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RECENTLY OPENED (June 2009)... It could be down to the financially troubled times or the transient tastes of Londoners but pop-up restaurants and bars are springing up like mushrooms across the capital at the moment. The latest temporary tavern is the Tom Dixon-designed Bombay Sapphire Dusk Bar, an alfresco gem set on a riverside terrace in Somerset House. Here you can sip gin cocktails in its glowing blue poly-carbon surroundings until the middle of October.
RECENTLY OPENED (June 2009)... Third time's a charm. Or is it? Seems that Shao Wei’s third Szechuan eatery Ba Shan has inherited the two least attractive aspects of its siblings: Baozi Inn’s uncomfortable surrounds and Bar Shu’s steep prices. These mini plates of street food are ideal for a snack – try xi’an-style spicy potato slivers, prawn and water chestnut dumplings or lotus leaf buns with stewed pork – but a full-blown meal will hurt both your wallet and your behind.
SPECIAL OFFER (June 2009)... According to a recent survey conducted by Travelodge, fewer Brits are planning on holiday overseas this year, opting instead for a credit-crunch friendly UK break. Why not make your money go even further with a restaurant voucher from a family-friendly UK favourite? We've rounded up the best of the deals, from free bottles of Prosecco at Strada or free tapas at La Tasca to £10 off at Ha Ha Bar & Grill. Click here for the full list of UK restaurant group deals.
RECENTLY OPENED (June 2009)... With A-list haunts Zuma, Roka & La Petite Maison for siblings you might expect Marylebone newcomer Il Baretto to be an exclusive affair, dripping with celebs and charging top-whack prices. In fact, it’s just a first-rate neighbourhood Italian serving the sunny flavours of the Med alongside an all-Italian wine list. Cicchetti (sharing bites), pizzas, pastas and meat and fish from the grill all score highly on taste and clock in at very reasonable prices.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (June 2009)... Our favourite foodie festival, Taste of London, returns to Regent's Park on 18-21 June. Square Meal is proud to be hosting the Taste Wine area, with tutored tastings and other rich pickings. To celebrate, we've organised a reader offer: two standard tickets at the special price of £38 (normally £50). Just click here to purchase, and enter the promotional code SQM01 when booking. Offer applies to Thursday and Friday sessions only.
RECENTLY OPENED (June 2009)...Pizza comes by the metre at Portobello Ristorante Pizzeria – three feet of crisp bottomed dough piled high with sweet tomato, melted cheese and strips of different topping. The large portions and dressed-down decor makes this Notting Hill newcomer perfect for laid-back meals with friends and, for pizza naysayers, there are grazing plates, pastas and grilled meat and fish dishes, too.
RECENTLY OPENED (June 2009)... What a difference a year makes. Only 12 months ago, this sleek and sexy spot was home to the World's End pub, an old-school boozer with a shabby dining room up top. Since then, it's had an extreme makeover: upstairs is now a smart bistro, the ground floor is a swish lounge and DJ bar, and even the wine cellars have been converted into three funky karaoke rooms. Being off the beaten track, it's still a pretty well-kept secret – so get in there quick.
RECENTLY OPENED (June 2009)... If you can't get enough of your spirits (geddit?), then head to Ghost. This larger-scale version of the South Kensington original is a gothic rock 'n' roll dungeon, with a girly boudoir to boot. Thanks to the 24-hour licence, ghost-hunters can spend the small hours looking out for spectres – the site was once a Victorian printers – or give up and party to big-name DJs. The eclectic cocktail list adds further appeal: we hear the zombies are to die for.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (June 2009)... Wet weather getting you down? Why not add some sunshine to proceedings by checking out Hawksmoor’s bumped up crop of Californian wines. For June, the Shoreditch restaurant has boosted its wine list with a wide range of bottles from the sunshine state – the fruity reds, with their ripe tannins, proving the perfect match to Hawksmoor’s signature dish of char-grilled steak.
RECENTLY OPENED (June 2009)... Movie-mad fans of Planet Hollywood were left disappointed when the Trocadero restaurant closed in spring, 16 years after it was launched by Arnie, Bruce Willis and Sly Stallone. But they can wipe away the tears as it has just bounced back on a new Soho site. The look is more contemporary and grown-up than before, but the quirky memorabilia remains as does the menu of all-American classics (burgers, buffalo wings, BBQ ribs).
