my plate let a very good dish down.
On the whole I was very impressed with Balans and I'm keen to return again. breakfast cost me £10 which was fine and the staff really made baby G and myself feel welcome. A lot of places seem a bit clueless when you walk in with a pushchair but not here where you get friendly pro-active service. It had a nice atmosphere and was filling up nicely by the time we left. I'm a fan of the High St Ken branch which is always very busy, the Westfield incarnation deserves to emulate it's success. A very pleasant father and son breakfast was had.
Monday, January 10, 2011
Food 8 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
Just before Christmas I had a lad's night out with Big Matt and villa Steve. Steve had booked us tickets for the very funny Jim Jefferies so the plan was to eat up near Leicester Square. Now the obvious choice would be to go for chinese but I have been caught out too many times by bad China town food and indifferent service. Steve suggested Gaby's a long standing kosher deli up in threatreland. It has an eat in area but is open late so a lot of the trade comes from the 2AM takeaway crowd. I wasn'y undully concerned as an old favourite from my Marble Arch days "Ranoush Juice" would turn out great food whatever time of the day you rocked up.
After a couple of beers at "The Toucan" where we spotted Chris O'dowd who looked happy despite appearing in the a film with Jack Black and the "DeHems" which was full of some very inebriated patrons we headed up to Gabys. Inside it was very spartan you walk past the deli counter into a small back room of old school formica tables. There were lots of show posters on the wall denoting it's link to theatre land. It reminded me of the sort of great places you find in New York. Unfortunatly this was more Newport than New York. I ordered the salt beef platter and a latke on the side. Now kosher food is tricky to get right, when it well cooked and sourced it is extremely hearty and tasty, if is badly prepared it is just heavy stodge. This was sadly the latter. My salt beef was pretty tasteless, lots of it but that didn't help. The bread it was served in had seen one too many winters. The falafel on the side was OK but not as fresh as "Ranoush Juice", the coleslaw was horrible. However worst of all was my microwaved latke, no, no, no,no. Latke's need to be fried drained and served straight away, this was disgusting. You can't have lots of posters up on the wall saying how wonderful your restaurant is and serve micowaved latkes.
The boys meals were OK, Big Matt had a lamb kleftiko which seemed nice enough but looked stodgy. Villas Steve had Fallafel's which he finished but I could from his face that it was not all he had hoped for. This was food that probably tasted OK at 2AM after 6-8 pints but at 8PM on a Wednesday night there was nothing to convince me this wasn't a glorified kebab house. On the plus side it was cheap but you know you get what you pay for. Service was quick but then how long does it take to stick a latke in a microwave. It's a real shame as in my experience low key places like this often have great food like the "Brick Lane beigel Bakery" and "Costa's". All in all not an experience to be repeated and I pity those who get taken in by this place and it's theatreland connections. at least the comedy gig was good and Villa Steve's girlfriend picked us up afterwards.
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
Food 2 | Service 5 | Atmosphere 3 | Value for money 2
My lovely wife and Baby G popped up to my office last week to say hello and get a few bits of shopping. The West End was extremely busy but we thought as it was after 2 we should find somewhere to grab a quick bite. My wife uses the Carluccio's in Notting Hill a lot as they are quite baby friendly and there is plenty of room for pushchairs. We tried the Carluccio's on Market Place and after a very short wait they found us a table for 2 with plenty of room for the baby. We only ordered one dish and a drink each as I needed to get back to work. My wife's pasta was nice and tasted fresh. I went for the seafood special risotto which though plentifull was extremely hot. Someone had gone a bit mental with the chilli so I couldn't really taste much of the seafood. Service was brisk but friendly. Not really a place to linger but a good option with a baby
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Food 5 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 6
I caught up with Big Matt this week and we fancied a bite to eat prior to our trip to the cinema. Matt lives in Ealing which is ill served by chinese restaurants so he was keen to see what Notting Hill had to offer. It was a bit parky for a walk down to my usual haunts in Bayswater so we decided to give "Seventeen" a go. It was early so the restaurant was half full however they quickly found us a table and we settled into our soft comfy but very low chairs. A freebie of edamame beans came along whilst we perused the menu. The decor in "Seventeen" is very lush and that combined with the slick automatic sliding door make you think you are somewhere very upscale. Certainly the menu suggested we were somewhere expensive where the food my delicate and the portions dainty. We weren't hugely hungry so we erred on the side of caution and went for a couple of starters and a couple of mains with fried rice.
I was actually pleasantly surprised when our starters of salt and pepper chicken wings and sticky ribs came out. The portions were indeed hearty. I particularly enjoyed the chicken which was well cooked with a lovely blast of heat. The sauce on the ribs was perhaps a little sour for me but the ribs themselves had plenty of meat on them. All in all very filling. We had a little wait for our main course but the time was well spent chatting and polishing off a Tsing Tao. The mains arrived and Big Matt went old school with sweet and sour chicken whilst I opted for the szechuan beef. The chicken was nice again a good portion but nothing special. My beef dish was very nice and huge. It consisted of lots of slices of very tender beef cooked in chilli oil. It had a lovely heat but not overpowering. The fried rice was very nice and perfect for making the most of the sauce.
All in all we were pretty impressed with "Seventeen". I had been a little put off trying it previously because of indifferent reviews but I'm glad we popped in. The service was very keen and friendly and the other food coming out of the kitchen looked very good. I was very gratified to see they didn't follow the con of many Chinatown restaurants and hit you for double service charge. The bill came to £60 for two of us which was high-ish but we had got plenty of nice food for our money. It set us up nicely for the film "Monsters" which unlike our meal was very average and undercooked!
Friday, December 10, 2010
Food 7 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 8
This is the very original Ping Pong and I can remember the buzz and excitment it aroused when it opened about 7 or 8 years ago. People would queue out the door for a table and it I was always taking friends there to show them this quite funky dim sum restaurant. Well several years on and there are Ping Pong's all over London. I'm pretty sure this is still the busiest. I hadn't actually been to this one for a while as my during my last visit a couple of years ago it was all looking quite tired inside. I also felt the food was getting a bit tired despite the presence of the open steamer at the entrance to the restaurant.
Anyway after a very nice lunch at their market Place branch I thought I would pop back and give this a go. I had a supplier in on Friday so I took him over for a quick bite. We wanted somewhere quick and reasonable so this seemed a good choice. We were shown to a pretty small table for two and I explained to my guest the idea behind the menu. He is from Leicester so had no idea of Ping Pong or Dim Sum in general. I ordered the usual selection of fried and steam rolls and they came pretty quickly. The dishes do look nice and the presentation is good.
Yet again I was dissapointed with the fried rolls which lacked flavour and tasted very dry. I imagine a lot of these are cooked from frozen yet they are very short on taste. The steamed dumplings were better as was the lotus leaf rice which my guest really enjoyed. Maybe my taste buds have become used to the Dim Sum at the ever excellent "Royal China" but this visit left me dissapointed. Even the Cha Sui buns lacked a bit of omph! However it was reasonable with our lunch plus a beer each coming in at £44. Service was friendly and quick so really it did do what we wanted. I just wish they could raise their game a bit with the food. The restaurant is still busy though so it is obviously getting it right.
Monday, November 08, 2010
Food 6 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 8
I caught up with a couple of old uni mates last night for reminisce and some gentle ribbing about ungracefull aging since the late 1990's. Stuart has just got a job up in the city so Andy and I tasked him with finding somewhere to eat. We usually go for lots of Guiness at Mulligan's on Cork St but we fancied something a bit different. Well as it turned out his PA recommended Gaucho and so after some aimless wandering I found Finsbury square and the very modernist entrance to Gaucho. It is certainly a clever restaurant space with the bar upstairs in a sort of swish greenhouse and the restaurant underground. I felt like I was entering a bond film lair. The bar upstairs was pretty nice with good service and they did make a very nice martini. After a bit of a wait for Andy who being new to London got a bit lost, we were taken down to the action. The restaurant itself was extremely busy but had a nice sophisticated buzz. I got the impression this was very much set up for people entertaining. We were given a couple of glasses of very expensive Argentinean Malbec to try but opted for something far more sensible. We started with a very nice merlot and had a robust Malbec with our mains.
Obviously with this being Gaucho we weren't there for a vegetable pie so we ordered steak. I went for ribeye, Andy fillet and stuart a sirloin. Like "Goodman's" the waitress came around to show us the different cuts of meat which does add to the theatre. It was suggested we might want to share a starter platter whilst we waited for our mains. A classic bit of upselling but in actual fact the sausage platter was very nice and just the right amount. The steaks when they came were extremely good, mine had great flavour and was well cooked. I avoided the extra sauces and had a very good side od sweet potato chips with Chorizo. The conversation and wine flowed freely as we enjoyed a very good meal. We weren't really minded for desert but the waitress came along to show us their cheese board and suggested we share a selection. Again a good bit of upselling but the board was very nice. In fact the food was faultless and my only negative was my lukewarm coffee.
All in all a very nice experience. It had a very New York style and the ambience did make me forget I was in London. It may lack the soul of "Goodman's" but it does it's job with plenty of style. I felt well looked after and the food seem to come seamlessly. We all really enjoyed ourselves without going mad on the booze which is a good sign. The bill came to £90 a head which was expensive but we had been well fed and watered. I think the professional pushiness of the staff may not be for all but I thought they were good at their job. I've red some sniffy reviews about Gaucho but I have to say I liked my first experience. If I could sum it up I would say it was a very grown up experience. Worth a visit if you can find it amongst the concrete and glass jungle of Broadgate.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Food 9 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 7
Saturday may have been all about wandering around Chelsea finding somewhere to eat lunch whereas Sunday was more about going out for a walk and having lunch by accident. Baby G was fed and clothed and in need of some fresh air. It was one of those cold crisp clear days so we thought we would buggy up and take him out for a walk. The plan had been to go for a nice walk around Notting Hill before going home to cook lunch. However whilst waiting for the lights to change on Westbourne Grove I started to read the menu in "El Piratas de Tapas" window. My lovely wife had been here previously for dinner and raved about the food. Needless to say it didn't take much persuasion to convince her to curtail the walk for a quick bite. The only slight problem was what to do with baby G. He had been a little bit of a handful in "Santa Lucia" the day before which at least was very much a family restaurant. "El Pirata de Tapas" looked a lot more serious and foody. The decor is very modern and sleek accentuated by long lean dining room. However we needn't have worried the two waiters running the show were helpful, welcoming and found us a great table so we could eat and keep an eye on baby G. He was very taken with the waiters and was happy smiling away in his chair.
The set lunch menu looked very nice and excellent value but instead we went a la carte. The short walk was thirsty work so I had a great spamish beer and my lovely wife a creamy glass of cava whilst we picked our dishes. We went for tempura squid, tortilla, bread and olives, asparagus with manchego cheese and prawn in chilli and olive oil. It was all very nice. I love dipping bread into the warm olive oil and chilli, the squid was light and tasty and the aspagus covered in melted cheese oozed flavour. My only criticism was the tortilla which was not as runny as I had had at "Iberica". The food was brought promptly and I was so comfy I ordered a further glass of wine to go with our tapas. The restaurant was quiet when we entered but soon filled up giving it a nice buzz.
I was really impressed with my lunch here and the hospitality we were shown. The two waiters handled the room fantastically well and were always ready to chat explain the dishes and smile at my little boy. The bill came to £57 which was a bit more than I was expecting to spend but I did have an expensive glass of wine. The food was definetly worth it and I do find with tapas in London that you get what you pay for. The service as I have previouly said was excellent. This was a really good find and I am keen to return this weekend for another crack at the delicious food. If you are up in the area it is well worth a visit a much better option I would imagine than the new "cote" over the road.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Food 8 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8
Saturday was a bit frustrating but ended on a high. The plan had been to feed Baby G lunch then head off for lunch with the family near Stamford Bridge before I headed off to the game. The late lamented "Langan's" would have been our first choice for lunch but as of last Monday it is no more. We decided to wander down to High St ken but both "Carluccio's" and "Balans" were full. We then decided agaisnt better judgement to get a cab to Sophie's Steakhouse to try and get a table. Predictably it was full. We tried Hache, they were full and a bit rude when we asked about a table. The Fulham Road "Carluccio's" was full as well. We were just about to give up hope when I remembered Hollywood Rr had a few restaurants so with a last shake of the dice we tried there. "Santa Lucia/Made in Italy" was open and didn't appear that full which worried us slightly but we thought we would give it a go.
Actually it proved to be a good choice. They helped us in with the pushchair, gave us a nice big table by the window with plenty of room for baby G. The appearance from outside was deceptive as the restaurant goes back quite far into a sort of conservatory. At the centre is a proper wood fired oven where the chef was throwing fresh dough for the pizza bases. We ordered a mixed salad, a side of zuchinni friiti and we shared a mixed pizza. They make their pizza's by the meter so we ordered 25cm of parma ham and mozarella and 25cm of speck and mushroom. We went for a half bottle of chianti to restore us after our odyssey to find somewhere for lunch. The food came pretty quickly and was good. The stand out was the zuchinni which was lightly fried in a great batter, really mawish. the mixed salad was so so. The pizza's were very nice, the fresh bases really made a difference. Half way through Baby G decided his push chair was not to his liking so I had to hold him whilst I ate. I have become a bit of expert at eating one handed of late. Pizza is easier than most.
The restaurant had a nice mix of people from fellow Chelsea fans to a lot of families who came in a bit later. The staff were very pleasant and the restaurant had a nice buzz. The bill came to £53 which was a bit toppy but that was down to the half bottle of really average Chianti at £17.50. The food itself is reasonably priced. We were debating post match where we will go now "Langan's" is no more. I think "Santa Lucia/Made in Italy" is in with a decent shout. So despite a dodgy start I had a nice lunch and saw Chelsea win so a bit of a result.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Food 7 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 6
My old friend Bruce was back in town so I decided to book an afternoon off so we could catch up and have a bit of a boys day out culminating in seeing Guns'n'Roses at O2. I've seen plenty of reviews on this site about the non delights of eating at the O2 so we opted for lunch in town followed by a few drinks at Canary Wharf. By the time I had got home, met Bruce and had a restorative pint it was after 3 so we needed somewhere that was open all day for food. I was struggling slightly to think of somewhere without going for a generic chain place when suddenly I remembered that my great favourite "Sophie's Steakhouse" had a branch in Covent Garden so off we went. I've been a big fan of Sophies on Fulham road for years. The food is great, the service really friendly and they are open all day.
We arrived about half 3 and were quickly shown to a nice big corner table. Being this time on a Wednesday it was very quiet inside though after we sat down a party of 20 came in for a post sales meeting meal. Bruce went for the very reasonable set menu and choose the sardines followed by steak and chips. Predictably I went for the black angus burger with the iceberg wedge as a starter. We were served by a very friendly waitress and it was good to see that the nice staff ethos of Fulham had been replicated at Covent Garden. the food was very good Bruce who being half Portuguese was very impressed with his grilled sardines and he said his steak was spot on. My choices were as usual spot on. We washed down lunch with the great Angus the Bull Cab Sav.
We skipped dessert for some restorative coffee to fire us up for our evening out. On balance I wished we had stayed at Sophie's for the evening. The gig was terrible, awful acoustics , bad set list and they came on very late. At least our day started well and I can heartliy recommend Sophies Covent Garden. It may lack a bit of the charm of the original as it is so much bigger but the food is just as good, nice service and the same good value. If you are in Covent Garden this is a no brainer. The no booking policy may mean you wait for a table but it's worth it. Lovely stuff.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 8
We took my mum here to celebrate her 70th birthday. It was a party of 7 adults and baby G so we went for a late lunch on Saturday. We were actually quite lucky with the weather as once the rain cleared we had great views across London. Now first thing to say about the Oxo Tower is that the service is really very good. A warm friendly reception from the moment we walked in. There was no issues about taking baby G's buggy into the restaurant and throughout the meal we were very well looked after. There was a little wait for our table but champagne appeared quickly for the birthday girl and we all settled in very nicely.
The room itself was packed but again a good team of waiters made it work. Everyone seemed to be having a good time and there was a nice buzz of conversation which meant the occasional welps from baby G were drowned out. Now the food itself was a different matter. It certainly talked a good game on the menu. I went for a squid salad followed by the ribeye steak to be served medium. The salad was good though quite watery however I enjoyed it. The others enjoyed their starters of prawns , soup and squid so the stage was set for the main course. However on a whole these were dissapointing. My steak was severely overcooked. Normally I would have sent it back but I didn't want to spoil mum's lunch by having to wait for a replacement. At £25 for a main this is a real no no, too long on the pass methinks. My lovely wife had the cod which was nicely cooked but again the kitchen had forgotten to drain the greens properly so they leaked all over the mash turning an initially nice looking dish into a fishy porridge.
The lamb with harissa that the others had looked good and because it was sliced up the kitchen could make no mistake with serving it medium.
Desserts were better I had the chocolate brownie which though good could have done with being a nicer texture. We washed everything down with the lovely house rose champagne, a very good Albarino, a fairly average Shiraz blend and a very good Beaunes de Venises with desert. The bill came to £100 a head which was really going some for some pretty average food. I didn't actually mind the service charge as I thought that aspect of our meal had been good. The Oxo Tower doesn't really cook food it assembles dishes and this shows. Everything looked pretty but I don't know if anyone was checking what was going on the plate. There is no point giving me two lots of delicious sauce with my steak if you are going to overcook the main event. Someone described this sort of food as lego cuisine which is quite apt. So all in all a disappointment, the place looks good and the staff are very professional but someone needs to sort out the kitchen. Having said that mum enjoyed herself which was the main object.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Food 5 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 4
I can remember what a buzz the original Ping Pong on Gt Malborough St created when it opened about 4 or 5 years ago. Now the chain has spread throughout London and Dim Sum is an established part of the capital's food options. Now the experience may not be as authentic as stallwarts such as the excellent "Royal China" but the food at Ping Pong is approachable and reasonable. There is a comprehensive choice with a few leftfield options for the adventurous. For a while it was my first choice for a quick casual lunch but my last vist to the Great Malborough St branch left me feeling that like the restaurant the concept was getting tired. You are only prepared to wait so long for someone to come and refill your jasmine flower tea with hot water when you are sitting at a chipped table eating overcooked dumplings. However last week we were entertaining a customer at work who professed a love of dim sum but as they were from Leicester they had not encountered Ping Pong before. We decided to avoid Gt Malborough street and try the Market place branch.
The market place branch benefits from a big window frontage so it feels less dingy than other branches. It's a medium sized place and though busy it was starting to empty out when we arrived at 1:30. The bar man greeted us as we entered and a table for 3 was quickly prepared for us. I ordered a full selection of steamed and fried options for us and a round of jasmine teas. The tea came quickly and the hot water was replenished regularly. In fact the staff were very good, friendly and efficient. Less harassed than the huge flagship outlet and just getting on with looking after the customers. The ordering is still done off the list which I quite like.
The food was actually pretty good. I was less impressed with the fried duck rolls than the steamed dumplings. These were really very nice. We tried a black dumpling which was very nice. the seafood ones were very good with good balance of taste and texture. The ribs were also very good with a generous portion. The Lotus leaf rice lacked a bit of flavour but otherwise very good. Our customer loved it and bemoened the fact it hadn't made it up to Leicester. The bill came to about £20 a head which was very reasonable. We all really enjoyed lunch and it has encouraged me to Ping Pong again though if I am out with the family I would normally always go to the "Royal China" however if you are up in the West end this particular Ping Pong branch is to be recommended.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
My lovely wife and Baby G came up to visit me at the office the other day, they have been up before but not at lunchtime so I was the faced with the quandary of where you can dine comfortably with a baby in the West End. The West End is not short of eateries but space is at a premium and I can think of a few places where turning up with baby and paraphinalia would not welcomed. We decided to go chain and picked Strada off Savile Row. We had been before in our courting days and as italian chains go I think this is the best. We pitched up about 13:30 and though the places was busy we were shown to a good table for two with plenty of room to park the baby.
As per usual he liked all the noise and bussle which allowed us to get on with enjoying lunch. We shared one of their tasty breads to start with and followed this with some pasta. It may not be quite like mamma used to make but it was as nice portion cooked from fresh. My lovely wife went for a creamy fish combination which was very tasty whilst my sausage version was good but lacked a bit of power. However it did the trick. We skipped desert for some coffees and baby G continued to be contented.
The service was very friendly and efficient. I've got a lot of time for Strada as a chain. It looks modern, the menu is varied and updated from the usual spag bol and garlic bread. The well run ones like this are very good though I did have a few issues with service at their Marylebone outpost in the past. I also found the bill to be pretty much what I expected and reasonable. I also like the fact that unlike Pizza Express and Carluccio's they aren't everywhere. I'm all for supporting the independent restaurants but it also good to see a chain getting it right.
