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Review of the reviews: September 2013


Casa Negra - Casa_Negra_2013_-_VK5M8062_3.jpgWith a surge of summer openings and even more London restaurant launches in September, the capital’s critics have been run off their feet trying to keep pace with the red-hot dining scene. Recently, the London Evening Standard’s Fay Maschler fell head over heels for Smokehouse, The Observer’s Jay Rayner wasn’t wowed by Whyte & Brown, while Time Out couldn’t make up its mind about Pizza Pilgrims. Find out how their verdicts compared to Square Meal’s.

Casa Negra, Shoreditch (pictured, top right)

They said: ‘Chef Brad McDonald is a sophisticated guy who has clearly fallen in love with Mexican cuisine. Beef tartare on a tostado with lemon, chilli and onion was lifted by slivers of avocado; cochinita pibil – a traditional Mexican dish of pork marinated in orange juice, given colour and flavour by the achiote flower, and slow-braised in a banana leaf – was earthy and unctuous... Casa Negra is a colourful and characterful sibling to the flamboyant Bodega Negra; but both places make you wonder how consumers of street food, when they leave, make it as far as the traffic lights.’
John Walsh, The Independent

We said: ‘There’s no sex-shop-style entrance at this crackling, funky Mexican joint… Assorted starters and small plates range from sticky pork tacos and hearty chorizo-and-potato quesadillas to a boldly flavoured plateful of spicy fried chicken, and braised rib of beef long-cooked for fall-apart tenderness.’

Read the full Square Meal review.

Grain-Store-Restaurant-2013-2.jpgGrain Store, Kings Cross (pictured, left)

They said: ‘The restaurant is decked out with the design clichés of hipster Brooklyn 10 years ago: exposed brickwork, low-watt clear light bulbs, a ceiling festooned with utilities, and an open-plan kitchen. We sat in a booth; the service is as easy and effusive as Monday-morning chuggers: they explain you can eat whole plates or share them, you can have them all at once or one at a time… The food is just so: light but sustaining, inventive without being experimental, unpretentious but matey, with a contemporary panache.’
AA Gill, The Sunday Times

We said: 'Expect a ‘cook’s world tour’ (think courgette, broad bean and prawn falafels or a South American mishmash of corn and quinoa tamale with a fatty slab of pork belly in the background). The kaleidoscopic flavours sometimes fail to gel, but clever cocktails keep things rousing.'

Read the full Square Meal review.

Pizza Pilgrims - Pizza_Pilgrims_2013_-PizzaPilgrims-PWF-0960_7.jpgPizza Pilgrims, Soho (pictured, right)

They said: ‘The problems with pizza-base consistency we encountered on our first visit now appears to have been solved: chewy and soft in the Neapolitan style, the bases are now cooked through properly, making an appealing base for the on-trend toppings… Pizza Pilgrims is a fun and affordable place with a loyal following that seems well-earned.’
Nick Amato, Time Out

We said: ‘The brown-paper menu is inspired by pizza’s Neapolitan roots – so expect lightly burnished crusts and springy bases dotted sparingly with top-quality mozzarella and other ingredients, from tangy ricotta with artichokes and smoked garlic to spicy fennel sausage with wild broccoli, parmesan and basil. For afters, don’t miss the fluffy pizza ‘ring’ oozing pockets of hot Nutella.’

Read the full Square Meal review

Blue_Boar_Smokehouse_Restaurant_2013_3.jpgSmokehouse, Islington (pictured, left)

They said: ‘We are sent chunks of fabulous pit-roasted sweetcorn glazed with bone marrow and smoked béarnaise and a dish of the day of smoked spare ribs with Korean lacquer... There is monkfish with heritage tomatoes and burnt fennel chimichurri, and vegetarians would be the natural takers for the Smokehouse salad of wilted roots, shoots and leaves… Because I visited at the tail end of a soft opening — I know, I know — I found a questionnaire handed out. I’ll just answer one. “Was Smokehouse somewhere you would return to?” Most definitely.’
Fay Maschler, London Evening Standard

We said: ‘Located in a roomy semi-circular space, with typically N1 shabby-chic, wood-heavy surrounds, Smokehouse sports a menu of carnivorous delights. Peppered ox cheek with cauliflower cheese and gravy is winningly sticky, while juicy mutton chops with caponata and crumbled ’nduja sausage also impress.’

Read the full Square Meal review.

Whyte & Brown - Whyte_Brown_2013_-_WB002_web.jpgWhyte & Brown, Soho (pictured, right)

They said: ‘I am scratching my head over the point of Whyte & Brown, which has a menu based solely around ‘free-range chicken and eggs’. I know the restaurant market is crowded. I understand each business needs a point of difference. I just can't quite work out why anybody thought this one was such a killer idea. There’s some reasonably solid cooking, [but] by the time we get to the perfectly serviceable roast chicken breast with pancetta and clams in more sticky-salty chicken gravy, we're getting quite bored of, y'know, chicken. Thank God we ordered the chicken Caesar salad, without the chicken.’
Jay Rayner, The Observer

We said: ‘World flavours jazz up the typically bland bird, but ordering two courses of chicken is unlikely to be most diners’ idea of a balanced meal… This one-trick chick has only limited appeal for foodie Londoners.'

Read the full Square Meal review.

This feature was published on 30 September 2013.

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