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.

Zoilo

9 Duke Street, London W1U 3EG

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar halfstar empty

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More than meats the eye

by Gourmand Gunno   platinum reviewer (145)

Jul 2015

Editor's pick Think of Argentine cuisine and the typical response is steak. Zoilo, a small and intimate restaurant on the northern edge of Mayfair, proves this claim wrong. The food my comrade and I sampled on a recent weekday lunchtime certainly impressed, as did the ambience, even if the service was something of a let-down. The venue itself is small (but did not feel crowded) with room for around 20 covers upstairs spread between tables and seats at the bar. There is also a downstairs with an open-kitchen, although on a bright summer’s day we did not venture here. In terms of the food, Zoilo’s menu stresses that Argentine cuisine is a ‘fascinating mix of cultures’ reflecting both its indigenous heritage as well as its legacy of immigration. The menu itself is conveniently separated into distinct sections such as ‘land’ and ‘sea’ and our server informed us that the format here was along the lines of tapas, namely we should select a series of dishes, all of which would be appropriate for sharing. We loved the empanadas - a posh take on pasties - with which we began, one beef (rich and hearty) and one spinach & goat’s cheese (sumptuous and savoury). Our crab on toast which followed was also superb, delicately light, but still packed with flavour. At this stage, however, two problems occurred. First, maybe Argentines are a portly lot (I do not know any personally), but we already felt fairly full, although we still had a further five dishes to come. Second, maybe as a result of portion size and the need to digest, we had to endure a notable wait before our next dishes. This is all well and good if you want to linger, but we had deliberately arrived early at the restaurant to avoid the main crowd and were in a slight rush too. The next dishes, when they eventually came, also hit the mark, although Zoilo excelled more with its fish options (both the ceviche and the squid were among the best sampled recently in London) than with its meat (the pork, for example, was fatty and half-cold when it arrived). The wine list deserves note, with an unsurprisingly heavy local bias, and we enjoyed an attractively priced carafe of white made with the Torrontes grape. Overall, do pay a visit here, but don’t be in a rush, don’t over-order and make sure you try more than just the meat.

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Gourmand Gunno's rating

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

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Oldroyd

344 Upper Street, London N1 0PD

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar full

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So delicious

by Lynn W.   silver reviewer (25)

Jul 2015

Editor's pick First off, and let's get it out of the way, the place is tiny. You squeeze past diners, staff and the minute kitchen to climb narrow spiral stairs to the upper room if you have booked a table, where you sit so close to others you can see and enjoy what they are having. Once the food starts arriving, you nod knowingly as your dishes match theirs. The croquettas are fantastic, peas and smoky pork in lovely crunchy crumb and truffled mayo to dip; lamb and almond meatballs are soft and tender, with a bit of bite from the nuts; confit rabbit and broad bean paella worth waiting for (though the squid seemed a bit rubbery and superfluous so we left it); summer peach and curd salad lovely and fresh; zucchini fries fine and delicate. The special monkfish dish of the day - not the one on the main menu - was a bit underwhelming and wasn't finished. The croquettas were so good we had to order them a second time. Staff looked after us very well, calm and charming, food arriving in no particular order as it was ready from downstairs. I admire their ability to manoeuvre through the tables. All very relaxed, and lovely to share the plates. If there is a downside it is a bit cramped, but if it carries on being as busy as we saw it that evening I don't think it will be too long before they're looking for somewhere larger.

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Lynn W.'s rating

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

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Bald Faced Stag

69 High Road, London N2 8AB

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar full

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Forget the Eagle. The Stag has landed.

by Sue B.   (1)

Jul 2015

Editor's pick Following a refurbishment, the Bald Faced Stag took on new chef, Tom Stephens, six weeks ago and we were blown away by the food when we dropped in yesterday evening. Formerly of Pied a Terre, Tom is breathing new life into East Finchley in terms of quality cuisine. Superb ingredients and wonderfully interesting flavours don’t come better than this. Pea & mint hummus, Smoked mozzarella, peas, broad bean, lemon & basil dressing, Truffle custard, roasted cauliflower and mushroom crumble are three of just some of the fare on offer. Extraordinary and wonderful. This is a young man who needs to be kept a close eye on. The menu is very varied and does cater for all tastes so there is still the traditional fare on offer just don’t get us started on the Coconut parfait, whipped raspberry jelly, lime curd – ridiculously good! Come on everyone who lives in North London – get down there!!