Friday, October 08, 2010
Food 7 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
I met up with my cousin Simon the other day at Warren street, being a Saturday afternoon a lot of places were shut around there so we wandered down to great Portland st. It had been ages since we had both been for turkish food so we thought we would give "Efes 2" a go. I had been to the other Efes rrestaurant up by the BBC some time ago and found that to be pretty good. On entering "Efes 2" you do get the impression it is very much an evening place, it is quite dark and they had all the cabaret paraphenalia stored in the cloakroom. Having said that they had a very good lunch deal on which was starter and main for under £9 so we though we would give it a go.
The starter was a selection of cold meze (humus, tzaziki etc) with plenty of pitta bread, very nice, tasted fesh if a little cold. We had a additional side of halloumi cheese which Simon hadn't tried before and liked a lot. We both went for a mixed grilled lamb and chicken kebab which was really good. This is the sort of thing turkish restaurants get very right. The meat was chared and smoky on the outside but tender and succulent on the inside, absolutly lovely. The meat was good quality and you could tell this was a restaurant doing a domestic classic well. We washed down the meal with a couple of beers. There was no room for desert afterwards but we went for a couple of medium turkish coffees which was a perfect way to end the meal.
All in all a very nice lunch, I don't think I would be into the evening so much with all the entertainment but the food here is good. They proudly state on their menu that everything is prepared and cooked on site. the bill with the extras and service came to £20 a head which was very good. Service itself was professional and helpful rather than friendly but sometimes that suits the occasion. I had to cycle home afterwards or I never would have eaten the dinner at home later
Thursday, October 07, 2010
Food 8 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 8
As you get older and marriage and fatherhood is bestowed open you it can get harder to catch up with your mates. Big Matt, Villa Steve and myself had been trying to nail down a date for a night out without much sucess. Villa Steve lives out by Virginia Water and travels a lot with work, Big Matt has a 6 week old baby and I'm conscious that Baby G can be a bit of a tinker when it comes to bedtime. However Big Matt suggested we broaden the meet up to include wives, girlfriends and children and go for a big family weekend lunch. Steve picked the Rose & Crown in Egham so off we we went for a late lunch on Sunday.
Egham is a very pleasant part of the world, you feel you are out of London without being that far away. The "Rose and Crown" itself was not far from the M25 but it is set in it's own grounds and back from the road so it has a nice country feel. It was quietening down when we went in at half two but they found us a nice table with plenty of room for babies and buggies. It was possibly a little quieter than Baby G is used to so he woke up and once fed he was very curious indeed about the surroundings. There was a children's play area outside which kept little George occupied between courses. The staff were very friendly and helpfull, they sorted me out some hot water for baby G's bottle and were happy to give us time to order.
Steve has raved for ages about how good the ribs are at the "Rose and Crown" so naturally I gave them a go. He wasn't exagerating, they were excellent, properly slow braised, the meat just fell off the bone. Better than some of the recent offerings I have had from "Bodeans". The portion was huge with a side of chips. My lovely wife had a very generous serving of scampi and chips which she enjoyed. This wasn't fine dining or gastro but really good pub food. The kitchen obviously had talent. For dessert I had to go Banoffe which was good but I wish I had gone for the homemade bakewell tart to see what else the kitchen could offer up. A lot of pub restaurants are let down by their drinks however not here I washed down lunch with a perfect pint of London Pride.
I was really pleased we tried here for lunch as it was the best country pub I had been to for a long time. I find a lot of places go too gastro and it all gets a bit ellaborate and expensive. The "Rose & Crown" serves good hearty food at a reasonable price in very friendly surroundings. It isn't pretending to be something it isn't. It also catered for children without compromising on the fact it is a pub for grown ups. I can't wait to go back soon, who knows we may even be able to sort out a boys daytime outing here...well you have to dream!
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 9
I am a big fan of Borough market and have wanted to try "Tapas Brindisa" for some time. Recent trips to market have been frustrated by weekend work on the Jubilee line. However as luck would have it the Visa agents who were sorting out my passport for a business trip to India and Bangladesh were up by London Bridge. So timing a trip up there to coincide with lunchtime my colleague Dave and I decided to grab a bite of tapas on our way back to the office as this was quick and easy. I was also interested to see how this measured up to my very nice meal at "Iberica" on Great Portland St.
"Tapas Brindisa" has a very old school feel to it, the room is wood pannelled and the simple tables are packed tight together. the long bar up agaisnt the kitchen dominates the room. When turned up at half one it was pretty full but they found as a table at the back for two. We ordered a couple of beers and I selected a selection of tapas. The usual, charcutery plate, tortilla, croquettes, cheese, bread salad and some garelic prawns. It all came pretty quickly. It has to be said it was all very nice. My favourite was the prawns as I mopped up the garlic and chilli oil with the bread.
Looking around I could see there was a good mix of people in here. Lots of local office workers, a few tourists and even a new mum with a baby my son's age. The very efficient staff darted around keeping everyone fed and happy. I really liked it in here it perhaps wasn't a place to linger but I think that is missing the point of lunctime tapas. As a place for a quick bite but with top quality food you can't fault it. The closeness of the tables gives the room a really nice buzz. It was different in feel to "Iberica" but the food was on a par. It's not cheap but good tapas in London never is. I would certainly go back again though with what we were charged to get our visas I'm not sure I will be using the same agents for my next trip!
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 7
I've had previous form with Brown's. I visited their Oxford branch on one of my very first dates with my lovely wife and they gave us a real run around about where we could and couldn't sit and what we could and couldn't order. However I complained to their head office and they were really good at getting back to me and one complimentary voucher later I was happy to use their chain of brasserie type places. The one in Mayfair is a pretty good spot for lunch whilst West End shopping. I had only been to the Covent Garden one for a cocktail demonstration evening many years ago where I won a bottle of vodka for inventing an African inspired alcopop called the "Hakuna Mattata"
On Saturday we were meeting up with Le Grand Tommo, his wife Kirstin and Tommo's brother Matt who is appearing in the Enron musical. It was an early lunch as Matt was in the show and the Tommo's were going to watch. We bought baby G along so everyone could coo over him. Brown's Covent garden is a big old restaurant and is nicely done up. Nice use of the buildings period features and despite being busy you aren't rammed in. We had a long table near the bar with plenty of room for baby's buggy. It was busy in there so baby was more than happy watching the world go by.
We ordered a fairly standard lunch selection, burger, fishcakes, salad and a shepherds pie for me as i was off to the football later. The food when it came looked good but it lacked taste. I was a bit surprised that the kitchen had taken the trouble to slow cook the lamb shoulder and build a very nice looking sheperds pie but then didn't season the dish so it was really bland. Similarly the nice portion of spinach and carrots tasted bland. I was hungry so I finished it but my abiding taste was the pint of guiness I had with lunch. The others found their food fine but nothing exceptional.
Matt went off to make up and we had an hour to kill before the start of the show so we thought dessert would be nice. Unfortunately it took an age to get served. Half the waiting staff seemed to be standing around gossiping the other half working hard. The managers were non existant, for a place this size I would like to have seen someone working the floor chaising up food and helping out the waiting staff. I eventually ordered the chocolate brownie and ice cream which was distincly average, none of the desserts had a wow factor. The bill for us two came to about £40 which would have been reasonable had the food been tasty. In a way "Browns" Covent Garden is a good metaphor for theatreland, it may look nice and offer attractive options but deep down it's just after your money. It is so busy here that repeat custom is not a priority. It's conveniently average.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Food 4 | Service 2 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 3
This venerable West London institution has been shut for several months after a fire in the kitchen. However stuck in an inevitable traffic jam around Marylebone station the other day I noticed it had re-opened. It was a firm favourite of ours when we lived in the area so having been picked up by my lovely wife and baby G after work we decided to pop in on our way home for a takeaway tea at my mum's. It can be a bit of an ordeal parking around there as you get queuing traffic from the ring road, the roads around are narrow and most London cabbies go there for their dinner. Anyway we parked up the road and leaving the family in the car I went to get our order.
It has to be said the owners made good use of the shutdown to tart up the place which was starting to look a bit rundown. The new kitchen looks bright and airy and well organised. I ordered cod for the ladies and plaice for me. I had a little wait for the plaice but that's usual. I was pleased to see that the regular clientele of taxi drivers, tourists and locals had returned. It was rumoured in the 80's that Princess Margaret used to send out for Fish and Chips from the Seashell. I've very fond memories of being taken there by my dad and queuing on a Friday for our family takeaway. I'm very glad it is still there so that I can do the same with my little boy. They have put a few tables outside which makes this scruffy part of Lisson Grove look a bit nicer. Inside is still standing room only which seems to please the cabbies.
I took the our order home and it has to be said the girls were very happy with their enormous pieces of cod. I was less happy with my plaice as the batter had come off in transit and the piece was pretty small compared to the whopping cod. The chips however were very good. All in all not bad and as Costa's Fish Bar is no more "the Seashell" remains our closest decent option for fish and chips. I do wish so clever entrepeneur would open a good no nonsense Fish and Chip shop for us in Notting Hill.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Food 7 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 7
My lovely wife and baby G popped up to my office on Friday afternoon which was lovely. After baby G had done the rounds and been carried, kissed and cooed over by everyone we decided to head out for an early family dinner. We decided to take him out in his car seat on the pram wheels as he was unlikely to lie down in his pram whilst we ate. We wandered around the West End before ending up in our old stamping ground Marylebone. Obviously our old favourites like "Odin's" and "Langan's Bistro" weren't an option and I really didn't fancy pizza Express so we decided to give "family" friendly "Giraffe" a go. We thought that is was bright and noisy which should keep our young man distracted so that we could eat.
It was early when we arrived but we were nicely greeted and given our choice of table. We opted for the end of one of the shared benches so that we could keep the pram in between us. We ordered a couple of drinks, a nice cider for me and a fancy spritzer for my lovely wife. The waitress also bought us some hot water to heat baby G's bottle. Though the restaurant was quiet, the upbeat world music mix gave it a nice atmosphere. We ordered some nachos to share which were pretty good not the usual half-*rsed ntotilla chips and tomato salsa but a nice mixed bean salsa, lots of guacamole and green chillies. Baby G had been fed during nacho time and seemed pretty chilled out so we chanced some mains.
I went for the special quesidellas whilst my lovely wife had a duck burrito. My quesidillas were OK, not amazing but pretty tasty and my wife found her burrito pretty good. The food in Giraffe is nothing amazing but it's reasonable and there is a bit of variety to it. We followed the mains with a shared sundae which was good but perhaps needed to be a bit bigger for two. Throughout the meal we were looked after by a team of young friendly staff who took a real shine to baby G who was enjoying the attention. The Marlebone branch isn't big but they make good use of the space. Though we were inside the glass doors were open so we got the benefit of the summers evening.
All in all a pretty nice meal and at about £50 not too expensive. It certainly is a place to take the little ones though by the time we left it had filled up with families, couples and one american tourist family who looked thouroughly hacked off with each other after a day doing the sights. We would go back with baby G but then again if it was lunchtime and we were up that way we would automatically go to the Royal China for Dim Sum.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Food 6 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
I got home pretty early on Wednesday and rather than the usual bath baby, feed baby, get baby down and cook dinner whilst knackered we decided to go out for an early bite to eat. I had seen "Otto" when I was out driving so as it was a short walk from home we decided to give it a go. Dining out with Baby G can be a bit of a lottery, mostly he sleeps but other times he is awake but seems quite happy to sit up at the table and take everything in. You do get the occasional tears but in a busy restaurant that isn't a problem. We had however chosen to go to "Otto" early so the chances are it would be quiet.
We pitched up about 6 and it was indeed quiet but the waitress was very friendly, let us sit wherever we wanted and explained the concept on offer. The room has an open kitchen and various canteen type tables dotted around, quite an industrial feel to it but not unpleasant, very Notting Hip Basically the deep pan pizza's at "Otto's" have a corn bread base which is allows for deeper and more diverse fillings. I was a little dubious about some of the available flavour combinations but the waitress suggested we go for a whole 6 slices mix and match pizza between two. We ordered a bottle of the very nice viognier and though they only had an open bottle with a glass missing they only charged us for a half bottle. Nice touch and very nice wine.
By this time baby G had woken up and wanted to see what was going on. He sat on my knee and seemed happy enough gawping at the people at the bus stop outside. The pizza arrived and we were very impressed a nice looking pizza dish, perfectly cooked contents and despite it being mix and match each slice was identifiable. My particular favourite was the vegan option with "cashew" cheese, it was really spicy. My lovely wife loved the caramelised onions and basalmic slice, the pancetta was also very good. By this time baby G was bored of his bustop and I was worried about him doing his usual trick of the flying headbutt so I stuck him over my shoulder. Weirdly he likes this but it did mean I had to eat one handed which was tricky.
I really enjoyed the meal especially the corn meal base which was quite crumbly but very tasty and combined well with the toppings. It'a bit like quiche but nice. The service was very friendly throughout and baby G took a bit of a shine to the waitress and vice versa. We got slightly worried when more people turned up as we were probably pushing the window of opportunity with the baby. However his tired tantrum coincided nicely with the end of our meal so my lovely wife took him out for a walk whilst I paid. The bill came to £30 for two which is a real bargain. I noticed they do takeaway so I can see us definetly coming back soon. Hopefully baby G will be a little less of a handfull.
Friday, July 09, 2010
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 9
I was out at a business meeting on Great Portland st and it was suggested we pop into "Iberica" afterwards for a bit of tapas and a glass of wine. I was very glad that we did easily the best tapas I have had in London. Tapas tends to be a form of food that talks a good game but rarely delivers. It should be cheap tasty snacks to accompagny a glass of wine, It too often ends up being stodgy and oily or if it is good it is horrendously expensive. I remember one set of tapas and a very average bottle of wine at "Providores" that set me back nearly a £100. My supplier Robin useds Iberica a lot as you can eat light or go for something more substantial. He also noted that the site on Great Portland st had been a white elephant for years with the average tenancy for a restaurant being 9 months, Iberica had broken that cycle and was very buzzy on Thursday lunchtime with a mixture of business people, tourists, families and a few Meeja types.
We ordered a plate of ham, 2 types of croquettes, some squid, some bread and oil and a tortilla. This was washed down with a bottle of light red. The food was excellent. The tortilla in particular was the best I have ever had instead of being a stodgy quiche gone wrong we had a lovely thick omelette that was runny through the middle. Delicious stuff. Again the croquettes were so tasty, not overcooked so you could taste the ingredients. The aioli with the squid was a little harsh but the squid itself was delicious. The ham was top quality with a nice selection. The waiter explained the choices to us and throughout the meal we had very friendly service. The wine was very nice as you would expect. This was ticking all the boxes for me.
The restaurant is built in a sort of duplex so there is plenty of light giving the room a light airy feel. Robin got lunch but I think it all came to under £80 for 3 of us which is really good going for the quality on offer. I can understand why he goes there for lunch regularly. It's a place I am extremely keen to go back to again so I can fully banish the memories of several bad tapas meals I have had in London. a real gem of a place well worth a visit
Monday, July 05, 2010
Food 9 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
This is pretty much the closest pub to home and I've had some good nights in there over the last couple of years. For many years it avoided gentrification so it was a drinkers pub. It attracted a very diverse group of clientele of local residents, students, tourists who got lost looking for Portobello and a fair number of first time drinkers. It made for a very fun atmosphere on a Friday and Saturday night. It did do food but it was a drinkers pub so you wouldn't really want to risk it. I actually quite liked it that way. Not everywhere should feel the need to do food and if you can't do it well then best stick to what you are good at.
About a year ago the owners got into financial trouble and the pub shut which meant changing my Friday night routine. It was bought by the present owners, re-opened, the sky TV was taken out (boo) but it was pretty much as before. I continued to go and so did a lot of the same crowd. It then closed for a proper refurbishment and re-opened in it's current incarnation which is pretty good take on the gastropub. The work had obviously gone into the kitchen as the bar is pretty much as is. It's a nice open room with lots of light so they have wisely avoided cluttering up. It still does the same decent array of drinks and still retains the amateur but charming bar staff.
I popped in the other night with Big Matt to grab a bite and was pleased to see they had put a couple of screens in for the duration of the world cup. We were thus able to eat and watch Spain tonk Honduras. We both went for the burger which was a tenner and came with fries and it has to be said for pub grub it was pretty good. A nice big tasty burger nicely cooked with a thick slice of cheddar on top, plenty of tomato and relish. Superior stuff so I well minded to give the kitchen a proper try out soon. If you are in Notting Hill "The Hillgate" is well worth a try and the food is a million times better than the more popular Windsor Castle. It's a nice quiet spot for a beer and a bite.
Friday, July 02, 2010
Food 7 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 7
Our in laws had come down to visit us but more particularly their beloved grandson so we availed ourselves of their offer to babysit and had a night out. As it turned out our friend Peta who had introduced me to my lovely wife was having some farewell drinks at "The Establishment" on Battersea Rise that night. So we set out on clear summer's night knowing our little boy was being well looked after for some much needed R&R. We hadn't planned to eat as we had had a very nice family lunch at "Maximini" earlier on. However once we got to the bar and had a few drinks we thought it best to grab something. The thought of dealing with a 7 week old baby wilst trying to shed a hangover was not grabbing us. We stayed at "The Establishment" for a couple of hours and then headed off with the recommendation of trying a couple of places on Northcote Rd
Clapham was really jumping on this Saturday night everywhere was packed and people were having a lot of fun. "Bueno Sera" was particularly busy but it looked very enticing with it's patio setting, open windows and simple but stylish all white decor. We decided to pop in and try for a table. In my experience you can normally get a table for two most places if you are prepared for a short wait. As it turned out we only waited 10 minutes before being shown to a lovely table inside but by the open window. The restaurant may have been busy but we were seved pretty promptly. I ordered the speciality mushroom, sausage and cheese risotto of the day whilst my wife went for some penne. We were still quite full from lunch so we skipped starters and sides.
We ordered a couple of glasses of red wine and really started to relax. Buona Sera is one of these great places that makes you think you are abroad on holiday. The food arrived and was very nice. I really enjoyed my risotto which despite it's ingredients was not heavy or stodgy. My wife's penne was particularly good, really tasty. The restaurant was still bustling away and they were still taking in bookings at 10PM. We got chatting to our waiter who said it started quietening down by midnight but it had been full on busy there all day. We skipped dessert as we thought it would be best to relieve the dutifull grandparents. However the very kind waiter brought us a glass of Limoncello each to celebrate our first night out since the becoming parents. A very nice touch.
The bill came to under £40 which was fantastic value. I can see why this place is so popular with the Clapham crowd. As I've said before it can be a real challenge finding somewhere that does good italian food at reasonable prices. Buona Sera really fits the bill. Good food, professional service and a friendly atmosphere. I am very keen to pop back for a proper meal. To cap the evening off we got a cab straight after leaving the restaurant, result!
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8
Being a parent for the first time I have had to rethink our dining preferences. We can't now go to a lot of the places we onced loved and we often fit eating around our son. Having said that he has allowed us to eat at old favourites "Langan's Coq D'or", "Sophies steakhouse", "Maximini" and "The Royal China" which is pretty good. However these are places that know us so I am less worried about the reaction if he starts crying. Going to new places is a bit more problematic as you never know how child friendly they will be. Maybe with time we will become a bit more bullish about taking him into new places.
So yesterday we were faced with the ultimate conundrum we had taken Baby G out shopping on High St Kensington. Shopping was completed and my lovely wife and I were distinctly peckish, problem was so was baby G and boy was he letting the world know all about it! I really didn't want to go in somewhere with a screaming baby certainly nowhere nice even though a cuddle and feeding would have settled my son. I then remembered that there was a "Byron" nearby. I have often passed it at the weekend when it is rammed with buggies. We thought this was the least worst option.
On entering we were greeted with indifference by the bored looking manager who nevertheless showed us to a small table for two down the side of the open kitchen with not a great deal of space for the pram. We did have a view of Holland Park but it was such a grey charmless day and the aircon was set to Siberia inside that it all felt a bit Soviet era. Matters improved with the appearance of a nice waitress who got us some hot water to heat the little ones bottle. He fed quickly and was out like a spark for the next two hours. We ordered our lunch. Byron burger for me with a side of courgette fries and a cheese burger for the missus with some fries. We shared some a iceberg wedge side salad. My wife ordered a chocolate milkshake and I went for a small glass of cab sab.
The drinks came first my wife's milkshake was very nice indeed, my wine was dreadful, the sort of stuff you got in pubs before All Bar One made everyone raise their game. The food arrived and my burger was good but really no fireworks. It was well cooked but still far short of the "Sophie's Steakhouse" Black Angus version which remains the daddy in my book. My wife liked her cheeseburger and polished it off quickly. I still prefer the GBK burgers which are more substantial. The sides were variable. The fries were of the standard cooked from frozen variety whilst the courgette fries though they looked nice the fresh clean taste of the courgette was marred by the old oil they had been fried in. The iceberg wedge was covered in an inferior blue cheese dressing so really stodgy. All in all it was food that may have nourished your body but not your soul.
