Editor's Picks

Jul 2015

These reviews have been selected by SquareMeal.co.uk's editor for being particularly helpful or entertaining. Scroll through to find inspiration for your next meal or get the lowdown on the latest launches.

POND

3 Gillett Street, London N16 8JH

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar half

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No Hulas in Sight

by yolanda c.   (2)

Jun 2015

Editor's pick I hate a theme just as much as I hate fancy dress so I was relieved to find Pond had designed their restaurant without the use of pineapples or Hawaiian skirts. This is Dalston, after all. Whilst the words cool and Hawaiian may not often be found together, they do now. We were quite content with the inventive cocktail list with twists on all the classics (think lots of pineapple, coconut and rum) and a menu filled with small and large plates which meant we simply had to order in bulk to sample as much as is humanly possible (quite a lot, as it turns out). We shared everything and that included Poke Pines which was akin to a tuna and salmon, Thai basil oil and coconut lime ceviche. Food arrives when it's ready so next up we had pork belly, fried sea bass and chargrilled chicken in a variety of sauces mainly involving chillies, lemongrass, kimchee and lime. I was then forced, yes, forced, to have steamed chocolate pudding with smoked vanilla ice-cream. Smoked ice-cream is a first for me and if you like trying usual combinations, then this is it. We shared another cocktail, to pair with our dessert, as one does, before we waddled out happily smelling like a smokehouse.

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yolanda c.'s rating

star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar half
  • Food & Drink: 9
  • Service: 10
  • Atmosphere: 8
  • Value: 7

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Bone Daddies

31 Peter Street, London W1F 0AR

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar empty

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Bone broth + bibs = noodley bliss

by The Cheese   gold reviewer (45)

Jun 2015

Editor's pick Outside Bone Daddies is very basic and unremarkable. So too inside, where there's only a flurry of kitsch vintage snaps and clusters of sake bottles by way of decoration. The soundtrack is more dominant and consists of one soft-rock abomination after another - think muzak of the Journey ilk, suitable for lifts and Little Chefs circa the mid '80s. A baffling choice, but I’m willing to overlook it given the quality of the food. Condiments aplenty line the worktops (chilli bean paste, fresh garlic cloves to grate, and a jar full of - what - liquorice hairbands?!) but the most important element of your little 'mise' is undoubtedly the plastic bib. Unless otherwise requested, food arrives when it's good and ready; in the case of ramen, that's lightning quick. The 20-hour pork bone broth has a milky, mellow flavour that soothes the tummy and the soul. Tantanmen, on the other hand, promises a satisfyingly fiery bowl of flavoursome ground chicken and lip-tingling spice. Go hungry - most bowls contains a healthy portion of noodles and beansprouts along with a gooey, amber-yolked Clarence Court egg. Add extras like ‘cock scratchings’ TM (ahem) if you desire, but I’d be amazed to see someone polish off the lot. Having already ordered a side of fried chicken we made a valiant effort to tuck in, without regret; it was sizzling, piquant and spot on. Croquettes had satisfying crunch, and an unctuous porky, corn melange within. All in all, a mighty enjoyable feed. Drinks range from 'soft' but serious mocktails (balancing the likes of spritely yuzu and searingly sharp grapefruit for something more complex than your average pop) through to 'hard' (Asahi and Kernel beer or Orient-infused cocktails; wine doesn’t really get a look in) and finally 'harder' (Japanese whisky and a generous sake menu). Don’t expect to hang around, apart from the inevitable queuing when you arrive; service is speedy, while the narrow benches and vertiginous stools aren’t conducive to lingering (or larger parties). However, Bone Daddies confidently resides at the delectable end of the fast food spectrum. I was further heartened to learn that bone broth may have a host of health merits (so ignoring the tiny globules of flavoursome fat that pool across its surface); apparently it is rich in collagen, imbuing it with anti-wrinkle properties. All the more reason to don the bib, slurp away and laugh contentedly as you age backwards with a full, contented belly.