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Sue B.'s rating

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

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Hutong at The Shard

Level 33,The Shard, 31 St. Thomas Street, London SE1 9RY

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar empty

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Good food but very touristy

by Joanna G.   silver reviewer (16)

Jul 2015

Editor's pick I was taken here for a birthday lunch last Saturday. I know that my sister had rung in advance and told them of this fact and that a friend of mine who knows the manager also told the restaurant in advance. We arrived about 15 early for our reservation and were told that if we were happy to go straight to a table that we could have a window table, but if we went to the bar first they couldn't guarantee it would still be available, so we went straight to the table. Unfortunately for us the view was straight down onto London Bridge station, which, whilst impressive, is not the most attractive view! Our waiter was very friendly and said "you are here for a celebration aren't you, what is your name", I told him and he called me by my name throughout and we had a few chats and laughs throughout the lunch, he was great. Not being particularly large eaters we opted for half a crispy duck (served in the traditional way, in 2 servings), the lamb and fennel dumplings and asparagus in white sesame. The duck was brought to the table by a chef, who carved it beautifully, perfect crispy skin, delicious, moist and tasty duck, and served with hoi sin, pancakes, cucumber and spring onion - we would happily have eaten the rest of the duck this way, but the remainder was taken back to the kitchen and then re-appeared in the style of a stir fry with peppers and onions, and lettuce leaves to make a "wrap" which completely dried the duck out and was pretty tasteless. The dumplings were full of flavour, although not sure it was a particularly "Chinese" dish and the asparagus was blanched, fresh and crunchy and a cut through the fatty food well. We had a bottle of Verdejo which was also very nice. I am not really a dessert person, so we opted for the ginger and honey ice cream to share - which came with a piece of chocolate with "Happy Birthday" written on it. I eat out a lot and most restaurants if you tell them that its a special occasion make a little more effort than they do at the Shard, but hey, I'm a big girl and don't need candles - the waiter even said that he was embarrassed at how little effort the management put into these things. The bar area was heaving with tourists, suitcases and people not adhering to the dress code of no sports shoes. All in all, it was a nice lunch, with great views, excellent service and mostly good food, but I wouldn't rush back, this has been on my "list" to visit for some time, but there are many other restaurants that I would go back to before coming back here.

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Joanna G.'s rating

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

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The Ivy Chelsea Garden

197 King's Road, London SW3 5ED

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar halfstar empty

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Summer in the city

by Monikasays   gold reviewer (47)

Jul 2015

Editor's pick The Ivy has long been on my list of places to go, but the formula 1 pace of new exciting restaurants in London have thwarted me. The Ivy has had a glamorous make over and opened 2 new branches, one in well-heeled Chelsea and another in Covent Garden. I happened to be having a day in the sales at Harvey Nics and booked The Ivy Chelsea Garden, for a rather convenient indulgent lunch with the girls in London's heatwave. The draw here is the Orangery , which is a mix of English country garden/ Miami hotel and the Chelsea Flower Show. The inside is very smart as well with brass and posh fittings, but for me sitting outside in London, with a glass of Rose and nice bit of fish is hard to beat. As expected from the Ivy the food delivers at a high standard and but rather surprisingly economical as well if you go for the set lunch. A bargain at £16.50 for 2 courses including a perfectly cooked white fish and a choccie nutty heavenly dessert, result, next stop harvey nics to spend my savings! The a la carte menu is one to cherish and take to bed.... it has all your cosy but sophisticated classics... crispy duck salad, eggs benedict, shepherds pie, dark treacle tart and the list goes on. Service was a little slow but otherwise polite. Go catch the rest of London's summer sun and bagsy a classy table at the Ivy Chelsea Garden.

