Rasputin, 265 High Street, W3 9BY. Tube: Acton Town (about 10 mins' walk)
Friday, December 29, 2006
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Sacre Coeur, 18 Theberton Street, N1. Tube: Angel
Saturday, April 29, 2006
This is a fantastic new kebab/Turkish place in Shoreditch. Inside, much more attention has been paid to the decor than in the Dalston kebaberies that lie further out along Kingsland Road. They've gone for a Turkish boudoir type look, with lots of colours, drapes, cushions and curtains. We were a large group, and the place is great for groups although the rules are that everyone must have the huge-sounding £17.50 set menu. We managed to persuade them to let us and our bellies off and instead started with a few mixed hot and cold mezze (£8). The cold ones were the usual selection of things like humours and tzatziki, served with plenty of dunkable bread. The hot were nicer, including grilled haloumi cheese and freshly, lightly battered squid rings. For mains, I went for the h0use speciality, the Iskender. It was a selection of juicy, good-quality meat, including lamb and chicken, piled high on fingers of pitta bread and coated in delicious yoghurty sauce. The mixed grill looked pretty good too. And for the more adventurous (or those less keen on kebabs) there is also a wide selection of other dishes including duck and sea food, with most mains around the £10 mark. For most appetites, a main would be very filling, possibly leaving just enough room for one starter/mezze dish. We washed it all down with Effes beer. The waiters were in a good, cheerful mood, which helped make it a great night. Personally, I'd pick this place over the Dalston ones any day.
Iskander, 4 Calvert Avenue, E2 7JP; Tel 020 7033 3936; Tube Old Street; http://www.hanofnazz.com/
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Bertorelli, 1 Plough Place, Fetter Lane, London, EC4A; Tel. 0207 842 0515; Tube: Chancery Lane; www.bertorellis.co.uk; and other branches
Mem & Laz Brasserie, 8 Theberton Street, London, N1 0XX
Rules Restaurant, 35 Maiden Lane, London, WC2E 7LB, www.rules.co.uk, Tel. 0207 836 5314; Open noon-midnight, Mon-Sun; Tube: Covent Garden or Charing Cross
My Old Dutch Pancake House, 132 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6PS; Tube: Holborn. They have a branch on Kings Road too. http://www.myolddutch.com
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
The service was very friendly and the decor is simple, clean cafe style. It was an interesting meal, all told, but not really special enough to warrant a come-back. Especially given the limited selection of types of dishes on offer.
Pho, 86 St John Street, London, EC1M 4EH; Tel: 020 7253 7624; Tube: Farringdon
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Bastille, 100 St Pauls Rd, London, N1 2QP; Telephone: 020 7704 2345; Tube: Highbury & Islington
The Old Fire Engine House, St Marys Street, Ely; CB7 4ER, Tel: 01353 662582, www.theoldfireenginehouse.co.uk/
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Strada, 88-90 Commercial Street, E1 6LY; Tube: Liverpool Street. And locations throughout London. http://www.strada.co.uk/
Lanes, 109 - 117 Middlesex Street, E1 7JF; Tube: Liverpool Street; www.lanesrestaurant.co.uk
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
L' Artista, 917 Finchley Rd, Golders Green, London, NW11 7PE; Tel: 020 8731 7501., Tube: Golders Green
Browns Restaurant and Bar, 9 Islington Green, N1 8DU; Tel 0207 226 2555; Tube: Angel. And other branches across England, including Bristol and Cambridge. www.browns-restaurants.com
Carluccio's, 5-6 The Green, W5 5DA; Tel. 0208 566 4458; Tube: Ealing Broadway. And many other branches throughout London. www.carluccios.con
The bill includes at 12.5 percent service charge. Officially they are open until 11pm daily.
