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Review of the reviews: February 2012

(menu)

The New Year has seen London’s critics hit the capital’s restaurants with vigour, most of them opting for places offering simple concepts and no-nonsense food. High-end fast-food joint Burger & Lobster gets the thumbs up from the Evening Standard’s Fay Maschler, The Daily Telegraph’s Zoe Williams bemoans the queues at trendy Meatliquor, while The Observer’s Jay Rayner forgives Pitt Cue Co’s no-reservations policy because the food is just so good.

burger and lobster 2012 - 20111214-TB2_8836burgerlobster.jpgBurger & Lobster, Mayfair

They said: With red-leather upholstery, wood panelling, bare tables, filament light bulbs and the hum of contented chatter – no music, which is a huge bonus – it sort of felt like an episode of Cheers, or anyway an episode of Cheers with a cast of hedgies. Based on a survey of two lunches, it would seem that this food particularly appeals to men – men who are unfazed by tying on a plastic bib. I feel at a disadvantage in a bib… Lobster roll made from butter-soaked toasted brioche and wasabi mayo was too rich to finish - but impossible not to… This is premium fast food and an undeniably clever construct.
Fay Maschler, Evening Standard

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We said: Go in a gang of three, order one of each and share the spoils. Burger & Lobster is owned by the Goodman chain, so it goes without saying the burger is made from high-end stuff… [but] best of all is the lobster roll, served in a buttery toasted brioche with a lick of wasabi mayo. The only downside is the no-reservations policy; two-hour waits for tables are not uncommon.

Meatliquor_2011_-_The_Dome_High_Res.jpgMeatliquor, Bloomsbury

They said: To ask punters to stand outside for 90 minutes is not a function of your tight margins; it's just an obvious attempt to create a 'buzz'. A buzz made of gullible flesh. Well done. Now we all look stupid, and I can't feel my feet… Inside, it’s cavernous, noisy, lit like a brothel and done out in skull-and-owl-centric graffiti that was halfway between art school and an edgy giftwrap you'd find in Heal's… There probably isn't a better burger to be had in London for £6.50. However – and this is a huge however – there are burgers just as good to be had for a couple of quid more. So you've got to factor in how much you value your time.
Zoe Williams, The Daily Telegraph

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We said: This meat-worshipping joint feels as if it has been directly transported from America’s dirty south and plonked straight onto the ‘corner of Welbeck & Henrietta’. Yianni Papoutis’ famous ‘pure-beef’ burgers are the scene-stealers, but they’ve been joined by spicy buffalo wings, southern-style ’slaw and deep-fried pickles, complete with rolls of paper towels to keep those sticky fingers at bay. Industrial cage lamps and neon-red signs, a table-shaking blues soundtrack, and a raft of gin- and whisky-based cocktails in jam jars complete a brash, upfront package.

Pitt Cue Co - Pitt_Cue_Co_2012_-_pittcue-PWF-0658.jpgPitt Cue Co, Soho

They said: Even allowing for my fetish for all things pig, this new incarnation really is very good indeed. They have focused on doing three or four things, and they are doing them very well. The food is even just about good enough to justify putting up with the increasingly common, endlessly infuriating no-reservations policy… It's messy, nine-napkin food, served in prison-style white-enamelled, blue-edged tin trays… This is an urban British hipster's take on a solid bit of Americana, tucked away on a tidy London street. But it's executed with commitment, wit and serious attention to detail.
Jay Rayner, The Observer

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We said: Queues start early here – the hordes move steadily from bourbon-laced sours at the bar to the Spartan, low-lit dining room, which both beat loudly to American blues-rock. A barrage of Twitter-led hype hasn’t affected the kitchen’s performance one jot: monster beef ribs – all sticky and blackened – are a hands-on treat, while melting pulled pork comes with a just-so smoky barbecue sauce… Once the fuss dies down and the iPhone-toting bloggers move on, Pitt Cue Co should fulfil its destiny as a prime spot for a down-and-dirty snack attack.

pizarro 2011_garlic prawns - Garlic_Prawns_with_Radishes_at_Pizarro.jpgPizarro, Bermondsey

They said: Pizarro is bang on-trend: an open kitchen, small plates, and no bookings taken… On our midweek visit, the wait for a table was 45 minutes – not so bad, though the 'bar' is really just the small entrance corridor to the restaurant, and has no seats. Once seated, the brief menu makes the wait worthwhile. Among the highlights of our meal were duck livers served with capers and fino, a clever combination of feral flavours cut with acidity… All the dishes were good, though if you're expecting big portions, think again.
Guy Dimond, Time Out

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We said: The wood-and-stone interior evokes a cosy ski lodge; pitch up at the bar or sit at the rustic communal table for tapas and glasses of house cava. Spruce daily dishes from Spain’s heartland and coastline are dictated by the market, the all-Spanish wine and sherry list is commendably strong by the glass/carafe, and friendly staff excel at buttering up regulars. Pizzaro may be the ex-Tapas Brindisa frontman’s most ‘cheffy’ venture to date, but it’s definitely not starchy.

tom aikens 2012 - Tom_Aikens__0166.jpgTom Aikens, Chelsea

They said: Paddy’s roast John Dory smelled comfortingly of Irish farts, and was, again, rather overdressed for the occasion, though nicely made. By the time we got to pudding, the kitchen had evaporated into hysterical habdabs, and were throwing everything they could lay their hands on onto the plate… Tom Aikens, who was cooking, is still one of our most talented chefs, but classically he’s someone whose skills trip up his brilliance… the overcompensating of plates to look elaborately sophisticated is a sign of insecurity.
AA Gill, The Sunday Times

We said: The newly informal dining room mixes bare wooden tables, funky lighting and concrete walls emblazoned with food-related quotes, while dressed-down staff and a quirky wine list add to the light-hearted mood. Aikens’ way with contrasting flavours is evident, and the results are gasp-inducingly pretty. Most also deliver on flavour, although a truly moreish plateful of spot-on foie gras with blackened onions and crunchy gingerbread crumbs outshone a rather underpowered, diminutive dish of chilled celeriac with truffle crème fraîche.

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