Mishkin’s

Mishkin’s sounds like it could be something akin to a Promised Land: big, brash sandwiches; punchy cocktails; and enough buzz to satisfy even the surliest New Yorker. Mention the word kosher and you’ll be laughed out the door – it actually offers sexed-up comfort food for the unknowing goyim. But this goy knows. Mishkin’s falls well short. Continue reading

Yalla Yalla

After a bout of opulence that would make even Marie Antoinette blush, it was time to reign in the excess. So with heavy heart and empty stomach, I set off to Yalla Yalla with some sense of trepidation. Middle Eastern street food doesn’t fill me with the same pangs that, say, a steak sandwich might. It’s done the rounds already and, as usual, I’m behind: this Lebanese group are now onto their third branch and there seems to be no stopping them. But I’m here to be good. No flesh; no hooch. To prove that non-drinking vegetarians can have fun. Poor sods. Continue reading

Spoonful #2

a bite-sized round-up of pop-ups, events, bars, and wines

London Gin Club: This cosy Soho bar has well over 70 gins available for the discerning drinker, but if (like me) your knowledge extends as far as Gordon’s, you’d be a fool not to be guided by their tasting menu (£16) – a flight of four gins (gulp…) each with their own condiment (cloves; coriander, etc). Grab a romantic candlelit table downstairs to impress that gin-loving someone you’ve got your eye on. (22 Great Chapel Street, Soho)

28-50° Maddox Street: This is the latest of a ‘chain’, of sorts, which focuses on wine and Anglo-Scandinavian cuisine. It’s got nothing on the beautifully designed Marylebone branch, and seems to attract a lot of city folk, but you can still go and feel pretty swish without the need to blow October’s pay check. The cooking is all rather safe (code: boring), but it’s with the wine that you get to play around. Sitting at the bar working your way through their 40-strong list is the only way to go. (17-19 Maddox Street, Mayfair)

Coal Vaults: Things have improved mightily since the launch night of Wardour Street’s hottest newcomer. Cheery staff now offer up some decent cocktails, and a few notable London beers grace its menu. The clinch? You can’t just have a drink. But de rigeur “small plates” – costing between £4 and £9.50 – are reportedly excellent. And there’s a spectacular coin-clad floor in the loo at which it’s worth spending some extra pennies… (187 Wardour Street)

Spoonful #1

a bite-sized round-up of pop-ups, events, bars, and wines

Koya Bar: Udon, Japanese wheat-flour noodles, are all that’s on the menu at this tiny Soho kitchen counter. Like its namesake mothership two doors down, it doesn’t take bookings, so queueing is a necessity. I slurped on the atsu-atsu (£10.30) – hot noodles in a hot broth topped with prawn tempura – and washed it down with some superb Japanese tea. Ideal, fun food for the approaching chilly weather. You won’t want to stay long, though: service is dire. (Frith Street, Soho)

Chateau Musar, Gaston Hochar, 2005: An appealing cinsault/carignan/cabernet sauvignon blend from Lebanon, offering a perfume of sweet spices, black cherries, and a little funk. Could leave it for another few years, but it’s drinking very nicely at the moment. Soft tannins, medium bodied, Bordeaux-on-steroids type of thing. Wonderful dinner party wine. (£20 from The Wine Society)

Crown & Anchor: With around seven cask ales and fourteen keg beers, as well as an eclectic array of bottles from all over, beer buffs will be in their element at this Brixton gem. The delightful staff, who genuinely seem to care about their product, are quick to recommend, offer samples, or just have a chat. And proper pubby food accompanies – scotch eggs, sausage platters, mezze boards – so you can get squiffy well into the night. Yes, it’s a schlep to get to, but oh so worth it. (246 Brixton Road)

Social Eating House

Never having been one to jump on the bandwagon, I usually find myself firmly on the other side of the road waiting for said wagon to pass by. Compared with Jason Atherton‘s chi-chi Pollen Street Social, demure Little Social, and glam Berners Tavern, Social Eating House strikes an odd tone. Debatably, it’s Atherton’s most popular launch to date, yet something doesn’t sit quite right with me. Continue reading

Alyn Williams

We need to talk about chairs. They don’t get nearly enough bad press. Many a good meal has been ruined by a wonky leg or a misplaced spring. Bertrand Russell might have said that ‘the aching posterior diverts attention from the enjoyment of eating’, but a wiser man told him to shut up and go to Alyn Williams at The Westbury. Neither too big, nor too small, there you’ll find Goldilocks seating – that ‘just right’ ratio of hard to soft; tastefully upholstered; and, all-importantly, armed. The only dangerous thing is you’ll never want to get up. Continue reading

Kitchen Table

When was the last time a plate of food really smacked you in the face and yelled “eat me, eat me”? How about two plates? How about fourteen? Kitchen Table does away with the three-pronged dining approach and instead offers a daily-changing, multi-course gastronomic extravaganza. Alright, a tasting menu (£78). Husband-and-wife team James Knappett (chef) and Sandia Chang (front of house) have more experience than you can shake a wooden spoon at (Per Se, Noma, The Berkeley, The Ledbury, Roganic), and it shows: their food is damn near perfect. Continue reading

José

Roll up, roll up. This is a positive review. Which has nothing to do with arriving at the restaurant three sheets to the wind after a morning spent wine tasting. I love José for all the wrong reasons. It’s one of few London places I laud for its no booking policy. I say restaurant – it’s a tiny bar with strategically placed barrels and the odd stool for the lucky few. But thank goodness it’s always full; everything seems to taste better with aching feet. The chef behind the name, José Pizarro, plied his trade in some of the UK’s top Spanish kitchens, by way of Madrid’s renowned Meson de Doña Filo. And the best thing? He’s actually in the kitchen. Continue reading

Picture

An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman leave the safety of a cliché to start a restaurant of their own. Tom Slegg, Colin Kelly and Alan Christie – three ex-Arbutus Group employees – have opened Picture, yet another venue that joins the ranks of the open-the-dictionary-at-random school of naming. Whilst the folks over at Story (see what I mean) have their customers leave behind a favourite read, I dreaded to think what over-the-top act we’d have to do at Picture. Bring some watercolours and an easel? Get our kit off for their life-drawing class? Continue reading

Roganic

As chefs off the TV go, Simon Rogan is a good egg. He hasn’t assaulted his staff; he isn’t the face of a leading stock-cube brand; nor has he tried to sell Christmas dinner for £125K. With a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face, Simon is the sort of chef you’d be happy to bring home to your mum. Roganic, a little sister – if you will – to Cumbria’s L’Enclume, is his two-year pop-up restaurant in Marylebone. And it’s bloody good. Continue reading