Canteen, 2 Crispin Place, E1 6DW; Tel. 0845 686 1133; Tube: Liverpool Street; www.canteen.co.uk
The Well Restaurant & Bar, 180 St John Street, EC1V 4JY; Tel. 0207 251 9363; www.downthewell.co.uk
$, 2 Exmouth Market, London, EC1R 4PX; Tel. 0207 278 0077; Tube: Angel or Faringdon
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
We has a pint of prawns (£3.80), grilled chorizo (delicious but a slightly miserly portion of just four slices for £4.70, especially given that the prawns were such good value), some thin crisp French fries and rocket salad with generous slabs of parmesan (£2.50 each). It was perfect fresh, unchallenging, grazing kind of food for a lazy Saturday. We washed it down with a couple of Belgian beers (£3.80) and were well and truly sated. Highly recommended and much cheaper than the upstairs restaurant - though the food is more casual too.
On Sundays they have a special brunch menu too, from 12. Optional service charge is included in the bill.
The Peasant, 240 St John Street, London, EC1V 4PH; Tel. 0207 336 7726; Tube: Barbican, Faringdon or Angel; www.thepeasant.co.uk
There's a couple of largers on draft and a wine list. From past experience you are better off sticking to the starters/mezze and skipping the mains.
Sofra, 21 Exmouth Market, London, EC1, Tel. 020 7833 1111; Tube: Angel; www.sofra.co.uk
Of the mains (all about £8), the gnocchi in tomato sauce with spinach and wild mushroom was a disaster - the sauce tasted of Heinz ketchup and there were only about 2 mushrooms in the entire dish. I gave up after a couple of mouthfuls. There is probably a reason why gnocchi are usually served with cheesy sauces, but that still doesn't justify the horribleness of this dish. (They should go try the divine home made gnocchi at the Well on St John Street to see how things should be done!)
The lamb, mint and passion fruit sausages were actually quite tasty, with all three flavours standing out in a surprisingly harmonious way. But they swam in a sea of watery horrible mash.
The quesadilla (off the starters menu, £4.75) was nice enough given the foolproof ingredients of cheese spinach and cherry tomatoes. But it was a bit on the dry side and generally uninspiring.
The pesto chicken wrapped in Parma ham and served with vegetable ragout was probably the nicest dish but the chicken was dry and overcooked.
Overall, we had really wanted to like the food here but couldn't. Don't be tempted by the menu or you too will be disappointed.
We'll still come back for the beers though!
Bull, The, 100 Upper Street, London, N1 0NP; Tube: Angel
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
They have changed the menu since our last visit - which was admittedly some months ago. There are now various set meal options for groups of varying size, with perhaps the most budget option coming in the form of a £9 deal on a starter (eg hummus) followed by a souvlaki (Greek kebab) and washed down with half a pint.
Instead, we picked a selection of mezze a la carte (about £4 each), and then went for a grill selection for four at about £40. The taramasalata was creamy and fresh, and the accompanying warm grilled flat bread (pitta's not Greek, apparently) was gorgeous. Olives were nice, if unspectacular - I preferred the dish of salted nuts that came as a free appetizer. Stuffed vine leaves were more flavoursome and less vinegary than usual, and the fried octopus was also delicious.
The main course, I though was a lot more disappointing. The selection of grilled meats - chicken, sausage, lamb, etc - was nice enough, but not hugely inspiring and there seemed to be more of some meats than others. The accompanying thin crispy fries win my vote though.
Washed down with a couple of jugs of beer (£12) this feast came to over £90 for the four of us. Sure, we were stuffed. The food had been nice and there had even been entertainment in the shape of the lady at the next table setting her napkin on fire. But it wasn't £90 nice.
My advice would be to stick to mezze and go in the summer, during happy hour (before 7) to indulge in the interesting selection of Greek wines (including sparkling ones!).
