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23 April 2014

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Over to You: spring 2013

(menu)

Newman Street Tavern - Newman_Street_Tavern_2012_-_WallMid.jpgSquare Meal readers dish the dirt on the London dining scene.

After a shaky start, when it lost points with readers for promising more than it could deliver, Newman Street Tavern (pictured, right) in Fitzrovia has turned a corner. Since January, reports suggest steadier service is allowing the kitchen to really shine. New year, new beginning?

Considering its subterranean neighbour is smash-hit Brasserie Zédel, MASH was always going to suffer comparisons. Sadly, it’s strictly for expense accounts and is so anonymous it ‘could easily be in Dubai, Chicago or Singapore’. Londoners can’t fault the mouth-watering steaks, but they blanch at the eye-watering bill.

It’s not the Austrian ski-chalet theme that grates at Bodo’s Schloss – it’s the execution. Guest-list woes mean Kensington good-timers looking to relive the après-ski experience are frustrated even before they try the ‘bland’, ‘uninspiring’ food. Only the dance floor saves the day – ‘sooo much easier without ski boots on!’

Hawksmoor Air Street - Hawksmoor_Air_Street_2012_-_IMG_6818.jpgHawksmoor’s army of ardent supporters still adore the brand, but they have a few quibbles with the Air Street branch (pictured, left). A gristly steak here, a service own-goal there, and before you know it the latest link in the chain is dismissed as a ‘steak factory’. While this outlet finds its feet, best stick to the more consistent Seven Dials.

The all-native produce on the menu at The GrEAT British is a laudable concept – even if it is served by non-native (albeit ‘unfailingly polite’) staff. However, when it comes to the wine list, diners are not so blindly patriotic, preferring greater choice and keener prices over ‘thin, uninteresting’ British bins.

Hats off to Arjun Waney’s Peruvian restaurant Coya, which has rapidly earned itself a bunch of happy regulars – mostly Zuma devotees grateful for somewhere that shares its DNA. Diners rate the ‘exciting’ food, ‘competent’ service and ‘friendly atmosphere’, all of which add up to ‘great’ value – despite lofty prices on the menu.

the shed 2012 - imageThe-Shed-2012.jpgNotting Hill charmer The Shed has a lot going for it – ‘sublime’ food, a ‘joyful’ atmosphere and ‘friendly’ service – but diners can’t help but feel ‘hemmed in’ by the small tables and cramped space. ‘Halve the number of tables and double the prices,’ suggests one otherwise contented reader.

On balance, the change of chef at John Salt seems to have worked out well. Despite the trend-obsessed nature of the new menu – ‘kimchi here, chicken skin there, pulled pork everywhere’ – diners have been bowled over by the ‘superb’ food and fair prices.

Although readers have complained of lacklustre food and calamitous service at Thai newcomer Naamyaa Café, everyone agrees that gold-fingered owner Alan Yau will turn this venture into a solid chain. Until then, diners remain perplexed by the ‘flawed’ concept and rogue westernised dishes peppering the ‘odd’ menu.

Colbert_2012_-_1804-colbert6_web.jpgColbert has not received the same rapturous welcome enjoyed by its siblings Brasserie Zédel and The Delaunay. Reports of overpriced food, unaccommodating staff and rushed service have seen locals fall back on tried-and-tested Sloane Square stalwarts instead. Is this Parisian café a little too authentic for Brits’ tastes?

It’s been a long time coming, but Balthazar has finally arrived. Those unfamiliar with its NYC sibling have breathlessly praised its ‘incredible’ service, ‘amazing’ food and ‘superb’ ambience. However, some connoisseurs of the original are unsure, preferring home-grown ‘It’ restaurants when they’re hungry for the buzz of the Big Apple. But what do you think?

This feature was published in the spring 2013 issue of Square Meal Lifestyle.

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