Editor's Picks

Aug 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.

Donostia

Seymour Place, London W1H 5DB

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar full

avatar

Never disappointing

by mrstock   bronze reviewer (9)

Aug 2015

Editor's pick I have been to this restaurant a lot. Over time one would expect a restaurant to lift off the accelerator yet this charming boutique Spanish restaurant continues to charm and come up with the goods. A typical example of what can and should happen in London with an owner led restaurant. The food is never less than deliciously satisfying and the enthusiasm of the owner and staff is palpable.

...

See more

mrstock's rating

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

Was this review helpful to you?

Yes No

The Vineyard at Stockcross

Stockcross, Newbury RG20 8JU

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar empty

avatar

Hats off to Daniel Galmiche

by Paul A.   gold reviewer (43)

Aug 2015

Editor's pick The Vineyard at Stockcross 15/08/2015 We first dined at the Vineyard in 2009 when it had two Michelin stars. We had a meal marked by inadequate service, an incapable wine waiter and a frankly rude sommelier and sub-standard vanilla-ridden cooking. Normally we would not have returned, but when it justifiably lost the two stars and a new kitchen regime was installed with a new chef who had held a star for some 22 years before being recruited to The Vineyard, we decided to give it another try. Since then we have enjoyed a number of top-quality meals there, with Daniel Galmiche at the helm for whom the sourcing of ingredients, the sympathetic and imaginative combination of these ingredients and their preparation and cooking with flair in the modern Anglo-French style are paramount. For some reason, though, the chef has never again received the due reward his talent deserves. Our party of five had different ideas about what they might permit themselves to eat for lunch, so the good value mix and match menu was the ideal vehicle for everyone to be satisfied. The same went for the three wine pairings at different prices. We were fortunate enough to have the services of three sommeliers to explain the various wine matches, but unfortunately they were not served at table and the name collars we had had on the glasses on previous occasions had not been delivered by the suppliers. However, Romain Bourger, the head sommelier, very kindly obliged with a full breakdown. With the number of dishes consumed a full description of each one would be overdoing it, so perhaps brief mention of the highlights will suffice. The advantage of the menu formula is that if you fancy three of the first courses you can pass on the main course and just take a dessert, or in fact any combination as long as you have a dessert, and it doesn't matter what the rest of your party orders. We particularly appreciated: the sweet onion velouté full of creamy flavour with crunchy caramelised shallot, truffle and red onion; the spectacular plate of super pressed rabbit and parsley terrine, a cute confit carrot, mustard and rye bread toast; the roasted kohlrabi, quinoa, coriander and smoked potato emulsion, which made the rest of us jealous when it was judged the best thing ever by the one person in our party to indulge in this masterpiece; the excellent chicken with its buckwheat sauce and toasted cauliflower; the almost salty marsh lamb with a terrific balance of carrot, mangetout and asparagus; and, finally, the signature dessert of top-quality dark chocolate, trendy salted caramel and outstanding fromage blanc sorbet. Hats off to Daniel Galmiche who keeps on producing the goods.

...

See more

Paul A.'s rating

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

Was this review helpful to you?

Yes No

Foxcroft Ginger Whitechapel

69-89 Mile End Road, London E1 4TT

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar full

avatar

Best Breakfast Ever!

by Alice S.   bronze reviewer (6)

Aug 2015

Editor's pick I've been to Foxcroft and Ginger a couple of times now for brunch, and I'll happily go back a hundred more times! It has a nice open space, with comfortable seating both indoors and outdoors. The staff are young and friendly and the service is good. I had the french toast with plum, mascarpone and honey combs. Wow. Absolutely delicious! The toast was really thick and moist, and the plum was nice and sweet. Accompanied with the honeycomb and mascarpone is a genius combination. They make good coffees too which get you ready for the day ahead!

...

See more

Alice S.'s rating

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

Was this review helpful to you?