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The Cheese's rating

star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar empty
  • Food & Drink: 9
  • Service: 8
  • Atmosphere: 7
  • Value: 8

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Toms Kitchen St Katharine Docks

1 Commodity Quay, St. Katharine Docks, London E1W 1AZ

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar halfstar emptystar empty

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Saved by the food...!

by Jan d.   bronze reviewer (13)

Jun 2015

Editor's pick A hurriedly arranged dinner with a friend arriving unexpectedly to London resulted in a Monday night booking at Toms Kitchen St Katharine Docks. Arriving at 9.30pm on a Monday night to a half empty restaurant we certainly did not expect to be met with the news that half of the menu highlights (our initial choices) were unavailable (no cushion of Herdwick Lamb, no Gateland farm Veal T Bone Steak, no mussels etc) and a waiter whose English was so unintelligible that it took the 3 of us between us to decipher what he was on about, nice guy that he was!! (just like the Grange Hotel St Paul's - try talking to them on the telephone to book anything!!!). However, the lack of those dishes was as nothing compared to how desperately uncomfortable the wooden seats are. These are comfortably (sic) the most uncomfortable seats in London and after 20 minutes all three of us were in serious discomfort. Thankfully, with a pretty empty restaurant (it was close to 10pm by this time) we were able to move to one of the banquettes and had our meal in far greater comfort. Thankfully, after this very inauspicious start, what came afterwards was delicious and well presented - we started with pork rillettes to share...classily home made coarse pork rilletes were just delicious and when asked, they were good enough to find us some cornichons to go with them: after all, serving rillettes without cornichons is like having scones without jam and cream!! Come on Tom!!!! Between us we then had a Cumbrian T Bone staek, a rump steak both cooked perfectly and brimming with flavour, served with probably the best triple cooked chips I have eaten in London and delightfully crisp onion rings. The side of mushrooms with blue cheese were also sensational and my wife's scallops cooked in puff pastry with dill and sea herbs were very nicely served in 2 dinky frypans and were wonderful. Wine list was good and we had a very good Languedoc Viognier with a an excellent Salice Salentino Riserva, from Puglia to follow. Summary - delicious food and wine - couldn't fault it. Would we go back? Not until they change those b----y chairs!!!

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Jan d.'s rating

star fullstar fullstar halfstar emptystar empty
  • Food & Drink: 8
  • Service: 5
  • Atmosphere: 4
  • Value: 8

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Ceviche Old Street

2 Baldwin Street, London EC1V 9NU

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar halfstar empty

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Amazing service, still to make my mind up on the food!

by Yolanda B.   bronze reviewer (6)

Jun 2015

Editor's pick I have wanted to go the Ceviche in Soho for a while now but not quite made it there, so I was really happy to find out they had opened one in Old Street not too far from the city. I went here for lunch with my boyfriend, on arrival we were seated at the bar as we hadn't made a reservation. It turned out to be a good spot though as we had the full attention of one of the bar staff/waiters working behind the bar and he was exceptionally attentive and informative on the dishes and we were very impressed with the level of service and care. To eat we had the Don Ceviche, Pollo a la Brasa, Lamb Brains fritters and Huevo Criollo (a healthy version of a scotch egg) - I had let my boyfriend choose the dishes for a change but was. The Ceviche was lovely and refreshing and tasty - which is good considering the name of the restaurant! However, I wasn't very impressed by the other dishes - I think they may be trying a bit too hard to be different with the lambs brains fritters and the quinoa scotch egg and the chicken was just chicken. I felt disappointed as I had high hopes for this restaurant and they didn't seem to be met, I think I will have to give it another chance (ordering very different items next time) before I completely make my mind up! p.s I had the Plum & Ginger cider to drink - this was lovely and I would highly recommend it!