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Monikasays's rating

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

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The Greenhouse

27a Hay's Mews, London W1J 5NY

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar full

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Up there with the best

by Paul A.   gold reviewer (40)

Jul 2015

Editor's pick There are restaurants where you pay the bill and weigh up whether it was value for money, and there are others where you leave with a contented smile on your face just congratulating yourself on having made such a good choice for a meal, and as we rushed through the deluge from the restaurant door to the taxi we were already agreeing that The Greenhouse is unquestionably one of the latter. An oasis of quiet in busy Mayfair, the dining room is clean-cut and decorated in an unfussy manner although with an eye to detail, such as the individual mini-sculptures on each table and the display of decanters, the smooth service is perfectly balanced between formal and relaxed, the excellent sommelier is full of nice touches and clearly not one of those who feels threatened by any customer with some knowledge of what he is drinking, and the staff in general demonstrated a surprising understanding of the English sense of humour. The impression is that this all stems from the chef, the talented Arnaud Bignon, whose classical yet innovative cooking completes the impressive experience. There was a choice of two tasting menus, and given that one of them listed three of our top favourites for the first three courses there was little argument about which to take. Interestingly, there was also a choice of wine pairings, a 'modern' with wines from a number of countries and a 'classic' with just French sources. My wife selected the modern as it was one glass lighter, and for me the classic announced itself as one of the best I've had anywhere, from Krug to Ch Rieussec via Fèvre Grand Cru Chablis, Zind Humbrecht Rangen de Thann Riesling, Liger-Belair Moulin-à-Vent and Domaine de Trévallon. Hors classe! Three types of home-made bread were served and the olive version was so good we talked about taking some home. Very good canapés followed, smoked beef tartare with anchovy, quinoa crisp and crème fraîche with a sprinkle of dill powder, and a carrot mousse-filled tartelette spiked with coriander. Just the job to set up the palate for the first course, we thought. But not so - another canapé arrived sporting apple foam with chunks of green apple, avocado, lemon grass and radish, which definitely stimulated our appetites and our anticipation of the dishes to come, and we still hadn't got to the amuse-bouche, which added a further favourite to the meal - chef's signature dish of lovely picked crab beneath cauliflower purée and mint jelly with a green apple espuma and spices which started quite neutrally but quickly all the tastes came together in one delicious whole and made a mind-blowing match with the Krug. On then to the first starter, a generous serving of top-class scallops enhanced by yuzu, verbena oil, samphire and green zebra tomato seeds. We never need any encouragement to dive into lobster, but sometimes an intelligent tweak to its natural attractiveness can make it quite heavenly, and chef had certainly done it with the unexpected addition of lime-marinated watermelon, a fantastic satay sauce and an imaginative peanut coating on some of the lobster. Winning dishes just kept on coming, the luscious poached wild turbot not only melting in the mouth but also releasing the proper freshness of taste sometimes missing in other eateries, and served with an amusing cauliflower purée looking like a half-moon crisp on the plate and matched with matcha tea powder, chives and a tricksy lemon hollandaise. Despite the claims made for English rose veal, a good number of the chefs that we've spoken to tend to source their veal from France, and so it was here. You can see why when you get such delicately flavoured, perfectly textured meat as we were treated to, with a background of tamarind and a pea purée and a decorative light pastry pyramid containing Provola cheese giving an extra dimension to the dish. A pre-dessert is always a good idea, and in many restaurants the peach sorbet with peach segments in a rose petal and pepper sauce would be counted as a full-on dessert in itself; here, though, it was merely a prelude to the suite of flavours delivered by a super matcha tea panna cotta on a white chocolate disc, little wild strawberries, a yuzu sauce and green-coloured chocolate sticklet ornamenting the rim of the dish. Sweet extras, including frozen mojito, strawberry choux pastries and sablé Breton followed and, with good coffee, were supplemented with salt caramel, hazelnut praline and very light pepper chocolates. A memorable experience that we will surely repeat in the not-too-distant future.