Yes No

Crab Tavern

Unit 7, Broadgate Circle, London EC2M 2QS

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar emptystar empty

avatar

You need Champagne pockets and lemonade tastes

by Amy M.   silver reviewer (22)

Aug 2015

Editor's pick I am a little bit obsessed with King Crab, not often on British menus and so I made a pilgrimage to this new joint. Being in the heart of the city, I wasn't expecting a minor bill, but I did expect more bang for my buck. The restaurant itself is capacious and put me in mind of an All Bar One, tricked out in lots of wood, quite dark with fairly loud music. Not a place to relax or romance necessarily, but as this wasn't on my agenda, I wasn't too worried. The food is good, but the Squaremeal advice to "on an empty stomach" is not the best plan. We decided as we were going to splash out on the £40 main course of King Crab legs, and neither of us are huge eaters, we would order 2 starters and some fries to share altogether. The black pepper squid were delicious calamari rings, not greasy or heavy and just the right side of soft and the Tavern pork belly ribs were sticky and sweet, falling off the bone. The problem was you needed a magnifying glass to see them! Whimsically served in little (being the operative word) buckets, the portions are tiny - as were the ribs themselves. Don't go with Bodeans in mind. As for the King Crab. Well here you can't go wrong with fresh seafood, but only 4 legs were on offer. The herb mayo served with them did tend to overwhelm the flavour and the garlic butter was conspicuous in its absence. For £40, I would expect a bit more. We only had 1 glass of wine (from the top of the list) and a glass of coke and the bill came to £80. This place is definitely for someone with long arms and deep pockets. This is coming from someone whose only vice is spending far too much money in restaurants. I can't say I went home stuffed either. The food is nice, but the atmosphere leaves a bit to be desired for the money (complete with drunken girl vomiting down her dress), so if you are really hankering for King Crab, go, otherwise, hop a flight to Miami.

...

See more

Amy M.'s rating

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

Was this review helpful to you?

Yes No

The Ivy

1-5 West Street, London WC2H 9NQ

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar half

avatar

A rejuvenated old classic.

by Cheeky   silver reviewer (21)

Aug 2015

Editor's pick A couple of ex City colleagues and myself decided to try the newly re-opened Ivy for a catch up over old times. We chose the Ivy as it had recently reopened and had been a favourite haunt of ours 'back in the day.' We were not disappointed. We all agreed that the worst aspect of the original was the pokey bar where one had a drink before dinner. That was gone and, in its place, was a central, open plan bar with stools for diners. It immediately reminded me of the layout at Scott's, another excellent Richard Caring eaterie and it's a concept I personally like as it raises the atmosphere. As for the food - it was like stepping back in time with some old Ivy favourites, many simple fare (Shepherd's Pie, Fish and Chips, Sausage and Mash), alongside some more ambitious dishes. Between us, we tried a cross section and nothing disappointed with the sashimi starter and Calves liver both superb. Highly recommended especially if you wanted to compare it to the 'old' Ivy, pre refurb.

...

See more

Cheeky 's rating

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

Was this review helpful to you?

Yes No

L Enclume

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

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar half

avatar

There’s more to Cartmel than pastry and puds… and it’s wonderful

by The Cheese   platinum reviewer (56)

Aug 2015

Editor's pick The gregarious maître d' was generous with warmth and his time, right from the moment he bounced outside to greet our cab. Most staff are local, in keeping with L’Enclume's ingredients; the landscape produces a ludicrous natural bounty, and Simon Rogan clearly revels in all things Cartmel. But prepare for surprises. There’s no menu - exciting! Intriguing! Essential to ring ahead with dietary requirements! - and scant opportunity to gauge prices (unnerving, particularly when a wine flight's on the cards). Luckily, the lunch deal’s a doozie offering six courses for 60 quid. That’s half the damage of the 17-course evening extravaganza, but still leads to a perfectly paced gourmet experience. There were glimmers of theatre throughout, from the moment a discreet envelope appeared at the table to reveal the courses to come. Ingredients are as likely to change from table to table as they are from day to day, and the unexpected highlights for us saw fruit and veg headlining. Never has the humble carrot brought such pleasure as when salt-baked and served with a silken dumpling; then imagine poached plums turned up to 11 and served with apricot kernels ground into a fabulous, frangipani mousse. This reverential treatment of plants proved a refreshing contrast to the pastry and pudding-fest we'd encountered elsewhere in the Lakes (albeit happily), and the only time it came into question was during our final course. (A painterly plate of foraged berries, sorrel and cream was scrumptious, but lacked the technical sophistication you might expect from such a lauded kitchen). Our sommelier made fine recommendations for a food-matching flight. At risk of nitpicking, I found him a little too sure of his craft on a couple of occasions. While eager to please, he had a tendency to inform us that pairings were ‘flawless’ rather than attentively listening to our thoughts; our good-natured debate over a controversial pinotage was very-nearly dismissed in favour of his expert last word. But all was well when the magnificent cheese trolley rattled to the table - be still, my beating heart! - and even the goat sceptics in the room were wowed by the ten varieties we sampled. Having plumped for this extra course, we felt satisfied rather than stuffed, and were relieved to learn the bill was little over £100 per head (for all seven courses, an aperitif and matching wines). Along with sublime food and enthusiastic service, the sympathetic conversion of a locksmith’s workshop into L’Enclume's beauteous dining space culminates in pure joy. Undoubtedly worth a splurge.

