Over to You: autumn 2012

Tramshed_2012_1.jpgSquare Meal readers dish the dirt on the London dining scene. Find out which dining experiences wowed London's foodies in summer 2012 and which caused them to sharpen the knives...

Tramshed – Mark Hix’s most recent launch (pictured, right) – is currently getting a thumbs-down. The ‘cavernous, cold’ dining room lacks atmosphere, the Damien Hirst centrepiece perplexes, and the intentionally limited menu disappoints. The verdict? ‘If you are only going to serve two options, you have got to do them well.’

Brasserie Blanc Covent Garden gets a drubbing for its small portions – everything from the miniature espresso martinis to the ‘sparse’ salads make readers feel like they’ve stumbled into Lilliput. Monsieur Blanc might counter that size isn’t everything – note the venue’s ‘cracking’ location – but diners aren’t convinced.

Brasserie Zédel – the younger sister of The Wolseley and The Delaunay – has proved a smash hit: the ‘magnificent room’, ‘perky’ service, brasserie classics and ‘incredibly affordable prices’ ensure its 200-plus seats remain much sought after. It’s Corbin and King’s most democratic destination to date: ‘a good place to take anyone’.

Didier and Eric – les frères Garnier, who have French hits Le Colombier and Racine under their belts – have got things ‘spot on’ once again with Garnier. Readers commend the ‘unobtrusive service’, ‘superb wine list’ and ‘impeccable’ food. Make the journey out to Earls Court – or pray that the brothers’ next venture is in your neighbourhood.

Lima_2012_-_Interior4.jpgPeruvian fine-diner Lima (pictured, left) looks a worthy rival for Ceviche’s South American crown. Diners rate the contrasting textures and sweet-sour flavour combinations of its dishes, with particular praise going to the ‘delicious’ starters and ‘out-of-this-world’ desserts. In short, it’s another Inca treasure.

A vast dining room and bookings system have eased the burden at Burger and Lobster Soho – even for walk-ins. However, the encounter is too brief for some, due to efficient staff who ensure that queues are kept to a minimum. ‘£40 for an hour-long meal seems less of a bargain,’ concludes one diner.

Pop-up sensation The Cube by Electrolux has done wonders for the capital: its dinner-party intimacy saw friendships forged, its location gave guests ‘unrivalled’ views during London’s exceptional summer, and its concept rescued the meaning of the word ‘unique’. Not bad for three months’ work – no wonder its residency has been extended into the New Year.

The second branch of wine bar 28°-50°, located in elegant Marylebone, is as irresistible to wine lovers as its City sibling. Few can fault its wine list, much less the collector’s list, which sells top-notch wines at low mark-ups. Whatever it is they’re doing right, they should bottle it.

Donostia_2012_-_9.jpg‘Basque cuisine is art – and with the right chef it is a masterpiece,’ writes one visitor to Donostia (pictured, right). Thomas Baranski (ex-Barrafina) could be that chef: his good-looking venture has bags of zest and energy and most readers love his authentic dishes, such as the ‘stand-out’ cod cheek. A culinary Picasso?

Despite its high prices and full-throttle ostentation, Il Ristorante at The Bulgari Hotel has won over Knightsbridge’s foodie and tourist crowds. Offering ‘full-on glam’ with a ‘sophisticated’ vibe, ‘wow-factor’ food and ‘flawless’ service, this Italian is proving to be a real charmer.

Nicola Horlick’s much-heralded Barnes restaurant Georgina’s has received a tepid response so far. High prices, small portions and inexperienced staff have dashed residents’ expectations. ‘Such a shame,’ is the overwhelming refrain.

Banca is an enigma: some hail it as ‘a new benchmark for classic Italian cooking in London’, while unluckier souls consider it ‘just plain wrong in every conceivable way’. Service, food and wine have been equally admired and admonished, so it’s a case of wait and see – you could enjoy Banca, but don’t bank on it.

Sushisamba serves ‘the best view in London’ but the rest of the offering has received a mixed response. For some, it’s an all-round spectacular addition to an already amazing city; for others, it’s ‘a metaphor for the Square Mile: ‘brash, soulless, and fleecing the great unwashed’. Where do you stand?

This feature was published in the autumn 2012 issue of Square Meal Lifestyle