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RECENTLY OPENED (October 2009)... If you like to surprise your dining companions, then where better to suggest than this latest addition to the Gaucho family? They'll arrive to be faced with a dreary office block, but this belies the delights of the inside. There's an airy ground-floor wine tasting room, while the cavernous basement has been converted to a slinky cocktail bar and restaurant. The perfect hide-away for power lunches over prime beef and Argentine reds.
RECENTLY OPENED (October 2009)... This Szechuan cooking specialist was forced to close earlier this year following a fire in its kitchen. (The irony of this happening at a restaurant where some of the dishes can make your mouth feel as if it's engulfed in flames is, to say the least, piquant.) Happily, Bar Shu is back – and the food is as adventurous as ever. But while there's no doubting the quality of cooking, the overall experience does not merit the hefty size of the bill.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (October 2009)... Get your diary out: Square Meal’s annual Around the World Wine Tasting will be held at Vinopolis on 18 November. This year’s 200-odd wine list is one of the best ever, including Pol Roger, Louis Roederer, Pichon-Lalande and Royal Tokai, alongside Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Cognac and port, plus top New World offerings. There'll be gourmet bowl food throughout the evening, plus music from a string quartet and a free prize draw. For more info, read on, or to book your £45 ticket, email us or call 020 7840 5240.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (October 2009)... On Wednesday 21 October rugby stars Lee Meers, Jason Leonard OBE and Martin Offiah MBE will take possession of Vivek Singh’s restaurant Cinnamon Kitchen for a celebrity cook-off in aid of children's charity Wooden Spoon. Sky Sports News presenter Millie Clode will be hosting, with live action broadcast from the kitchen as the rugby stars prepare their courses. After dinner, there will be an auction of money-can't-buy prizes, plus the opportunity to meet the players. Read on for details of how to book.
READER COMPETITION (October 2009)... Attention wine lovers: to highlight the virtues of their Classic Wine Trail, the nice people at Tourism New Zealand are giving six bottles from wineries along the route to one lucky Square Meal reader. If you fancy the likes of Kim Crawford Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2006, or Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir 2007, simply email Tourism New Zealand with your name and number before 30 October. For further info on the trail and other bottles, read on.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (October 2009)...Get your diary out: just a few tickets remain for Jamie Oliver’s charity fundraiser A Big Night Out with Fifteen on 12 November. Taking place at Shoreditch Town Hall to raise money for the Fifteen Foundation, which runs a pioneering apprenticeship scheme for under-privileged young people, the £650 ticket will see you rubbing shoulders with Jamie Oliver and a host of mystery celebrities. Expect a fantastic supper and performances from some of today’s hottest stars.
RECENTLY OPENED (October 2009...) The folks over at Soho House know a thing or two about creating sexy spaces, with this loft living-style Shoreditch newcomer a case in point. Happily, the room's good looks are matched by cracking Italian cooking. Dishes come packed with flavour: think sheep's milk ricotta bruschetta with honeycomb and sea salt, or a simple pizza margherita loaded with buffalo mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, basil and olive oil.
RECENTLY OPENED (October 2009)... For those of you mourning the demise of the traditional London department store, take heart: some are being given a new lease of life. The site where Dickens & Jones once stood, for instance, is now home to a destination cocktail bar, a modern Japanese restaurant, and this stylish newcomer, Aqua Nueva. Here, contemporary Spanish cuisine, courtesy of ex-el Bulli chef Alberto Hernández, is served up in a sophisticated setting, with far-reaching rooftop views another draw for a modish media crowd.
NEW OPENING (October 2009)... Life is a cabaret, old chum, and nowhere more so than at this new speakeasy-themed City bar and restaurant. Go-go girls, burlesque dancers, jazz nights – all the trappings 1920s excess are there, with a menu of classic British comfort food to boot. Tuck into a beef Wellington, knock back a cocktail and enjoy the cabaret in the plush, dim-lit surroundings.
RECENTLY OPENED (October 2009)... There's been one helluva spate of kitchen-hopping by chefs of late. Fans of William Drabble's refined French cooking will no longer find him at Aubergine, but should instead head over to newcomer Seven Park Place at the St James's Club and Hotel (on a site once home to Dieter Müller's Andaman). Across town, Andrew Turner is bidding farewell to The Landau and moving to Wiltons, to step into Jérôme Ponchelle's shoes, who in turn will be filling the vacancy at The Capital created by Eric Chavot's departure.
RECENTLY OPENED (October 2009)... Hallelujah! You know it's time to give thanks and praise when a forgettable branch of Jamie's is reborn as a dedicated blues bar. Jitterbug on the dance floor and then refresh yourself with ice-cold brews by the bucket, margaritas and that Belle of the South – mint julep, served in traditional metal cups. Casual bites run to popcorn chicken, shrimp skewers, pulled pork stack, jambalaya and Mississippi mud pie.
GENERAL NEWS (October 2009)... Seeing off stiff competition from the likes of Bjorn van der Horst's Eastside Inn and Arjun Waney’s Il Baretto, this season's BMW Square Meal award for Best Newcomer – presented to the most impressive new opening of the last six months – goes to Peter Prescott and Sir Terence Conran's Lutyens. Combining sensitive design, competitively priced brasserie food and exemplary service, it has impressed from the very start.
GENERAL NEWS (October 2009)... Got an iPhone? Or perhaps an iPod Touch? Then don't miss out: Square Meal has launched a super-duper new app and it's absolutely free. Just download it from the App Store on your iPhone, then take it for a spin. The Square Meal app uses GPS mapping so you can search for restaurants, bars and special offers by location – not to mention being able to download virtual vouchers for deals. Yes, readers: virtual. No need to print them off or plan ahead – now you can be a fly-by-the-seat-of-your pants kind of person.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT(October 2009)... As you chow down those hearty stews in a bid to stave off the cold these next two months, spare a thought for the less fortunate. Or better still, spare £1. The Street Smart campaign is an annual charity drive that takes place in November and December, with diners asked to donate just £1 on top of their bill to go towards helping the homeless. 2008’s campaign raised £435,000 and, as always, hundreds of the capital’s restaurants are taking part in this year’s drive.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (October 2009)... If the cold weather and dark evenings are getting you down already, let some Tuscan sunshine – or at least some Tuscan wine – into your life this autumn. To celebrate the opening of its new bar and restaurant, run by Florentine winemaker Frescobaldi, Harrods is hosting a Tuscan food and wine-tasting evening on Wednesday 25 November, priced at a mere £25. For the modest outlay, guests can enjoy tastings of top wines like Pomino Benefizio Riserva 2007, matched with small Tuscan dishes.
RECENTLY OPENED (October 2009)... Like its animal namesake, The Rubens at the Palace Hotel’s new Leopard Bar is sleek, classy and well hidden. Also, like the big cat, it’s much smaller than you might think. Housed inside the hotel's former in-house newsagent’s, the décor’s all neo-colonial ‘safari-chic’, with the obligatory leopard skin print carpet and cushions. Champagne goes from £12.50 a glass to £4,000 a bottle, and cocktails, fine wines and savoury snacks all make it an inconspicuous gem.
RECENTLY OPENED (November 2009)... Settle onto a stool at Sir Terence Conran’s new Lutyens bar and you could be mistaken for thinking the good times are back again. The corporate chic, mosaic floor and white-suited baristas all pay homage to a time when we had a bit more cash to spend. And it’s a breath of fresh air in these frugal times. Throw caution to the wind, enjoy a glass or two of Pol Roger Réserve or a Lutyens Martini, and pretend it's 2006 for an evening.