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Square Meal readers dish the dirt on the London dining scene…
Aqua Shard (pictured, right) has been praised to high heaven for its ‘delicious, good-quality’ food, ‘unusual cocktails’ and, of course, ‘spectacular views’. Service is the only wobble at this ‘special occasion’ destination – ‘slow’, ‘disorganised’ staff can let the side down. And when standards do slip, guests can feel marooned up on the 32nd floor.
In just five months, The Five Fields has established itself as a Chelsea gem, garnering five-star ratings from readers, who cite ‘outstanding service’, ‘gorgeous dishes’ and a ‘chic but unpretentious vibe’. Five must be this restaurant’s magic number.
Railway-themed Plum + Spilt Milk in King’s Cross is ‘on the right track’ now Mark Sargeant has taken over as executive chef. The dining room’s design – which references the plum and cream livery of The Flying Scotsman’s dining carriage – is ‘truly scrumptious’, so too dishes such as the ‘peerless’ fish pie. ‘Clued-up staff’ ensure there are no unexpected delays.
Hutong’s ‘sultry, Sex and the City vibe’, ‘mouth-watering Chinese dishes’ and ‘breathtaking views’ are yet another reason to visit The Shard, although reports on service are mixed and prices match the restaurant’s sky-high location. Diners also love the must-visit toilets, which combine spending a penny with fabulous views.
Precocious young gun Luke Thomas has ruffled some feathers with his soaring ambition, but his Retro Feasts pop-up on the ground floor of the legendary Embassy Club has proved he isn’t all talk. Diners rate the ‘clever menu’ for its playful takes on nostalgic clichés (such as 'cheese and pineapple sticks', pictured left), while the ‘cool’ decor and ‘fun’ vibe are ‘unexpected’ plus-points in old-school Mayfair.
With its ‘vibrant and interesting menu’, ‘wonderful service’ and ‘good wine list’, Picture is on good form. Readers’ only gripe concerns the ‘convivial’ dining room’s ‘terrible acoustics’, which can make the space noisy and uncomfortable. However, for an excellent-value set lunch, Picture is very much in the frame.
With all the fuss leading up to the London launch of US chain Shake Shack, many diners were bemused to discover just ‘a reasonable fast-food joint’. Although some converts rave about the ‘first-class American hospitality’, most reckon it’s a case of the emperor’s new clothes.
Five Guys – the other American chain to launch in Covent Garden this summer – has fared even worse than its rival, offering a ‘disappointing experience’ with ‘flavourless’ burgers, ‘soggy fries’ and a ‘sterile’ ambience. It seems these transatlantic imports just can’t compete with the capital’s kick-ass home-grown burgers…
Casa Negra (pictured, right), a Shoreditch sibling to La Bodega Negra in Soho, shares the latter’s genes, for better and worse. Readers love this Mexican’s good looks and ‘brilliant’ service, but the ‘average’ food has disappointed, especially given the high prices on the menu. The best advice? Have a drink at the buzzing bar, then move on.
Having wowed ’em at Pitt Cue Co, whizz kid Neil Rankin has ignited another firecracker at new venture Smokehouse. His ‘man-food’ offering promises a ‘huuuuge’ beer list, ‘perfectly grilled’ meats and fish options such as ‘amazing’ lobster frittata. With Islington locals on side, this has the hallmarks of a neighbourhood hit.
Flesh & Buns is blogger heaven, combining ‘incredible’ hirata buns with a ‘lively atmosphere’ and Instagram-friendly dishes. While prices aren’t cheap, the Covent Garden location is super-central, and generous portions of meat fillings ensure you get your pound of flesh.
Pizza Pilgrims’ permanent outfit serves ‘affordable, delicious food’ (pictured, left) – what’s more, no-reservations naysayers have been pleasantly surprised by the short queues. Fans deem it the best pizza in London, but what do you think? Share your thoughts on SquareMeal.co.uk.
This feature was published in the autumn 2013 issue of Square Meal Lifestyle.