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RECENTLY OPENED (February 2010)... Just when you thought London had reached its quota of mid-market Italians, along comes another to spruce up the competition. Sporting a Wagamama-style dining concept and a special focus on pasta, the fledgling chain seems hopeful of doing for lasagne and carbonara what Pizza Express did for Fiorentinas and the American hot. The menu might sound all too familiar, but accomplished cooking and extra touches set it apart.
RECENTLY OPENED (February 2010)... If singing for your supper seems silly, try being sung at during supper instead. After a hushed few months since closing its City site, the operatic-themed restaurant – complete with its warbling waiters – has reopened in the Corus Hotel in Lancaster Gate. Be prepared for an assualt on the senses - £35 will buy you a menu of Gallic-inspired European food and more opera than an Il Divo fan club get-together.
RECENTLY OPENED (February 2010)... Bringing a slice of the exotic Middle East to suburban London, Chiswick new boy Chella mixes popular Persian food such as meatballs and baklava with lesser-known dishes like noodle soup ash-e-reshteh and herb omelette kookoo sabzi. Inside it’s very much a modern neighbourhood restaurant, with no mock-Arabic decor cluttering up the site, while a trendy cocktail bar injects a touch of Friday night glamour.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (February 2010)... The hangover from December’s New Year celebrations may be a lingering memory, but that won't stop the more Eastern-minded among us doing it all again. Sunday 14 February marks the start of Chinese New Year, a 15-day festival to herald in the Year of the Tiger. To celebrate the occasion, central London will come alive on 21 February, while Chinese restaurants will be putting on special menus throughout the festival.
It seems London has gone cabaret crazy at the moment, with even established restaurants getting in on the act. The latest to put on a show is revamped Piccadilly hotspot The Criterion. And it gives some peace of mind for the prospective cabaret-goer to know the food will be at the centre of the evening and not an afterthought. £40 will buy you a three-course meal and a line-up of singers, magicians and cabaret stars.
RECENTLY OPENED (February 2010)... When the brains behind the Sands End launched the pub in a quiet residential spot in Fulham two years ago, it swiftly built a loyal base of fans. Now the team are hoping to do it again, this time with a brasserie and grill on the Fulham Road. France inspires much of the menu, with one-time Gordon Ramsay protégée Gemma Tuley ensuring the cooking is up to par, while friendly service and a light, smart corner site does the rest.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (February 2010)... Approaching fast on Thursday 11 March, Wines from Spain is hosting an exclusive food and wine tasting event for Square Meal readers. For a bargain £20, guests will get the chance to sample over 100 different bottles of Spanish wine, plus tapas from top Spanish restaurants, a glass of premium Cava on arrival, freshly carved jamón Ibérico, and much more. Read on to book your ticket today.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (February 2010)... When contemporary Indian restaurant Trishna launched in Marylebone last year, punters were as impressed with the informed, varied wine list as the exemplary coastal cuisine. Now diners can learn more about the producers who supply the backbone of that list with a series of wine evenings hosted at the restaurant. Starting in March with a discussion and tastings of biodynamic wines, the site will host a monthly event throughout 2010.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (February 2010)... If you enjoy learning about Spanish ingredients as much as you savour eating them, then London restaurant group Brindisa is putting on just the thing. Throughout 2010, the group is hosting regular dinner and masterclass events for knowledge-hungry tapas fans. Each one will focus on a specific ingredient – such as Catalan cheeses, dried beans or Spanish anchovies – and will include a dinner courtesy of Brindisa's kitchen team, with wines to complement the cooking.
RECENTLY OPENED (February 2010)... ‘Alcohol is the anesthesia by which we endure the operation of life.’ It’s quotes like this, from playwright George Bernard Shaw, that you might happily breeze past en route to the fifth floor of the Piccadilly Waterstone’s. Because atop the grand bookstore, a sparkly new seafood & Champagne bar joins the original 5th View restaurant, boasting a stunning parorama of St James's. And we'll raise a tasty glass of anesthesia to that.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (February 2010)... With the winter's end on the horizon, like us you're probably already planning your summer hols. And here at Square Meal, we hanker over a bit of sunny, pampered luxury as much as anyone else. Which is why news of Burger Davis Sotheby’s revamped concierge service at its French Riviera properties has us all excited. Now offering masseurs, chefs and even a kids’ swimming coach, you'll hardly lift a finger during your week in the sun.
RECENTLY OPENED (February 2010)... Stoke Newington’s upwardly mobile crowd will be pleased to see the latest harbinger of gentrification – another lively, accomplished gastropub. Inside there’s the requisite Victoriana-meets-noughties decor, and a menu of good-value British grub. Chomp on a homemade pie with mash, or a pork chop with chorizo dauphinois, sup a pint of Timothy Taylor and, if you live nearby, feel generally contented that you bought when you did.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (February 2010)... Being battered on the tube drive you flipping mad? Well, this pancake day, if you’re going to take crêpes from anyone during your daily commute, make sure it's from the good people at the Crowne Plaza Kensington. On Shrove Tuesday (16 February), the hotel will be handing out free lemon and sugar pancakes outside Gloucester Road tube station from 8am to 9am to promote the special pancake menu at its StreetSide Restaurant.