Service was best exemplified by the oreo milkshake I ordered to get rid of the taste of the bad wine. The guy behind the bar made and it stood on the counter ignored for some time until he saw the waiting staff were too busy elsewhere and had to deliver to me himself. It wasn't really worth the wait. The bill came to £33 which was expensive for a meal that fell far short. I know this isn't a michelin starred place but their are plenty of fast food and snack places that would have made a better fist of lunch than "Byron". I really can't understand the positive reviews it garners as to me it was cold, clinical looking and extremely average. The Ikea of burger joints! I really wish the baby hadn't been crying or we had been brave enough to go somewhere better.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Food 5 | Service 3 | Atmosphere 1 | Value for money 5
Despite feeling very groggy after my day/night out at the FA cup Final I managed to sort myself out enough to consider going along to the Double Winners victory parade. This was all helped by my lovely wife's decision to take baby G to see his grandparents for the weekend. I had learnt to my cost a couple of weeks before that small baby's and hangovers are not a great combination. Anyway after a restorative pot of tea and showing the steely resolves of JT's blue and white army I set off to Parsons Green to see the parade and catch up with my fellow West stand stallwarts. My journey was trouble free and I was early enough to get a good spot outside the Duke on Parsons Green. I was pretty sensible and had a large cold Coke whilst I waited for my mate Carl to turn up with his son Jack. Jack is only 3 so was a bit confused by what was going on but his afternoon took a turn from the better when he was able to take a seat and sound the siren in a fire engine from the local station. Great idea from the London fire brigade all the kids loved it.
Anyway parade over we decided to grab a bite to eat. The Duke and Sloaney Pony were quite busy so Carl suggested we walk up to Fulham road so he could show Jack the house he grew up in. Fortunatly over the road from his old house was a great little local Italian "Luna Nuova". It was already 3 when we popped in but the very friendly waiter said it wasn't a problem to feed us. Italian restaurants are really good at providing for kids so Jack was kept happy with a a nice spag bol and some apple juice. Carl went for a roast chicken dish whilst I went for a seafood risotto. We washed this down with a pretty nice glass of Valpolicella each. The restaurant itself isn't big as it is in a converted house but they do have some outside seating as well. The also have a nicely stocked bar suggesting they cater of the crowd on a night out as well as diners. There was a couple of others tables eating when we entered and their food looked very nice.
My risotto was really good and a very hearty portion. They hadn't skimped on the seafood either so there was plenty for me to enjoy. It really got me feeling normal again. Carl's chicken was very tasty and he polished it off in no time. Jack was struggling slightly with his portion of spag bol so we helped him out and it was also very nice. Jack's meal came with an ice cream to follow which he wasn't about to turn down. The adults skipped desert in favour of some nice coffee. It was very relaxed in there and the Sunday afternoon passed very pleasantly. The gave Jack a colouring in book so he wasn't bored as his dad and I discussed our momentous season.
We were all very impressed with our meal and may even rotate it into our post or pre match venues once the season starts again. It typified everything I like about good italian restaurants: relaxed friendly service, simple tasty food and nice easy drinking wine. Our bill was a very reasonable £36 and we would easily have spent more on worse food elsewhere. It's a bit more modern looking than your usual neighbourhood places but it has a nice atmosphere and some great cooking. Well worth a visit if you are up in Fulham.
Thursday, June 03, 2010
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
I am always a bit apprehensive about going to hotel restaurants in London. I have had some pretty iffy meals in the past and they often display an identikit corporate feel that you don't get at standalone restaurants. However with the explosion of good steakhouses in London I was keen to try the Grosvenor House's take on this type of food. We were having an off site lunch meeting and rather than go to our favourite red meat emporium "Goodman" I decided to try the "JW Steakhouse". I checked out the website before booking and it seemed to talk a good game so I booked for our Friday lunch.
We walked in the cavernous room which fronts onto Park Lane and I was dissapointed to see it was pretty empty. However we were greeted nicely and shown to a spacious table. We ordered drinks which took a while to arrive and perused the menus. It wasn't the greatest of starts , big empty room, piped in cheesy rock music and an outrageously priced wine list. Matters improved when they gave us some bread which was a sort of savoury brioche freshly baked. Very nice. From my seat I could see into the kitchen which was huge, clean and organised so I was expecting a good meal. The manager came over and introduced himself prior to ordering explaining it was their first day open proper. I felt their steak selection was actually a bit limited and expensive so I went for a simple hanger steak, chips and onion rings. I was joined in this by one of my fellow diners the others had the £17 burger!!!! and the other a caeser salad. We ordered a bottle of their cheaper cab sab which for £35 wasn't great (I can get Vasse Felix for that cost in Odin's).
The food arrived pretty quickly and though my hanger steak was tasty it was not cooked medium some of it being very blue. It also wasn't piping hot suggesting it had been under the passe for a while. This is a bit of a bug bear of mine. I like my food to come from pan to plate to table rapidly. Hotel restaurants seem to get this wrong more than most. Having said that my dining companions really enjoyed their meal and cleared their plates. On a plus side my onion rings were really good some thought had gone in to making look and taste more than just a generic side.
By the time we had finished our mains the restaurant had filled up a bit more but it still felt a little souless. I did wonder how it would appeal beyond the hotel guests who made up the majority of their clientele on their first full day. We were all too full for desert so ordered some coffees, however as first day treat the manager sent us over a cheesecake to share with our coffee. Now this was freshly baked cheesecake and was delicious, sweet, firm but not too heavy. This ensured our meal ended on a high.
The service was attentive but you did feel the staff were still learning their ropes. I was a bit annoyed to see that when the bill came they tried to hit me for double service charge which is another classic hotel trick. The bill came to £154 for 4 for main and drinks which is going some. It has to be said I was dissapointed with our lunch not in that it was bad but that I was expecting better. I was hoping for a take on a US Vegas style steakhouse like Prime or Delmonico's instead I got our half baked version. "JW Steakhouse" should look, feel and taste better than it is, hopefully they can iron out their difficulties so that it becomes a destination restaurant rather than just using up empty space in the Grosvenor House. There were flashes of a good restaurant there but I feel they were hidden by the one size fits all mantra of a hotel restaurant.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Food 6 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 3 | Value for money 3
It was the day after my son was born and as the labour ward was shut to visitors between 1PM and 3PM i decided to pop home to Notting Hill to get a bit of rest and some decent food inside me. I had been living on crisps and takeaways for 4 days so I was keen to get something more substantial into me. However when I opened the fridge tiredness hit me and I just couldn't muster the energy or enthusiasm to cook lunch. I decided to avail myself of one of the local spots for lunch. I had been wanting to try "Eat Tokyo" for a while. It occupies the site of the former "Costa's Fish Bar" on Hillgate st. A venerable local institution that was only shut when the onwer decided to take a well deserved retirement. It may have denied us our Friday Night fish and Chips but I was not unhappy to see a Japanese noodle shop pop up in it's place.
I wandered down to their place looking forward to a quiet restorative lunch. I was politely greeted at the door by the waiting staff and chef and shown to a table. The restaurant was about half full which isn't bad for a Monday. I leafed through the menu which came with handy pictures and ordered some grilled gyoza dumplings and a pork escalope bento box, to drink I had green tea. I was pleased to see that the new owners had kept the same sparse understated decor of the "Costa's". It reminded me of my old west end favourite "Ramen Seto" where the food does the talking not the decor. A nice new touch was some quiet music playing in the background and a projection of Japanese scenes onto one of the walls. All in all it was very relaxing and gave me some time to take in the reality of fatherhood.
My food arrived after about 10 minutes and was very nice indeed. The Bento box was huge, rice, tofu squares, lots of pork escalope, a nice salad, a few pieces of sushi, plenty of teriyaki sauce and some miso soup. Really nice fresh flavours big on taste and it really livened me up. I could probably have managed without the gyoza but I can never resist ordering them,. These were very good with a nice crisp filling. I am not the greatest fan of sushi and have always found the cooked offering to be so much better. I sometimes wish people would see further than the california rolls and waygu beef and try something different. "Eat Tokyo" has an open kitchen so I can see the small team of chefs preparing some great looking dishes. I was particularly impressed by one dish which appeard to be a seafood omelette on a bed of noodles.
Service was polite but friendly and I always like places where the kitchen crew say goodbye to you on leaving. The bill was extremely reasonable at around £15 for such a tasty lunch. It has to be said I was very impressed with this little gem, it may be small but the food it turned out was superb. I may miss "Costa's" but I think it's replacement offers the area something new and something authentic. I can't wait to try it again and this time go for something more unusual. Well worth a visit if you are in the area.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Food 9 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 9
A week into my paternity leave I thought it was good opportunity to take my lovely wife and gorgeous little boy out for some lunch. Obviously we timed it so the young man was fed and asleep so his parents could enjoy a long overdue meal out together. We weren't sure where to go but combined it with a walk and ended up wandering passed "the Mitre". I can remember when it was an extremely large but shabby pub called the Raj. We would occasionally watch football there but it wasn't the greatest and when it was renovated there were few tears. In it's current incarnation "The Mitre" is a far classier affair. A big bar with plenty of choice, lots of seating and an mezanine dining area. They also had some wicker seats outside which despite the traffic noise looked pretty comfy.
We were somewhat apprehensive on entering with a pram as some bars can be a bit sniffy but they were happy to have our custom here. We were given our choice of tables and promptly boughtour ordered drinks. After a few weeks of taking it slow my pint of Bitburger tasted great. The menu looked good, the usual gastro pub fayre but maybe paired down a bit. My wife ordered gamon duck egg and chips which she loved. Nice gammon not too salty and a nice runny egg (she really missed those when she was pregnant). I went for a starter portion of mussels and a side of chips. The waitress recommended I go for creamy bisque sauce instead of the marinere version and it was a good choice. For a starter the portion was huge and the fat scottish mussels when well with the rich creamy sauce. Dessert was a bit of a dissapointment we were intrigued by the tart of the day "tart tatin" so ordered one to share. However it was undercooked with clumpy pastry which was a shame as the sauce and apples tasted great. It was an example of a kitchen overeaching itself. However we weren't too dissapointed as the rest of the meal had been so nice.
We were impressed with the Mitre, it was pretty quiet the lunchtime we went but it still had a nice feel. Ther service we had was friendly and efficient, the food of a generally good standard and at a reasonable price. Our little one clearly enjoyed himself as he slept through the whole lunch. I noticed they do weekend Brunch so we will return for another family outing.
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Food 7 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 8
We were London bound this Easter in case junior decided to put in an early appearance. The weather was pretty rotten which prevented us going very far afield from Notting Hill. Saturday morning was reasonably good so we made plans to meet our friends Zoe and Nick and their six month old son William. We usually brunch at "202 " with them which is pretty good but it gets far too busy in there and though they are used to buggies it can get very cramped. A friend of mine had tipped me that "the Electric" was good so we booked a table there. The process of booking was a bit convaluted but arriving with some trepidation on Saturday morning we were happy to be shown to a comfy table at the rear of the restaurant with plenty of room for William and his pram.
"The Electric" is the Notting Hill outpost of the "Soho House" organisation, it is part private members club, part cinema and part brasserie. I've used the cinema on numerous occasions and it is a comfortable yet pricey place to see a film (The Coronet or Gate are much more reasonable). The brasserie always looks really busy as it was on Saturday. Obviously with the market on you get a lot of tourist in and locals in however we were away from the main crush in the dining area at the rear. Zoe and company were running late so we waited at our table. The staff were very pleasant indeed, taking our coats, bringing us coffee and chating away to us which was nice. They have a good staff to customer ratio here so you never have to wait long for anything.
Our friends arrived and after a lot of cooing over William by the waitresses we ordered a selection of breakfast. My lovely wife was really hungry so had french toast and scrambled egg and bacon, she really enjoyed it, I tried her french toast which was delicious. The others had the full English breakfast which they enjoyed. Nick in particular found it great for restoring him after a heavy night at the Mall Tavern. I fancied something different so went for the steak and eggs. It has to be said I was a bit underwelmed, nice egg and chips but a very small piece of underseasoed steak. I was expecting better especially as the "Electric" boasts a well staffed open kitchen. However my coffe was really nice much more generous than the thimbleful you get at "202". We weren't rushed at any stage and could have stayed longer but William was needing some fresh air.
It has to be said I was rather impressed with here. It really looked the part and on the whole the food was good. I also found the service professional and friendly which you don't often get in Notting Hill. The bill was about £20 each which was pretty good as we all had a couple of rounds of coffee. Apart from my dish the portions were very good value for money. I can definetly see us venturing in again with our baby. I don't know if I would risk walking in without a reservation at the weekend as it was extremely busy.
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
Food 7 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
We were up and about reasonably early last Saturday but I was feeling a bit shabby after a few Friday pints of Sam Smith's at the excellent Champion pub off Oxford St. A trip to the farmers market had failed to shift my sticky head though the woman at the bakery stall has suggested an eckles cake as a suitable cure. My lovely wife suggested we go out for breakfast and try her new favourite lunch spot "Cafe Phillies" down near High St Ken. The original plan was to walk but we thought we might combine breakfast with a Waitrose mini shop so on we drove. Walking around Phillimore gardens always makes me feel like a young boy again as I used to spend lots of time in the area in the 80's as my elder sisters lived in a flat in Stafford Court. Back then a trip to Safeways was an exotic treat but nowadays High St Ken and it's environs offer you a bit more.
"Cafe Phillies" is just opposite "Sticky Fingers" and from the outside looks like your typical cafe. Step inside and you are greeted by some lovely fresh salads on the counter and a wine rack that rises up the wall. It is a popular place as their were a steady stream of people come in throughout our meal. I ordered a lovely freshly squeezed orange juice which slew the hangover monster and a nice creamy mocha, my wife had an enormous hot chocolate. They did the obligatory full English but I thought I would be adventurous and have a chorizo and pepper omelette whilst my wife went for a feta and tomato one. We also ordered some bread and butter to keep us going. The bread was very nice, so sweet I actually just had it with butter. I was less impressed with my omelette, possibly onion and chorizo might have been a better filling. However my wife's omelette was really nice, soft and tasty. All in all pretty good.
It is a great place to people watch as you get a good cross section of Kensingtonites popping in. The couple sat next us with the newborn baby were very friendly and it pointed to a future where we might still be able to get out once in a while. Less reasuring was the next table where a man and his 3 sons were sat. As soon as he sat down he pulled open his FT and ignored them as they proceeded to chuck sugar sachets around. Service was quite stretched in there as they were so busy, it took a little longer than I liked to get the bill and a glass of tap water. The bill itself was pretty reasonable under £30 for the both of us. The lunch menu did look very good. I noticed another table tucking into some seriously nice dips and the aforementioned fresh salads. I am very keen to go back but possibly for lunch next time.
Thursday, April 01, 2010
Food 7 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
We hadn't meant to stop for lunch but we were really glad we did. Sunday was a so so day but my lovely wife was fed up of being cooped up at home with the bump so we decided to go out for a walk. She wanted to steer me towards the shops on Westbourne Grove and I wanted to steer her towards the Guiness pumps at the Cow. In the end we did neither as we sort of wandered aimlessly around Notting Hill. We almost had a snack in the Guesthouse West but it was really quiet in there so we just stopped for two cokes (£5!!!). Coming out of there we thought we might wander up Westbourne grove but then we spotted Taqueria.
We had often walked past it and have wanted to try it for a while. We were impressed by it's authentic feel and open kitchen. We walked in and it seemed to be quietening down after the lunch rush. We were shown to a big round table in corner and left with some menus. I could see from these that this was the real deal. More Wahaca than Wahaca. The waiter directed us towards the lunchtime specials so instead of the lovely looking Tacos we went for enchiladas. My wife had the ranchas version whilst I went for the hotter version. We ordered some sides of avocado, cheese and paprika coated corn cob and some fried plantain. We washed this down with a couple of beers.
Whilst we waited we muched on some complimentary spicy pumkin seeds which went well with the beer. The food when it appeared was lovely. Everything tasted fresh and not stodgy like your cheese ladden tex mex offerings. The enchilades were smothered in a fiery sauce that I was enjoying combining with the avocado and plantain. The corn on the cob was delicious, I normally don't like anything on my corn but this gave it an extra dimension. As we ate away the restaurant filled up completly, a large proportion of the clientele were Mexican or South American suggesting we were eating an authentic meal.
The service did suffer slightly as the place filled up but I put that down to a lot of tables being filled in the space of 10 minutes. It certainly didn't look like the standard of food leaving the kitchen was suffering. Several tables appeared to be there for the afternoon with them ordering dish after dish. We just about had room for some desert and ordered some hot chocolate and a plate of churos to share. The churos were lovely, definetly the king of donuts! Well cooked and moist without being oily and dusted in lots of sugar and cinamon. The hot chocolate was very good, nicely flavoured and not too heavy. All in all a great meal.
The bill including service came to a very reasonable £46, we both vowed to come back possibly with baby in tow. I really liked the informal diner style feel of the restaurant coupled with the authentic food. The staff were very enthusiastic about their food. I chatted to the waiter when paying and he told me about the Tuesday tamale special night and Thursday soup evenings where they serve complicated dishes but traditional dishes the kitchen wouldn't attempt every day. This fitted in well with the obviously freshly prepared fayre we had enjoyed. This place really impressed us and we will try and go back soon.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Food 9 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 9
Right at the very end of Ladbroke Grove, past the Sainsbury's lies a restored victorian gin palace. Paradise by Way of Kensal Green may be a mouthful but it is a suitably grand name for a rather impressive gastro pub. From the outside it looks quite dark and gothic but step through it's doors and you are greeted by a light airy room with lots of light coloured furniture. It's not just a case of someone restoring an old pub but adding to it. you could compare it to the interior of "Beach Blanket Babylon" but this has none of it's pretension and the service was a whole heap better. We ended up here as part of our NCT class catch up. One of the couples had taken refuge here in need of restoration after the trauma of the 3 hour breastfeeding class a few weeks ago. We had all met up at "the Cow" on Sunday and wanting to make the most of the calm before the storm we decided to meet up again here last night.
Gastro pub dining rooms can be a bit of an afterthough, too many places think that plonking down assorted wooden tables in the back room allows you to charge £15 for sausage and mash. Here they take a lot more pride. The back room was light and airy, the tables well laid out and some good staff on hand to look after us. They bought us jugs of tap water unprompted and kept refilling them which gets a big thumbs up from me. Obviously the girls weren't drinking whilst the guys had a moderate tipple. I was impressed with the standard of "Bombardier" they served and the house cab sab we had was OK but not outstanding. We weren't rushed to order and they were very good about pushing through the order of one of our party who got delayed at work.
Some of the girls had an whole baked artichoke which they really seemed to enjoy, clean plates denotes happy mum's to be. 2 of the chaps went with the roast chicken which was by all accounts good. One girl had the stir fried quinoa which was an interesting departure from the usual gastro pub vegetarian option. My lovely wife had a very good bit of pan fried plaice. a decent sized piece perfectly cooked. I went for the ribeye and triple cooked chips. I was a little dissapointed as though the steak looked great it lacked a bit of seasoning and was rare rather than the medium rare I ordered. However the dish was saved by the lovely mustard butter and the great chips.
We were having such a nice time chatting away that it seemed only right to indulge in some desert. I shared a pretty good Knickerbocker Glory with my wife, the sticky toffee pudding went down very well with one couple though the chocolate mousse was a bit underwelming for another of our party. All in all a really nice meal and made all the better by some nice service. The chef came out to deliver most of his dishes and the waiter was on hand with water and wine whenever needed. This made the evening go very smoothly so even a slightly longer wait for desert passed very pleasantly.
The bill came to £50 a couple which was pretty good going. I've been wanting to try here for a while and it didn't dissapoint. I was impressed with how friendly the staff were especially compared to some places down the road in Notting Hill. This had the style but also bags of substance. I'm looking forward to going back I especially liked the sound of their Bloody Mary club though I'm not sure how well boozy Sundays will mix with fatherhood!
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Food 7 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8
Tucked away from the rush and noise of Oxford St lies one of the best little italian's in London. It may not have ingredients flown in daily from Italy, a tempremental chef or a menu that stretches the boundaries of gastronomy but it does make consistently great tasting food served in a friendly buzzy atmosphere. If yoou want a plate of pasta some lovely fresh pizza's a glass of good standard red then Il Pizzaiolo is the place for you.
I have been coming here for years. It used to be my father's favourite spot for lunch, people still talk about the time he had too much Limoncello after lunch and tripped A over T on his return to work. As a treat I was often taken here so we could catch up and I could hopefully justify what I was getting up to at university. When I then started work in the West End it became a tradition to grab lunch here every Friday. My office subsequently moved and I still pop back from time to time. I even introduced my wife to this venerable institution and if she out shopping she will usually come here for lunch. On Monday she was up in town so we decided to pop back for another visit.
