Lavazza Squaremeal partner Italian coffeeSummer in the city, and our army of diner reviewers have been making the most of the long evenings to eat, drink and be merry. They’ve got the latest on hidden alfresco treasures, where to upgrade that bottle of rosé, and which restaurants have a ‘sun’s out, fun’s out’ approach. They’re also not shy when spilling the beans about places that fall short of their high standards. Read on for this month’s highs and lows…

Humble Grape Fleet Street

Summer is in full swing in the capital, but our most discerning diners have been eschewing the round-the-clock rosé of pub-pavement rabble-rousers in favour of superior sips in London’s best wine bars. Sienna C commends the ‘impeccable’ wine choices at West End wine shop and enoteca Dalla Terra, seconded by fellow regular Mary P. Frank C loves the ‘interesting wines for sale’ at Humble Grape Fleet Street (above) so much that he doesn’t mind lugging his purchases home with him. ‘If you know your wines, you can find some excellent ones at good prices,’ he tells fellow wine buffs. SEW also found some ‘exceptionally daring’ pairings at Launceston Place, proving that even safe restaurant choices should aim to surprise you.

Former Be the Critic winner Gourmand Gunno has dedicated this month to testing the capital’s best alfresco spots – well, we get precious few opportunities to feel like sun-blessed Europeans in this country, don’t we? His top tip for canalside dining is The Summerhouse: with its ‘bucolic view of the Grand Union, and its passing barges and waterfowl’, it’s ‘the perfect place to wind down’. Central-London secret Mews of Mayfair also gets special mention: watching the world go by from its front patio ‘feels somewhat like being on holiday’. Counting the days are we, GG?

malibu kitchen at the ned interior 2017 web

Whether dreaming of their holidays or resigned to a staycation, our readers want a summery side of fun with their food. Lloyd S had such a good time at Smokestak that he and his fellow diner ended up sharing all three desserts. David H also declared it ‘fantastic’ – and this is a man who travelled all the way from Berkshire for the pleasure. Novelty-seeker SEW found The Ned to be ‘one of the most fun locations in the City’ after a visit to Malibu Kitchen (above). Sadly, good times are apparently in short supply at Pharmacy 2, which Pip L expected to be ‘exciting’ and ‘buzzy’ but found ‘pretentious’, ‘over-conceptualised’ and, ultimately, ‘boring’.

All this extra wining and dining inevitably takes its toll on the bank balance, but thrifty readers have managed to find value for money in the most unlikely places (or at least excuse their extravagance). Natasha K found Mayfair big-hitter Scott’s signature seafood platter generous enough to share, while Angela C necked enough margaritas during a bottomless brunch at Cantina Laredo to turn a treat into a bargain. Over in Canary Wharf (aka expense-account land), Gourmand Gunno found Ippudo’s ‘authentic ramen experience’ to be ‘filling, healthy and satisfying’. Lunch here will set you back just £10 – now that’s what we call a win in the age of austerity.

Hawksmoor Guildhall steak

Another way to guarantee value for money is to stick to London’s standard-setters, many of which continue to garner rave reviews from our readers. Hawksmoor is ‘always worth repeating’ thanks to its ‘consistency and damned fine steak’. (We wholeheartedly agree, Gourmand Gunno – we’ve never heard a bad word said about it.) Another golden ticket is Medlar: Lloyd S recently enjoyed a ‘truly delightful experience’ at this Kings Road royalty. However, even old favourites can lose their lustre. David F has had some good times at his ‘lovely’ local Chez Bruce, but has ‘now been disappointed often enough to be wary of returning’. Over in Camden, Lynn W found Gilgamesh to be ‘faded’ rather than fabulous, despite its sun-friendly retractable roof.

Finally, a question: are our waistlines getting collectively bigger, or are the gaps between tables getting increasingly narrower? The consensus so far seems to point to the latter. Sarah G enjoyed her meal at The Ivy City Garden, but ‘unfortunately, tables are so close that you could have a conversation with the person at the next table and you keep being bumped as people walk by’. Frank C also had a few ups and downs during his meal at ‘cramped’ Arbina, saying, ‘I often had to stand up to allow people to pass behind me’. Which other London restaurants should be on the offenders’ list? Name and shame the space invaders with your own #SMDinerReview.

Lavazza London coffee SquareMeal

As always, there are fab prizes up for grabs when you share your views on London’s restaurant scene with us. Monthly prizes include £250 to spend at a restaurant of your choice, a Lavazza coffee machine, cookbooks and top-notch fizz – submit your own #SMDinerReview and you could be our next winner.

This article was published 9 August 2017