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We may not have the beautiful beaches and consistent weather of California, but us Brits can still enjoy the Sunshine State’s best exports – food and wine. Summer’s a great time of year to tuck in to California’s typically vibrant dishes which are perfectly suited to its diverse, flavoursome wines. Why not try one of our delicious and easy-to-make summer recipes? And follow the useful wine suggestions for the full experience.
Who needs the Booker Prize? Here at Square Meal, we have our very own award, for the best reader review. Ever since My Square Meal was launched, amateur critics – many with witty pen names – have been posting comments on our restaurant pages. And today we can reveal that the winning review written in spring '09 was by 'R.R.Gill' (pictured, left). He has won a £300 meal for two and has opted to spend it at Hakkasan. For the chance to win the next prize, post your comments by 20 September 2009.
GENERAL NEWS (July 2009)... Need advice on restaurants and bars? Got something to get off your chest? Whether you want to plan a romantic rendezvous or swap tips on the capital’s best alfresco spot, the new Square Meal Forum is just the place for sharing all. You can search for a specific topic or browse through existing conversations – already we’ve heard that caviar is over-rated and that table-turning is an acceptable practice. Got an opinion? Post your thoughts on the relevant board and get involved!
RECENTLY OPENED (July 2009)... No, you don't need to adjust your screens. The official photography for this diminutive Islington cocktail speakeasy all comes in black and white, a deliberate effort to highlight its film-noir inspired vibe. The bar is owned by influential industry figure Tony Conigliaro, who aims to advance the art of cocktail-making with inventive creations such as the no 5 Champagne cocktail: served in a bespoke flute based on Chanel’s famous label, the sugar cube at the bottom is perfumed with the notes present in the iconic fragrance.
RECENTLY OPENED (July 2009)... How times change. Once dining in an art gallery was a last-resort choice, but nowadays it's absolutely de rigueur. Hot on the heels of the Whitechapel Gallery Dining Room comes Gallery Mess, the well-heeled café at the Saatchi Gallery. Open throughout the day, it serves up prime grub – such as avocado and fennel salad or Cumberland sausage with Puy lentils – both indoors in its vaulted dining room and outdoors on the large terrace.
RECENTLY OPENED (July 2009)... Islington’s Salmon & Compass used to be a homing ground for N1’s late-night revellers, but its new owners are steering it in a different direction. Renamed The Compass, it’s open all day, so guests can tuck in to hearty breakfasts or sup on real ale over homemade pies, Scotch eggs and other best-of-Brit fare later in the day. Outdoor tables cater for sun-seekers and smokers, and a function room on the first floor is available for private parties.
RECENTLY OPENED (July 2009)... Expect to see flashy cars and hear cut-glass accents outside South Ken’s newest cocktail bar, Tini (as in mar-Tini) – it’s already a hit with the area’s beau monde. From the people behind Whisky Mist and Mahiki, the Italian-esque bar is lined with photos of Dolce Vita-era stars and also adheres to the Milanese tradition of ‘aperitivo’, so alongside cocktails such as the strawberry berrycello, there are complimentary nibbles.
RECENTLY OPENED (July 2009)... Pop-up restaurants and bars are springing up like mushrooms across the capital and the latest is the Opera Quarter Bar. Open for three months only, it’s the brainchild of Douglas Ankrah (of LAB and Townhouse fame) and resides in a three-storey Georgian townhouse in the heart of Covent Garden. As well as Ankrah’s cracking cocktails (he did create the porn star martini) there’ll be guest mixologists to shake things up over the summer.