The Real Greek Souvlaki and Bar, 140-142 St John Street, London EC1V 4UA, Tel: 020 7253 7234 ; Tube: Barbican, Bus: 153. www.therealgreek.co.uk
It's a good place for a special treat, and for that the prices are quite reasonable. Before the meal we were treated to a selection of bread served with butter and olive oil/vinegar combo, shot glasses of warm green soup, little ramekins of some flavoursome vegetables, miniature vegetarian tarts and generous half-moons of ravioli stuffed with duck and wild mushrooms with a chilli sauce. Of the starters, the star was probably duo of tuna and salmon attain - deliciously fresh and tender raw fish. Mille feuille of goats cheese with asparagus, poached egg and hollandaise sauce was also gorgeous, if a little too rich. Anchovies served with roast tomatoes were, quite frankly, rather dull, but as the dish met its description word for mouthful and there were plenty of alternatives (a choice of 10 or so starters), one can't really complain. Tuna with foie gras came with two very generous slabs of the fatty goose liver pate, but might have been tastier had the tuna been cooked for less time. The main winner was braised bisaro (apparently some kind of Portuguese pig crossed with a wild boar), which very tender and flavoursome and hearty in a wintry casserole kind of way. The fillet of sea bass benefited from the rich flavours of an accompanying crab and sun dried tomato risotto. This is a place with an ambitious menu, and most of it works very well. There are the odd slip ups - a lump of something that looked and tasted like suet pudding that came with the tataki for example, or a bizarre little pot of green stuff which came with the Dover sole and tasted distantly of mustardy creamed spinach. But overall, the meal was a success.
The place seems to attract a mixed crowd, from groups of friends to business meetings to loved-up couples. The wine list has some interesting bottles from Portugal at reasonable prices, and a couple of bottle largers from that part of the world. The staff are friendly, though the service was perhaps a little too slow on this visit.
With booze and the 12 percent service charge, expect to pay about £90 for a two-course dinner for two. The bar, I believe, also offers an alternative menu of small tapas-style dishes, which we have yet to sample. It is advisable to book the restaurant unless you are going mid-week.
Portal, 88 St John's Street, London, EC1M 4EH, Tel. 0207 253 6950; Tube: Barbican; www.portalrestaurant.co.uk
Sunday, January 15, 2006
The food menu comes on freshly printed sheets of A4, suggesting daily changes. There are about 10 to 12 savoury dishes to choose from, with no clear starters/main split and an unusually tempting selection of four or so deserts. The wine list is an impressive multiple page affair, with bottles listed by country with short descriptions. The staff are helpful and knowledgeable - they happily suggested a nice bottle of red for under £15 for us. Though the list goes up to three times that and more, there is plenty to choose from under £20, and the cheapest bottle is very reasonable and only £10.50. When we chose a different wine for our second bottle, we were all brought fresh glasses.
To start with we were brought bread (with coriander) - which we'd devoured by the time good dipping oil arrived a couple of minutes later, so unbidden they brought a second basket.
Between us, our group sampled duck breast, served with creamy horse-radish sauce on top of a potato rosti (mmmmm...), pork chop with Parma ham and creamy potatoes and lamb stew. All were delicious. Despite the generous portions we were tempted by desert. The home made chocolate truffles (two for £2) were huge and looked absolutely gorgeous - I will try some next time. My cheese plate (£6) came with generous chunks of mature cheddar, parmesan, thom de savoie and a red stilton type cheese. These were served with delightfully crumbly home-made oat biscuits. There was also a stewed rhubarb and almond tart and a rich sticky toffee pudding with a cute little jug of cream. The service was lovely throughout.
For plenty of food and plenty of drink, as long as you stick to the cheapest bottles, expect to pay about £20 per person.
This is a really nice place, and I hope it thrives.
Vinoteca, 7 St John Street, EC1M 4AA, London, Tel. 0207 253 8786; www.vinoteca.co.uk; Tube: Barbican or Farringdon
The Farringdon branch is large, with a long belt snaking round the kitchen area and then out in to the rest of the room. It was busy on a night early in the week, probably because of the half price promotion. We were sat towards the end of the belt, so I think a lot of the good stuff disappeared before it got to us. Still, their tuna and salmon sashimi were good-sized, good-value and good-tasting. The nigiri sushi had just a small sliver of fish atop a large lump of rice. We also ordered some hot things off the menu - a delicious soft shelled crab fried in tempura (an amazing creature that you can eat shell and all), some rare beef with Japanese pickles and some huge calamari rings. With a couple of beers (£4.50 for 500ml of Asahi or Kirin; £6 for a giant 650ml can of Sapporo), the bill came to a little over 30 quid. We'd only managed 14 plates between us and were full to bursting. However, on a full-price day the bill would have been more like £60 and that seems a bit steep for what is essentially a canteen.
