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RECENTLY OPENED (April 2009)... Ah, Argentina: home of the tango, of Malbec, and of herds of very tasty cows. For a slice of this glorious nation without the long-distance air-fare, why not head to Highbury newcomer Garufa? Expect quality cuts of Argentinian beef grilled on a genuine parradilla followed by classic desserts of postre (caramelised bread pudding) or de dulce de leche (milk toffee) cheesecake. There are traditional Argentinian breakfasts, too.
Eggs-cellent. Easter is nearly upon us, which means hot-cross buns, simnel cake, and of course all manner of eggs. To mark the occasion, restaurants across London are laying on special menus, and a few will even have 'lucky' Easter eggs to crack open, with prizes ranging from bottles of Champagne to three nights at a luxury hotel in California. So why not dine out for Easter – who knows, you could end up with more than just an egg this year?
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (April 2009)... On Wednesday 6 May, Cavas de Gaucho, the wine shop of Gaucho Piccadilly, will be showcasing the acclaimed Argentinian wines of Terrazas de los Andes. Kicking off at 7pm, this intimate tasting evening will also allow diners to sample a selection of Gaucho’s finest dishes. Places cost £100pp, which includes a bottle of wine to take home. For more information or to book, please email [email protected]
RECENTLY OPENED (April 2009)... Not to be confused with the 24-hour gym of the same name, Slim Jim's is no place for fitness freaks. Instead, the cool cats who head inside are instantly transported to another world – that of the LA-style juke joint, complete with '50s bar stools and booths under smoky neon lighting. For drinkers, hard liquor is the order of the day, with the list taking in quality whiskeys, bourbon and top-notch Tequilas, with a rock 'n' roll soundtrack setting the tone.
GENERAL NEWS (April 2009)... Dear readers. You're a savvy lot. You know the difference between a great restaurant and a merely average one. So why not tell us about your best (and worst) dining experiences in this year's restaurant survey? There's Champagne to be won, plus the most useful, erudite or amusing response will win a meal for two. And unlike the comments posted on our website, your views will be anonymous. So go on, stick the knife in.
RECENTLY OPENED (April 2009)... If you thought that the Brick Lane area was just about 'going for an Indian' (well, a Bangladeshi at least), then think again. This newcomer brings Thai cuisine to the locale: sure, there are curries and spicy stir-fries to satisfy any craving for hot stuff, but look closely and you'll find plenty more, including unusual dishes of nuea kwang yang takrai (grilled venison on a lemongrass stick) or yam som (pomelo salad with prawns and cashews).
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (April 2009)... The weather may not know what it's doing, but that's no reason not to embrace the sunny flavours of Spain. On Thursday April 16 Docklands favourite El Faro will be hosting an evening of Spanish food and award-winning wines. The event kicks off with canapés at 7pm, after which there will be a six-course menu, accompanied by individually matched wines. Tickets cost £55 – for more information or to book, please call 020 7987 5511.
RECENTLY OPENED (April 2009)... Could this be a cash cow before us? Following in the hoof-steps of its popular Balham and Windsor siblings, this Soho outpost of Cattle Grid – complete with an imposing bovine effigy on its doorstep – has the same no-nonsense philosophy of dishing up top-quality meat with minimal fuss. As you'd expect, beef is the mainstay of the menu, ranging from dry-aged steaks to prime burgers or warming stews, and pay-at-the-counter service.
The New Zealand wine industry is a quality-driven niche player. Within a relatively short time, its wines have acquired a reputation that is the envy of much larger wine-producing countries. International critics rate New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc as the world’s best, and the growing acclaim for New Zealand Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blends and Pinot Noir is helping to further secure New Zealand’s position as a producer of premium wines.
The BMW Square Meal Award is presented every six months to the most impressive new restaurant in the capital. Despite the downturn it has been a fruitful time, with a clutch of exciting venues already making an impact. Cinnamon Kitchen has earned rave reviews for its breathtaking Indian food, while Soho’s Bocca di Lupo has won over punters with its Italian sharing plates. Boundary and J Sheekey Oyster Bar have also impressed, but one restaurant really stole the show: Corrigan’s Mayfair.
RECENTLY OPENED (April 2009)... There's nothing like a smart new boutique hotel to show that an area has gone up in the world. And Bermondsey Square Hotel has plenty going for it, not least its new restaurant, Alfie's Kitchen. With many ingredients sourced from nearby Borough Market, the food is homely Brit fare: think cottage pie with roasted carrots, followed by Bakewell tart with cream. It ought to suit the neighbourhood's fashionably boho crowd down to the ground.
RECENTLY OPENED (April 2009)... Residents of SW5 may recognise this building from its previous incarnation as the notorious Coleherne, but inside it couldn't be more different. Now part of Realpubs, the warm interior and family-friendly vibe fits with the group's ethos of creating unpretentious neighbourhood watering holes. Menus follow the same lines: think chilli king prawns followed by pork belly with mash, all washed down with affordable wines or cask ales.
DATE FOR THE DIARY (April 2009)... By George! Our patron saint's day is nearly upon us. To mark the occasion, the Mayor of London is organising various events – including a free concert in Trafalgar Square on Saturday – while here at Square Meal, we'll be celebrating the usual way: by tucking in to some top-notch traditional grub. Why not do the same?
RECENTLY OPENED (April 2009)... Though it shares its name with a track from 80s band Echo and the Bunnymen, there's not much that's post-punk about this Crouch End newcomer. Instead, it combines laid-back chic with a menu that's mostly Brit, but also incorporates the sunshine flavours of the Med: think braised pig's cheeks with chorizo and broad beans, pappardelle with rabbit, tomato and fennel, and good old-fashioned bread and butter pud to finish.
It may not always be consistent, but then again, the British weather never is. Still, there's no doubt that summer has arrived, which means it's time to break open the Ruinart Blanc de Blancs. With its uniquely light and refreshing style, it's perfect for enjoying in the sunshine. So why not head to the alfresco terraces of Northbank, Oxo Tower Restaurant, Paternoster Chop House or Wiltshire's Whatley Manor, to sample it for yourself?
RECENTLY OPENED (April 2009)... Hoxmopolitan, anyone? Aside from the aforementioned signature drink, this quirky lounge bar does a mean line in killer cocktails with equally cool names (we especially like the apple strudel martini). What's more, its cultural agenda ensures that edgy films, live music and DJ sets are thrown into the mix. Victorian thespian Sarah Lane – in whose honour this arts-meets-drinks project is named – would have been proud.
Breakfast has been given the mother of all makeovers at the Soho branch of Cha Cha Moon, which has just started opening at 8am on weekdays and 9am on weekends. Alongside jazzed-up morning favourites such as brioche French toast and scrambled duck eggs with crispy pancetta on sourdough are Chinese specialities such as crispy duck wraps, tea-smoked salmon porridge, or fried noodles with crispy pork.
RECENTLY OPENED (April 2009)... The only thing better than a good read is a great drink. Happily, this new Marylebone watering hole – sibling to Fitzrovia's quirky Bourne & Hollingsworth – comes with both. Not only is the bar made entirely from second-hand books, with the literary theme stretching to regular poetry readings and book signings, but there are pints of ale and classic cocktails. Peckish bookworms, meanwhile, can burrow into pub grub such as shepherd's pie.