Il Pizzaiolo is quite small but they make good use of the space, there is a little pavement area outside, main resaurant with gives onto the open kitchen and pizza oven as well as a downstairs which is often hired out for functions (my brother had his 21st here). Space is at a premium so the heavy wood tables are pretty close together. The walls are covered in huge murals depicting all things Italian. I remember it being painted years ago with the artist working around the patrons. It generally fills up quickly at lunchtime, if you get here after 1 you may not get a table. you get a really nice mixture of people in here the usual tourists and shoppers but mainy west End workers and business people come here. There is a good portion of regulars who know they are guaranteed a great feed.
On Monday we came in early, and ordered a couple of pizza's, my personal favourite is the an uncooked one with mozarella , basil and parma ham. My wife had a cooked one with anchovies and olives. One of the chef's was throwing out the dough in front of us so we knew it was all freshly made. The pizza's were great, generous size and plenty of toppings. I washed it down with a glass of very quaffable red wine. It is a great place to catch up and the atmosphere is very friendly helped along by some great staff. The bill came to just over £30 for lunch and a few drinks which was a bargain in my book.
There are a lot of places that claim to be the best italian in London. I went to one of the most reviewed one's recently "Stef's" and was sorely dissapointed. I felt I needed to come back here to be reminded how good heart Italian food can be and what proper hospitality is. I've never had a bad meal here and the restaurant holds some wonderful memories for me. The cooking may not push boundaries here but how often do you find somewhere that consistantly delivers over a 15 year period. It's the little restaurant with a big heart, long may it continue.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Food 9 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 10
It had been a busy Saturday morning encompasing a visit to the swish St Mary's birthing centre for a talk about what to expect in the next couple of weeks, sorting out the house and finding a nice present for my sister in law's birthday. As we had ended up in Harvey Nichols and had fortuitously snagged a parking space in Lowndes square we thought we would take in some lunch. We had a quick look at the menu for the 5th floor restaurant but it all looked a bit involved so we opted instead for something simpler.
The Wagamama's is in the basement of Harvey Nichols and though it was early it was Saturday so I was expecting a long wait to get seated. We were pleasantly surprised to be shown directly to our table. The restaurant was about half full and though it did fill up a bit more later we didn't feel at all crushed in. The room is a lot smaller than their mega outposts on Lexington St and Wigmore st. It has a mix of the usual bench and tables as well as a stools and a bar area which seemed ideal for the lone diners. There was a real mixture of people in, tourists, shoppers like ourselves, a few families with young children and shop staff. It had a pretty pleasant buzz
We decided to share a plate of gyoza's which were OK-ish and my lovely wife went for the chilli chicken noodle soup whilst I went for ginger chicken udon noodles. My wife enjoyed her soup it was spiced just right as she didn't add any extra chilli oil. My dish was very nice, I'd not had it before and it was filling and tasty. I also found that the combination of this a couple of cups of green tea had laid to rest the hangover that had been threatening to manifest itself after one bengal lancer too many at the Churchill the night before. The heat in the birthing suite hadn't helped either. Anyway I felt a lot better after the meal and was ready to take on the chore of the Saturday Sainsbury's big shop.
The cost of our meal for two was a rather reasonable £26. The service had been prompt and friendly. It has to be said I was quite impressed by this outpost of the noodle chain. The fact it is a bit smaller and less like an aircraft hanger gave it a better atmosphere. I was also pleased to see that they actively catered for children which will be handy for us soon. For a cheap filling lunch you couldn't go wrong coming in here. Definetly better than the two West End branches I had used.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Food 7 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
We had visited had visited "Noorjahan 2" off Sussex Gardens a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it so we were keen to give it's sister restaurant a go especially as it had the reputation as the great and good's favourite local indian. After a hard day watching the mighty Chelsea turn over West Ham and with a pregnant wife with a craving for curry we thought we would pop down to Gloucester Road to give it a go. We fancied an early meal so lovely my wife had booked us in for 7pm. When we arrived the restaurant was empty apart from one other couple. We were shown to a table in the window which wasn't ideal but my wife was comfortable so we didn't move. There were lots of staff on duty suggesting they would be very busy later on. As it turned out they were fully booked as various people came in looking for tables and were turned away.
The menu is the same as "Noorjahan2" so lots of nice dishes on there. My wife when for the butter chicken whereas I had the house special chicken Tika massala. We ordered sides of Saag Aloo, peshwari nan and pilau rice. I was quite surprised that it all came to our table really quickly. Not ideal as I was hoping for more leisurely dinner. The food was nice but very creamy and rich. I finished mine but my wife only had half her butter chicken. The Saag Aloo was very nice though. To follow we had my wife's favourite Gulab Jamon which was good but not as nice as "Noorjahan 2's" version. We washed this down with a large cobra and still water.
All in all pretty good but I did feel a bit rushed and it seemed various locals were getting a lot more attention than us. We were finished and out by 8:15 which is really too speedy. They seemed very keen to turn the tables yet it was only half full when we left. One area it did have the edge on "Noorjahan 2" is the decor, it looks sleek and modern which sets a nice tone. I don't think I would bother going back if I was in the area as I feel the nearby "Star of India" does better food and ambience. Maybe various stars go here but I feel there are better places out there where your custom will be a bit more valued.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Food 7 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 7
I met up with my lovely wife in town last week and as we were around Charing Cross we decided to give Terroirs a go. We usually go to "Gordons" when we are around there but that is more of drinking dive and probably not the most comfortable for a heavily pregnant lady. We walked and were greeted and initially shown to a rustic rickety table upstairs, the waitress then saw my wife would need more room and we were shown to a much more comfortable booth table. The room itself is quite small with tables clustered around the open kitchen/bar and an upstairs mezzanine dining area. There are lots of nice old french posters around the walls which inject a bit of much needed charm into a fairly sterile basement. They have a more formal dining room downstairs but as it was lunchtime a quick casual lunch was the order of the day.
The food menu is quite limited as the emphasis is on small light dishes to accompagny your wine. Having said that they looked interesting and the fact you can see them being cooked adds to the charm. I would describe it as french tapas. They had a huge wine menu which would have been a lot of fun to go through but instead I opted for a solitary glass of red that came with day's special of a chickpea and chorizo stew. It looked small but delivered big on flavour and was very substancial. The waitress had recommended we order some bread which was handy for soaking up the lovely juices. Very tasty indeed. My wife was a little stuck with the menu as a lot of the pates and cheese she couldn't indulge in. She settled on the tartiflette which is a wonderful concotion of cheese and potatoes served in a earthenware dish. Really tasty and very filling.
We decided to give the desserts a miss though they did look very nice. All in all a very good meal and certainly interesting enough to get me to visit again particularly to try the wine. It's not the greatest restaurant space in London but when it fills up and the food and drink are flowing it has a very nice buzz. The service was friendly if a little slow. I felt the staff were a little casual at times, it took ages to pay which is always a minor annoyance. The bill was very reasonable for the standard of food we had had. It was certainly better value than some of the tapas bars in the area. Well worth a detour to try.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Food 8 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 8
After a 3 hour seminar on breastfeeding, my lovely wife and I were somewhat peckish. As it was about 5:30 we wwere unsure where to go as many places wouldn't have opened yet or would be changing over shifts. We thought some Queensway chinese would be good but since the neverending roadworks it is impossible to park near there. I then remembered Pearl Liang up at the Paddington basin and we drove up there. We parked pretty nearby but the walk to the restaurant was horrendous, it was freezing last night especially at the top of the railway bridge. My wife was less than impressed by the lack of lift to take you down to the restaurant. It did look rather desolate when we arrived and it was unclear if they were open as it appeared the staff were having dinner at the bar. However it appeared they were indeed open and in we strode.
The deco inside can be best described as rich and opulent. they have been clever to avoid the dubious attractions of windows with views out onto the West Way in favour of a large contained dining room with a couple of private rooms. We were shown to a nice table for two. Service was obviously swapping over for the day but we were taken care of pretty promptly. We decided to go for standard starters (seaweed , spring rolls) along with a few bits of dim sum (sesame prawn rolls, pork puffs) and a truly excellent ribs in plum sauce. The food took a little while to arrive but we were happy sipping our tea and chattinfg. The food was worth the wait the dim sum was very nice. the pork puffs in particular were excellent. The portions on the other starters were huge but reflected in the price.
We followed this with some crispy shredded beef, sweet and sour chicken, pak choi and ginger, fried rice and singapore noodles. Again huge portions and pretty good. We did send the beef back as it wasn't warn enough but it was soon replaced. When it did come back it was very nice, crispy rather than sticky. The sweet and sour chicken was really good as well bursting with flavour but made with soft tender chicken. I felt the singapore noofdles needed a touch more heat and the rice was a bit non descript. The veg was very good I wish I could cook my pak choi at home like this. Unsuprisingly we had loads left over so the boxed it up for us.
We were really too full for desert but I saw they had chilled mango pudding and my wife spotted the banana friters. We felt that with the prospect of impending parenthood we should treat ourselves. The mango pudding was lovely, perfectly set and sprinkled with little pieces of mango. My wife enjoyed her fritters which weren't over sickly. again she didn't finish the portion and we took the rest home. All through the meal the service had been really friendly as well as efficient. It was certainly more "Mandarin kitchen" than "Royal China" in that respect. Perhaps a couple of things could have been improved like using warm plates, a cover for the rice and noodles so they don't lose heat at the table but overall I felt the staff cared and were learning on the job.
The meal for two came to a £100 which was expensive but then we did overorder and portions were huge. Certain dishes are better value than others. Some of the starters cost the same as the mains. However the food looked and tasted good. The big question though is how it compares to the Royal China. Well I would see it is close on most of the dishes and some like the pork puffs are better here. To really compare I would need to come back for a proper Dim Sum lunch. One big plus is that they do do Dim Sum in the evening which is nice. One the way out I noticed they did a very good lunch deal which must be a good draw for those working in the basin. I think it would be fairest to compare it to the Royal China at Canary Wharf and Pearl Liang offers more. I will definetly come back but on a warmer evening the walk back to the car was bitter!
Monday, March 08, 2010
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 7
Langan's Bistro is the hidden gem of Marylebone. The area has a number of restaurants but the quality and price vary enormously. When we lived up here we tried a fair few of them but ultimatly we tend to return to the bistro and it's more upscale stablemate "Odin's". They are located next to each other and provide hearty brasserie fayre at a reasonable price and with charming service. The bistro itself can be best described as bijou, small interior but beautifully decked out. It is a textbook example of how to embue a small dining space with character and charm. The walls are adorned with numerous pictures and paintings whilst parasols hang from the ceilings. Anywhere else this my look odd or tacky but here it just adds to the charm.
We popped in last night on our way home, as we fancied a casual but tasty dinner. We weren't dissapointed. We were greated warmly on entering and shown to a nice comfy table. The menu is short but excellent value. I started with crispy squid whilst my lovely wife went for the ravioli. Both dishes were delicious not too big but just right to warm us up. We were also given some welsh rarebit canape's to tide us over until the starters came. To follow my wife had a lovely smoked haddock gratin and I went for the crispy duck on a bed of pak choi. It was lovely food and went well with the seasonal veg including some lovely cabbage.
Though pretty full after such a nice winter warmer we made room for dessert I had a perfecly poached pear and ice cream whilst my wife went old school and had rice pudding. I washed this down with a kir and lovely glass of rioja. The restaurant filled up as we ate including a party of 9 which the staff coped with admirably. This is not a big restaurant so the kitchen and front of house need to be really organised. As we were sitting by the servery I could see how all the meals came out together and all the patrons looked really happy. When this happens you get a really nice buzz running through the place.
This place really is a treasure and for a good inexpensive meal out it is a no brainer. My only regret is that it doesn't open weekends except for the Sunday of the Marylebone fete. My wife and I have had many lovely meals here and it consistantly delivers on all fronts. If you are up in the area walk on past the various faddish joints around and head for this charming cosy curio you won't be dissapointed.
Friday, March 05, 2010
Food 9 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 9
We had just been to see "Up in the Air" (good film) at the fairly dilapidated Cineworld Fulham Rd and instead of the obvious meal at "Sophie's" or "Tampopo" we headed back up to Bayswater for a curry at "Noorjahan 2" . It's at the site of the old "San Marino" restaurant on Sussex Place. My parents used to go courting there in the 70's, it was all flamboyant waiters and giant pepper mills, great stuff! Anyway it moved on to be replaced eventually by "Noorjahan 2" which has been open for a while now and has steadily been getting busier. I think this has been helped by the presence of "Maximini", another italian and the lively Victoria pub. Sussex Place is a nice little eating enclave and a lot of tourists wander down from Paddington.
We pitched up about 9 and though the restaurant was busy they found us a comfy table and even brought a pillow so my lovely heavily pregnant wife was more comfortable. We had a couple of poppadums to start accompagnied by a nice pickle tray. To follow I odered a the Noorjahan chicken special. My wife had the chicken tikka. We ordered some extra rice and a peshwari nan. The food was really tasty. My dish was cubes of tender chicken that had been skewered marinated and grilled then finished off in a lovely creamy sauce. It had a good blast of heat at the end that didn't interfere with the taste of the sauce or chicken. Lovely stuff.
My wife's curry was very nice, lots of chicken but also lovely veg in the sauce. It tasted great especially when combined with the great peshwari nan. We washed this down with some mineral water and I had a big Cobra beer. We weren't going to have a desert as we were full after such a feast but then my wife spotted they did Ghulab Jamun. They are small fried doughnuts, served in syrup and flavoured with cardamon or pistachio. They were extremely good indeed and took her right back to being a child when she first sampled them at a neighbour of her grandparents in Barnet. I tried one and they were lovely, light but packed full of taste. I had a pretty credible mango kulfi for myself.
It was a really nice meal probably more traditional than our usual haunt "Malabar" but still very good. The service was brisk and friendly though they didn't do a fully itemised bill and they tried to do the chinatown trick of getting you to pay twice the service charge. However the bill was very reasonable for standard of food we had. We will definetly go back as there seemed to be some over nice dishes to try. I'm glad they were so busy on a Sunday night it's a good addition to the area and I'm sorry I haven't been before.
Monday, March 01, 2010
Food 8 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
It was Friday night and as we were round at my mum's we thought we would save her the bother of cooking a get fish and chips in. Now as someone who grew up in 80's West London I know the only place to go is the "Seashell" on Lisson Grove however a quick drive up there showed it is still shut after the fire and there seems precious little activity to suggest it will re-open. What is a hungry West End family to do?
Well we decided to give the Golden Hind a go. We had been put off using it previously as they had refused to sell my wife a portion of chips on it's own during a previous visit. However we were prepared to put such eccentricity aside and give it a go. We weren't dissapointed. The room is tiny set up with rustic basic wooden tables and the counter/servery hatch at the rear of the room. It is very post war austere. However they took the order in a friendly fashion and suggested we came back in 10 minutes to pick it up. We popped into the "Angel in Fields" for a quick drink and 10 minutes later exactly it was ready to pick up.
It has to be said it was extremely busy in the "Golden Hind" and a touch chaotic as you had dining in punters, people like us who popped in to takeaway and also a large volume of telephone orders. However our order was correct and we proceeded back to my mum's to eat it. It has to be said it was extremely good. Really fresh fish beautifully cooked, not too greasy, not too heavy on the batter. Perfect really. My plaice wasn't huge but it was delicious and the ladies loved their cod. I have a bit of a love hate relationship with chip shop chips. They can be really stodgy and not cooked through. These however were in a class of their own. Really tasty and crispy.
All in all a great experience and better that "The seashell" had been prior to it's fire. I would definetly go again. It came to £16 for 3 of us which is great value. Not sure if I would eat in as it looks a bit cramped but as a takeaway that was faultless.
Monday, March 01, 2010
Food 9 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 5 | Value for money 8
Last night was absolutely vile out, so when my lovely wife kindly offered to pick me up from the gym I suggested we grab a bite to eat out. I had read a whole series of great reviews for "Stef's" so I suggested we park up on Berners St and give it a go. We love Italian food and we like nothing better than a simple dish of pasta with a nice glass of red wine. London despite the advance of the chain restaurants has some good fun italian places so we were keen to try one of the better ones out.
We got there about 7:30 and the place was very busy. It's not the most attractive room in the world sort of like Strada but more red. We got our table, our coats were taken for us a nice touch and we waited to order which took a while as they seemed short staffed. Eventually we were seen to and ordered a caprese salad and garlic bread as a shared starter, taglietelle for me to follow and my wife went for the gnocchi. We shared a bottle of water and as I was thirsty I had a orange san pelligrino along with my glass of wine.
The starters came pretty quickly but we were disapointed, the garlic bread was dry and a bit non descript, it also repeated on me all evening. The caprese salad had nice mozarella, standard tomatoes and the the smallest portion of avocado. When we usually have this elsewhere it is a filling starter, For £7 I was expecting a lot more. The drinks came and my wine which they recomended was fine, my orange was served without ice which is a bit lazy.
We then waited for our mains...and waited...and waited. I can handle a bit of a wait but we were talking about two plates of pasta. After lots of promises it eventually came. To be fair my taglietelle was very nice, the asparagus went well with the prawns and it was pipping hot. My wife's gnocchi was less good and just warm. They had been having problems with the palm pilot ordering gizmo when they took our order so I suspect that was the reason for the delay. In any case the food didn't make up for the delay. I would have ordered a second glass of wine but no one offered and the waiter never stayed long enough to ask.
Plates were cleared but no offer of a dessert menu or coffee so we decided to call time on this poor culinary outing and go home. It has to be said were both very dissapointed with this place. I can only suspect some of the bridge and tunnel crowd who like it here must have some pretty shocking local italian restaurants at home. It was no better than a "pizza express" or "zizzi", certainly not as good as "strada" and it came no where close to our own favourite non chain west end italian "Il Pizzaolio". Not good at all.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Food 5 | Service 3 | Atmosphere 5 | Value for money 4
As it was a bright but chilly day on saturday I decided to treat my lovely wife to a proper lunch out. We had previously dined very well at "Wild Honey" so I was really keen to try it's sister restaurant Arbutus. We booked our table without issue the same day and wandered in for lunch. The look of the restaurant is more contemporary than "Wild Honey" but there was a nice hubub on entering and numerous diners seemed to be having a fun time. We were shown to a table in the main room which was certainly nicer than the back corridor.
Though hungry we were mindful of our efforts to keep the weight off so we straight for mains hoping to leave room for some desert. We decided to share that day's special of black leg chicken with risotto which is a perfect dish for a couple. It was lovely, succulent soft checken breast, leg and wing accompagnied by a seriously tasty risotto. Simple yet elegant and beyond what I could manage at home. I washed this down with a lovely deep Syrah that they recommended.
After such a nice main we felt we need to see what dessert offered. Again we shared the house tarte tatin which was sublime the best I have ever had. They bought us a whole tart in the pan, covered in perfect caramel and made from succulent english apples. Again the enthasis was a great tasting food rather than clever combinations. I washed this down with a lovely recetto. This was a very nice lunch indeed.
I was very impressed with Arbutus, the food was top notch like "Wild Honey". It was good to see that they could put as much effort into the classics as the more adventurous dishes. The bill was £110 for two which was going some for lunch of two courses and with only myself drinking. However we did really enjoy it and the restaurant had a nice relaxed atmosphere, helped by some relaxed but confident service. I'd say I prefer the decor in "Wild Honey" but the food here was top draw! Well worth visiting for a treat.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Food 10 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 7
The evening had not started well, after a punishing 8K run in the gym I was looking forward to catching up with the boys for a few beers and a bite to eat. However I hadn't counted on a signal failure taking out the whole Central Line. This meant there were 100's of people trying to get on my bus so I resigned myself to a long cold walk. By the time I met up with the others at the Prince Albert I was famished and thirsty. We had a quick couple of pints and headed up to "Lucky Seven" to see if fortune would smile on us and we would get a table.
I've been to Lucky Seven a few times over the years. The concept is quite simple, a typical US diner doing classic breakfasts and fast foods. The big problem with "Lucky 7" is it is tiny so getting a table is pot luck. We were lucky last night and got seated straight away. The menu is basic so Big Matt and Villa Steve had the bacon double cheeseburger and I went for the chilli cheeseburger. We washed these down with a selection of quite exhorbitant bottled beers (£4.50 each, ouch!).
I had always been a big fan of the burgers here but was interested to re-appraise it in view of the numerous specialist burger joints that have sprung up since it opened 7 or 8 years ago. My burger seemed smaller than I remember, it tasted OK but no fireworks. The last GBK I had was probably better. It came with a miserly portion of coleslaw, £7.95 well spent! We shared a side portion of good onion rings (6 rings in total, not very generous) and some decent french fries.
