I don’t like Mondays just as much as the Boomtown Rats. Nor does the restaurant industry. Everyone’s back to work, the markets are closed, and no one goes out to eat. Indeed, the best places are often shut at the beginning of the week. Not, however, The Square. I’d read praise for it as having “flawless” service, serving up “sophisticated” food, with Phillip Howard‘s restaurant being “the best of its type”. An excellent reputation demands high expectations. On the Monday I went, I experienced nothing to such acclaim. I have to ask: Where was our fantastic meal that everybody else is having? Continue reading
Whether you’re a lover or a hater, you cannot deny that Gordon Ramsay has influenced some of the finest British chefs around. Without Ramsay there’d be no Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley, neither Angela Hartnett’s Murano, nor Jason Atherton’s Pollen Street Social. Now, however, each chef has left the Ramsay nest, and seems much the better for it. They’ve realised that the old dog has given up on the new tricks, and it’s time for them to shine. And indeed they do. This week there are no quips, no jibes, and no cynicism. Pollen Street Social is my favourite restaurant in London. Well, probably. Continue reading
Peruvian cuisine has crept up on the London restaurant scene with three recent openings in the past year; indeed, the whispered word on the lips of the online food brigade at the moment is that speciality from Peru – ceviche. The last time I had ceviche was a few years ago at The Ledbury; the dish was let down by its sharp citrus marinade and gelatinous texture. A huge disappointment for two star cooking. I’d been put off ever since. But being older and wiser, it was time to give ceviche another go. So of the three new Peruvian restaurants, we chose newest kid on the block, Lima, to tickle our South American tastebuds. And tickled they were. Continue reading
It was going to be a hard act to follow last week’s Corner Room, but if anywhere could stand up to its brilliance, it would be Gauthier. If Michelin-pomp isn’t for you, it’s somewhere to avoid, but previously I’d found the converted West End townhouse to be a welcome indulgence, serving consistently high-quality French cuisine with finesse. Once a year, the restaurant serves a two-for-one tasting menu, “to experience the full creativity of Alexis and his team the way he would want you to, but for a very special price”, said their email. And £35 each is a very special price for eight courses. You’ve heard the old adage that if something seems to good to be true, it probably is? This was no exception.
A simple space on the first floor of the Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green gives little away, but look a little closer and it becomes apparent that someone has a sense of humour: a spiral staircase leading nowhere; lamps hung at spectacularly varying heights; no external telephone. The place is unassuming. The menu is the same. Three ingredients are listed for each dish, with no indication as to how they’re to be prepared or served. Portuguese chef, Nuno Mendes – who trained at El Bulli – is best known for working his magic at Michelin-starred Viajante, downstairs, so as you settle into your seats at Corner Room you feel like you might just be in for a treat. And you’re not wrong there.
In late 2009, mid economic crisis, Russell Norman bravely opened his first bacaro (a Venetian wine bar to you or me) just off Carnaby Street. Three years later and Norman has four more successful restaurants to his name. He’s done well. Very well. And why wouldn’t he have? The concept is instantly likeable: fairly-priced food to share, served in a hip venue. Throw in enough booze and everyone will love it. And indeed they do; it’s very difficult to find a bad word against Polpo anywhere. Until now. Not much feeling up to the scrum that is undoubtedly their evening ‘no reservations’ policy, I set on a Monday afternoon to see what all the fuss was about. Everything that goes through the door seems to have been ‘distressed': the walls, the menus, the waiters’ jeans. Me too.
If it’s fine dining that you’re looking for without the pretence or hefty price tag head to Arbutus in Soho. Having been before I knew what to expect. Superb produce served by knowledgeable staff in a relaxed, contemporary setting. Modern European all over. This place has been on the scene for around six years now so I went back with my other half to see if its sparkle was still there. Little had changed in the few years since my last visit. Think creams and dark chocolates, mirrors and right angles. A diabetic engineer’s heaven. It might sound a little safe, but the decoration does in fact suit the U-shaped restaurant. However, with all that hard wood and bare wall, voices are always a little strained. A few soft touches here and there still wouldn’t go amiss. Bring back the tablecloth I say. Continue reading