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2 August 2014

Restaurants & Bars

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Blog Reviews from The Hungry Porker

(menu)


  1. Published : Tuesday, 24th June 2014

    Fino | Fino

    Tonight it was Fino, the older sister of Barrafina, now in its tenth year of service. It’s a much maturer restaurant, with an older more suited clientele. Tucked in a classily decorated basment just off Charlotte Street, this is all about starched napkins and a thick wine list, rather than stuffing food into your mouth with your fingers and sloshing down bottles of beer. The food is what does the talking though, and the dishes, just like the service, have been perfected over time, making it a consistently solid experience. There’s none of the experimentation you might find at other Spanish restuarants across London, just tried classics that are simply presented and taste great...

  2. Published : Saturday, 14th June 2014

    The Lockhart | The Lockhart

    When I think of southern soul food, I imagine a greased-up, smoky shack serving huge sloppy portions. Something like Freddy’s from House of Cards. A guilty pleasure sort of place where you get your fingers dirty. The Lockhart couldn’t have been further away from this. Set just off Edgware Road on a trendy little side-street it is clean white walls and chic vintage furniture. It all verges on being a bit cold and boring. What doesn’t help its cause is that the whiskey bar is downstairs and the open kitchen is hidden in the back corner...

  3. Published : Saturday, 14th June 2014

    Smokehouse | Smokehouse

    Neil Rankin was the Scottish chef in the baseball cap on the latest Great British Menu who made bold statements about fine dining being dead, and it now being all about big hearty cooking. I’m certainly with him on this, and I’d happily swap any molecular gastronomy for a good slab of meat any day of the week. But sadly for him, the judges, or rather creepy Jeremy Lee, didn’t buy it. His indoor BBQ heart-on-the-sleeve style of cooking was thrown to the kerb and so he’s back in the kitchen at Smokehouse...

  4. Published : Tuesday, 20th May 2014

    Big Easy Covent Garden | Big Easy, Covent Garden

    Getting to the Big Easy on a Friday night reminded me why I always try to avoid eating in Covent Garden. It’s a certain type of tourist who crowds to this part of London. A bit like the ones who go to Camden. What exactly is it they are going to see? The central arcade is boring after 2 minutes, just like the trashy Camden market is. Instead they all just crowd around snapping photos of everything and getting in the way of the unfortunate Londoners who have somewhere to get to. Big Easy fits perfectly into the Covent Garden mould. It’s huge for one, and also the perfect mix of completely false with quite trendy. It’s very much like Balthazar in this respect, another restaurant in the area which is trying to be the authentic New York-French brasserie, and has spent millions trying to achieve this look, but in the end just falls short...

  5. Published : Tuesday, 20th May 2014

    Bull & Last | The Bull and Last

    The word gastropub annoys me. Almost as much as ‘artisan’ does. It just sounds so up its own arse, which in a pub it translates to them believing they need to use italics on the menu and name the provenance of every ingredient, right down to the beer the fish has been battered in- recently it was Camden Hells batter- like I really care. It also usually means my single most hated thing will make a cameo on the menu- triple cooked chips. Two big fingers to that gastronomic tosser Heston for brining these damned things to the earth. The Bull and Last is caught somewhere between still being a local boozer that serves good grub and being a posher ‘artisan’ gastropub that has embraced all of the frustrating and unnecessary things that come with name- think silly little pots for sauces, eating off wooden boards. Set on Highgate Road just a couple of minutes walk from the Soho House 3-in-1 joint, it has gained a solid reputation over the years and claimed the Best Sunday lunch award back in 2011. It has a great local pub vibe, and even on a Tuesday night it was a full house. With a great list of ales and beers to choose from there’s a lot to love about this place...