The bill came to about £16 each which for what we had was a bit toppy. I was still hungry when I left. The service was good, nice and informal. I do feel they have missed a trick with this place instead of expanding the diner next door they have created a tacky Mexican place (the food is cooked in the Lucky 7 kitchen as well) . I also was not terribly impressed with how near the toilets were to the kitchen. All in all I felt a little bit fleeced, this could be a lot better than it is and certainly the razzamatazz of when it first opened has faded.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Food 6 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 3
Sometimes you can have just too much choice! My lovely wife and I were out on Saturday wandering around Notting Hill and wondering where to eat. We looked at "The Oak" but as we had had a pizza the night before we scratched that, "Lucky 7" was packed, my wife wasn't keen on the specials at "The Cow". We had a drink in the "Westbourne" but they hadn't started serving food yet. We were about to give up and go home when we spotted "Gusto"
It is a tiny coffee shop with a large outside terrace next door to the "Westbourne". It looked busy which was a good sign and we bagged the last two seats. The menu is short but authentic, pastry's, paninis and eggs. We both opted for the scrambled eggs and Speck. This was served with a nicely dressed side salad, smokey Speck and light fluffy eggs. Delicious. We washed this down with some refreshing freshly squeezed orange juice and two amazing hot chocolates. This was simple but seriously nice
The room though small had a lovely buzz, the service was extremely friendly and we left well fed and happy. The bill came to £30 for two which pretty reasonable. I noticed you can hire it out for parties and the like. A really nice spot and a real point of difference to the bland Starbucks and Nero's down by Portobello. Well worth a try!
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
Christmas had not gone well, on Christmas Eve I had come off worst in a tussle with a glass lamp I was dusting and ended up in Casualty. I was back in again on Boxing Day to have my injured hand operated on. With my hand bandaged up and in a sling I was unable to make use of the gloves and cufflinks my lovely wife had bought me for Christmas. It was also tricky eating with one hand despite my brother cooking a great Christmas dinner. Thoroughly fed up after Boxing Day my wife suggested we go out for a meal. She suggested the "glass room" which is near home and most italian food can be eaten with one hand.
We went in early and it was rather quiet but the staff were friendly and showed us to a nice table in the rear conservatory area which gives the restaurant it's name. My wife has been before and said that in summer it is a lovely spot for lunch. Despite no sun the space was airy and nicely decorated. We weren't going to have a starter but as I had ordered red wine risotto for mains the waiter advised to share one as the risotto was cooked from fresh and could take a little time. We therefore shared some nice tomato and mozarella in fillo pastry. The restaurant soon started to fill up with various locals. One coulple in particular amused us as the wife spent the meal telling her chap off if he made a move for his wine glass. She was quite loud so we gathered he had overindulged in the Churchill Arms on Christmas Day and was very much still in the dog house!
My risotto arrived which was nice enough but not quite my thing. Nothing wrong with how it was cooked but I perhaps should of chosen differently. My wife's cod on the other had was lovely, a huge portion of pan fried cod with a rich saffron sauce. Really very nice indeed. To follow I had a tiramisu which was pretty good but maybe needed another glug of booze, my wife again faired better with a superb apple tart. The pastry was wonderful. I washed my meal down with a couple of glasses of nice sicilian red.
All in all a very pleasant evening, nice service, entertaining clientele. The food was good though next time I would order differently as I can now use both hands. The bill came to £80 for both of us which isn't bad for kensington. As a bonus touch they gave us a £10 off voucher for next time we go which we will certainly will.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Food 7 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 7
We were off to an engagement party in Notting Hill on Saturday night and as I had got back from the football in good time there was time to grab a bite to eat out. Our friends Zoe & Nick had recommended the Notting Hill Brasserie to us so feeling lucky we rocked up at 7PM to see if they had a table. Fortune smilled on us and they had room for us. We were led through to the rear room and given a nice window seat. The restaurant was nicely decorated with perfectly subdued lighting. It's one of these places that makes you feel you are on holiday. It reminded me a bit of Julie's. it was quiet when we first arrived but soon filled up. The presence of a jazz pianist gave it a really nice buzz.
We skipped starters and I went for the slow cooked beef. My lovely wife chose the wild duck, the maitre D was really good here and let her know straight off they could cook it well done for her. The beef was seriously good, melt in the mouth tender and perfectly cooked medium. It was accompanied by a hearty portion of triple cooked chips and spinach. My wife's duck was excellent despite it being well done, it had lost none of it's flavour or texture. It came with a great savoury pear tatin. the wine waiter had chosen a very nice glass of bordeaux to go with my main.
After such a stellar main course we felt we had to try the deserts. My wife had a lovely cheese cake made with a savarin cheese which gave it a nice sweet/savoury feel. I went for the apple tarte tatin served with milk ice cream. It was lovely, nice texture plenty of caramelisation. It was up there with the mains. We had coffee to follow and were given some amazing chocolates that were so well glazed you could almost see your face in them.
This was a seriously good meal and up there with a couple of michelin starred places we had been to. However this was reflected in the price which was £120 for two which I thought was going some for two courses. My main alone was £30 which explains it. However the cooking was excellent and the service really charming. It is a place with real style and charm. A good place for a romantic treat though next time I will probably try the weekend lunch.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Food 10 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 6
It was New Year Eve daytime and after a full on morning scouring Peter Jones and the White Company for bargains we were a touch peckish. We hadn't planned to eat out but my lovely wife suggested we pop in to Botanist. I am always a bit wary about places near Sloane Square as they can be very pricey and there is more style on display than substance. However the Botanist was to prove me wrong. The decor was indeed smart but there was a nice airiness to both the bar and the dining room making you feel relaxed upon entering.
We popped in at 12 for the start of the lunch service it was quiet but soon filled up. They thoughtfully gave us a table by the window with plenty of room. My arm was still up in a sling so I was a bit worried about what I would eat easily. However they had a macaroni cheese on the menu and I thought it would be ideal to eat with one hand and a good way to see if the kitchen was as impressive as the decor. My wife wanting to chase away the cold outside went for the same. The dish was extremely good, well cooked pasta, nice cheese sauce and a gratin on top off cheese and breadcrumbs which drew out any oiliness from the dish. It was really tasty and a bargain at £11.
This was so nice we thought why not treat ourselves to desert. I went for a very nice triffle which though good was perhaps a little too modern for me. My wife went for one of their ice cream sundays which was resolutly old school and all the better for it, a superb blend of strawberry, vanilla, chocolate pieces and cream. It looked great and it tasted even better. This was really good lunch in a fun restaurant. The service was very good, friendly and helpful. The bill was reasonable for the standard of food we had. We had a great time and I now don't mind going up to Peter Jones so much.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
We were out shopping on Saturday and decided to take refuge in Wholefoods from the cold and hopefully pick up some lunch as well. I like Wholefoods as a store it does some producrts really well, the fried chicken, cheese room and cakes are excellent. Other sections can be comically expensive. I was keen to see how this slick US import did instore eating.
We got upstairs and it was very busy. The food court is split up into individual concessions (italian, chinese, japanese) and a large central food court. We decided to go for the central foodcourt as we would have more room. To say it was a bit chaotic is to put it midly. They have a very bizarre system where you order food, then pay, then come back, this means you queue up 3 times. I decided to go for the burger which was £6 which is OK, however all the beers they had behind the counter were warm which is poor. My wife decided to have a chicken burrito.
We eventually found somewhere to sit but the tables weren't the cleanest I have seen, the eating area looks really shabby and drab. Cutlery and trays were difficult to find. I managed to get a half of Sierra Nevada at the bar over the other side of the room but at nearly £3 this was toppy. My burger was fine not amazing and I would have prefered fried instead of raw onions. My wifes burrito wasn't good, very greasy, she makes much better at home. All in all a poor value lunch, in a very unpreposessing environment. This reminded me of the dreadful foodcourts you used to get in shopping centres in the 90's except this was a lot more expensive and had pretensions of grandeur.
It has really put me off going to Wholefoods in future. I also found the staff pretty sullen which compared to the Wholefoods experience in the states is odd. My dining experience at the Westfield food court was a whole lot better. Well organised, mostly nice food and easy to order. Wholefoods really needs to take a look at the upstairs area and smarten up it's operation. Needless to say I won't be back.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Food 4 | Service 0 | Atmosphere 1 | Value for money 3
I popped in here to meet up with Villa Steve and Big Matt on the Tuesday after Christmas. They had both been shopping at the Westfield and I was desperate to get out of house after my accident prone Christmas. I had missed out on our football fixture the day before so I was keen to have a bit of quality pub time. The Bull is the Westfield's take on a pub and it has to be said it is pretty good. It is obviously a modern building but someone has put in lots of exposed varnished wood, a decent selection of beer and painted it all gastro pub green so it does look and feel the part.
It can be a bit tricky to find people as it is quite a rambling space but eventually we found a table, admired Steve's new scarf, they took the mic out of my sling and accident and we ordered the house "Geronimo" burger. It has to be said the burgers took a good while to come out, they were busy but I felt the kitchen still had it's holiday head on. When they came out they were pretty good, medium to well, nice ciabatta bun, good chips but not enough of them. you can order drinks at the bar and through the waiter but food is only through the waiter which is a bit confusing for a pub.
It has to be said the Bull is a relaxing place to sit, drink and munch on decent pub food. It was so relaxing when we went to leave we nearly left without paying though the waiter was quick to chase us. The burgers were £10 each which sadly seems the norm everywhere these days. The service was friendly though and this place is way ahead of any other place up in Shepherds Bush. Yet again the Westfield gets it right in my book. They have got some really decent places to eat and now drink. It is putting the leisure back into shopping
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Food 6 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 7
Despite it being extremely busy at the office before Christmas I was determined to leave the cosy confines of the West End and head off to meet my lovely wife for lunch. She had booked St Germain which is not far from her office in Farringdon. I got there early and had a lovely speciality beer whilst I waited for the missus. The restaurant occupies an old warehouse so has some nice period features, there is also a window at the rear so it is light and airy even on a dark December day. I had a look at the set menu which was excellent value but then the french onion soup on the ala carte took my fancy. My wife had butternut squash ravioli which she really enjoyed , my soup was very rich and tasty but could have done with being served a bit hotter.
For her main my wife had a really good piece of halibut on mash which she really enjoyed. A real winter warmer. I decided to try that day's special "short ribs of beef" I was expecting a pile of marinated ribs what I got was so much better. It was a huge beef rib that had been braised so that the beef just fell of the bone, wow, really tasty and unusual. It was served with plenty of gravy and some mushrooms and baby onions. This delight was washed down with a very reasonable bottle of Chinon.
We were absolutly stuffed after such a heart meal that we skipped desert and had coffee. The bill was very good value for the feast we had consummed. The restaurant was full by the time we left and there was a nice buzzy atmosphere. The staff were friendly and helpfull working as a team. All in all a very nice spot for a meal
Monday, January 11, 2010
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
I met up with my old uni mate Tazza before Christmas, we had left it late to organize so most places up in the city were booked up. Tazza however managed to get a table at "the Wall" as she uses it a fair bit for work. It has to be said that from the street it does look rather unpreposessing, a subtle mix of estate pub and fall out shelter. However inside is certainly more attractive, still a bit utilitarian but you get the impression this is set up mainly as a bar.
We had a little mix up with our booking but it was sorted out and they led us to a table upstairs. The menu was pub grub 101, tazza had fish & chips whilst I went for scampi. The food was fine, decent portions, nicely presented but nothing spectacular. The service was prompt and friendly which was nice to see. The prices were reasonable and certainly cheaper than a lot of places up in this part of London. It was quite amusing to see a couple of managers walking around in headsets, very CTU I half expected Jack Bauer to pop up. Mind you if it does turn into a lively bar come 5:30 I imagine it is necessary to manage the hordes of city girls and boys. All in all I had a nice lunch and a nice catch up.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Food 6 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 7
We had got up early to do the butcher big shop in Balham and on our way back we thought it would be nice to grab some breakfast. We initially chose Cyrano's on Holland Park Avenue but it was freezing in there so with a little trepidation we tried Giraffe. We had been to the one Marylebone before which is a bit of an open kiddie prison, very noisy, decent burgers but not somewhere to unwind.
The Holland Park incarnation was a much more adult and relaxing affair. The breakfast menu is pretty comprehensive. A few left field options but all the favourites like the full English covered. My lovely wife went for that option I was brave and tried the breakfast burrito. The english breakfast was massive but all the components were good, the sausage was particularly nice. My burrito was tasty, a nice blend of flavours, not my usual choice for breakfast but it's good to try new combinations. We avoided the weird and wonderful smoothies in favour of coffee. My mocha was a little cold, my wife's hot chocolate was good and they bought us plenty of iced tap water.
Service was friendly and efficient. Despite being a chain it didn't feel that way, the personal touch was evident. You might not buy into the whole hippy world music fusion vibe they are pushing but they do turn out nice food at a fair price. We will definetly pop back.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Food 7 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 8
The White Horse or "Sloney Pony" is widely held to be one of the best pubs in London and indeed when it comes to drinking it gets it all right. Whether you are sitting outside on a summers day listening to the braying Gemima's and Piers's or jostling at the bar in winter with the rugby or football crowd it is a treat. Lots of friendly staff behind the bar serving a huge array of beers, ciders and wine. I tend to go after Chelsea matches as it straightforward to get served even when busy, there is a nice atmosphere and it is an easy stagger away from Parsons Green station.
Now having said all that does the food live up to the drinking. Well it has to be said it does. I would say it is definetly a pub that does food rather than a converted restaurant with a bar attached. The food is pretty much gastro 101 but the kitchen is obviously well organised and the food coming out always looks and tastes nice. It is also pretty reasonable and quick. We went on Saturday for our West Stand crimbo meal and we all had fun. I think the turkey dinner slightly dissapointed some (issue taken with undercooked sprouts) but I had toulouse sausages and mash which was lovely, a big tasty portion. When we asked for extra gravy and veg it wasn't a problem. What also helped was the prompt drinks service from our waiter. Who was helpful and friendly despite a large and reasonably rowdy group of lads.
It's perhaps not a destination place to eat but if you are at West London's best pub and you get peckish you won't be dissapointed by the food. It is definetly a place that wants you to leave happy with a firm intention to return. Well worth a visit.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Food 7 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8
After a Friday spent travelling between the reknowned pleasure spots of Solihull, Leicester and Lutterworth I headed back to London to catch up with some old uni friends. There was some debate about where to go but Vivat Bacchus was settled on and I pitched up at about 7. The place was packed but the very nice owner found us a table for 4 and we cracked on with the wine.
Vivat Bacchus has some very good wine, some of it is very pricey but it is certainly not run of the mill. We ordered some platters of tapas and antipasti which were very good. The staff were excellent about bringing us extra bread and biscuits for our cheese. The place was busy but with a nice buzz. I think the personal touch from the staff and owner gets people nice and relaxed, "Portal" nearby is similar in vibe.
We all had a great evening in there catching up and reminiscing. At no point did we feel rushed to order, nor did we struggle to get served. I have eaten previously in the restaurant downstairs which is also good. All in all a very positive experience.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Food 7 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8
Despite a moderately heavy Friday night I managed to get up early Saturday and set off to the Westfield to get started on my gift buying. It was about 10 when I got there so I had a good 2 hours shopping before it got too hideous. Presents found and secured I thought it might be worth grabbing a bite in the food court. "Pho" and "the Comptoir Libanais" had big queues despite it being early so I thought I would give the Dim Sum at the Bamboo Basket a go.
I had recently come back from Singapore where you can eat seriously well in any of their shopping centres. I wasn't expecting that level of cooking but I thought a few dumplings and some jasmine tea would be good. I ordered a portion of Har Gau, Char sui buns and some tea. It came to £8 which I thought expensive.
The 3 har gau were fine but possibly over steamed as the enveloppes were coming off, the char sui bun portion only had 2 buns which was mean (you get 3 at most places), the filling was distinctly average. The tea was in a small glass with one of those ridiculous jasmine ball/flowers which is so Ping Pong of 3 years ago.
All in all not a great lunch, not particularly fresh or authentic. £8 to eat two small portions of dim sum and miserly helping of tea is not great value. Especially as I had to pick up the tray myself. When I compare it to my experience at the Pho counter the Bamboo Basket is not up to that standard.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Food 4 | Service 0 | Atmosphere 2 | Value for money 3
We were round at my brother's place in Fulham on Sunday and fancied grabbing a bite of late lunch. Plan A was to give "Hell's pizza" a go but we wandered in there to be greated by a dingy eating area with renmants of the lunch time trades leftover glasses and pizza still littered over the tables. Things like that make me worry about what standards are kept in the kitchen so my brother suggested we pop back home and order a takeaway.
He explained pizza@home were only up the road so the pizza's arrived fresh and hot. We ordered 3 large 16" pizza's, a hot pepperoni, a capriocossa and a mushroom and cheese. 3 huge pizza's arrived 20 minutes later. It has to be said they were very good. Loads of topping (3 eggs on the capriocossa) , nice thin crust and all still warn. I think the pizza's were £15 each which was really good value for the size and quality. They were also not too heavy on the salt so I was quite happy to eat them with a small glass of wine rather than the pint of water I usually need.
I was really impressed with this food as takeaway pizza is usually a pretty humdrum experience, I was pleased to see they deliver over my way so we will give them another go soon
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 0 | Value for money 9
Friday was our spinning class Christmas meal we started off at the very nice Soshu before heading off to Bam Bou. Due to a couple illneses and other excuses there was only actually 3 of us instead of the 7 booked in but we were still determined to have a good time. Our table wasn't ready when we arrived so we were sent up to the bar which was packed. We got a table up there but no one had cleared the previous revellers glasses so my first impressions weren't great. However after about 10 minutes more staff turned up in the bar cleared the tables and were very helpfull. We were halfway through our drink when they came to tell us the table was ready.
We were led down into a nice room with a spacious table. Bambou occupies an old tall thin Georgian house so you eat in different rooms which is a nice touch. There were plenty of staff on hand and the group of 3 waiters that looked after our room were great. We ordered a selecton of starters (soft shell crab, squid, chicken in lettuce leaves, huge prawn crackers). All were good the best being the soft shell crab but the squid needed more seasoning. We then had mains I had the pork swewer bun which was seriously tasty, the others went for the Tofu claypot which wasn't quite my bag but the others liked it and a fish curry which was excellent. We ordered some sides of rice and a really good Bok Choi. The portions were plentiful and the food tasty which was just what we wanted. We washed it down with a couple of bottles of the house white, a Sauvignon blanc which went perfectly with the food.
We were too full for desert but had some after dinner drinks and jasmine tea. One of our party managed to knock off a marble ornament when he sat down which landed on his head. No damage to him or the ornament but they offered us a round of drinks by apology. We thought it was really nothing to worry about so declined but they still took the teas off the bill which was a nice touch. The bill came to about £50 a head which was really very good value. The bar was open upstairs after the restaurant closed so we had one final nightcap before heading off. All in all I was very impressed with Bam Bou, it showed you can get lovely asian food and good service without paying the earth
Monday, November 30, 2009
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
I was out with Big Matt and after a couple of cheekies at a couple of our favourite watering holes "The Champion" & "the toucan" we were a a bit peckish. Matt fancied our usual "Bodeans" but I was keen to try something a bit more grown up but equally inexepensive. We wandered down to the Prix Fixe Brasserie which promised all sorts of good deals.
We were offered a large table at the back but were then told the meals deals had finished for the day which was a bit annoying. We decided to stay and ordered a bottle the "Somnolier selection" eg house red. It has to be said it was pretty awful and for £14 i was expecting a bit better. We had ordered a couple of steaks so I wasn't expecting great things based on the wine.
However I was really pleased to be served a big fat juicy steak, properly seasoned, a good portion of chips and a nice side salad. For £14 I thought this was fantastic value. It made the wine choice all the more frustrating as this quality of meat and cooking deserved a proper cab sab.
The meal for two came to £50 which was pretty good. As a restaurant the decor may be basic however there is some talent in the kitchen as all the food coming to the tables around us looked seriously tasty. I would probably pop back again but this time go for a different wine.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Food 8 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 7
In an effort to make the most of our holiday we elected to take the very last flight out of Heathrow to Singapore which meant a full day at work before boarding the flight. The plan was to grab a bite to eat in the airport as the airplane food can be a bit iffy. There isn't a huge amount of choice in Terminal 3 but we went for the Brasserie Chez Gerrard as we both rate their high street incarnations.
It has to be said it wasn't a good experience. We were one of the last customers and the place looked worn and shabby. The service was reasonably efficient but bearing in mind it was 3 quarters empty I expected a sharper response. Cutlery wasn't washed very well. We both went for the croque Monsieur and fries. The cheese hadn't been melted long enough so there was no colour on it, the ham was cold in the middle, bread soggy. Chips were fine though as it was the end of the day the oil could have been fresher. We had a couple of drinks and the bill of around £40 for 2 was really bad value.
It says something when the food we were served on the plane was a lot better than this attempt at upmarket airport dining. It has to be said that it is slim pickings if you are looking to eat at Heathrow. I compare this with Singapore airport where there are several spacious foodcourts on of which you could get freshly steamed Dim Sum. Obviously the fact Heathrow kitchens can't use live flames for safety reasons will affect the execution of the meals it serves but they need to make more effort. Unfortunatly they seem content to assume ttravellers will just put up with this.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Food 1 | Service 5 | Atmosphere 1 | Value for money 1
I met my lovely wife after work last week and we thought that we would try a meal out in Farringdon. She uses Zetter a fair bit for business lunches so we thought we would give it a go. The restaurant was fully booked though half empty at 7PM so the helpful front of house were able to find us a table for two. I thought the combined bar and dining room room worked well here. The bar patrons and diners kept seperate but still both adding to a nice buzz.