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Yolanda B.'s rating

star fullstar fullstar fullstar halfstar empty
  • Food & Drink: 6
  • Service: 10
  • Atmosphere: 7
  • Value: 7

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Savoy Grill at The Savoy

The Savoy, Strand, London WC2R 0EU

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar half

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For a taste of a London icon read Nuzy Sayani’s review of Savoy Grill

by Nuzy S.   bronze reviewer (5)

Jun 2015

Editor's pick The Savoy has special significance for me as my now husband and I had our first date at the American Bar almost two decades ago. Romance flourished over martinis and the rest as they say is history. When we were looking for somewhere special to take my mother in law for her birthday, we decided to book the Savoy Grill for Sunday lunch. London has so many luxury hotels but I have always loved the glamour and character of The Savoy. The extensive restoration freshened up the grande dame whilst retaining the opulence of the Art Deco and Edwardian era. We started off with some celebratory bubbles in the Thames Foyer. My son was tempted to tickle the ivories of the grand piano but was suitably distracted by the portraits of famous guests that have inspired the hotel’s signature suites. Natural light streamed through the beautiful glass domed ceiling but the warmth of the winter garden was sadly not reflected in the service. This happily changed when we entered the Savoy Grill. We were warmly welcomed and the staff paid special attention to our son. The room itself is splendid – the lacquered wood panels complement the extravagant chandeliers and mirrors and you half expect to see Winston Churchill lighting up a cigar or Frank Sinatra holding court in one of the booths. The menu as you would expect is brimming with classic dishes. We started with garlicky frogs’ legs that had a crunch, an intensely flavoured lobster and crab bisque and succulent oysters. We continued the traditional journey by ordering the rich steak and ale pudding and the rib of beef with all the trimmings. Both were well executed but left us no room for dessert! My son enjoyed his halibut and devoured his dish of freshly made doughnuts with such indecent haste that I didn’t even get a nibble! The attentive and charming restaurant manager Santosh Uchil looked after us royally and overall service was excellent. My son (to his father’s delight) was offered a tour of the kitchens – a nice touch that they both enjoyed. We walked onto the Strand with our boxes of petit fours, sated and ready for an afternoon nap. I would recommend Savoy Grill for a meal with friends or family. It is perfect for a special occasion without being overly formal or fussy whilst still retaining a special something. Coupled with the allure of the Savoy and the great choice of bars and lounges, there is something for everyone. Savoy Hotel Strand LONDON WC2R 0EU 0207 592 1600 restaurant reservations savoygrill@gordonramsay.com @NuzySayani Nuzy Sayani is Catwalkschoolgates’ restaurant reviewer. Nuzy lives in Marylebone with her husband and seven year old son. She is a technology lawyer and loves the theatre, cinema, is an avid reader and likes nothing more than trying out restaurants. Nuzy will be sharing her dining experiences with us and would love to hear from you with your recommendations.

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Nuzy S.'s rating

star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar half
  • Food & Drink: 9
  • Service: 9
  • Atmosphere: 9
  • Value: 8

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Oslo Court

Prince Albert Road (corner of Charlbert Street), London NW8 7EN

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar empty

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Time travelling backwards

by Joe N.   (1)

Jun 2015

Editor's pick Entering the restaurant was like travelling back in time to the 1970s. The decor and ambiance is a little past its sell by date, but is obviously well liked by its clientele who are obviously regular and well fed. Several large tables were hosting birthday parties for older members, and I have no doubt, for this kind of event, this place is ideal. London has moved on a lot since then, however, and food presentation and levels of discreet service have skipped by unnoticed. Portions are substantial, served piping hot and either very well cooked or in the case of my starter and the general assorted vegetables, were too well cooked for my liking. If you have dentures, however, they could have been ideal and possibly this was the intention. You will not go home wondering what special ingredient made that wonderful dish, or wanting to recreate anything for a dinner party... the chances are, you have cooked it before ( if dietary laws permit ). Tables are pushed very close together, there is almost no room for a pre-dinner drink at the bar while waiting for your late table to be prepared. The Maitre-d' and staff try hard to please, but there is a lack of finesse that more than likely goes unnoticed by the clientele of older regulars. Music is played just loud enough to not hear conversation at adjacent tables yet soft enough to be able to talk to table mates. If this was a cruise ship it would be the old P&O Victoria than a modern Cunard liner. Clientele are more Marbella than St Tropez. Presentation is more Lexus than Aston Martin. Conclusion: Like my old School reports used to say... Oslo Court tries hard, but could do better with a little more imagination and a little less effort.