  6. Holborn is just about the last place in London I ever go. It’s even more corporate than the City. It’s basically the City without any of the good bars or restaurants. Instead it’s endless office blocks filled with faceless suits. People churning out an existence. But things are changing. There are plans to turn this into London’s equivalent of Midtown. A destination to go to, rather than a place where you feel the life sucked out of you as you pass through. There’s no surer sign of this change than the luxury Rosewood Hotel opening its door last year, and with it The Holborn Dining Room, a grand all-day brasserie that on looks gives The Delaunay a run for its money. The restaurant is huge. Think Brasserie Zedel but with less of that cold train station vibe...

  7. Published : Sunday, 18th May 2014

    Zoilo | Zoilo

    Oxford Street is a hell-hole of tourist traps. You have to venture down the side-streets to come across the good stuff- like Roka, Berners Tavern and Aqua. But these restaurants empty your pockets and are best saved for a special occasion. If you’re after something more informal, there are few better places than Zoilo, just behind Selfridges on Duke Street, a discreet little Argentinian restaurant serving up great small plates and Argentinian wines at decent prices. Inside it has a very intimate vibe with a main bar counter on both floors to sit up at. Choose the one downstairs as you get to overlook the chefs at work, which is always ideal for a date when you realise you have nothing in common and run out of chat. There’s a good choice of wines by the glass or carafe, which in theory allows you to drink a bit less, but inevitably means you try three times as much. What I loved about tonight was that we weren’t handed a menu and told to order straight away...

  8. Published : Wednesday, 14th May 2014

    Flesh and Buns | Flesh and Buns

    Located in the touristy maze of Seven Dials, I had heard more about the toilets at Flesh and Buns than the food. All I knew was that it was from the same guys behind Bone Daddies, my favourite ramen joint right in the heart of Soho. If Bone Daddies soothes hangovers with its steaming bowls of molten porky bones, then Flesh and Buns is the cause of those hangovers with its fiery Asian junk food that go perfectly with plenty of pints of ice cold Asahi. Set in a dim basement with raw walls this won’t be for everybody. It opened right in the middle of this paired back back, industrial (oh how very New York) trend that us Londoners shoot our load over at the minute. But packed with the din of drunk punters on a Friday night it’s hard not to love the buzz. This probably isn’t the best place for a casual night with the missus, more a place to come after work or with a group of pals looking to kickstart a big night...

  9. Published : Tuesday, 13th May 2014

    Trishna | Trishna

    For most of us Indian food means a chicken tikka masala straight from the microwave or with plenty of pints of Cobra in the curry house next to the local pub on a Friday night. It has become one of our national foods. Something we stole, ruined and now churn out across the country in an array of fluorescent colours. This means Indian food and fine dining rarely go hand-in-hand. A few years ago I would have been one of these very people washing down bright orange masala sauce late at night, and if you’d told me I’d be sipping a cocktail and eating lightly spiced soft shell crab in a Michelin star Indian restaurant in Marleybone, I’d have laughed it off. But tonight it was Trishna, the older sister of Gymkhana, and that is exactly what I was doing. Set just off Marleybone High Street, Trishna has an unassuming frontage that is matched by the simple interior of painted white brick walls, warmed by a few touches of artwork and the dark wood furniture. It’s at once stylish and comfortable, and for Michelin star dining about as laid-back and unpretentious as you can get...

  10. Published : Monday, 12th May 2014

    Pizza East Kentish Town | Pizza East

    The Soho House group have nailed Kentish Town. Dirty Burger, Chicken Shop and Pizza East all take up a corner site on Highgate Road, and no matter what time or night of the week you go, they’re always busy. This Pizza East is much less hipster and up-itself than the Shoreditch branch. It’s for a crowd who hung up their Shoreditch clobber years back and have settled for the north west suburbs. The decor reflects the crowd, being less industrial and less ‘Shoreditch’, and instead it is much warmer. Inside it is all deep woods, wrought iron and warm lighting. This was a bit unexpected given that I’d only been to the deliberately cold bike-shed that houses Dirty Burger out back. There’s a deli counter and a good selection of antipasti to get things starting. Needing some quick fill we went for garlic bread (£4) which was as standard as they come. It needed much more of a hit from the garlic...