We weren't massively hungry so just had a main each. However we were bought plenty of excellent bread with olive oil to munch on whilst we waited. I went for a roast duck on bed of lentils with wild mushrooms whilst my wife had a wild mushroom parapadelle. She wasn't massively impressed with the pasta, I tried it and it was very heavy on the garlic. My duck was good though it was slightly over, the lentils and mushrooms worked well though. I ordered a gratin as a side which was really poor, dry, pretty tasteless. I was surprised as the open kitchen looked buzzing with a reasonable sized team working away. However I think they were possibly distracted by a large party they had to cater for in the function room downstairs which is a risk when going to a hotel restaurant.
The high point of the meal was definitely the service which was genuinely friendly and acts like bringing us more bread without us asking were nice to see. However the food itself left us a bit non plussed, my wife tells me their breakfasts are very good though. All the components are there to raise this above the standard hotel dining experience but they are just a bit let down by the food.
Monday, November 02, 2009
Food 4 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 6
Le Grand Tommo was down in London for a meeting so we decided to catch up Friday for a quick bite before he got his train back to the Midlands. He had missed breakfast so fancied something quick but substantial. I racked my brains and thought the "Union Cafe" would be a good choice. Many a time I had ended up here after a West End shopping trip.
We both went for the house burger with bacon and blue cheese which came pretty quickly. It was served open with a decent portion of chips. Tommo loved his but I felt mine lacked a good beefy flavour like you get at GBK. I also had a strong after taste of garlic which was only partly removed by my glass of red. The bill came to £22 each which was a little high for a burger and drink. Service was pretty good and the bill came quickly.
It did seem to me that they had squeezed another couple of tables in there since my last visit so it was a bit snug. All in all I felt the place was lacking something. It does have a lot of good attributes like an open kitchen, a very reasonable wine list but the food just lacks that extra bit of care and you are slightly on top of other diners. If I was up in Marylebone I would probably go again but there are so many other places to try.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Food 5 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 5
My lovely wife and I were feeling a bit peckish after our saturday morning training so we decided to pop down to GBK on Westbourne Grove for a burger. I had never tried a GBK before but had heard good reports about their patty action. The restaurant itself is quite bland, there is nothing memorable about the interior apart from the red tomato ketchup dispensers on each table. We were shown to a table that really could have done with a wipe clean but I remedied it myself. Service was pretty good though the mains are ordered at the till whereas your starter and drinks come from the waiter. It was confusing for the French tourists next to us but it seemed to work.
I had a cheese burger, my wife went foor the chicken satay burger and it has to be said both were very nice. Mine which was stacked high looked impressive and tasted good. I was able to taste the cheese which often gets lost in other burgers. It was very filling. We did have a round of onions rings to munch on whilst we waited for the burger and again these were good and cooked in fresh oil. I had a Mac's Gold to wash down the meal which is a very average Kiwi beer, Speights would have been better. My wife had a huge strawberry milkshake which she loved. The bill for two came to about £26 which was very reasonable
All in all a nice quick lunch, the room could do with brightening and tidying up but there was nothing wrong with the food. Easily better than the burgers in "Byron" but I still think "Bodeans" offers the best value fast food on Westbourne Grove.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Food 8 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 4 | Value for money 8
My lovely wife and I used to go here a fair bit in our courting days but with one thing and other we are a little less extravagant than we used to be when eating out. However last Thursday we fancied a treat so decided to pop back to Bellamy's for a glimpse of our past. We booked on the day for an early meal at 7PM and we were in fact the first dinners there. We were shown to a nice big round table at the centre of the restaurant so we could admire all the coming and goings as the restaurant filled up.
The menu in Bellamy's is classic high end French which when done well like here is a knock out. My wife went for a nice prawn starter followed by her favourite dover sole. I decided to try the specials with a lovely warming soupe paysanne followed by herb crusted cod on a bed of beans. It was all delicious. Light but beautifully cooked, each moutful a pleasure. I washed this down with a glass of house red with my starter and a great dry white with the fish.
The highlight of the meal however was the lovely strudel my wife went for and my superb blackberry tart. Some real effort went into making two fairly standard deserts something very special. After this we relaxed with coffee watching our fellow dinners as the quaffed champagne, drank great claret , ate superb food and generally had fun. As this is Mayfair you get a very well heeled crowd but all very pleasant. The service was extremely good, efficient without being overbearing and we never felt rushed. The place was full when we left. This is a really nice restaurant for a special treat. I am already saving up for a return visit.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Food 9 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8
There used to be a good saying "Don't eat where you shop" which until recently was sound advice. However shops and shopping centres have got a lot better at providing sustenance for their customers. "202 cafe" which has been a stallwart of Westbourne Grove for a while now shows how this can be achieved with a simple but fresh menu and decent service. It's located in the Nicole Fahri store on Westbourne Grove and is always busy.
We pitched up yesterday with our friends Zoe and Nick for a bit of brunch. The girls went for a serious serving of french toast and bacon whilst the men went all masculine with a spicy chorizo and egg hash. It was all really tasty. Simple really but good portions. We had a little wait for the table but once seated we were looked after promptly. It's not the cheapest place to go but it is perfectly pleasant and has a very nice buzz.
If I had a criticism I would say they are a bit mean with the drinks. We ordered coffees which were pretty tiny and my homeade lemonade came in a very small tumbler. However all in all we were really pleased with our brunch. It is also a great spot to people watch as you do get some sights. Well worth stopping by if you are in the area but be prepared to wait for a table.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Food 7 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 5
I popped in here on Saturday to kill some time before meeting Villa Steve who had got delayed. It was very quiet but despite the speakers banging out overatted Amy Winhouse tunes I decided to stay for a pint and possibly some lunch. Had a quick scan through the menu and reckoned I only had time for a sandwich so I went for the rump steak ciabatta. It was £10 without any sides so I was expecting something substancial. When it came it was very big but also very messy. Basically it was a nicely marinated piece of rump steak with onions and lots of gravy. Not the easiest thing to contain in a sandwich. For some reason the chef had also added a lettuce leaf which had gone very soggy. Not the most appatising way to serve the dish but it did taste nice enough and my pint of Otter bitter was good.
I might pop back as the menu did sound good and someone else was eating sausage and mash which did look extremely hearty. They need to work on the presentation as there is a difference between rustic and sloopy.
Monday, October 05, 2009
Food 6 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 4 | Value for money 5
It's had been a while since Big Matt and I had been to our old haunt "Lam's" and it had lost none of it's allure. Back when Matt lived in Chiswick no night out on Chiswick High Road or Hammersmith was complete without a trip to Lam's. It is a great little local chinese. It's not going to drag you over to especially eat there but if you are out in the area or live nearby it should be top of your list. I've had some great nights in there like the time Villa Steve ran off from the table when he caught a smell of the saki we had ordered or the time I took my future wife there after a wine tasting in Syon Park and fell asleep in my sweet and sour pork. However mostly we go there after a few drinks for a very tasty chinese, served by charming staff and at a reasonable price.
Last night we were meant to be at a pub quiz in the Cross Keys but we missed the start so rather than go mad on a school night we thought we would venture to Lam's. It was empty apart from another table who entertained us with some singing. We were served quickly but in a friendly fashion. The free prawn crackers are a nice touch. We had lovely seasoned seaweed, tasty capital spare ribs. half a duck which was slightly too much for two and some fried rice and sweet and sour chicken. The rice in particular was excellent. All washed down with a Tsing Tao.
It was really nice to go back to an old favourite and see that it was just as good as ever. I hope my next visit is not too far off
Friday, October 02, 2009
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 9
Our old favourite "IL Pizziollo" was full for lunch today but then I noticed the old O'Neills on Blenheim st had been convereted into a trattoria. It was an offshoot of "Semplice" which is meant to be good so my lovely wife and I decided to give it go.
We were warmly greeted on entering and shown to a table at the back of the restaurant. The menu was quite limited and unforunatly we weren't shown the specials board but we both fancied the linguine bolognese. We were offered some bread and oil but this was a touch stale so my wife had a bit of a coughing fit after she swallowed some. The food came out piping hot and was pretty good. It tasted very fresh though I do prefer the one my wife makes. I finished off the meal with an expresso which was very strong and bitter but my wife did like her fresh mint tea.
All in all fairly average, nice room, pretty good service but I did feel it lacked a bit of wow. Interesting that the more homely "Il Pizzaolio" was full whilst this was half empty. Would probably pop back but I think there are other places to try around there.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Food 6 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 6
As part of my ongoing project to try every chinese restaurant in Queensway my wife and I had an early dinner at Kam Tong last week. It's right next to Bayswater station so handy for a post work bite. We were warmly greeted on entering and shown to a roomy table. Chinese is the one cuisine I am more than happy not to drink alcohol with so we went for a pot of lovely jasmine tea.
We ordered a fairly chinese 101 selection as we fancied a bit of comfort food. The starters seaweed and ribs were good with a generous portion of each. I was less impressed with the mains, I prefer the crispy shreeded beef dry. However my wife loved her sweet and sour chicken. The fried rice was good but the singapore noodles needed more heat.
The restaurant wasn't massively busy as it was early but the service was polite and friendly. The bill was itemized but I think they might have done the old trick of charging me for service twice which is naughty. On the whole I thought it was good but I still prefer the "Mandarin kitchen" up the road. I think I have another 3 places to try!
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Food 6 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 7
We met up with some old uni mates at Black & Blue Borough market and we had a nice time. Most impressive was the service which was really friendly and helpful which is also what we found at the Notting Hill Branch. We had a nice drink in the bar brefore going through to the restaurant. Our booth was a little cosy for 5 people but we managed. I went for medium rare sirloin steak that turned up medium which was a shame and underseasoned. I think I have been a bit spoilt by the great steaks I have regularly at "Goodmans". having said that the others liked their meals especially the burger with guacamole. I also thought the french salad with walnuts was a nice touch.
I had a very nice glass of Cab sab with my steak and we all had desert to follow which were very nice. My lovely wife and I both went for very nice ice cream sundaes. It has to be said Black & Blue is a fun place to go. Even on a relatively quiet Sunday it had a nice buzz. Maybe the food is not as good as the top end steakhouses but it is a really good place to hang out with friends. The one in Notting hill is always busy so they must be getting something right. I think if a restaurant makes you feel welcome like they do it goes a long way.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Food 6 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8
This was a very unexpected visit to a very special restaurant. We had driven up to the West End to do some shopping and amazingly I got parked just of Grosvenor Square. I was slightly taken aback by getting so near to Marks on a Sunday and in a space that would be easy to get into that I though we needed to celebrate. So shopping more or less done (the trousers I bought are too short) we thought we would see if Scott's had a table for lunch.
The slight problem was though my lovely wife was dressed the part I had on long shorts, a U2 t-shirt and sandals. Walking past the tables outside where Nigella Lawson was sat with her family I was firmly of the opinion we were looking at two hopes of getting in: Bob and No. However the front of house guys were charming and I was assured my informal attire was not a problem. We were shown to a nice table and after a restorarive Bloody Mary I ordered Hake with squid and potatoes and the my lovely wife had sole Goujons. Both dishes were terrific, I have been trying to eat more fish but so many restaurants fall short of the cooking on offer here. I washed it down with a nice crisp Gavi di Gavi.
We were entertained throughout the meal by the sweet septegenarian courting couple at the next table who really should have got a room. We both decided that we deserved dessert. My wife had a lovely rhubarb ripple ice cream whilst I went for the honeycomb ice cream which was utterly amazing. Better than the superlative one I tried at "Wild Honey". This was a really top meal and a real treat for us both. At a £100 for two it wasn't cheap but we both thought our meal excellent. The service was fautless and certainly better than last time we went her with friends when there appeared to be a bit of attitude. It has to be said this really is one of the finest restaurants in London.
Monday, September 07, 2009
Food 10 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8
As Summer has just about come to an end we decided to chance the weather and drive out to Bray for lunch. We had been recommended the Hinds Head as a good spot for lunch and it is indeed a charming old school pub/restaurant. We parked up at the slightly wasteland inspired car park, walked past Heston Blumenthal's development kitchen (the blinds were down but someone was doing something with a big can of olive oil and headed in. We were seated straight away in the newish extension at the rear but it still had good character. The menu was extensive so I started with scallops and champ which was delicious whilst my lovely wife went for fantastic grilled scallops. She followed that with a chicken pie which she felt had a bit too much tarragon. I had a really lovely Shepherds pie. We followed this with a lovely triffle for me and my lovely wife had a great banana Eton mess.
The service was very efficient and swift but at no point did we feel rushed. If I do have a quibble it would be the wine list. I was the only one drinking and it has to be said the small glasses of Pinot and then Albarino I had were really underwelming. The Rioja I had with my main was very good though but expensive. The bill came to £120 for two with only one of us drinking which was a bit expensive. However it has to be said the food was a cut above the usual gastro fayre. The place was packed and everyone looked to be having fun, in particular the 3 rugger boys at the next table who after sculling a pint and half of cider each ordered a bottle of wine each to go with their meal, good luck to them I say! we could possibly have done without the aussie doctor sitting behind us who really did have an awful lot to say for herself. Anyway all in all good fun and we will go back.
Monday, September 07, 2009
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 7
We decided to escape the noise of the Carnival on Sunday and head down to Peter Jones to do a bit of shopping, all pretty predictable for a Bank Holiday. After a fruitless trip up and down the Kings Road trying to find her a new dress I suggested to my lovely wife we grab a bite and a drink somewhere.
I remembered the piece on this site about "Gallery Mess" so after looking at the menu and like the sound of the scones with cream we decided to pop in. It was reasonably busy inside and out but we were offered a choice of tables. We ordered tea for two and the scones. These came out as 3 mini scones each served with a little individual pot of jam and generous helping of cream. The scones were delicious and warm which was a nice touch.
Gallery Mess certainly look like a nice place to sit and people watch or be seen. Service was professional and the price reasonable. It seems to get in a good mix of clientele. We were particularly taken with the table next to us of twenty-something affluent girls who appeared to think they were in the british version of "The Hills" , Lauren and Heidi had nothing on these 3. All in all very pleased we popped in and a great choice if you are shopping on the Kings Road.
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Food 8 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
We fancied going out for a chinese on Saturday night so headed down to old family favourite "The Good Earth" in Knightsbridge. I have lots of fond memories of going there as a kid for crispy duck and my father always insisting we had a round table. We have tried to go there a couple of times recently but it has been full which is a good sign.
We booked in advance and had a nice table for two upstairs. The restaurant is pretty much as it has always been but the bar has been re-done to accomadate those waiting and to accomodate extra diners. Service was friendly and efficient, we went for our usual mix of starters and a couple of main dishes with egg fried rice and Singapore noodles. The food was excellent, really tasty not huge portions but all very filling. I washed it down with a perfectly adequate glass of Shiraz and some nice green tea.
The bill came to £80 for two which I thought was going some. We hadn't had loads and only I was drinking so I thought it wasn't fantastic value for money. However the food was very good and the restaurant full. We will definitely go back again but I do feel if it has priced itself out of being the family restaurant I knew and loved.
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Food 9 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 6
I was out with Big Matt last night and we decided to visit our old haunt Bodeans. Back in the day we came here most weeks as it offered great food, a great atmosphere and set you up nicely for an evening of gigging and drinking. Since leaving the West End I have made more use of their branches in Fulham and bayswater which are both very good but more geared to the sit down meal rather than the deli experience you get at Poland st.
When we arrived last night the place was packed, so getting a seat was tricky. They had a two for one offer on rack of ribs so we got one of those and a side of burnt ends. It has to be said I have had better meals there. The ends were pretty good but the ribs were very tough. I also noticed the staff were less than attentive about wiping down tables which is a bit lax. Overall it lacked a bit of polish and atmosphere. They used to have some very good people there who added to the buzz.
Having said all that, if you are out in Soho and want a cheap substantial feed then this place is a no brainer. I will certainly be back.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Food 5 | Service 3 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 9
I normally pop in here after spin class for a healthy-ish plate of noodles or soup.
Last night however it was rammed which is very unusual and the 4 serving staff were struglling to cope with a full canteen. I decided to skip the usual chicken ramen and have a coconut milk noodle soup with prawns which was OK. The broth was nicely spiced but the prawns over-cooked and rubbery. We had a side of gyoza's which were pretty uninspired. The kitchen were obviously struggling so one of the girl's salad came a long time before the noodle soups.
There are better places in Soho for oriental food but it is relatively cheap and you can usually get a seat quickly. I'd have to say it is usually better when a bit quieter and I'm not in a massive rush to go back again but it does serve a purpose.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Food 6 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 7
My lovely wife and i decided to try "Wild Honey" for one of our occasional date nights. We have tried just about everywhere in Notting Hill so it made a nice change to dress up a little and go out for an up scale meal. The restaurant was very quiet when i first entered at 7PM but by the time we left it was absolutly packed. I had a highly competent martini whilst I waited for my wife to arrive.
The menu was looked good though I was more struck by the mains than the starters. My wife had a lovely unctuous veloute whilst I went for a bean and morel mushroom salad. It was tasty but I probably could have managed with just my main. To follow my wife had lovely Label Anglais roast chicken whilst I went for the signature Boullabaise. This came deconstructed style so you sort of assemble it yourself. The fish was absolutely beautiful, matched with a lovely soup. My one observation would be that it is quite a large dish to eat and by the time I got down to finishing my little saucepan of soup it had gone tepid. A cover for the dished would really have helped keep it all warm. It came with plentiful croutons and rouille.
We felt it silly to skip desert and my wife had a plum panacota whilst I went for the wild honey ice cream. Both were delicious and a great way to finish off a lovely meal. One great point of difference with this restaurant is they do nearly all there wines by the 250ml carafe. This is a real bonus and meant I could try some more unusual wines and match wines to each course. They even did 50ml taster measures of desert wine. Service was friendly and relatively informal which makes a nice difference to a lot of Mayfair restaurants which can be stuffy.
We had a really nice time and though the place isn't cheap I thought for the standard of food we had it was excellent value. We will definitely go back and I am now keen to try "Arbutus"
Monday, August 24, 2009
Food 9 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
Another Friday night, another chinese meal but thankfully better than whats on offer in Chinatown. We had spent the afternoon at the London Beer Festival which was great fun. Even though we had earlier grabbed a lovely lunch at the ever excellent "Langan's Coq D'or" by 8PM we needed sustenance. We left Villa Steve and Boro Tim watching a very dull Middlesbrough game in the "Tournament" pub and set off for some food. As big Matt and ritchie were with me I knew it had to be chinese. We got down to High St Ken and the "Hare and Tortoise" was full so I thought why not try "Memories of China".
I was a little worried as it is a top end restaurant and we were fresh from the beer festival with associated stains. However we were warmly greeted and given a great table in the window. The food was more pricey than our usual post pub places but it was very tasty and the portions were good. We had crispy duck, a couple of mains, rice and noodles, all very good. We had had more than enough alcohol by then so opted for jasmine tea which sorted us out. We were regularly refilled with cold tap water. The bill came in at £25 a head and was properly itemized. All in all I was impressed and would definetly pop back.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 7
It was Friday night and we had decided on a Boys Night out to the midnight show at the Comedy Store. We had met up in Kensington quite late so dining options were limited. Chinatown seemed the best option as at least we would be close enough to get to the venue. One of our party had been to Mr Kong's before so we chose it above Wong Kei's. Unfortunatly it was busy so we had to wait 15 minutes for a table which once we got in didn't give us a whole lot of time.
We ordered a chinese standard 101 selection (sweet and sour pork etc.....) and had a fairly lengthy wait for the food. When it came it was pretty good but nothing amazing. I did think here we go again another totally underwelming meal in Chinatown. It wasn't a patch on "The Royal China" or "Mandarin kitchen" up in Queensway. The portions were a good size though and we polished off everything. They were pretty good about keeping the tea and beer coming.
The big problem I had was when the bill came we got a scribbled note for £90, nothing itemised. I get really annoyed about this, every restaurant in London does itemised bills apart from Chinatown. I don't doubt the bill was correct and I thought the charge reasonable for what I had. However the suspicion remains that you may have been taken for a ride. This is one of the reasons I avoid Chinatown as the food isn't that special and a lot of the restaurants don't move with the times. The area really needs to raise its game as their are a whole raft of places doing really good oriental food that offer a better customer experience. I'm going to stick to Queensway from now on.
Monday, August 03, 2009
Food 6 | Service 4 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 7
I had various birthday presents to buy and the weekend big shop to do so we thought we would take advantage of the 2 hours free parking at the Westfield. As we arrived just after the lunchtime rush we thought we would grab a bite to eat. My wife loves the Pho up in Clerkenwell so I was keen to give the one in Westfield a go.