...

See more

The Cheese's rating

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

Was this review helpful to you?

Yes No

Bao

53 Lexington Street, London W1F 9AS

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar half

avatar

Bao – Wow

by Gourmand Gunno   platinum reviewer (147)

Aug 2015

Editor's pick Picture the scene: it’s pouring with rain and not even midday yet from a distance I can spot a queue at least ten people long outside a restaurant. This is in Soho, where, within half a square mile, there are probably at least 100 other dining options. Wow, I thought, joining said queue, Bao better be good. Either that or all these fellow waiters-in-line must be as stupid as me. Fortunately, it was. Even, maybe, excellent. And my simple recommendation would be to brave the queue and savour every moment of this culinary sensation. From humble roots as a stall in Hackney, Bao has now established formal premises, helped by the family that has backed other notable London successes such as Trishna and Gymkhana. Far from any nod to India, Bao is Taiwanese. Most people would probably struggle to find Taiwan on a map, let alone tell you in what sort of food it specialises. Its closest culinary brethren are probably Korea followed by China. Here, the format is simple. Diners are given what looks like a betting slip and asked to tick which options they would like (yes – the concept works) from a menu of around 15 dishes. These comprise small sharing dishes and also steamed buns full of enticing-sounding fillings. The even better news is that nothing is priced above £8. My comrade and I were wowed with every offering brought to the table. The scallop, served in its shell, was light, but packed a punch; the pigs’ blood cake a beautiful take on British haggis/ black pudding, enhanced with spices and topped with a sunshine-yellow egg yolk; the fried chicken was light and non-greasy, evidence of both sourcing of high-quality poultry and good kitchen preparation. The accompanying chilli spice was among the best I have sampled. Onto the buns, and we were equally full of plaudits, in each a harmonious marriage of flavours. The coriander spice with my lamb filling worked a treat, for example. By the end, we were well satisfied and it felt as if we had eaten relatively healthily, even if the carb-overload may have belied this. My one quibble would be that the atmosphere and service felt somewhat clinical, but when the food is this good and there are hungry bellies that need satisfying, this can be easily overlooked.

...

See more

Gourmand Gunno's rating

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

Was this review helpful to you?

Yes No

Portland

113 Great Portland Street, London W1W 6QQ

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar empty

avatar

Imaginative British food

by Lynn W.   gold reviewer (31)

Aug 2015

Editor's pick A relaxed restaurant with school type tables and chairs, and very attentive, knowledgeable and charming staff - they were exceptional! First off, fabulous sourdough bread with moist seedy middle and top notch crust arrived with whipped butter and a savoury powder said to include ox heart. We decided to go for 3 small plates to share rather than the listed starters - 2 pigs head croquettes which were soft and gelatinous inside with crispy crunchy coating and dabs of fermented chilli - these were very good. Brandade with potato crisps - a mild, warm, slightly fishy, lemony dip that dribbled on the table, and hay smoked cheese with heritage beetroot - a spoonful of smoky cheese sauce with some tiny baby beets. After all this, the main courses seemed more straightforward. Poached cod with cauliflower and cumin involved very lightly cooked, translucent fish with a chunk of rather scorched cauli, and foam with cumin. Hebridean hogget had a good depth of flavour and firmer texture than lamb, served with some dark green leafy spinach and watercress puree - good for you greens. Sides of crispy potatoes and vegetable salad worked well. One dessert was delightful - pistachio millefeuille with fragrant creamy filling, fine pastry layers and tangy raspberries - this was polished off rapidly, while the chocolate tart with buckwheat ice cream had good contrasting textures but was a bit brown and boring. We didn't finish it. An interesting wine list, and a challenge of working with hogget and cod for the main courses. A good New Zealand pinot noir was suggested and successful. There's also the opportunity to try some high end wines by the glass - haven't seen that before, and might try some next time.

...

See more

Lynn W.'s rating

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

Was this review helpful to you?