  11. Published : Sunday, 11th May 2014

    St John Bread & Wine | St. John Bread and Wine

    This was probably the last place to take somebody who had been heaving up their stomach lining all weekend. But then again given that stomach lining has no doubt featured on the menu at some point here, it felt somewhat appropriate. I probably could have been more generous when ordering and gone for something a little more gag-friendly than brains on toast, but this was a satisfying payback for being made to endure the Kardashians all week. In-keeping with the industrial east London surroundings, St. John’s is about as bare a restaurant can get. White walls, tables and coat hangers is all you get here. This no doubt was one of the first to embrace the paired back look, and at least it fits the theme of the restaurant’s no-fuss nose-to-tail cooking. This means it isn’t the sort of place to get all dressed up for, and to come and gasp over the beautiful presentation. It’s somewhere to get down and dirty with a good old plate of guts and bollocks. I still can’t decide if this look is for me though. I love the food, I just want to feel warm and comfortable when I eat it...

  12. Published : Wednesday, 19th March 2014

    The Gilbert Scott | The Gilbert Scott

    There are few better symbols of the area’s rebirth than the St. Pancras building. Finally getting off the train in London no longer dashes your hopes of what the big city might have in store. With this grand building, comes The Gilbert Scott. In itself this is a sure sign that King’s Cross is on the up, given that no other than Marcus Wareing, the feisty dictator of the two Michelin starred restaurant in the Berkeley, is attached. And as a side note I like that it isn’t called Marcus Wareing at The Renaissance, because unlike other chefs he hasn’t sold himself to have his name above the door of a restaurant he doesn’t always cook in. The restaurant matches the grandeur of the building with one of the most opulent dining rooms in London...

  13. Published : Wednesday, 12th March 2014

    Patty & Bun James Street | Patty & Bun

    Strolling past Patty & Bun while enjoying this weather, I found that there was only a twenty minute queue! Talk about having a good day. The menu, just like the decor, keeps things simple like all good burger joints should (take a hint Hache). The only difference here being you can also get your chops messy on a chicken or a lamb burger. Not for me thanks. It should only ever be beef. So I stuck with what I know and went for the Smokey Robison (£8.50). God damn this was one beautiful burger to look at. Handsome and dirty at the same time. It looks all dainty and neat, but as soon as your chops clamp down juices are flowing. Kind of like a classy looking lady who turns out to be a real fiend in the sack. The winning combo...

  14. Published : Wednesday, 12th March 2014

    Picture | Picture

    Fitzrovia is that place you pass through in a taxi. Unless you work for one of the trendy companies in the area, there really is no other reason to go. So it’s hardly the first destination you think of for dinner. Of course there’s a handful of great places to eat in the area, like Roka and Lima, but they’re all grouped together over by Charlotte Street. Picture stands alone on Great Portland St, and at 7.15 on a Friday night, we arrived to a fairly quiet restaurant, and I was worried that it wasn’t going to be an evening sort of place. For the first 45 minutes we were one of only a handful of tables in there, but thankfully by 8 the place had filled up and had a lively buzz. First up credit needs to go to the team behind this place. Three young guys who started out at the Arbutus Group have obviously really learnt their trade...

  15. Published : Monday, 3rd March 2014

    Leong's Legends | Leong’s Legends

    We knock, a bolt slides open and a face appears behind the crack of the door and tells us to wait outside until a table is free. The door then closes again and the bolt slides shut. I’ve witnessed this door policy at the nearby up-their-own-arse cocktail bars Opium and Experimental Cocktail Club, but never at a fairly run-of-the-mill restaurant bang in the middle of Chinatown. If I hadn’t found it so strange and funny, I’d probably have seen it as just about the least welcoming introduction to a restaurant I’ve had. Fortunately the wait was only a couple of minutes and we were soon seated with a steaming pot of Chinese tea in the tasteful (for Chinatown) and warm surroundings, studying the intriguing Taiwanese influenced menu, which to my delight me was heavily pork centred...