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Joe N.'s rating

star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar empty
  • Food & Drink: 6
  • Service: 8
  • Atmosphere: 8
  • Value: 6

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The Parlour Park Pavilion 40 Canada Square

Park Pavilion, 40 Canada Square, London E14 5FW

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar emptystar emptystar empty

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A Parlour with no ice cream. Just NOISE

by The Cheese   gold reviewer (45)

Jun 2015

Editor's pick I confess: I'm frightened of Canary Wharf. The proper grown-ups (with suits 'n' everything!); the incalculable heights of Canada Square that make my brain go funny; the number of supremely hammered folk before 6pm on a Friday. (Triple that when the sun's out / it's a bull market / it's all gone Lehman Brothers). So I faced my fears and visited the Parlour one evening, arriving on my tod. Firstly, a parlour it ain't. It's raucous and rammed, with mercifully high ceilings to dissipate some of the volume. Someone's been pretty smart with design, as tables topped with honeycombed ceramics plus a hint of dogtooth and tweedy upholstery prevent the place being entirely soulless. The staff I encountered were very cordial (contrary to many reviews) and held up admirably under the strain of a billion traders out on the razzle, spilling out across the lawn. Cocktails are fairly priced for these parts, or maybe I was seduced by everything being listed as £9.95 rather than the actual tenner it means. It's also nice to see that everything's available by the glass, from Sancerre through to Chapel Down Brut. There's bar food to soak up the excess, with the usual suspects of the posh pub grub realm. Tasty ballast includes hummus and baba ganoush, or a meat platter so gluttonous it may be solely responsible for global warming. (I counted double pig, mini burgers and token poultry for good measure). A seafood option seems the more refined choice with its frilly blinis and smoked salmon, until you spy 'prawn lollipops'. A deeply disturbing concept. Anyhoo, sharing is the way to go, but don't expect the nibbles to go far; order a couple of dishes if there's more than a few of you. I can't speak for the sit-down offering, but the ring-fenced dining area overlooks the kitchen and is slickly put together. Still a deafening spot though, unless your snide intention is to sidle up to your unsuspecting target. If you're unwinding after work, on the pull or partying for no reason in particular, the Parlour's probably alright. The music is loud - so very, very loud - and the bar queues are long, but every group in the vicinity appears to be having a ball. It's entirely down to personal preference that it's akin to my own version of hell.

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The Cheese's rating

star fullstar fullstar emptystar emptystar empty
  • Food & Drink: 6
  • Service: 6
  • Atmosphere: 4
  • Value: 6

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Queenswood

15 Battersea Square, London SW11 3RA

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar empty

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Excellent Option For Vegetarians - Super Tasty

by Gloria J.   (1)

Jun 2015

Editor's pick As a vegetarian, it can be difficult to find quality dishes in restaurants that aren't an afterthought in the kitchen. Queenswood puts vegetarian eats at the forefront for their menu without leaving out top notch options for your omnivorous friends. Having tried several of the dishes on their menu, I can say that they were full of magical tastes that pleased my palate to no end. It was refreshing to not have to see options of either fried cheese or white flour-based dishes. An array of fresh produce and nutrient dense grains ensures you won't leave with a double chin and it's done without skimping on the flavor. There's an array of unique flavors tasted throughout the menu - They're not afraid to experiment. The cocktails were exotic and tasty. It's tempting to stay there after you've finished eating and just hang out with a few drinks. Really nice atmosphere as well. I wasn't crazy about the desserts... I think they could do better based on how good the rest of the menu is. I would recommend this restaurant to all of my vegetarian friends who are looking for non-gross food. I find that restaurant service usually lacks in London but it was very good here. A+.

