£50 - £79
23 St James's Street, London, SW1A 1HA
It might feel like being trapped inside a panda’s lunchbox, but beyond the swathes of cypress and bamboo there’s plenty to divert customers at “trendy” Sake No Hana. Perennially popular, it offers a vast menu that straddles the Japanese canon (and beyond), combined with a “superb atmosphere” and just enough pizzazz to make it all feel special at the price. The repertoire repays close attention. Start, perhaps, with colourful seared sushi or the umami riot of seared rib-eye beef with sesame dressing, before moving on to iron-pot rice topped with truffle and wild mushrooms or mirin-marinated black cod with yuzu, chilli and miso. A menu of this magnitude might expose weaknesses in lesser kitchens, but here the chefs are obviously well-drilled – especially when it comes to intricate desserts such as matcha pannacotta with mango sorbet. Saké classes, whisky and chocolate flights and a boozy Saturday lunch all help to maintain interest. “Excellent, as ever”, confirms one regular.
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£30 - £49
7-9 St James's Street, London, SW1A 1EE
A veteran of the London dining scene since 1996, Avenue has had a makeover in terms of both food and decor. Visitors can marvel at the wine-glass chandelier and moody modern art while sampling a menu that now takes in South American and Asian influences, from ceviche to seared salmon with bok choy (as well as burgers and steaks).
A simple but cleverly assembled avocado salad starter with pickled apple, edamame and mango dazzled visually and taste-wise. The kitchen kept up the tempo for the mains, with a Korean-spiced rack of lamb served with red cabbage mash and raw mango chutney particularly impressing, while wines were paired intelligently throughout from an interesting list.
But while the food, drink and service all impressed, the atmosphere fell flat and the 112-cover venue felt decidedly cavernous. A location at the bottom end of St James’s Street and some fairly steep prices go some way to explaining this, but Avenue needs to trumpet its strengths better for it to be as full as it deserves to be.
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£50 - £79
£50 - £79
8 Lancashire Court, London, W1S 1EY
Tucked away in the heart of busy Mayfair, with a spacious outside terrace and a menu which isn’t eye wateringly-expensive, Hush is somewhat of a rare find. Once inside, leather banquette seating, a marble-topped bar and backlit displays remind you where you are, but the buzzy atmosphere remains warm and unpretentious. Friendly staff are happy to recommend picks from the lengthy menu, which includes adventurous dishes like the hearty confit duck shepherd’s pie, and an impressive cacio e pepe pasta, which is made in a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese at the table. We’d also suggest making a beeline for the monkfish which successfully combines a fiery topping of grilled chorizo with the gentle, clean flavours of the fish and a helping of earthy white beans. Be sure to save room for the stand-out mars bar cheesecake, which is an intense, velvety dream. When the sun’s shining, make the most of Hush’s cobbled courtyard by enjoying a Peach Spritz and some deep fried, feta-stuffed olives, just be sure to book ahead for an outdoor table. Afternoon tea, a private dining room and a separate upstairs bar complete the picture.
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