  16. Published : Monday, 17th February 2014

    Bodean's Soho | Bodean’s

    This has been my Soho saviour on many occasions. With so much to choose from in the area, sometimes all you need is the safe option of a pulled pork sandwich, a pint of Sam Adams and thirty minutes of watching some American sport you don’t understand but convince yourself that you really care about. Bodean’s gives you all of this. Today it was USA vs. Russia in the Winter Olympics ice hockey. There was whooping and hollering in true Yank style from plenty of the diners. It’s hard not to like the place, even if you do find these people bloody annoying...

  17. Published : Monday, 17th February 2014

    Caravan King's Cross | Caravan King’s Cross

    The area behind King’s Cross is at that awkward stage in its transformation where it is on the verge of being the new in-place, but at the moment is just a load of empty office blocks and construction sites. The last time I ate in the new urban hipster hang-out that is Granary Square, was at Grain Store, and I couldn’t get past the industrial and alienating feeling of the place. I was worried I’d get the same from the Caravan here and that it would be a world away from the intimate vibe at the Exmouth Market restaurant. But as soon as I walked in all these worries disappeared. They have managed to warm the space with excellent lighting and by packing the tables in closely together...

  18. Published : Tuesday, 11th February 2014

    Bar Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental | Bar Boulud

    Last time I was here too many White Cosmopolitans meant that the only thing to remind me of what I’d eaten were the stains on my shirt the next morning. Tonight I arrived in a slightly more sober state, determined to at least get past the starters before the drink got to work. I was immediately struck by the effortless class and charm of the restaurant, something alcohol had dulled my appreciation of last time around. The dining room has been cleverly designed so that it is split into several sections giving it a more intimate feel. The previous night I’d eaten at Balthazar, a grand brasserie that has tried incredibly hard to create a certain French mood and feeling. Bar Boulud has perfected this with ease and has the feel of a restaurant that has been running for years...

  19. Published : Tuesday, 11th February 2014

    Goodman Mayfair | Goodman

    Where better to take three women for dinner than a place that proudly serves pretty much nothing else but steak. This was my first experience of Goodman, having remained a loyal fan of Hawksmoor for the last few years. What tempted me to jump ship was Hawksmoor’s Air Street venture which felt too impersonal and big, almost like they’d buckled under the commercial pressure and finally taken that step from independent British steakhouse to a huge corporate beast. Given Goodman’s Mayfair location I was expecting it to be a real stuffy affair, but walking into the confidently masculine dining room, I was surprised by how laid back it felt. It was filled with post-work suits, but had anything but a corporate atmosphere, and even in the back private dining room where we were seated it had a constant warm buzz. Things got off to a solid start with Beef Carpaccio (£8) which wasn’t doused in a dressing, allowing the flavour of the beef to come through...

  20. Published : Monday, 10th February 2014

    Balthazar | Balthazar

    When I tried to get a table a few weeks after Balthazar’s eagerly anticipated opening last year, I felt like Patrick Bateman trying to get a reservation at Dorsia. Not a chance was the response I got. Not this weekend, and not for any of the weekends in the foreseeable future. They might as well have let out that shrill laugh down the phone. Well almost a year later with the hype having cooled off, or rather people realising it really didn’t deserve half of that hype in the first place, my perseverance has paid off and I managed to land myself a table. With it’s huge premises just off the central arcade in Covent Garden it has the feel of a destination restaurant, and so it was the ideal place to take visiting family from Newcastle who wanted a taste of somewhere grand in London...