Yes No

Pollen Street Social

8-10 Pollen Street, London W1S 1NQ

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar full

avatar

5 stars across the board

by Jagdeep G.   (2)

Aug 2015

Editor's pick OMG! My sister has raved about this place and I now know why. Worth every penny especially as we were celebrating my parents anniversary. Our servers were polite, witty and informative. Pollen St does a vegetarian menu as well - an added bonus. The menu is sublime and the Cumbrian Suckling Pig was divine. Desserts were amazing - the Bitter Chocolate Pave a winner. Cannot wait for my next visit. Won't come soon enough.

...

See more

Jagdeep G.'s rating

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

Was this review helpful to you?

Yes No

The Banc

261-263 West Green Road, London N15 3BH

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar emptystar empty

avatar

average but rather over hyped burger and steak place in west green road

by rosae c.   (1)

Aug 2015

Editor's pick This is quite an average burger and steak restaurant. It was not crowded when we went in. The ambience is OK and the place light, well lit and airy. The service was prompt and professional, and the food arrived promptly. The burgers were in reality very average and a bit dry and heavy. They were lacking in flavour an this was because one thing was missing that really makes a good burger – fat! There has been a lot of hype because of this restaurant’s stellar performance on Tripadvisor. However, that alone raises a few questions. The Banc has 222 ‘excellent’ TA ratings. It is interesting that 92 of those ‘excellent’ reviews come from first time TA reviewers, who have left no other reviews on the site- for anything. Most have Muslim Indian or Arab names. Another individual left 8 ‘excellent’ reviews and 2-3 other individuals left multiple ‘excellent' reviews. If you compare that with the 28 ‘very good’ reviews, for The Banc on TA, only three were from people who had left no other review on the site. It’s also puzzling because if the restaurant was worth an ‘excellent’ rating, isn’t it strange that none of those individuals who thought it was so good, never bothered to return to The Banc and leave another review? I mean, you'd expect at least a few of them to do that if a restaurant was that good. So, a reasonably average restaurant, which I’d consider if I was in the area, but unfortunately very much over-hyped. If you go there with modest expectations, you will probably not be disappointed. It’s slightly better than a pub burger, but not much. But if you believe the hype, you may feel rather disappointed.

...

See more

rosae c.'s rating

star fullstar fullstar fullstar emptystar empty
  • Food & Drink: 5
  • Service: 8
  • Atmosphere: 6
  • Value: 5

Was this review helpful to you?

Yes No

La Polenteria

64 Old Compton Street, London W1D 4UQ

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar half

avatar

Not just polenta cake

by Ele C.   (2)

Aug 2015

Editor's pick My experience of Polenta to date was limited to polenta cake, and as far as I am aware, its not yet been lauded as the next super ingredient. So I was very surprised on arriving to find a queue outside. everyone loves polenta, it seems. The service was outstanding: friendly, fun, courteous and apologetic in the case of our short wait outside. And the food. Well, I was expecting a limited choice, but who knew that polenta was so versatile? From savoury cupcakes for starters - filled with classic Mediterranean-style fillings, to polenta pies, and our choices: creamy polenta topped with roasted vegetable ragu and grilled goats cheese with onion chutney. Both toppings, though very different in flavour, provided an incredible contrast to the soft, hot polenta, which absorbed and carried the flavours beautifully. I could have eaten a whole vat. Puddings were more polenta in the form of cake or, sas the restaurant was rather hot, we plumped for intense, bitter, dark chocolate icecream. My favourite part? The fun, chalkboard wall showing how polenta is transformed from its raw state to the oozing pile of deliciousness on my plate. Perfect for gluten-free foodies, those wanting a healthy yet hearty meal, and those who love cake.

...

See more

Ele C.'s rating

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

Was this review helpful to you?

Yes No

Balthazar

4-6 Russell Street, London WC2E 7BN

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar full

avatar

Food, drink and details

by Thomas A.   (1)

Aug 2015

Editor's pick The details are important when you're entertaining and they shouldn't be ignored while entertaining out of the home. I've had a few excellent experiences here, not only with service, but also the staff have been very accommodating to requests out-of-the-norm such as sending cakes to tables via phone, changing reservations and extra little requests. You may know Balthazar by name but you should really get to know it for what it is- and that's a perfectly accommodating restaurant which is focussed on creating moments in a humble way. Very impressed with the whole experience- now go for brunch which is where they really shine (literally, the interior is quite bright when it's sunny out) as there's nothing better than a mid-day meal with cocktails on the weekend or business lunch if you happen to be in the area. If you can, request a booth instead of a table in the mid-section as it will be much more comfortable if you have a group of four or more (or ask if you have a special occasion and would like the space perhaps).