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Gloria J.'s rating

star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar empty
  • Food & Drink: 10
  • Service: 8
  • Atmosphere: 10
  • Value: 8

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Delilah

15 Middle Pavement, Nottingham, Nottingham NG1 7DX

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar empty

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Market-fresh produce, off Market Square

by The Cheese   gold reviewer (45)

Jun 2015

Editor's pick My, my, my Delilah... I could fritter away my pennies on you and your weird, artisanal popcorn. My partner knows the drill for a place like this; I disappear into the tardis, emerging with a guilty grin, the latest super grain, weasel-poo coffee and a despicably pongy cheese. So imagine my delight in unearthing a proper deli, amid the sea of sandwich chains in Nottingham’s central Market Square. Delilah promises treats to take away, or a very civilised, sit-down meal in the mezzanine space. It’s licensed so you can enjoy a spritzer or craft beer snifter, but the drinks list includes grown-up pop too. French apricot juice and iced matcha tea were particularly refreshing. Blackboards boast seasonal specials, but wait to see the enormity of the full menu before you commit; regulars include eggs, antipasti and globetrotting cuisine to take you from breakfast through to teatime. We were ravenous by the time we bagged stools at the bar, positioned within licking distance of the cake offerings (a spread of Portuguese custard tarts, traybakes and scones of monstrous proportions). And so began our slightly unorthodox meal: none-too-shabby baked goods followed by our actual lunch. I tackled a towering croque monsieur with molten bechamel and thick-cut ham, which was way too lofty for my jaws (but very nice, nonetheless). My other half promptly destroyed a Reuben in under two minutes, then felt very tired indeed. A spirited espresso later, and we were waltzing through the aisles, tossing vac-packed curiosities into our baskets as the cash registers trilled. This is an inviting deli for gourmet grazing or grub to go, not forgetting a bit of impulse buying for good measure. If there’s one criticism - and this is clutching at (cheese) straws - then perhaps there’s too much choice, with a panic-inducing 30+ dishes and combos available on the Saturday we visited. Also, sandwiches are piled so high that the individual ingredients risk drowning in pickles and sauce. And with fillings of such a decent calibre, that's a travesty. Prices are slightly steeper than the competition, but then an emergency Gregg's sausage roll is hardly a match for Delilah's bread and pastry arsenal.

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The Cheese's rating

star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar empty
  • Food & Drink: 8
  • Service: 7
  • Atmosphere: 8
  • Value: 7

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Balthazar

4-6 Russell Street, London WC2E 7BN

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar emptystar empty

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ok, but lacking that sense of a big London Event.

by claire w.   (1)

Jun 2015

Editor's pick Got invited to this place with friends for a birthday. was ok, but having been to a few places in the last month it really was a case of hmm. . . ok. restaurants in London these days seem to be all so cost conscious that they are really being stingy with their portions and generally lacking in the wow factor. We dinned 2 weeks earlier in the Tower bridge walk ways for an posh London event thing and can't help but feel that most restaurant experiences these days don’t live up to this sort of thing or even have any sense of occasion, in fact in my judgement quality catering at luxury events invariably beat even a posh ramsey run restaurant (I went to his place once, nothing special). I would go back but only if they dropped their prices quite a lot and gave the staff a shot caffeine to liven them up a bit.

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claire w.'s rating

star fullstar fullstar fullstar emptystar empty
  • Food & Drink: 7
  • Service: 4
  • Atmosphere: 6
  • Value: 2

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The Delaunay

55 Aldwych, London WC2B 4BB

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar empty

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Turning tables

by Shauna M.   (1)

Jun 2015

Editor's pick I booked a 4pm late lunch/early supper for my sister's birthday before a concert in town on a Saturday. It was her birthday and we wanted time to chat so I didn't want the pressure of a pre-theatre sitting and I did want somewhere that would have a bit of atmosphere at 4 in the afternoon. The Wolseley doesn't start serving until 5.30 so I thought The Delaunay would fit the bill. We were running little late (by which I mean 5 minutes) so being a well-behaved diner I rang ahead and to my surprise, I wasn't thanked or reassured but told that I should bear in mind that they would need the table back by 5.30. I expressed surprise and suggested that was short even by popular restaurant standards. The staff member replied that an hour and half was sufficient time for two people. As it turned out, we arrived pretty much on time and had a glass of champagne and a very tasty version of kedgeree (though the egg drew attention to itself by being poached, and not that expertly - the white was a bit tough). We followed it with an excellent-looking chocolate eclair (my sister) and a delicious raspberry and poppy seed cake for me. We could have been at Demel. We had a couple of pots of tea, which were large and kept their heat; always a plus. The service was good. We didn't dawdle but we weren't finished until 5.40, so just as well we hadn't wanted three courses. We weren't hassled to leave but I was less relaxed than I would have liked. Good for afternoon tea or a (pricey-ish) pre theatre supper but not if you want to linger - even a little.