RECENTLY OPENED (February 2009)... Celebrity Chef Aldo Zilli, sensing a gap in the market, has relaunched Signor Zilli, his flagship Soho restaurant, as Zilli Green, a smart vegetarian. Sporting an eclectic menu of refined dishes from around the world – think beetroot lasagne with a dandelion and rocket salad – and expecting the likes of Sir Paul McCartney (who apparently gave Zilli the idea) among its clientele, this newcomer promises to be more hip than hippie.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (February 2010)... ‘The sex on the beach. The schnapps made from peach. The velvet hammer. The Alabama slammer.’ If quotes like this, from Tom Cruise’s character Brian Flanagan in the movie Cocktail, get you reaching for the spirits and shaker, then Clapham bar Aquum has just the ticket. From 30 March, the venue is hosting a monthly flair masterclass to transform you into a modern day Flanagan. Although sadly, it can’t promise you his good looks.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (February 2010)... With Valentine’s Day ticked off for another year, we can all get back to lording it up en masse rather than scraping around for a table à deux. And the good people at Profile Soho have gone and made threesomes, foursomes and fivesomes even more appealing by offering a free bottle of Prosecco to tables of three or more. Hurry though - the offer, which is available from 12-7pm everyday, expires on 28 February.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (February 2010)... With Tim Burton’s new 3D film Alice in Wonderland due for release in early March, the great marketing minds at the Sanderson hotel in Fitzrovia have got in on the action with – surprise, surprise – a Mad Hatter’s tea party. Boasting an array of exotic cakes and sweets, the afternoon tea is fairly reasonably priced at £20 – or £26 with a glass of Veuve Cliquot Champagne – and, needless to say, a good place to take the kids.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (February 2010)... As pop-up restaurants pop up with ever increasing frequency, there’s no denying that some are a lot more accomplished than others. And we suspect that the forthcoming pop up at the Sipsmith distillery will be of the better ilk. Running from 18-21 March, the pop up will marry food from Peter Gordon – the brains behind Marylebone restaurant The Providores – with spirits concocted for the occasion by the distillery.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (February 2010)... Kudos to Le Café Anglais. Not just content with securing director Pat O’Connor to discuss his 1988 screen adaptation of Simon Gray’s play A Month in the Country at its inaugural Le Ciné Anglais evening, the Bayswater restaurant has also managed to secure every mother’s favourite actor, Colin Firth. For £50, guests can enjoy a two-course dinner with wine, a screening of the film, and a discussion on stage with Firth and O’Connor.
RECENTLY OPENED (February 2010)... Some neighbourhoods have all the luck. This Marylebone site, once home to a tired-looking branch of La Tasca, has re-emerged as Colony, a swish new eatery courtesy of talented chef Atul Kochhar (pictured). The Spanish tapas may be gone, but the small-plates concept remains in place, with spicing cranked up a notch to take in the flavours of India, Africa and beyond: feast on the likes of Punjabi chicken livers with chilli, cumin and ginger on toast, or grilled paneer with lotus stems, mango and mint chutney.
RECENTLY OPENED (February 2010)... Risen from the ashes? Not quite: this Soho stalwart managed to escape a direct hit from the vicious fire that ripped through Dean Street last July, but nonetheless suffered serious damage from flying debris, smoke and flooding. It closed its doors, embarked on a swanky makeover, and has just reopened to the public. An early pioneer of high-end Indian cooking, the menu still takes its inspiration from the cuisine of the Mughal emperors: think ostrich fillet with royal cumin, bay leaf and black pepper.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (February 2010)... Feeling the pinch this new year but still want a foodie treat? Well, there’s no need to shell out too much for Marylebone Indian restaurant Trishna’s latest event – a weekly crab masterclass and three-course meal. Costing £60 and taking place every Sunday, guests will learn how to prepare and cook live Dorset brown crabs in a coastal southern Indian style while tucking into dishes of the tasty crustaceans with matching wines.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (February 2010)... Who ate all the pies? You did, remember – at British Pie Week last year. And, after the success of 2009’s week, the seven day celebration of pastry-cased gluttony is back, running from 1-7 March. And if that news has sparked a sudden desire to seek out a tasty steak and kidney or chicken and leek specimen, read on for a round-up of the best pie destinations across the capital, including the venues for getting a pie and pint for a tenner.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (February 2010)... Chucking paint around isn’t just for vandals and Jackson Pollock wannabees, in Hindu countries the festival Holi – which marks the end of winter and the start of spring – is traditionally celebrated by throwing paint over one another. Hence its other name, the Festival of the Colours. However, if you want to celebrate it and not ruin your clothes, get along to The Cinnamon Club, which is putting on a special tasting menu for the occasion.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (February 2010)... Fancy a Friday night learning about wine instead of just drinking it? Well, you’re in luck. Ever-savvy gastropub brothers Tom and Ed Martin have launched a wine dinner to take place on the last Friday of every month at their Chancery Lane pub and dining room The White Swan. A mere £42 will buy you a five-course dinner with matching wines and the expert knowledge of sommelier Paulo Brammer to talk you through the vintages.
FOOD AND DRINK EVENT (February 2010)... Get your diaries out, because you won’t want to miss one of these five-star evenings. Taking place on three dates throughout 2010 – 27 April, 13 July and 2 November – Knightsbridge’s five-star hotel Jumeirah Carlton Tower is hosting a five-course wine hosted by representatives from Maison Louis Latour, Champagne Taittinger and Louis Roederer. Expect some expert knowledge and a line-up of top wines.