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Paul A.'s rating

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

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Shoreditch Grind

213 Old Street, London EC1V 9NR

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar full

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Best Espresso Martini in London

by Ms. Macaroon   silver reviewer (15)

Jul 2015

Editor's pick Love that this place morphs from a café into a cocktail bar. They take their coffee and their cocktails very seriously. Definitely the best Espressso Martini in London, the perfect balance of sweetness/bitterness. The fact that it's part-owned by the awesome Kaz James from Bodyrockers means the soundtrack is always spot on too. I thought the staff were very sweet and accommodating, very surprised to read the review below.

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Ms. Macaroon's rating

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

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Graze Restaurant

42 Western Road, Hove, Hove BN3 1JD

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar empty

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Put out to pasture

by Gourmand Gunno   platinum reviewer (145)

Jul 2015

Editor's pick Research the Brighton nightlife scene and there is a bit more to this city than gay bars and cavernous venues for stag/hen do’s. Graze (in fact located in more sedate neighbouring Hove) arguably offers the finest dining experience that can be found in the vicinity. My comrade and I both enjoyed a recent Saturday night there, but readers beware: unless you go before the end of the July, the restaurant in its current format will no longer exist. Given six years of success and multiple plaudits, it is only fair to consider why the place is going for a revamp (and name change). It was certainly busy the night we visited but Kate, the effusive owner, informed us this is a place people choose for (civilised) celebrations and so only visit once or twice a year rather than on a more regular basis. Unsurprisingly, restaurateurs normally prefer the latter pattern of more predictable footfall to the former. I will be intrigued to see what they do with the place, but we loved the old world, slightly decadent art nouveau charm of the place, the intimate tables and the friendly service. Graze can also be praised for the inventiveness of its tasting menus (far more interestingly composed than several we have encountered in London), even if the paired wines were probably better than the actual dishes. My omnivorous journey started with an amazingly good seared scallop, beautifully presented and perfectly complemented with pickled shimegi (a form of mushroom), radish and salsify puree. It set a high note from which to follow. Sadly the rabbit terrine that followed was very average (dull and flavourless) and the beetroot-cured salmon simply bizarre, with highly discordant flavours. I am sure the ‘basil and lychee syrup’ did not help. The menu was redeemed by an excellent fillet of lamb, while both puddings (a honey and cinnamon parfait and then a black forest mousse) pleased, again scoring well in terms of presentation and taste. There were similar hits and misses on my comrade’s vegetarian menu. Throughout both our meals, Graze excelled in its wine pairing with the presence of a False Bay Chenin Blanc, a Ripasso Valpolicella and the ever-sublime Rutherglen Muscat being stand-out features. Pricing, certainly relative to comparable London experiences, was also very favourable. Let’s hope that the team at Graze retain what they are good at and improve on what is currently lacking.

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Gourmand Gunno's rating

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

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Restaurant Nathan Outlaw

6 New Road, Port Isaac PL29 3SB

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar full

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Worth three Michelin stars

by Paul A.   gold reviewer (40)

Jul 2015

Editor's pick We make regular pilgrimages to Cornwall to pay homage to the high priest of fish fine dining, and we never feel less than elevated, on a spritual as well as a corporal level, after service here. There is never a false note and the move to the new premises with a truly spectacular outlook has brought about a less formal feel to the dining atmosphere. It goes without saying that the food was fabulous. From the salt and rosemary cured monkfish with plain yoghurt, ginger vinaigrette and crunchy fennel, through smoky mackerel pâté and cucumber jelly, via very local lobster with a light, dry salsa verde comprising mint, anchovy and parsley, and with heritage tomatoes and a tomato water dressing, by way of the signature Porthilly sauce with its intense nose and flavour embracing particularly good gurnard, then almost a meat and two veg dish with turbot and samphire, potatoes, hispi cabbage rounds and a seaweed hollandaise, followed by celery jelly and crackers doing full justice to Tunworth cheese, then wild strawberry granita with an airy crème brulée, yoghurt and a dash of raspberry, to the final delight, a light and delicious cherry and pistachio tart, the whole experience was unmissable. You could not wish for finer treatment of top-class ingredients, and Nathan Outlaw consistently hits the bullseye. This wonderful restaurant is without any doubt one of the leaders of the UK's quality surge in the fine dining area, which needs to be recognised and rewarded by the France-centric guides.