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Shauna M.'s rating

star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar empty
  • Food & Drink: 8
  • Service: 8
  • Atmosphere: 8
  • Value: 6

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Paesan

2 Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4PX

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar half

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Smashing Italian with a Clerkenwell buzz

by The Cheese   gold reviewer (45)

Jun 2015

Editor's pick Paesan’s a good ‘un. It looks good, it sounds like good times; hell, it even smells good when something uber-garlicky wafts past. The menu’s simple to navigate, and, unusually for rustic Italian, there’s even plenty to please the pickiest Paleos out there. Oh but with such carby delights on offer, why resist? Bruschetta with pecorino, pea and mint was a wonderfully summery starter, while ‘crochettes’ with anchovy sauce were salty, savoury and delicious. Warm aubergine caponata wouldn’t be my first choice to serve with burrata (particularly on such a scorching day in the city), but it was a rich and unctuous combination. The accompanying pane carasau, a flatbread from Sardinia, was crisp, paper-thin and particularly moreish having been soused with peppery olive oil. The mains didn’t disappoint either. Risotto was spot on, with an abundance of plump prawns and traces of saffron creating a sunny, amber glow. The Sicilian special of bucatini with sardines was a smidgeon on the sweet side, but still summery, fresh and tasty. The Italian wine list offered welcome tasting notes, and our Bardolino proved to be a fitting food wine for such gutsy dishes. My only qualm was that portions were almost too generous; a vast sea of pappardelle with rabbit and wild mushrooms nearly defeated the biggest man at the table, while I barely made a dent in my trio meatballs on wet polenta. Puds, served in tumblers, looked fairly ordinary but were utterly gorgeous. Tiramisu was the favourite, but pistachio ice cream with a splash of amaretto came a close second. Espressos were fiercely strong (just as they should be) and topped off a delightful meal. We loved Paesan. Despite hogging our table for nearly four hours on a busy Thursday night, there were no polite nudges to shift us to the refurbed basement bar. It was decent value too, which is heartening given there’s something really iffy about charging a fortune for ‘peasant’ food. We racked up £50 a head for our whole evening’s entertainment, but that included aperitivos, two bottles of wine and three courses each. Bellissima!

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The Cheese's rating

star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar half
  • Food & Drink: 9
  • Service: 8
  • Atmosphere: 9
  • Value: 9

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The Artichoke

9 Market Square, Amersham HP7 0DF

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar full

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Stunning evening

by Paul A.   gold reviewer (35)