The fact it had a bustling open kitchen and a long queue was a good sign. We both went for the lemongrass chicken bun which was ready about 10 minutes after ordering. They signal your order is ready with little pagers. I thought it was very nice but not a great deal different to what you get at Wagamama. I might try the soups next time which looked very nice. The foodcourt in the Westfield is pretty comfortable but a bit too busy to be a relaxing spot to eat.
My lovely wife got me lunch but it only came two £17 for the two bun's with a beer and lemonade which was good value for money. I would go again if I was shopping but I don't see the foodcourt itself as a dining destination.
Monday, August 03, 2009
Food 6 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 4 | Value for money 8
We had a customer in yesterday so rather than send out for some uninspiring M&S sandwiches we decided to pop downstairs to Patara. We tend to use Patara a fair bit when entertaining at work as it is only downstairs, quick and reasonable. They do a great business lunch platter which gives you a bit of everything. Having said I was getting a bit fed up with the same platter and was pleased to see they had given it a bit of a makeover. Presented on a long dish with a few different bits it looked very nice. The customer enjoyed it and there was a really good buzz in there as it was busy. I found my jumbo prawn platter very nice though the bowl of veg was slightly overcooked, the jumbo prawns however were perfect.
One draw back was one of our party ordered a starter and main instead and the main took a bit long to arrive. However it was very nice when it did turn up. We were also given some complementary melon after the meal which was a nice touch. The meal for 4 with thea bottle of house Shiraz came to £100 which was very good value.
I noticed they have revamped the rest of their menu so a may well pop back for further sampling. Along with Goodman down the road Maddox St is well looked after.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Food 7 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8
It was Saturday lunchtime and I had driven out to Virginia Water to check out Villa Steve's new pad. He was new to the area but had mentioned that he had a pretty good meal with his daughter at the "Brasserie Steven Gerard" on the roundabout at Egham. Matt, Kathy and baby G-Force were with us so we all decided to head down there. The restaurant was pretty quiet when we got in but we were warmly received and shown to a nice big central table. They had a high chair ready for G-force and mentioned all kids meals were free that month with an adult main, which was a pretty good deal. Matt and I went for the steak fites, Steve had toulouse susages, Kathy grilled chicken. G-force was happy with mashed banana, he was very contented sat at the table especially as the waitress was making a fuss of him and even the chefs in the open kitchen were waving to him.
The food was pretty good though my bernaise sauce did look like a creme brulee gone very wrong, the steak could have done with a bit more seasoning but for the price I was pretty satisfied. Villa Steve was probably happiest with his toulouse sausages which looked very good and didn't last long. All 4 of us had the waffles and ice cream which were suitably calorific but very tasty. The bill with a couple of drinks came to £25 each which was great.
It perhaps wasn't my best lunch ever but it was decent and very filling , the service was very friendly and we were made to feel very welcome which is not always the case elsewhere when you walk in with a 1 year old. I would definetly pop back if I was in the area.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Food 6 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 9
Even after doing our Sainsbury's big shop we were uninspired by the contents of our fridge so we decided to pop out for a Sunday Evening thai. We hadn't tried Thai up in Notting Hill before but I had read some good reviews of "Thai Origin "so we decided to give it a go. We had been longstanding customers of the excellent "Two Point" prior to moving so we were interested to see how it would compare.
The restaurant was quite quiet but it was Sunday and they appeared to be doing a roaring trade for home delivery. We ordered a couple of starters: chicken satay (really succulent) and battered prawns ( huge and tasty). We followed this with Pad Thai, it was nice enough but lacked a bit of heat. We washed it down with a well priced House Shiraz which worked well with the food.
All in all it was good. I think we will pop back as it is so close and I would be interested to try some of there other dishes. My lovely wife picked up the bill which is always a bonus.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Food 7 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 7
It had been 25 years since my last visit to the Mandarin Kitchen so I was keen to sample the food and ambience at one of my parents favourite haunts in the 80's. I always remember it being a busy place but as a child I wasn't a big fan of fish so I always pestered my parents to go to the "Good Earth" instead.
We walked in to the extremely busy restaurant on Thursday evening but were warmly greeted and the friendly chatty manageress found us a table straight away. I was pleased to see interior hadn't changed much with the 80's artex on the wall. The tables were very close together but I actually like that in a busy chinese. The clientele was a mixture of tourists, locals and large groups of chinese which is a good sign. We ordered a couple of starters: spring rolls (average) baked ribs (delicious and a huge portion) 2 mains ( prawns in chilli and garlic (delicious) smoked shredded chicken (tasty but needed a bit more finesse) and singapore noodles (lovely and moist). This was all washed down with plentiful tea.
All in all we had a great time. It may not be fine dining or starchy like "The Royal China" over the road but the staff here are friendly and they turn out great tasting food. We will definetly come back especially to try the house speciality of lobster and noodles.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
I had completed the arduous 10K run in the morning so my lovely wife kindly offered to buy me lunch. We stopped for a quick pint at the friendly Champion and headed down to Hereford Road which had been recommended to us. We were warmly greated on entering and offered a booth style table by the side of the open kitchen. I am a real fan of the open kitchen concept especially when you can watch you food being made. We shared a starter of smoked mackerel and new potatoe salad which was refreshing and tasty. We followed with a superlative rib of beef, steamed greens and roast potatoes. We washed this down with the house red which our very friendly waiter recommended to us ahead of more expensive choices. It was a lovely southern french red, which complemented our meal perfectly.
As the race had been very tough and the conditions very hot, I treated myself to an excellent trifle to finish off. It was very good indeed. The service throughout was friendly and the relatively small team coped well with a restaurant that was full by the time we left. The two chefs out front were kept busy and it was great watching them turn out such lovely food. We were both thoroughly impressed and will pop back again soon.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Food 9 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8
It was Saturday night and a curry was the in order. I was running a 10K in the morning so no beer for a change. It was a filthy night so we jumped in the car and drove down to Shepherds Bush Road for a meal at "Le Cinnamon". My sister lives near here so we had been before and knew it was one of the better local indians around. The restaurant was quiet but we were warmly welcomed by the manager. He told the weather had resulted in loads of takeaway orders so his waiting staff were out delivering. The restaurant filled up after we arrived yet he still managed to look after everyone by himself, great service. The Poppadoms, dips and starters were excellent. Really flavoursome especially being washed down with a fresh mango lassi. The mains were less good, my wife had a chicken korma-esque curry which was very nice. I was however doing a 10K race in the morning so opted for tandoori lamb chops which were very tough indeed. Not great but possibly I should have gone for a curry. The naan was lovely. Only one choice of desert but it was fresh lychee, which was superb.
Main apart this is a very nice restaurant run by very nice people who take pride. I will definetly pop back but avoid the lamb chops.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Food 6 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
We were over by New Cross to attend the very select Blur gig at Goldsmith's College. Big Matt and I got there early so popped into the Walpole for a pre-gig pint or two. It was very friendly in there with a mixed crowd of locals ans students. We saw they did Thai food so ordered some hot wings and a couple of chicken Pad Thai.
It has to be said the food was very good, heatly portions and freshly cooked. Lot's of flavour not overpowered by the heat. For pub food it was a cut above. It perhaps deserved less rushed eating but we were keen to get to the gig. So nice food, good beer and a cracking set from Damon and the Blur Boys. Monday nights don't get much better than this!
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 9
Friday night was my night out with the spinning club which usually means something relatively healthy to eat followed by a stagger to some very unhealthy drinking emporium. This time we decided to give "Inamo" a go. It does look rather non-descript from the outside, just your standard noodle bar. Inside is different, again quite dark but the tables have these very funky interactive menus. The waitress showed us how to use it and we set about ordering a pan asian feast.
We started with some endame beans, gyoza, dumplings and crab sushi, all fine, portions were small-ish but quality was high. We followed with some waygu beef, hot stone rib-eye, black cod and rice. The rice came a bit after the mains which was a problem. The mains were very good, the black cod was one of the nicest tasting dishes I have had in a while. We washed this down with a selection of beer (Sam Smiths organic ale), a very nice Prosecco, a nice little sauvignon blanc and a very reasonable bottle of Merlot.
The bill with service came to £40 a head which I thought was very good value. The quality of the food and drink was high and I expected to pay a lot more for somewhere as hip/hot as here. The service was relaxed and friendly. It has a nice atmosphere in there just the right mix of couples on date nights and groups on a night out. I would pop back , it reminded me a bit of "Ping Pong" back when it was shiny and new.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Food 7 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
I had one of those hangovers that last all day but had promised to take my wife to see Angels & Demons at the Coronet. She had to look after a grumpy bloke all day so I only thought it fair to take her out for a snack and see the latest dire Dan Brown adaptation. I noticed Cities on my weekend run and thought a bit of Americana would be up her street. It was very quiet in there Sunday night but we were greeted nicely and my wife ordered a hotdog and milkshake whilst I pushed some nachos around a plate. The hotdog was very nice and though the place was quiet it did take my mind off the hangover and two hours of Tom Hanks in a bad wig. It has live music evenings and a childrens play area so I can see it doing well around us.
When it came to pay the bill the waiter had taken the Nachos off the bill as he thought I didn't like them. I had to sheepishly confess it was down to my self inflicted condition. All in all a good experience and I think I will try it for breakfast one weekend
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Food 7 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 8
Finally got round to trying the Wesbourne Grove Bodeans last night. We only ended up going as I had made such as total mess of dinner at home so rather than eat some cremated burgers we popped down to Westbourne grove.
We were warmly greeted by the manager who showed us to a nice booth table upstairs. It is much bigger than Poland st or Fulham Broadway branches with a good mix of booths, tables and even a very large booth for big parties, a bit like the Chicago Rib Shack has done. The manager pointed out a number of good value offers and we both went for the "Pig out for a tenner". Full rack of baby back, fries, coleslaw and a drink, what a bargain.
The ribs were lovely, very tasty just like the other branches. Service was swift polite and friendly. We left Bodeans full and happy which is what I think they aim to do. Will definetly go back
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 9
Probably the best gastro-pub in the area though it's really a nice restaurant with pub attached. They take their food very seriously here so lunch is 12 until 3 only and locals get there early to bag a table. When my wife and I went we thought it very good, a varied menu, professional service and a cracking wine list (the rioja is top draw). The food was very tasty though I felt the portions a little bit mean especially the veg however that might have been me being greedy. The deserts were superlative. All in all a really good find, on a quiet road away from the pandemonium of Notting Hill on a Saturday.
They also saved us from hunger after we made the mistake of eating sunday lunch at the Windsor castle on Campden Hill rd. We were turned up at Ladbroke hungry after 3 but they still managed to rustle up a plate of cheese to have with our bottle of rioja. afternoon saved. It's well worth a visit.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 7
It was my birthday last week so my lovely wife treated me to a slap up meal at "The Palm" on Friday night. We had eaten at Palm obver in Atlanta and were looking forward to the same upscale steakhouse food and service. The interior was really pleasant, light and airy with lots of cartoons painted on the wall. It gave the restaurant a relaxed feel which is often absent from this calibre of restaurant. We ate early so the restaurant wasn't full and their were a lot of staff hanging around, it did make the place look a bit untidy. However I learnt that a fair few of the staff were over from the States to train up the London team to offer the same degree of service you get back in the States. Our waiter was very friendly and knew his menu well. He was maybe trying a bit too hard but you could tell he was trying to pick up the US service standards which is to be encouraged. We opened up with a couple of seriously nice classic cocktails, followed by steak, sauted spinack, a side salad and half and half (onion rings and game chips). My steak was lovely very tasty and prefectly cooked. It maybe could have done with being a bit warmer but my wife's was spot on. The wine list was extensive and we went for a mid range Bordeaux which was extremely nice.
We had a little room left at the end and went for a key lime pie for my wife and a new york cheesecake for me. Both were excellent. The waiters came over to sing me Happy Birthday which was lovely. We really relaxed into the place especially as it filled up, no one rushed us and you certainly feel valued. They took the deserts of the bill as a birthday treat which was a very nice touch. The steaks are expensive but the sides, deserts and drinks are pretty reasonable. It is a fun place and it deserves to do well. Not at all stuffy, we will definetly be heading back soon.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Food 9 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
It was Oaks Day on Friday so as tradition dictates my brother and I usually have a nice cooked breakfast out before heading off to Epsom. We have gone to the RAC club in the past and the excellent Gazette in Balham last year. However I was drawing a bit of blank this year when I remembered that Bob Bob Ricard was open early for breakfast.
We pitched up at 10AM to the restaurant to be greeted warmly and ushured into a very plush but quirky room. We were shown to a very comfortable booth by a pink waistcoated waiter. Now experience dictates that when a place spends as much as here on decor you can usually expect something lacking in the kitchen. We both ordered the cooked breakfast which arrived crammed onto a small plate. It was OK but nothing amazing and of particular concern was the bacon which had rubbery rind.
Service was brisk and friendly but overall I didn't feel entirely comfortable. The restaurant was trying extremely hard to get the gentleman's club vibe but lacked a common sense approach like providing you with decent sized plates, thick sliced bread and most importantly some decent lighting in the toilets. This place could be really good with just a bit more effort in some pretty obvious areas and if the kitchen could cook bacon properly.
Monday, June 08, 2009
Food 6 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 6
It was Friday and we had tickets for the Wonderstuff at the Shepherds Bush Empire so we decided grab a pre-gig bite at the Westfield. I'd heard good things about Byron including Giles Coren's best burger ever boast so I steered Big matt and wee Gordon upstairs to the balcony area.
The restaurant wasn't massively busy but was nicely spread out, we opted for a booth. We had a quick scan of the menu and went for cheeseburgers, side of fries and onion rings to share and washed down with a spellbinding 660ml Peroni! The burgers came pretty quickly and though tasty I thought they were a bit small. This wasn't the definitive burger I had been promised. The ones at "ground" were better value and the "Sophies Steakhouse" black Angus version was a lot better. Sides were good, cooked in clean fresh oil. One aspect that did annoy me though was being charge £1.40 for a squirt of barbecue sauce. Totally over the top especially when at McDonalds you would get that free. Service was pretty good and the open kitchen is a nice touch. I wouldn't rush back but nice to know "Byron" is there if I fancy a small tasty burger.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Food 6 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 4
This is without doubt my wife and I's favourite London restaurant. We have been delighted customers of La Poule au Pot for the last 4 years entertaining friends and family in the most convivial of surroundings. Last Saturday we pitched up after a quick whizz around Ebury St market and enjoyed a superbly leisurely two and a half hour lunch. Having lived in France I can guarantee this is the real deal, good honest rustic French cooking at it's best and most simple. The weekend set lunch is such fantastic value about £21 for 3 enormous courses, lots of choice and of course the famous house wine which you are bought by the magnum and charged by the glass. Last Saturday I had wonderfully fresh mussels, toulouse sausages with mash and red cabbage followed by a superlative tarte tatin. All served by the friendly french staff. We have got to know them well and they are always so chatty and friendly. One reason we love this place is that it suits the depths of winter where you can cozy up eating boeuf bourgignon by candalight or high summer when you can sit outside by the market and watch the world go by.
Looking at some of the comments on here I really feel a lot of people don't get the charm and joy of La Poule. This is a place for a leisurely lunch or a romantic dinner. If you are in a hurry to eat go get a salad from Daylesford. The cooking here is rustic if you are looking for emulsions, foams and all that nonsence go to see Mr Ramsey, if you want honest tasty food this is the best around. Also in response to the previous reviewer if you are looking for Gratin Dauphinoise then this isn't the place for you, they don't serve it! They do serve lovely pommes de Terre boulangeres though, I would expect a "trained chef" to know the difference!
Anyway you can't please everyone and testament to the excellence of this restaurant is it is always full and mostly with regulars. I cannot wait for my next visit.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Food 10 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 10
It was a rare Saturday night out with the boys and we decided to take in the comedy night at the George IV in Chiswick. Matt who used to be local suggested "Ground" for a quick pre gig burger. It was extremely busy but we managed to get a table and ordered burgers and a side of onion rings. Some of the options on the menu did look a bit odd, my personal view is that if the beef burger is well cooked and seasoned it doesn't need all the wacky nonsense though I can understand people having fun with it. The burgers came pretty quickly and they were good, not up there with the black Angus burger at "Sophies Steakhouse" but nice nonetheless. What was impressive was the great selection of world beers available, I really enjoyed my draught Red Stripe. The bill came to about £14 each which wasn't bad at all. I would go back and it is nice to see a burger place making a real effort that isn't part of a boring chain.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Food 7 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
It had been a long day on the road so when I finally got home I decided I didn't fancy cooking and was in desperate need of a pint. I parked up without going home and headed up to the Churchill to grab a takeaway. The pub was packed busy both inside and out but my food order of chicken Pad Thai and spring rolls was taken promptly. They told me I would have a 15 minute wait for the food so I fled to the bar for a pint of ESB.
The Churchill is a quite unique place there is lots of crazy bits on the wall and ceiling, however almost a fascinating as the collect curio's are the curious looking punters. It is a mix of tourists, office workers and local antique dealers who look like they live at the bottom of a bottle of claret. There is always a bit of banter going with the bar staff so I stood there suitably refreshed and entertained. Finishing my pint, I found my takeaway ready. I was eating it at home within in minutes though not before the bar manager told me off for leaving after only a solitary pint. The Pad Thai was very good indeed, a nice balance of moist chicken and noodles with a blast of heat. The spring rolls less good, obviously bought in frozen and deep fried but perfectly nice to munch on.
All in all a very good pub/thai. Not quite as good as my old favourite "Two Point" but still worth trying though it does get rammed in there.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8
We go here a fair bit as it is right near my mum's and it has to be said it is a great neighbourhood restaurant. This bit of the West End has been crying out for a good chinese restaurant for years, your only choice is to go up to Bayswater or play russian roulette at the tourist traps up in Chinatown. Maxi mini is very well run with charming service and tasty food. When it first opened they didn't have a drinks license so we had the extra fun of popping into the Victoria pub next door for drinks to bring back to the restaurant.
We had a lovely family feast here on Christmas Eve and the manageress and staff really understood how to make it feel special.. The food is very nice, good portions and pretty reasonable. This particular site has been a bit of a white elephant in the past with an Iranian and French restaurant opening and closing. I'm pleased to see that Maximini is thriving and so it deserves to, the Victoria next door is lively so this little enclave is becoming a good spot to spend a pleasant evening.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Food 8 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8
I actually missed lunch as my train back from the coast was late in but I joined my wife and family after their meal at the Kensington wine rooms for a couple of drinks. The staff were very friendly and explained how the pre pay wine card worked and how to sample the different wines. I think Selfridges had tried to use the same system but the local trading standards were being difficult about selling wine that wasn't in the prescribed 175ml and 250ml glasses. Anyway here you can buy a "taste" or the more usual serving from a choice of about 30 wines. i tried 3 different choices which were very nice.
The menu is limited but then people are here mainly for the booze. Having said that my wife said her fillet steak was lovely and the cheese she shared with her sister afterwards excellent. They do also have a tapas menu. It all looked very nice and reminded me of the Enoteca's you get in Italy where you can try a variety of wines along with a spot of food. It is a welcome addition to Kensington Church St and I look forward to popping in again.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 7
We fancied a pizza over the weekend and needing a break from Dominoes we popped out to the Pizza Express on Notting Hill Gate. It was absolutely packed and despite their being only 4 or 5 waiting staff we were seated quickly and had our order taken promptly. It's perhaps not the most picturesque outpost of the chain but it was buzzy and friendly inside. The mixture of families, tourists, date night couples and friends on a night out all seemed to be having like us a good time. My wife said it was like a Middle Class McDonalds!
Our pizza's were good, my wife went American hot whilst I went for one of their new deli type choices. It was tasty and fresh though as usual I felt it could have been a bit bigger. Our waiter was very good and very friendly. He seemed to be thriving on the pressure and even gave us a couple of complimentary coffees. The bill was reasonable and I would definetly pop back again.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Food 7 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 7
I was meeting my wife up in Clerkenwell on Friday prior to heading off to Brixton to see the Doves. Rather than try and eat up by the Brixton Academy we decided to try somewhere new near her office. A couple of people had recommended the Clerkenwell dining rooms to her so we decided to give it a go. Getting a table was a bit tricky despite it being only 7PM and the restaurant being empty but we were shown to our table in their "quiet area" which to you and I is the bit around the corner by the stairs.
We were in a bit of a rush so one course would have to suffice. We decided to share a rib of beef with chips and bernaise. we got a freebie starter which was a sort of gazpacho soup which was not really my thing. We ordered a bottle of cab sab to have with the beef which was really nice and pretty reasonable. The beef came out looking lovely, and was promptly cut up for us. It was seasoned beautifully but I thought it was a touch dry. I wonder whether it had been left out for too long and lost it's moisture, it wasn't anywhere near as good as the Odin's version which is my favourite. The chips however were very nice and the bernaise was spot on.