RECENTLY REOPENED (June 2009)... Here’s a bit of London restaurant history for you: back in 1871 an architectural competition was held to design a restaurant on the site of a former coaching inn on Piccadilly. Two years later The Criterion restaurant was born and it still boasts one of the most beautiful restaurant interiors in the capital. Now under new ownership you can dine on a modern grill menu beneath the golden glow of its stunning neo-Byzantine ceiling.
RECENTLY OPENED (June 2009)... These days, high street Cantonese just seems old hat. If you're not seeking out Szechuan flavours, or looking further afield to Korea, then you're missing an oriental trick. So we're glad that new Taiwanese Keelung has just popped up in Chinatown. Pitched as a ‘seafood market’ restaurant, with everything from razor clams to conger eel, it also deals in street snacks and specialities such as chicken with Shaoxing wine in claypot.
RECENTLY OPENED (June 2009)... We do love a hidden basement bar, especially in an area most Londoners want to escape: Leicester Square. Flee the tourist scrum and venture beneath The Arts Theatre to discover this bijoux drinking den. In honour of the good old days of cocktails, classics are listed according to their year of creation, or for something more original, the signature vanilla batilda (cachaça, Velvet Falernum and orange bitters), is well worth a try.
DATE FOR THE DIARY... With the nation’s hopes resting on Andy Murray, we recommend you drink something stiffer than Robinson’s Barley Water for Wimbledon fortnight (22 June - 5 July). A number of restaurants and bars around London will be showing all the action on big screens and offering tennis-themed food and drink to go along with it. Read on for Square Meal’s round up of the best.
RECENTLY OPENED (June 2009)... Couldn't quite stretch to the usual jaunt to a party island this summer? Don't sweat it, you can still dance till dawn at Aquum, Clapham's very own Ibiza-style day-to-night-bar-cum-club. Start off with civilised cocktails and nibbles on the sunny terrace (there's weekend brunch too) and, when night falls, move indoors to groove to the DJ beats. Cocktails are only £6.50 a pop, but it's still worth donning your glad-rags – this place is blingedy-bling-bling.
COMING SOON 2009... Frog blancmange, anyone? The rumours have been flying around for a while, but it’s finally been confirmed that gastro-whizz Heston Blumenthal will open a restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in autumn 2010. The space formerly occupied by one-Michelin-starred Foliage will close next spring for a full refurb, to make way for the as yet unnamed project where Blumenthal will cook up dishes inspired by British historical gastronomy. Click through for more on this and to read what else is coming soon on the London restaurant scene.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (June 2009)... Square Meal is searching for the ultimate margarita and needs your help! Three hundred Square Meal readers will be invited to visit 10 of London’s hottest cocktail bars, each of which will aim to create the ultimate margarita using Jose Cuervo Platino Tequila, the ultra-premium Tequila, plus one secret ingredient. So if you think you'd make a tip-top taster (and aren't averse to free cocktails either), then apply to be a judge.
RECENTLY OPENED (June 2009)... There are several places to impress out-of-town guests in the capital, but a new The Restaurant & Café at St Paul’s Cathedral might just top them all. Sitting pretty in one of the capital’s most iconic edifices, it serves up afternoon teas and lunches with British ingredients to the fore – think wild nettle soup or spinach and Montgomery Cheddar pie. Sounds appetising, but does it taste like manna from heaven?
RECENTLY OPENED (June 2009)... This week is set to be an absolute scorcher, and while it may appeal to cool yourself in air-conditioned restaurants, now is the time to take advantage of London’s outdoor dining. Joining a raft of new alfresco spaces this summer is Boundary Rooftop, the high-rise space atop Sir Terence Conran’s restaurant-bar-cafe complex, where eye-popping views and a grill menu can be enjoyed surrounded by manicured gardens.
RECENTLY OPENED (June 2009)... Sir Terence Conran stepped down as chairman of Conran Restaurants almost three years ago, but he certainly hasn’t stopped making an impact on the capital’s restaurant scene. He teamed with Peter Prescott (his former operations director at Conran Restaurants) to open Boundary earlier this year, and now the duo have just launched new City restaurant, Lutyens. Unpretentious French dishes and a long and varied wine list are what to expect.