RECENTLY OPENED (July 2009)... It may be in the middle of an industrial estate, but the opening of Formans in East London will still be music to the ears of smoked salmon connoisseurs – it’s owned by H. Forman & Sons, the UK’s oldest smokehouse. There's a salmon tasting menu for true aficionados, but non-fishy ingredients from independent Brit producers also dot the menu – think ballotine of wild rabbit and prune or bitter chocolate and salted caramel parfait.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (July 2009)... Sometimes, the oldies really are the goodies. That's certainly the case with Yalumba, Australia's oldest family-owned winery. It's teamed up with Westminster favourite The Cinnamon Club to host a gourmet wine-matching evening this Friday, including the tasting of rare vintages. Winemaker Jane Ferrari will also be on hand to discuss the pairings. Tickets cost £90pp and include an aperitif, canapes, five-course menu, wine, coffee and petits fours. Call Priyanka Sharma on 020 7654 9393 to book.
Cute by name, cute by nature. This West Hampstead drinkery offers people-watching from its pretty decked terrace or shelter among the warm brick and twinkly lights indoors. Tipples run to good-value wines and exotic cocktails: think pear and cardamom martini or a green tea daiquiri. For eats, meanwhile, there are lunches of crispy duck salad or pan-fried salmon with basil mash, as well as evening tapas and Sunday barbecues.
Thanks to the wonders of an Enomatic dispense system, you can enjoy 40 perfectly preserved wines by the glass at this new hi-tech bar. Using a special Oyster-style card charged with whatever cash amount you care to nominate, the price of each tipple is deducted as you go. Expect to pay anything from £3 for perky rustics – a summery white Trebbiano, perhaps – to upwards of £60 for a top-drawer château-bottled Margaux. Iberia & the New World are also well represented: try Quinta da Lagoalva, a fruity, seafood-friendly discovery from Ribatejo in Portugal. Matching the wine is a menu that might include lightly battered fish & chips with peas & tartare sauce, grilled squid or fresh tuna niçoise, as well as slow-roast shoulder of lamb, bavette & frites, charcuterie plates, frisky salads & veggie options. Everything is served with due attention in pared-back, warm modern surroundings.
RECENTLY OPENED (July 2009)... There's nothing like a smart bistro to lift an area. Younger sibling of Marylebone's Villandry, this Holborn newcomer brings a dash of va-va-voom to the culinary no-man's land between the City and the West End. Familiar favourites such as charcuterie platters or moules-frites are supplemented by a new range of stone-baked pizzas, while sweet treats range from homely sticky toffee pudding to a large selection of cakes and pastries.
RECENTLY OPENED (July 2009)... Brill by name, brill by nature. This lovely little bistro has popped up at the bottom of gritty Caledonian Road, showing that in spite of the crunch, King's Cross' gentrification rolls on. The simply-priced menu (all starters £4, all mains £12) showcases seasonal classics such as cured Scottish salmon with a cucumber salad or chicken with wild mushroom and asparagus. There's an equally lovely deli next door, or a cosy downstairs cellar bar.
RECENTLY OPENED (July 2009)... Smack-bang between Bank and Moorgate, the Woolgate Exchange is a gleaming model of City slickness. So it's only fitting that financier's favourite Davy's has arrived to serve up top tipples and posh nosh to the banker boys and girls: think dressed crab and steak with a nice glass of Davy's Rioja. One of a growing breed of the wine-bar group's 'modern' branches, it's both good-looking and groomed – not unlike the clientele.
RECENTLY OPENED (July 2009)... If your dining companions are always asking for 'more', perhaps you should take them to this quirkily-named newcomer? Once home to a greasy spoon, the dinky site has been transformed into a bright, funky restaurant by the same team that first launched Livebait and The Real Greek. Swing by at all times of day for the sunshine flavours of the Med – grilled polenta with pancetta, gorgonzola and roasted cherries, say.
RECENTLY OPENED (July 2009)... From the team behind ace Wandsworth bar Lost Society, comes equally impressive sibling The Lost Angel. Part bar, part restaurant, part good ol’ neighbourhood boozer, it’s a gem of a place with quiz nights, film screenings, top-notch pub grub and an encyclopaedic cocktail list to keep spirits high. The left-field interiors score points, too – think trumpet light fittings, stuffed pheasants and a 10ft portrait of the Queen.