We skipped desert because of the time but the choices looked good. We could have actually got desert as the Doves were half an hour late on. The bill came to nearly £90 which I thought was a bit much for just the one course and a bottle of wine. Nice enough but could do better.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Food 7 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 6
Was out last night with the boys for a few cheekies in Notting Hill. We decided to eschew the obvious curry or pizza and head to Costa's grill for some hearty food and few bottles of Keo. The place was packed but the owner who usually runs their fish and chip shop next door found us a table and we settled down to some good greek cypriot fayre. We started with an Ouzo each and some Humus, tamarasalata, halloumi and squid. Portions were fair, the dips delicious and all washed down with some lovely Keo though it could have been a bit colder. For mains we went for Kleftiko (Big Matt) and soulvaki ( Boro Tim and myself). They were very good, Matt's kleftiko in particular looked impressive. We followed this with a shot of zivania (great for sending the food on it's way) and some great greek coffee.
The restaurant itself is very much stuck in a time warp but I like it that way. The wood panelling and formica tables give you a hint of yesteryear. Everyone is packed in close but that gives it an intimate clubby atmosphere. in fact when we started to discuss the plight of Tim's beloved Boro team the guy sat next to us pitched in. He turned out to be none other than former Boro legend Alan Ramage! The bill worked out at about £35 each which was good value for what we had eaten and drank. The boys were very impressed and were singing it's praises well into our nightcap at the Uxbridge Arms.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Food 7 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
We had been to a screening of "State of Play" at the multiplex at Shepherds Bush on Sunday morning and after watching such a fantastic film we fancied a light lunch and a glass of wine. We thought we would pass by Julie's to see if they had a table. It had been a great favourite of ours but we had been slightly put off after they stopped doing their lovely garlic bread and the portions got smaller and their prices steeper.
It was a sunny day so the area outside the restaurant was packed but we didn't mind siting inside as the rooms are beautiful. We sat upstairs behind the bar which was quiet but very relaxing, we ordered a couple of bloody Mary's to liven ourselves up after siting in the dark for two hours. I avoided the roasts as these looked very expensive, they had run out of my prefered dish of mussels and chips so I went for grilled sardines and a portion of chips. My wife went for a chicken Caeser salad. Her choice was a lot better than mine she got a lovely big salad topped with a succulent breast of roast chicken. I got 3 sardines and a sundried tomato. This was meant to be a main portion, I think a child would have been upset to get that as a starter. Having said that it was very nice but for £12.50 I was expecting a bit more. The chips however were excellent and my lovely wife felt sorry for me and gave me some of her salad.
We had a glass of wine each which was very nice. We skipped desert which looked very nice and had a coffee so we could get back out in the sun. The bill came to just over £65 but then I noticed they hadn't charged us for the glasses of wine. Being an honest sort I got it corrected and parted with £80 hard earned pounds. I do like Julie's, the restaurant is stunning, service friendly and relaxed, the food and drink of high quality but they don't half know how to charge you for it. I have had lots of special times there but I can't see us going much in the future unless they offer us a bit more for our money.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Food 8 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 3
We were in the mood for a cheap meal out last night so we went off to Cote on High St Ken. It is a not as busy as the Soho one and their is a more touristy vibe but it is perfectly pleasant. I had the roast chicken which was pretty good and my wife had a very nice fillet steak. My provencale sauce was very good indeed. We shared a bottle of nice robust red and we followed the mains with a very good creme caramel. The bill came to £70 with service which I thought was quite expensive but that was probably down to the steak. Service was variable our waitress was very good but some of the other staff were a bit disinterested.
I do like Cote but I sometimes feel I am eating in a Marks and Spencers simply food advert, it all looks very nice but lacks a bit of style and substance.
Thursday, April 09, 2009
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 7
We drove up to Balham on Saturday to buy some meat from the excellent Chadwicks and as I had paid for extra parking we decided to have a late breakfast at Gazette. I had been to it before with my brother and promised my wife a different take on the traditional fry up. She wasn't dissapointed. The place may be tiny but it turns out great looking and tasting food. I had eggs wrapped in bayonne ham and emental deep fried served with a salad, my wife had croque monsieur and chips. It was lovely and set us up nicely for the rest of the day. However my favourite are the freshly baked Madeleine's. The service is friendly and efficient, we waited a little while for our food but it was really busy. You can see into the kitchen and the two chefs did not stop for a minute. It's a hard working place with a lot of charm that deserves to do well.
Monday, April 06, 2009
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8
I had got my wife Lilly Allen tickets as a treat on Saturday and we decided to head down there early and grab a bite at the Westfield. I had been wanting to try Wahaca for a while so we thought the mexican food and drink would liven us up for the gig. The restaurant was packed but we were warmly greeted on arrival. We had a short wait and were shown to a table for two. I has to be said they do cram you in so your are practically sitting with the tables next to you, however the place was very buzzy and they had some fun mexican music playing.
Our waitress for very helpfull over the menu and we ordered a selection of market food. On a whole it was pretty good, the tacos were pretty underwelming but the enchilladas were very nice. We got very full but were pleased we left room for the churros which were amazing. Probably best of all were the Margaritas which were made with proper tequilla. It's not a place to linger as you can see they are keen to turn tables but we both had a fun time and would go back with friends.
The gig wasn't bad either....
Monday, March 30, 2009
Food 7 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 7
Just popped here for lunch with an old work colleague as she fancied something light. We both opted for the warm chorizo and prawn salad. She had a couple of glasses of wine, I had a nice bottle of wheat beer and a coffee. The bill came to just under £50 which I thought was going some based on what we had to eat. The Chorizo was nice enough but the prawns were all mushy, I feel pretty full but I do feel somewhat fleeced. The room is nice and buzzy, it was full when I arrived and when we left. The service was very good, the waitress was friendly and we got our order in easily. I certainly feel less bad about the service charge than paying for the food. I would not go back in a hurry as their are better places to go in the West End. I am a bit surprised by the success of Le Pain Quotidien as the food is hardly revolutionary and it isn't cheap!
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Food 5 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 4
Just been to Goodman's for a cheeky steak and chips to get the week off to the right start. My mate Matt and I were very impressed. Our steak was perfectly cooked and expertly seasoned. It came with really crispy chips. We started off with a bowl of warming soup. We were offered tap water as well as bottled which is a nice touch. I had a glass of powerful chilean red, Matt was pleased to see 3 good beers on draught. Nice friendly service, the bill came to £25 each which for what we had was very good value. Will definetly go back, the place was busy and looked like it had plenty of repeat custom. Definetly an improvement on the grotty pub that was once there
Monday, March 23, 2009
Food 9 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 9
Out last night in Ealing with my mate Matt and feeling adventurous we eshewed the usual curry and tried Wine and Mousaka. I have often walked past it and the mock tudor exterior is very distinctive. Inside is a small but cosy restaurant, we shown to a small table and ordered some dips and halloumi to start with and kleftiko for Matt and Soulvaki for me to follow. The dips were extremely tasty and fresh and the halloumi was flavoursome and soft. We were given plenty of pitta bread with it and polished off the lot. The mains were also excellent, I like grilled meat and when done properly like here over charcoal the taste and texture are magnificent. Matt's kleftiko fell of the bone just like it should. All of this was washed down with some lovely cold Keo beer. We had a lovely medium greek coffe to finish off and som baklava served with ice cream which was delicious. The bill was a very reasonable £67, the service was friendly and prompt. We enjoyed the atmosphere in this little gem especially the greek version of Wonderwall. Will definetly go back soon
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Food 9 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 9
Popped into Ramen Taro for a quick meal after spinning last night. I thought it was nice enough but lacked the authenticity of Ramen Seto. My gyozo dumplings were so so but my chicken terriyaki and rice were lovely, really tasty. Service was a bit charmless but it was cheap and quick. I would pop back as it makes a change from Wagamama's
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Food 8 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 8
My sister treated my wife and I to lunch at E & O on Saturday, we had a really nice time. Initially we were shown to a table in the bar which as many people point out is a bit cramped and looks very tired. It reminded me of a Ping Pong. However they were able to find us a booth table and we were shown through to the main restaurant which is bright, airy and very comfortable. My sister goes frequently so recommended some lovely salads which tasted extremely fresh. My beef rendang was lovely. Service was friendly and professional. The room had a lovely buzz and everyone was taking their time to enjoy lunch. A look at the menu told me it wasn't cheap but I think the standard of food was very high. We will definetly go back as it had such a nice relaxed vibe.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8
After going to see an exhibition of chinese calligraphy I was in the mood for crispy chilli beef so I met my wife in Bayswater and decided to try somewhere new. My wife wanted to go to the Royal China but it can be pricey and we only wanted a quick bite so we tried the Magic Wok. It won't win any prizes for it's decor but it is extremely friendly. We were welcomed in shown to a nice big table. Drink and food came with a genuine smile. Our starters were good particularly the enormous portion of chilli salt spare ribs. The mains were mixed, the sweet and sour chicken not great but the crispy chilli beef and chinese broccoli were very nice It all tasted fresh, very generous portions and the room was busy. The bill when it came was a bit confusing being handwritten but at £30 a head for the food and a couple of drinks each we weren't dissapointed.
A mention should also go to the kind way they looked after the table next to us of two carers and their handicapped charges. The staff were very attentive and didn't complain at all when their bill needed splitting 4 ways and paid seperatly in cash. A lot of places up in Chinatown would have been awkward about it.
We will definetly pop back again
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Food 7 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 8
Popped up to meet my wife after work on Friday and with it being pay day we decided to treat ourselves to dinner out. There are a fair few places around Farringdon but we had wanted to try Hix's for a while. We rocked up about 7PM without a reservation but despite being busy they found us a couple seats at the bar. we had the bar to ourselves at first but it soon filled up creating a nice buzz. I opted for the barbecued ribs and my wife had pollock fish fingers. My ribs were nice but a bit tepid after coming up from the kitchen, the onion rings were a bit greasy. However my wife's fish was lovely and her side salad beautifully dressed. I did enjoy their extensive beer list which is unusual to find, it made a nice change to have a bottle of hix's own with my meal. We both had deserts which were very good. The bill came to just under a £100 for two which we thought was pretty good going for what we had. We would like to go back again as the food on other tables looked lovely. They have done very well with the space there and it is certainly a welcoming restaurant.
Monday, March 02, 2009
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 7
Had a free Saturday afternoon so walked down to Westbourne Grove to try the New Gastropub "The Commander". My wife and I were pleasantly surprised when we walked in the room was bright and airy and a lot of effort had gone in to transforming it from the rather grotty sports pub it used to be. The place was about half full and their was a nice buzz. The service was very friendly but perhaps a little overbearing at times though I put that down to them being very eager to please. I was particularly impressed we were offered iced tap water and this was refilled regularly like you get over in the States. My wife who loves oysters tried a couple of natives to start which she found excellent. We both had steak from the market menu, served with seasonal greens which is a nice touch. My sirloin was very nice but my wife's fillet steak was really top draw, loads of flavour. We had a prefectly decent carafe of Rioja with our main and coffee for afters.
All in all very good and we will go back soon. One slight drawback was the state of the ladies toilets which my wife thought had missed out on the makeover. However this place deserves to do well and matches up well to the nearby Cow and Bonaparte.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Food 8 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 7
Popped in to Angelus with my wife last night for an impromptu treat. It is situated at the site of the old Archery Tavern, an old hant of mine when I was growing up, and it is a very worthy sucessor. We had no reservation but we were warmly greated on arrival and seated straight away. We ordered from the set menu and started with a beautiful smoked duck salad, really tasty, full of flavour. This was followed by a succulent piece of pan fried veal served with a very creamy polenta. We finished off with a plate of cheese. We treated ourselves to a very nice bottle of wine but even at £40 a bottle I thought it was great value. The somnelier suggested a lovely desert wine to go with our cheese which didn't dissapoint. The room itself is very comfy and cosy, service was professional without being OTT. This is a place to enjoy good food and wine in a relaxed setting unlike at lot of places in the West End. We both thought it was fantastic, expensive but a really nice treat. I will pop back again maybe for the weekend lunch deal which looks fantastic value.
Thursday, February 05, 2009
Food 10 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 7
Popped into the Malabar Sunday with my wife, some friends and their little baby. The staff were really friendly and helpfull. We had the sunday buffet which was absolutly lovely, we all went back for seconds. The tandori chicken wings in particular were amazing. It was the perfect refuge from the cold and rain. The bill with drinks came to £15 a head which was fantastic value. We will definetly be going back
Monday, January 26, 2009
Food 9 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 10
I have been to the rib shack a few times now most recently on Saturday. The ribs can be a bit variable but it has to be said my St Louis rack were outstanding on Saturday. really tasty, juicy and succulent, like you get over in the States. Service was a bit hit and miss at times, I think that rather than having 3 managers looking after the door they need someone on the restaurant floor making sure the diners are being looked after. We waited a fair amount of time for our food and it wasn't easy to get a repeat drink order in. Mind you once it came it was really very nice. The bill wasn't too bad but I did think £4 for a beer was a bit cheeky. However I will definitely go back.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Food 8 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 7
I've been coming here with my family for years and it is a real home from home. The staff are excellent, the food delicious and it has a great buzz. More often than not I come here before going to Chelsea games and the staff always get our delicious meals out in plenty of time. However if you want to take your time it is also ideal. Nothing is too much trouble for the team here, they sorted out an amazing 30th birthday party meal for me as well as a drinks and nibbles to celebrate my wife and I getting engaged. I was in again on Saturday and our party of 6 had a really nice relaxed meal before heading off to the football. It is the best restaurant in Earls Court by a mile!
Monday, January 19, 2009
Food 8 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
Went to Sophie's on Sunday after a gap of a couple of months and my wife and I thought it was as excellent as ever. We got there just before 3 and the room was packed, we had a short wait for a table but were seated pretty promptly. The food tasted fresh, my black angus burger and fries were sensational. Not sure what all the recent poor reviews are about, I think if people want a great steak or burger come here if not the Carluccio's down the road is probably more your bag. Apart from the food and lovely wine we are always impressed by the charming and friendly service, Sophie's really know how to pick good staff and everyone always looks like they are enjoying themselves. The only minus point was the braying sloaney girls at the next table, if you could find a way to keep them penned in at the Sloaney Pony on Parsons Green it would be perfect.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Food 9 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
Met up with some friends at the Royal China Baker st for a Sunday Dim Sum feast and we weren't dissapointed. The food is as good as always. There were 7 of us plus a little baby and we were really looked after. We were given a nice table towards the back of the restaurant and had a great 2 hour meal which only set us back £20 each. we tried some nice new dishes as well. We did like Bayswater but Baker street really is the jewel in the crown.
Monday, January 05, 2009
Food 9 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 10
Went back to Bodeans Fulham Broadway on Saturday and really pleased to say that the food was excellent. I went with the same group as last years disaster and we all agreed we were served fresh succulent ribs. The place was packed so service was a little shaky but when we got our food we weren't complaining. Really pleased to see it has got it's Mojo back.
Monday, January 05, 2009
Food 8 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
Popped into Black and Blue after a very underwelming trip to the cinema to see Quantumn of Solace. Our spirits were quickly restored by a very nice burger and bottle of wine. It was a Sunday night so the restaurant was quiet but there was a nice chilled atmosphere. The service was very friendly and we were shown to a nice big booth table. I was really impressed and I know my wife has been back herself since. Not the cheapest place to eat but this is a cut above you GBK.
Monday, December 29, 2008
Food 8 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 7
Went to the royal china on Saturday with my wife for a bit of dim sum. We had a very nice meal, the dishes looked and tasted freshly cooked. The rice in particular was excellent. We have been big fans of dim sum at the Bakers street branch for a number of years so were keen to give our new "local" Bayswater a go. On a whole we were very impressed, nice food though our favourite the sesame prawn rolls weren't as good as we have had at Baker st. Service was good though I was really annoyed to see they tried to get a double service charge off us when we paid. We had already paid 13% service charge so to be asked for more was terribly cheeky. They need to stop this sort of sharp practice. The restaurant was full and very buzzy. The meal came to £56 for two which was high but probably down to the two beers we had at £4.00 each.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Food 8 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 6
Went here on Friday night with some friends from the gym and it has to be said we weren't that impressed. The food and drink we had was distinctly underwelming. The starters and dumplings were a bit like bad wedding canapes, our crispy duck was dry and tasteless, the mains were OK but not nearly as good as from one of the noodle shops in Soho. If fell very much into the Ping Pong category of mass produced oriental food. The wines were particularly bad, we tried both the Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurtz which seemed inspired by Blue Nun, the Shiraz we also had was pretty poor. Service was fine though we were stuck at a table upstairs so it lacked any atmosphere. Would not be in a hurry to go back there.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Food 5 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 4 | Value for money 5
Took a friend who was visiting from Australia to Balans for breakfast on Saturday and we were rather impressed. The service in particular was really warm and friendly. The place had a nice buzz and everyone seemed very happy. We both had the big breakfast which was well cooked though I found the potatoes a bit too spicy for me, my friend wolfed his food down. I will definetly pop back as the lunch menu looked very nice.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Food 7 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8
I took advantage of the london eating offer and took my wife to Kensington Place last night. I have long been intrigued by this huge eatery and as it is a saunter away from home I thought we should give it a go. My wije had last been there in it's Meejah hayday and the interior certainly fits the bill. Lot's of clean lines, no frippery which I had to say left me a little cold. It's the sort of room that needs to be packed to have an atmosphere and last night it was 2/3 full at most. Now having said that the food was very nice. We both started with a warm squid salad followed by venison hot pot. The squid was a bit tough but the dressing lovely. The hotpot was first class, just the sort of peppery dish to keep the cold out. My wife enjoyed her house wine, I was less impressed. We both loved our deserts, the crunchie was lovely and light and my tarte fine was much better than the one at Bibendum. The bill including the offer came to £67 fot two which wasn't bad but the other items on the menu looked very expensive. I think we willl go back as it is so close to home and I like the look of the weekend brunch. Hopefully we can bring a bit of fun to the place as some of the clientele last night were taking themselves far too seriously.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 7
My wife and I were out shopping Saturday and took refuge from the cold in Bloody French. It was very quiet when we first got there but it soon filled up with a largely French clientele which was encouraging. We weren't massivley hungry but we thought Moules and Frites and a couple of glasses of wine would warm us up. The food was very nice, the moules cooked in a simple white wine stock but with adition of a bay leaf which gave the dish a really fresh taste. Our wine was very quafable and we were impressed to see you could BYO. A small complaint was the lack of mayonaise for our chips but that apart we were very pleased. Some of the other dishes coming out of the kitchen looked really good. Will definetly pop back again.
Monday, December 01, 2008
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8
A very old haunt of mine and I was delighted to pop in again after a gig at Cargo last night. The salt beef beigel was absolutely lovely, succulent, tasty and with a lovely blast of heat from the mustard. It is without doubt the best post night out snack you can have. a great institution I hope to keep popping in for many years to come!
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Food 10 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 10
Having just moved to the area my wife and I decided to pop into Geales on Friday night for some traditional fish and chips. The place was packed but our very friendly and helpfull waitress found us a table and we sat down to a terrific meal. We shared some breaded squid to start with which was crunchy and succulent followed by Scampi and chips for me and cod and chips for my wife. The fish was lovely a real cut above. However the star of the show was the side of onion rings which were the best I have had in London: crunchy, tasty and dry. We washed dinner down with the very reasonable house viognier. Throughout the staff were really friendly and attentive despite the restaurant being packed. The meal wasn't cheap but at £60 for two i thought it was good value for the standard of food we had been served. We can't wait to go back.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Food 8 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 8
Probably the best cheap eat in Soho. I often go there for a plate of their delicious gioza dumplings and a wonton noodle soup and I am never dissapointed. Fair enough it isn't the prettiest restaurant in London but the food is fresh and excellent. Many a bad day or tough training session has been made worthwhile after a lovely meal at this great little restaurant. It's almost worth having winter to able to take refuge in there.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Food 9 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 10
This is a big favourite of mine, a lovely restaurant run by genuinely nice people. After a long tiring and trying day on Friday I needed something to lift my spirits and two point came up trumps. My wife and I turned up at about 9:30 without a reservations and despite the place being full they found us a table after a short wait. We had some spring rolls and tender satay to start followed by a lovely spicy chicken Pad Keh Mau. This was washed down with a lovely Rioja. we shared a desert as a treat and with tip the whole lot came in at £50. Great food at a sensible price. No wonder it always busy.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Food 9 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 9 | Value for money 10
I had a lovely Sunday lunch with my wife at the Duke yesterday. The veg in particular was some of the best I have tasted. We both had roast sirloin and were not disapointed. It's not a cheap place by any means but the food is a real cut above and the service very attentive. If I did have a criticism it's that some of the wine is a bit toppy. The bar is also very nice for a drink. You get a nice crowd there as well so it really is one to try.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Food 9 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 6