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Paul A.'s rating

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

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Hakkasan

8 Hanway Place, London W1T 1HD

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar half

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Dim Sum Sundays can't be beat!

by Amy M.   silver reviewer (19)

Jul 2015

Editor's pick I fancied something different from the usual Sunday brunch, coupled with a craving for Dim Sum and it seems Hakkasan had the answer! Their set menu for £58 per head includes a pre meal cocktail, a bottle of Louis Roederer to share and a post meal cocktail, as well as 6 courses. We were utterly defeated by the food, to the point that I opted to forgo dessert. At which they promptly returned with 3 handmade macaroons for me to take with me. The food is delicious, the only complaint is that the chilean sea bass was incredibly oily, which overwhelmed the flavour. Other than that, the duck salad is scrumptious, the dim sum delicate and exquisite and fabulous salt and pepper squid. The service seems to be a bit like an energy saving light bulb - takes time to warm up - with water taking 10 mins to arrive, but once they are rolling it's fine. The lovely thing was they didn't turn our table. Admittedly it wasn't that busy, but it was great to be able to linger for a lazy Sunday. I think that this is £60 well spent!

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Amy M.'s rating

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

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Le Chabanais

8 Mount Street, London W1K 3NF

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar emptystar emptystar empty

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I wonder if this is what Inaki Aizpitarte had in mind when launching in London

by Matt E.   (1)

Jul 2015

Editor's pick Oh dear. We had high hopes for this place, having had a fantastic meal at Mugaritz a few years back and two superlative experiences at Le Chateaubriand. This place does Inaki Aizpitarte a disservice and should be avoided by anyone expecting the following: great food; lovely ambiance; good service. I don't usually pen reports of truly bad experiences, but this one was up there with the worst (for somewhere costing comfortably north of £100 a head), so I thought I would share it with others. First impressions are well captured by Square Meal - like a hotel restaurant. It's not clear what feeling it is intended to create. It is neither intimate, nor romantic, nor brash, nor elegant. Like some (but for the wrong reasons not all) of our meal, the decor is instantly forgettable. The menu is odd. We could not find a theme. It is a relatively limited a la carte affair, which includes, for the mains, a grand total of 3 side dish choices, one of which, we were told just before our main dish arrived, was suddenly off the menu - apparently something had gone wrong with the spinach! So instead, we had a plain plate of broccoli, looking like something an elderly relative might serve up, only for £5 plus service. Things had gone wrong well before then, however. I won't recount the conversations with our sommelier, save that he was the rudest, most arrogant waiter I have ever encountered in London. We weren't alone in our astonishment at his "customer is always wrong" attitude and his lack of attentive service. The couple at the table next to ours was equally astonished, unhappy and frankly outraged. I should add that the other waiters were impeccable. My starter of mackerel in some cold samphire and lovage soup was a mixed affair. The fish was excellent. There was too much broth and it was pretty tasteless. It did not really complement the fish. For mains, we chose the cote de boeuf and asked for it rare. It came with a horseradish dish, which was necessary because the beef, simply served sliced on a plate for us to serve ourselves, was very dry and really rather disappointing. The horseradish dish was not moist enough to compensate for the dreary meat, but at least meant it was edible. There was, however, superb mashed potato, plus the broccoli. The lack of blood or moisture on the meat was apparently due to the fact that it was some fancy aged beef. Regardless of the reason, it was not very good. Desserts were unremarkable, so much so that I have already forgotten what they were, 3 days after eating them. The maitre d', aware that we had had a bad experience, very kindly brought us two glasses of champagne. He then asked about our meal. When we started enumerating our various issues with the experience, he became defensive and prickly. This was a pretty awful meal. Substandard food, no ambiance and shocking service from the sommelier. A real let down and I am amazed that a celebrated chef such as Inaki Aizpitarte would wish to be associated with it. One for Londoners to avoid.