...

See more

Thomas A.'s rating

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

Was this review helpful to you?

Yes No

The Joint Marylebone

19 New Cavendish Street, London W1G 9TZ

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar halfstar emptystar empty

avatar

I found my food a bit dull

by David H.   platinum reviewer (59)

Aug 2015

Editor's pick First visit was a rapid in and out- with the two separated only by a pulled pork roll and a diet coke I'd noted this place when walking round Marylebone High St, and yesterday with a bit of time to spare I walked in for an early lunch. I probably could have eaten most things on the menu but settled for a pulled pork roll . There was a huge quantity of meat stuffed between two halves of a roll. For me this was just OK- the meat didn't have much flavour of its own and relied heavily on the bbq sauce of which there was plenty. Personally I prefer to eat meat that's been sourced and cooked to be tasty, but this wasn't it. I couldn't help but draw parallels with chain burger restaurants where the burger doesn't taste much but is made to by the add-ins. taste . The place looks like you'd expect with wagamama style communal seating. Service brisk and pleasant. Seems there's a lot of places like this, and I think I'd prefer one that cooked more naturally flavoursome meat. I'd suggest the search is not over.

...

See more

David H.'s rating

star fullstar fullstar halfstar emptystar empty
  • Food & Drink: 5
  • Service: 8
  • Atmosphere: 4
  • Value: 7

Was this review helpful to you?

Yes No

Vinoteca Soho

53-55 Beak Street, London W1F 9SH

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar empty

avatar

Consistently good

by Joanna G.   silver reviewer (16)

Jul 2015

Editor's pick This is the 4th time I have eaten here and as the title says, the food is consistently good, nothing particularly outstanding (apart from the vast selection of very reasonable wines by the glass!), but perfect for 4 of us to have a good old natter over really good platters of charcuterie, small plates of burrata, olives, pulled pork croquettes, followed by a delightfully crispy confit leg of duck on creamy mash and veal chops. The only slight downside was the service was erratic, although they did acknowledge this and brought us (unprompted) a glass each of sparkling moscato at the end of our meal by way of apology. This is a great place to meet friends and eat, drink and be merry but not for an intimate, quiet meal.

...

See more

Joanna G.'s rating

star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar empty
  • Food & Drink: 8
  • Service: 6
  • Atmosphere: 8
  • Value: 7

Was this review helpful to you?

Yes No

Craft London

Peninsula Square, London SE10 0SQ

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar halfstar empty

avatar

Handy for the O2

by Lynn W.   gold reviewer (31)

Jul 2015

Editor's pick Just walk from the tube station towards the O2 dome and there it is - a restaurant on the first floor, and bar on the second. It's modern and airy, spacious and comfortable. There is an effort to provide home made, local and sustainable produce which is to be admired. We had a very good evening there with family, it's light enough to see the menu and what you are eating, and buzzy but not so loud you can't converse. This is all fine and some of the food was excellent, but it just didn't hang together for me. All started well with a bowl of fresh breads, including lovely light naan, and home made butter. The first course of cheese custard with mushrooms was a surprise - it was bowl of cheesy sauce topped by salad leaves with some crisp crackers, other vegetables and leaves and I think there was a slice of mushroom. The sauce was nice and cheesy, the crackers crunchy, the salad leaves awkward to eat dripping in sauce, and some of the green veg leaves so tough they were impossible to deal with. My main course of lamb with tomatoes and anchovies was an assembly rather than a dish. Beautifully cooked, delicious lamb with a good grilled crust served sliced, on top of some sliced tomatoes, and anchovy sauce on the side. The sauce was so aggressive it overpowered the other ingredients so I left it. Dessert was a disappointment - sweet Yorkshire pudding with berries and ice cream. I imagined perhaps a British take on a clafoutis type pudding, but it was just a rather uninteresting Yorkshire pudding with some berries inside and vanilla ice cream on top - another assembly. Afterwards we went upstairs to the bar for a drink and it was very fresh out on the balcony with a great view of everything going on. Overall we did have a good evening, some of the food is terrific, and would probably go there again if over there for an event at the O2. The menu changes very frequently, so I hope for better choices next time.

...

See more

Lynn W.'s rating

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

Was this review helpful to you?

Yes No