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23 April 2014

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Over to you spring 2012: Square Meal readers dish the dirt on the London dining scene

(menu)

More and more in the restaurant world, everyone who eats out is a critic – and an influential one at that. Readers have been leaving comments on squaremeal.co.uk for a number of years, not only to give others a solid base from which to make dining decisions, but also to tell us whether we've got it right or wrong. Find out which restaurants have wowed London's diners this quarter, and which have caused them to stick the knife in.

While some think 34 is currently London’s hottest ticket, others need more persuading. It’s not the restaurant’s concept nor its ambience that let it down, but inconsistencies in the quality of both food and service. Flaws The Ivy management will no doubt be addressing.

burger and lobster 2012 - 20111214-TB2_8789burgerlobster.jpgBurger and Lobster (pictured, right) looks to be one of the first no-bookings venues to have got things right, with few complaints about waiting times or table-turning. A fantastic idea, well executed, with quality food and cocktails? It must be a Goodman restaurant.

Hedone (pronounced ‘hed-oh-nay’) currently divides Chiswick. Despite gushing broadsheet reviews and readers noting ‘glimmers of genius’ on the plate, for some, the restaurant offers the ‘worst combination of minimal ingredients cooked without real purpose’ and is overpriced to boot. What do the critics know, anyway?

Meatliquor is treading a fine line between cutting edge and ‘cut it out’. Some aspects of service and decor grate with diners who just want a hassle-free meal, while the queues vex those who value their time. The burgers can’t be faulted, but is procuring one too much like hard work?

Could Russian-owned Mayfair destination Novikov be more style than substance? The decor is ‘stunning’, but it’s not backed up by prompt service or standout food, despite the high prices. On balance, our readers prefer the Italian side to the Asian, although slow service is a bugbear at both.

MIshkin's - Mishkin's_2011_-_Mishkin's_Reubens_(2).jpgThe reuben on rye at Mishkin’s (pictured, left) has provoked debate: to some, it’s so ‘stingy’ it would be ‘laughed out of existence in New York’; for others, it brought to mind Meg Ryan’s most famous scene in When Harry Met Sally. Will you have what she’s having or save your money for the real deals at Katz’s?

Despite the odd slip-up from kitchen and front-of-house teams, readers like The Delaunay, Corbin & King’s follow-up to The Wolseley. The same cannot be said of the £2 cover charge that, when added to the tip, can push the service charge for a light lunch into New York territory.

Who knew there was a gap in London’s market for an upmarket Georgian restaurant? The folks over at Colchis are onto a winner, with satisfied customers praising its native wine, water and food, and bundles of charm. Jaded Londoners looking for something different should take note.

The latest in a long line of independent Soho set-ups, 10 Greek Street (from the team behind Wapping Food) has already shown itself to be a cut above the pretenders with its good-value, grown-up dishes, low-margin wines and lack of pretentiousness. It’s quite simply ‘the best place in Soho’, say fans. We find it hard to disagree.

soif - Soif_2012_-_restaurant_02.jpgNo grumbles about the food at Soif (pictured, right) – its offering meets the same high standard as that of central-London sibling, Terroirs. Unfortunately, what the restaurants share in strengths they also share in weaknesses: service can get shaky when they fill up. Pop in nice and early, though, and you’ll get the works: ‘unusual’ wines, ‘honest’ dishes, ‘charming’ service.

Ex-Texture chef Ollie Dabbous is exceeding expectations with his solo venture in Fitzrovia. ‘Exceptional’ service, ‘original’ food and ‘quality’ wines make for an all-round class act, and the basement bar is a standalone gem, too. Be warned: waiting lists rival Dinner by Heston Blumenthal’s, so try for a lunchtime slot. Our sources tell us that last-minute bookings are sometimes fruitful, too.

London’s hard-boiled professionals have dropped an H-bomb of criticism on to Gregg’s Table, the Bermondsey Square restaurant of MasterChef presenter Gregg ‘The Egg’ Wallace, whose menu brims with 70s’ nostalgia. Obviously the temptation to wheel out the ‘glass houses’ admonishment was irresistible.

Since opening last November, Copita has quickly asserted itself as one of the best Spanish destinations in Soho – and beyond. The star dish is a thick, smooth ajo blanco (white garlic soup) which Square Meal rightly predicted would become the house classic. Since then, other critics have sung its praises – but what do you think?

This feature was published in the spring 2012 edition of Square Meal Lifestyle.

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