Jun 2015

Editor's pick Artichoke is the epitome of fine dining, consistently providing star quality cuisine, service and attention to detail in every respect, and yet its rating status remains something of a conundrum. In one national guide it is not rated as a fine dining venue while in all the rest it is top 50 material and recognised as outshining so many restaurants rated more highly in the one publication that remains out of step. We side most strongly with the majority, and if that were not so we would not have revisited Artichoke as often as we have. On this occasion, as usual, everything was exceptionally good, but there are always things that remain in the memory for a very long time and serve as a reference for comparison with other restaurants. This time the souvenirs started with the amuse-bouche, a white onion soup of lovely consistency combined with a nettle pesto to assail the palate with sweetness and richness and bring the tastebuds into action in readiness for the other treats to come. Then there was a stupendous mix of lightly smoked cod with a perfect horseradish cream contrasted with heritage beets and microherbs. This led interestingly on to an idyll of temperatures in the delicate scallops, the wonderful curried yoghurt and the pickled broccoli. The taste of peanuts in the ham, the main ingredient in the next course, was provocative and the girolles lovely, but we were raving about the parmesan custard and the asparagus purée that were a touch of genius and yet almost surpassed by the fragrance of the basil sauce, the crunchy crust on the sea bass, the wonderfully light crab gnocchi and the little fennel leaf bars in the first main course. I chose the duck breast to some extent because of the superb rosso di montalcino paired with it by super sommelier Matteo, but it was difficult to decide which was better - the duck, both the breast and the confit perfect examples of how to bring the best out of a sometimes tricky bird to cook, with mild sweet turnip and a phenomenal pink grapefruit and mead emulsion, a dish that showcased the three Ts, taste, texture, and temperature, to a T, or the subtle melt-in-the-mouth veal loin with its wild garlic, truffle wafer and pickled mushroom background. To have a goat's milk mousse as a palate cleanser/pre-dessert appeared curious, but in fact it worked both as a cheese course, the mousse left on the tongue becoming more and more cheesey, and a palate cleanser, the clever sorrel sorbet contrasting its almost sweet sharpness to leave the right mouthfeel for the dessert to follow. We sampled two desserts, one a terrific Brillat Savarin cheese cake with historic pear sorbet, pickled poire william and a light granola for crunch, the other amazing blackberry and apple ravioli accentuated with a blackberry sorbet cum parfait and moreish hazelnut toffee. Laurie Gear and his team deserve all the praise and recognition they get, and more than deserve more recognition from one particular corner.

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Paul A.'s rating

star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar full
  • Food & Drink: 10
  • Service: 10
  • Atmosphere: 9
  • Value: 10

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L Enclume

Cavendish Street, Cartmel, Grange-Over-Sands LA11 6PZ

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar halfstar empty

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Not as good as before

by Paul A.   gold reviewer (35)

Jun 2015

Editor's pick On our previous visit, with Simon Rogan himself in the kitchen, we had raved about the experience and understood at once why so much noise was being made in the media, both general and specialist, about the approach and the execution at this stand-out restaurant. Indeed, we were at a loss as to why the big two ratings were anything less than the maximum. But that was then. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that we had booked in on a Monday and the fact that Mark Birchall was not in the kitchen and Sam Ward was having a night off from his front of house duties, but this time our general impression was less positive. We seemed more aware of the uninspiring dining room and this was accentuated by the, to us, strangely unnatural system of having staff bringing out dishes from the kitchen and standing stiffly against one wall with the trays in their hands until someone designated to wait on table was finally in a position to do so. Perhaps it was also to do with the acting wine waiter both refusing to allow my wife to take only some of the choices on the wine flight because of "weights and measures" making it impossible, something we have never heard of nor encountered anywhere else, and showing a clear disinclination to engage in a two-way discussion of the wines. In fairness, we were offered a menu reprinted with the wine flight included, which we gladly accepted, most of the staff were on top of their game, and the service tempo for the dishes, six amuses, six starters and mains and five palate cleansers and desserts, was just right. No wine was served with the initial dishes, so we made do with a perfectly respectable English rosé fizz from Hugh Johnson's favourite Ridge View. We had had some of the introductory courses before in slightly different guises, and while they were all interesting this time we were not struck as much as before by the sweetish oyster pebbles and oyster leaf, nor the squid ink crisp with crunchy chicken skin, the richness cut through by redcurrant gel, nor the smoked eel coated in ham fat and wrapped in crispy onion strings which was not really up to the scotch egg lookalike we remembered. We did enjoy the steamed oxtail dumplings bursting with flavour and contrasted with a chicken liver parfait and crunchy breadcrumbs, the raw scallop with caviar, a deliciously complementary strawberry vinegar and caramelised cauliflower cream, and the melted Tunworth topped with blackened mushroom crunch and surrounded by lamb's tongue chunks. Moving on to the next set of dishes, we commenced with fashionable and remarkably delicate salt-baked turnip wallowing in turnip soup with a set Maran egg yolk, cured pork strip and nasturtium flowers. Then came one of the highlights of the evening, just as it had been two years before, melt-in-the-mouth Cartmel valley venison tartare with a gorgeous boule of fennel both apparently infused in charcoal oil and with a local mustard cream. Things were looking promising again, and sure enough the grilled Scottish langoustine with a parsnip crisp and purée pointing up the perfect shellfish taste with the aid of some slightly salty scurvy grass was sublime. Simon Rogan seems to have a thing about artichokes, and a juicy, flavourful pack of three, Japanese, Jerusalem and globe was enclosed in a wonderful Jerusalem crisp with excellent local goat's cheese and perched on a stout vinegar smear. The following dish was less convincing: the sea bass had been poached in butter and then grilled, which had somehow modified its texture, and it was accompanied by too much smoke - smoked broccoli purée which tasted almost fishy itself, smoked bone marrow which would have great on its own, and slightly smoky mussels which unfortunately dominated the fish as far as we were concerned. The final main dish was Holker milk-fed lamb with onions cooked off in whey, ramson leaves and flowers and potato; the lamb loin and belly was tender enough, but quite honestly if tasted blind it would have been have been difficult to identify as lamb. The desserts were uniformly surprisingly light, just as well after the 12 preceding dishes. Apple tart with gingerbread ice cream was really special, birch sap (akin to maple syrup we were informed) with an oat granola and muscovado caramel tuile had a touch of American diner about it, beetroot in apple jelly with minty tasting apple marigold leaf and home-baked cobnut cake came on a thick, heavy chunk of slate almost too heavy to set down easily on the table, and finally a spectacular sheep's milk ice cream quenelle with granité and chunks of lovely Yorkshire rhubarb, sweet wafers and delightful sorrel leaf and smear. The signature cornets, apple, pear and cream cheese, rounded the evening off, and as we reflected on why our impressions were what they were, we posited the theory that perhaps there are now more restaurants that have caught up with L'enclume, thus making it seem less special.