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Matt E.'s rating

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

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Kurobuta Chelsea

312 King's Road, London SW3 5UH

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar halfstar empty

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Does it live up to the hype?

by Anna B.   (3)

Jul 2015

Editor's pick This was my first visit to Kurobata. The food is amazing, personally I thought the star dishes were the Tuna Sashimim Pizza with Truffle Ponzu, Red Onion and Green Chillies which was just sublime. If you don't order this then you are really missing out. A great dish which maximises flavour and texture 10/10. The Baby Shrimp Tempura with pickled pumpkin and creamy shiso dressing was equally 10/10. All I can say is yum! The shiso dressing is gorgeous, I would love to find out how to make that... We also tried the skinny sushi dish which as our waiter clearly pointed out, contains zero rice. Unless you are a vegetarian, don't bother with this dish. My friend and I thought it was very disappointing lacking in any flavour and very bland. You are advised to order 6-8 dishes between two people. My friend and I had 6 dishes, that was more than sufficient but you might want more if you are hungry. Cocktails were very good.We had the Porn star martini which was well made. I never even looked at the wine list so can't comment on that. It's a very cool, trendy restaurant where the waiting staff all wear jeans and t-shirts who all give a very relaxed feel but to some, it might come across as too laid back. Staff are very attentive and knowledgable about the menu. Which let's be honest, they should be. The interior is very dark, stripped down, back to basics. The music is quite loud but not deafening which provides a great buzzy atmosphere. A great place for a small group dinner with friends. Not a great choice if you are looking to have a quiet chat. All in all, very impressed, will definitely return and look forward to working my way through the menu. It does indeed live up to the hype..

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Anna B.'s rating

star fullstar fullstar fullstar halfstar empty
  • Food & Drink: 7
  • Service: 5
  • Atmosphere: 6
  • Value: 7

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The Dolls House Peckham

1 Clayton Road, London SE15 5JA

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar emptystar empty

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Teething problems, but food shows promise

by The Cheese   platinum reviewer (52)

Jul 2015

Editor's pick The Doll’s House doesn’t feel like a local, but the team behind this boutique chain clearly aims higher; with a member’s lounge due to open in August, it's the antithesis of Peckham’s many grungey pop ups. The quirky interior is dotted with high-glam touches, including a mirror ball the size of the Horniman walrus. The outdoor space is little more than a smoking area, but the bar itself is striking and the diminutive dining room creates a sense of occasion. In truth the decor’s not to my taste - the chevron floor feels a bit ‘80s fitness vid - but it remains a refreshing departure from now-ubiquitous shabby chic. Initial thought as we were seated by our friendly waitress: very appealing menu, with loads we wanted to eat. We were then informed that there were no puds that day. (No biggie for us, but seems a significant boob for 6pm on a Saturday). Lobster mac and cheese was good (if a little light on the seafood), and my main of poussin was beautifully cooked. Sadly the bird didn’t fit on the plate and was impossible to eat without using fingers, which appalled a nearby young couple hoping for a classy date. Chips were average and a fennel ‘slaw’ wasn't dressed, but it was their miserly portions that disappointed; the chef once again seemed constrained by crockery that simply wasn't fit for purpose. It seems like someone went wild in the aisles of TK Maxx without giving a hoot about practicality, but the kitchen needs to expand its tableware empire more strategically. (A first world problem, if ever there was one). Steak tartare proved another victim of style over substance. Served on a slate board, the egg yolk was already dripping over the side when it arrived. While it may have been tactical to serve cool meat on cold stone, every stroke of the knife squealed like nails on a blackboard. The meat was heavy on dill, which struck us as odd, but overall the food showed promise and flair, and the staff seemed genuinely open to feedback. Cocktails were a little too good and reasonably priced, leading us to get unintentionally smashed (in keeping with the venue’s self-professed drink and debauchery manifesto). The location is slightly out on a limb, but we’d certainly head back in the Autumn when the kitchen may have found its stride.