Yo! Sushi, 95 Farringdon Road, London, EC1R 3BT; Tube: Farringdon; www.yosushi.com
Inside, you can easily pretend that you are in a grand French brasserie, with high ceilings, a long dark-wooden bar and people sipping cappuccinos or champagne. There are two options - the restaurant menu noticeable for its selection of steaks (I recommend the onglet, it's one of the cheapest at about £10, but is nonetheless a really nice cut of meat) and the lighter cafe menu with salads and croques. I had the goat's cheese salad (£8.75), which was authentic tasting and about the right size for lunch. My companion had the chicken salad, a bit more substantial for £9.95. There's of course a reasonable wine list, though you have to look at the prices - I think for £6 my glass of champagne (what's wrong with decadence once in a while?!) was much better value than my companion's similarly priced large chardonnay. They also do good-value set menus, with two courses for £13.50.
The service is friendly enough, and a lot of the staff are French. Another branch that's worth remembering is behind the National Theatre and is one of the best pre-performance options in that area (by virtue of being preferable to pizza express!).
Chez Gerard; Thistle Hotel; 101 Buckingham Palace Road,Victoria, London SW1W 0SJ Tel: 020 7868 6249. Tube: Victoria; www.brasseriechezgerard.co.uk
On a recent visit, I had a warm goat's cheese salad, followed by fish cakes, with salad and chips. My companion went for the specials - a prawn and avocado salad and fish. It's all good honest food - nothing spectacular, but fantastic value. There is a nice shortish wine list too, going up to about £30.
Le Mercury, 140a Upper Street, London, N1; Tel. 0207 354 4088; Tube: Angel or Highbury & Islington
There are tealights on the tables and the deli-laden shelves add to the cosy yet trendy atmosphere. The service was quite friendly, if a little absent-minded. Overall, even with the foie gras, it was a well-priced and tasty meal and I would happily go back for seconds.
Comptoir Gascon, 61-63 Charterhouse Street, London, EC1M 6HJ; Tel. 0207 608 80851; Tube: Barbican or Farringdon
But there are places which clearly go to the trouble of doing all the work themselves, and The Peasant is one of them. Downstairs there is a welcoming bar with a good selection of draft pints(from real ales to German wheat beer), where you can also fill up on snacky pub food from bowls of delicious olives to steak sandwiches. Upstairs is a proper restaurant with white table cloths, candles and a fire. To start, there is free bread from a selection, served with dipping oil and vinegar (we were only offered one slice each though). The menu is relatively short - about six choices each for starter and main. I opted for a casserole of pheasant with wild mushrooms. The red meat easily came off the bone, and there was a nice selection of interesting fungi. It was good, hearty wintery food. My companion has beautifully rare lamb chops with pickled red onions. I am not normally a fan of lamb (too often it's fatty and overcooked), but this was arguably the nicest lamb I've ever tasted. To accompany, we had green salad with a rich, balsamic vinegar dressing and crispy roast potatoes.
Price wise, the place isn't cheap - mains are mostly around the 15 pounds mark, side orders at 2.70 and house wine at about 12 pounds. They add on a service charge, but get bonus points for crossing off the extra tip space on the credit card slip.
I think the quality of the food, and the fact that it's an interesting, often changing menu and a nice setting easily justifies the price though. It's a smallish room, ideal for a romantic meal or a small intimate gathering.
The Peasant, 240 St John Street, Clerkenwell, London, EC1V 4PH; Tel. 0207 3367726
Tube: Angel; Bus: 153.
Gaby's; 30 Charing Cross Road, WC2H 0DB, Tel. 020 7836 4233; Tube: Leicester Square