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Paul A.'s rating

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  • Food & Drink: 7
  • Service: 5
  • Atmosphere: 5
  • Value: 5

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Tostado

16a St Anne's Court, London W1F 0BF

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar empty

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What, no guinea pig?

by Richard E.   platinum reviewer (136)

Jun 2015

Editor's pick Raymond Blanc once said that the difference between the English and the French as that we see a rabbit as a pet, whilst the French see it as food. The Ecuadorian's may like to keep an Australian (alleged) sex offender as a pet in their London Embassy, but to them a guinea pig is food. It is a shame, therefore, that it is not on the menu at this new Ecuadorian venture in Soho, as it is really rather good: like a suckling pig in both taste and texture. This delicacy aside (the lack of it on the menu has something to do with not being able to import them apparently), the rest of the menu is as authentically Ecuadorian as you could wish for. The ceviches are large, with big chunks of fish and bold flavours and some lovely plantain crisps to go with them. Of the small plates that we tried, the bean stew was excellent, but the aubergine and potato had too much of the latter and not enough of the former. A main course of salmon with plantain was perfectly nice too, although one thing to note is that portion size here is US, rather than more restrained European, style, so over-ordering is easy to do (the table next to us got a couple of the over-ordered dishes boxed up as a takeaway). Service is friendly, if a little slow and haphazard; by the time we left we were all the Ecuadorian waitresses' friends, as she chatted to us about home and how she found herself to be in London. The place itself is in a cut-through between Wardour and Dean Streets, one that you probably wouldn't have walked down after dark a few years back. On a quite Sunday afternoon, sitting at the bar overlooking this throwback to Soho's seedier past is quite fun: the down and outs are now outnumbered by the gawping tourists, with selfie sticks and Boris Bikes more likely to be seen than a drug deal or a paid for exchange of bodily fluids. To be honest, it is never going to take Soho's crown for best restaurant, but it is cheap, fun, the food is good and the service warm, which is pretty much the formula for the successful neighbourhood restaurant that this should be.

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Richard E.'s rating

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  • Food & Drink: 8
  • Service: 9
  • Atmosphere: 6
  • Value: 8

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