  21. Published : Thursday, 6th February 2014

    Barrafina | Barrafina

    There’s a reason for the no-reservations here. It’s part of that authentic Spanish tapas bar experience. Seats around the L-shaped bar remain as difficult to get as when it first opened. Turn up as the doors open and you’ll still somehow find yourself behind a crowd of people. If you don’t get a seat, you’re invited to form an orderly queue along the back bar. But worry not, the waiters here are so good, that you’ll have a glass of wine in your hand in no time. And the wine here is really good, and really drinkable. I’ve lost count of the times that I have promised not to drink more than a glass, and then have finished a bottle of the Calcari 2011 Pares Balta (£30) before I’ve even been seated. Sometimes I get so carried away that after a good session at lunch I convince myself that work can be put aside for the afternoon and that I’m in need of a well-earned siesta...

  22. Published : Sunday, 2nd February 2014

    Morito | Morito

    We were given the best stools up at the bar, overlooking the chef who was slapping everything on the griddle and moving to Fleetwood Mac (with some style). It’s hard not fall in love with the casual and warm buzz and there’s enough character in the paired back decor so that you don’t think it has been designed by a tobacco rolling, tattooed hipster, like just about every restaurant these days. To start things off my partner helped herself to the nuts on the counter, mistaking them for a Spanish alternative to a bread basket, instead of being for the chef to garnish the dishes with. She soon realised her mistake when her hand was competing with the chef’s for a walnut...

  23. Published : Saturday, 1st February 2014

    Jackson & Rye | Jackson + Rye

    As if Soho wasn’t already over-saturated with all-day American diners, now Jackson + Rye has come along; and as so many of the reviews say, it offers a real slice of New York. Whatever the hell that means. Just what slice of New York that is, I do not know...

  24. Published : Tuesday, 28th January 2014

    New World | New World

    Dim Sum on a Sunday is right up there with a roast. I’m yet to find the best on in London though, and instead I keep returning to the reliable New World. This is perhaps one of the least touristy of the Chinatown lot, although it does still have a classic Chinese name and a bright red front with a faux Chinese roof. Inside feels as close to being authentic Hong Kong as you can get in London, especially with the trolleys being push around with all of the dim sum onboard. The Char Siu Bao are good here, but then how can one of the best things ever invented fail to disappoint...

  25. Published : Monday, 27th January 2014

    Berners Tavern at Edition Hotel | Berners Tavern

    Jason Atherton definitely came away from his divorce with Gordon Ramsay with the house and the kids. He hasn’t looked back since that separation, and his restaurants are fast becoming the top go-to places on the London food scene. Berners Tavern is his fourth London restaurant, and it follows more in the vein of the recent Social Eating House, with its hipper and more pocket-friendly menu than that of his flagship Pollen Street Social. Judging by how increasingly trendy his restaurants are getting, he is almost like a slightly less hip version of Mark Hix, except without Tracy Emin and Lily Allen tagging along...

  26. Published : Sunday, 26th January 2014

    Tramshed | Tramshed

    The Damien Hirst centre-piece really sums up this restaurant. A cock and bull preserved in formaldehyde is raised above the diners in the heart of the room. Quite the statement. Just like the menu, which offers nothing more than steak or chicken. How you feel about Damien Hirst will likely reflect how you feel about Tramshed. Either you’ll think he’s a genius who is at the forefront of modern thinking. Or...

  27. Published : Thursday, 23rd January 2014

    Café Murano | Cafe Murano

    This review has been sitting in my drafts for a good couple of months. Mainly because I drank so much red wine on the night that it has taken me that long to piece my memories of it together. But what memories I do have are all good. Cafe Murano is the second recent opening involving Angela Hartnett, the other being Merchants Tavern that opened in late 2013 as well. From what I could tell from the very little information given away before its opening, it was basically going to serve up affordable Italian food; and being the younger sister of the Michelin starred Murano it was hard to resist this combo. I went on the first Friday it had opened, but there was nothing to suggest that they were having any teething problems. The staff were excellent and the food was top notch at very reasonable prices...