Over to You: summer 2012

thejuggedharelongviewofbar.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...

Despite the lack of its namesake on the menu (out of season), The Jugged Hare (pictured, top right) has received good reports. Offbeat British delicacies such as faggots or black-pudding croquettes provide ‘a recession-friendly alternative to St John’, while the decor is typical Martin brothers, and the wine list has some real stars.

Upmarket Cotidie is splitting opinion along national frontiers. For Italians, it’s a high-end taste of home; Brits, however, are not so convinced by its high prices, small portions and ‘indifferent’ service. Can head honcho Bruno Barbieri get the locals on his side?

Clapham residents cannot contain their excitement about Adam Byatt’s Bistro Union. Breathy reviews string together superlatives by way of ‘delicious’ food, ‘welcoming’ staff and a ‘buzzy’ atmosphere. Deservedly busy and a worthy sibling to Trinity.

It’s not the food or the service that let down Hix Belgravia – the ‘cramped’ dining room, just off the hotel lobby, makes the experience fall flat. Upstairs, meanwhile, what Mark’s Bar number two gains with its Belgravia postcode it loses in its ice-cool vibe.

The rebooted Quo Vadis has quickly found favour with Soho’s diners, who are gobbling up the simple, punchy platefuls for which chef Jeremy Lee was renowned at Blueprint Café – bar the odd dish that falls wide of the mark. As ever, readers appreciate the restaurant’s slick front-of-house operation, too. A good package well on the road to greatness.

ceviche - Ceviche_2012_-_Duck_with_rice.jpgFull marks across the board for hot ticket Ceviche (pictured, left) – despite the high demand for tables. Order ‘everything on the menu’ and wash it down with pisco sours ‘so addictive they have more than a touch of the Colombian about them’. With its hell-for-leather fun factor, this place must have soon-to-launch Latin rivals quaking in their boots.

A self-service pub sounds ideal, but Southwark’s The Thirsty Bear hasn’t been hailed as the future of drinking. ‘Not every table has a working computer screen and even fewer have a beer pump’ complains one reader. Perhaps us Brits secretly miss queuing.

Critics and punters agree that Mele e Pere’s difficult location and tepid atmosphere do its high-quality food a disservice. However, diners who persevere enjoy what they find and are spreading the word – good news, because this ‘uncomplicated, inexpensive Italian deserves a wider audience’.

Tom Aikens’ revamped, relaunched flagship is serving dishes that are ‘among the best in London’ – visually appealing and bursting with adventurous flavours. Service has also been warmed up a few notches – perhaps the famously fiery chef has been breathing kindly flames from the kitchen…

La Bodega Negra - La_Bodega_Negra_2012_-_BN016.jpgDubbed ‘the Salma Hayek of the London restaurant scene’, La Bodega Negra Restaurant & Bar’s decor (pictured, right) has captured the imagination of at least one smitten diner, although the food is less memorable. However, for celeb spotting, funky vibes and that all-round fashion feeling, it’s definitely worth a visit.

Has alcohol played a role in heightening the near-mythical status of Pitt Cue Co? Queue-abiding readers waiting for a table in the bar can arrive in the dining room sozzled on bourbon and more than a little peckish, after which they rave about their meal. Meanwhile, more sober diners have rated the offering as light years away from the American barbecue experience. One thing’s for certain: booze boosts the bill at this bijou outfit.

Karpo is a welcome oasis in the restaurant desert of King’s Cross – although not everyone is convinced by the eclectic ‘urban landscape’ decor or the menu of international dishes that tries too hard to be all things to all people. However, such gift horses are rare in this still challenging part of town.

It’s a sign of these uncertain times that readers keep flocking back to recession-defying old dependables for their foodie fix – step forward old favourites such as Les Deux Salons, Galvin La Chapelle and Bar Boulud, among others. Tell us about your culinary comfort blanket – or a worthy (or otherwise) new find – by leaving a review on squaremeal.co.uk. You could win a fabulous prize, from Champagne or cases of wine to spa treatments or free meals out.

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