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The Cheese's rating

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

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Wormwood

16 All Saints Road, London

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar fullstar full

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Say Hello to Dr Gherkin & Mr Cucumber

by Nicole G.   silver reviewer (17)

Jul 2015

Editor's pick The dishes and décor at Wormwood seem to have been created with Instagram in mind. Small and unassuming, it’s located on All Saint’s Road but Mediterranean style permeates the whole restaurant. On a summer evening, the colourful tiles and crockery, not to mention the conservatory right at the back, is enough to transport us out of muggy London into a Greek taverna, though the prices are very firmly in the central London range. This is a tapas restaurant but high quality tapas means that looking at around £11 per dish, rising to £18 for the Lobster couscous. Our waitress recommended 6 dishes for 2 people. We were greedy and hungry and went for 7. They were right, we should have stuck with 6. The restaurant decides which order the dishes emerge, based on which flavours better follow each other. Dishes arrive one after each other, rather than all at the same time. It's like creating your own tasting menu but with much larger portions. Each dish is also a mini masterpiece – so artistically arranged that I almost didn’t want to eat it. Personally, I have always found Spanish style cooking a little heavy for me and the Duck Berbere was definitely too heavy a dish to finish on. However the Pulpo and the Moorish Tartare were both incredible and beautifully prepared. We also couldn't resist the Dr Gherkin and Mr Cucumber just for the name alone (though it did taste really good). The menu is a great mix of meat, fish and seafood with just the odd vegetarian dish thrown in. They probably have an interesting wine list but we kicked off with a cocktail and then followed that with quite a few more. They were irresistible and unique creations. The bar can also adapt them to individual taste – whether you want it sweeter or stronger, though most of the cocktails already had plenty of kick, in the good way. We were far too full for dessert but some of the sweeter cocktails beckoned in substitute. Huge thanks here to the Assistant Manager – Alain Herrero who offered those up on the house. Usually free drinks are preceded by complaints about service/food etc so to have something offered purely as nice gesture, was hugely appreciated. Restaurants which insist on charging for the smallest crumb of bread should take note. It was a lovely relaxing summer evening and I'll definitely be back.

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Nicole G.'s rating

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  • Food & Drink: 8
  • Service: 8
  • Atmosphere: 9
  • Value: 7

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Sake No Hana

23 St James's Street, London SW1A 1HA

Overall rating: star fullstar fullstar fullstar emptystar empty

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Just because it looks good, doesn’t mean that it is good

by Gourmand Gunno   platinum reviewer (145)

Jul 2015

Editor's pick If someone said ‘here is a fat dollop of cash, now go and design a restaurant’, what you may get is Sake No Hana. Of course, just because it looks good, doesn’t mean that it is good. This was our impression anyway, after a recent weekday lunchtime visit. You also can’t get away from the fact that however swanky the interior may be and however enjoyable the views over sedate St James’ are, the restaurant is still located in the ugly monstrosity that is The Economist building. On entering and having been greeted by the default smiling pretty front-of-house, diners are expected to mount an escalator to enter the main dining room. I guess this is to heighten the sense of anticipation. Unfortunately, as my host pointed out, the said escalator was out of service (as was the lift), perhaps creating something of an anti-climax, at least for me. After this futuristic commencement of events, one cannot help but be wowed by the dining room, a beautiful space of light, curves and bamboo. Even if not quite the ‘futuristic forest’ promised by the website, the room still impressed. It was a pity that the food and service did notably less so. We opted for the set lunch menu, arguably the best (relative) value item, at a mere £29/head. Beyond the excellent presentation of all dishes, there were certainly some flashes of culinary brilliance such as the white noodles accompanying the prawn tempura and also the spicy salmon sushi, but there were too dishes of a decidedly average nature (such as the Miso soup). Meanwhile portion sizes were stingy across the board. The promised pickled courgette that was allegedly supposed to accompany my main comprised but two slithers, just to cite one example. Moreover, when it came to service, it varied between being rushed – with plates cleared almost before we had put down our chopsticks – to enduring lengthy and tedious pauses with no explanation between dishes. We were also brought (and charged for) a second bottle of water despite not having requested it. The place seemed busy and my comrade informed me it gets even busier in the evenings so clearly Sake No Hana must be doing something right. Maybe people just come for the atmosphere; certainly there are many other places to get better (and cheaper) Japanese food in London

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Gourmand Gunno's rating

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

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