The Ride-Along Report: First Takes From Last Night’s Dinner
Our first thoughts on London’s newest restaurants.
You might think that we rock up to restaurants, morning, noon, and night, order a ridiculous amount of food undercover, and then eat until we need a nap. If you think that, then you’d be absolutely right. Yes, we’re basically Charlie’s Angels, but with the meat sweats and a lifetime’s supply of Rennies. But, what really goes on when we go to check out a restaurant for the first time? Yes, we have silly secret names. Suggestions for those are welcome. Yes, we always pay for everything. No, we don’t have rules about ordering a specific percentage of the menu, we just order a little more than seems responsible. Does that cover it? Good.
Once we’ve slept off the previous day’s meal, we’ll be putting our first impressions of the places we’ve been to in this post. And, the best new places will then be going on our Hit List.
If you like following along here, then you’ll probably also enjoy following our live Restaurant Review Ride-Alongs on @infatuation_london. They’re like the write-ups below, but with a few more gifs, and a lot more pictures of egg.
What It Is: A walk-in Iranian kebab spot in Soho.
Perfect For: Lunch, Catching Up With Mates, Big Groups, Quick Eats, Drinks And A Light Bite, Casual Weeknight Dinner, Eating At The Bar
We did almost the entire menu here on our first visit. The kabab torki came with a load of shawarma on a bed of crispy chips, chillis, and garlic and chilli sauce, and would have been enough for any normal person. It’s fantastic stuff. But obviously we didn’t stop there. The lamb shoulder kabab was the other standout, and the mazeh was tasty enough - some nice dips and maybe the probably the best liver we’ve ever had.
Verdict: A welcome addition to Soho. The bill adds up quickly here if your eyes are as big as ours, and we’ll have to see how accommodating walk-ins only works at dinner time, but we like it and we’re putting it on the Hit List.
What It Is: A Peruvian restaurant in Shoreditch.
Perfect for: Group dinners. Casual Mid-Week Dinner
Pachamama East is in a great location next to The Hoxton Hotel on Old Street, the staff are great, and - judging from our first visit, a lunch - it feels like it’d be a great place for a group dinner. Our lunch would have been fine if the food had tasted a bit better. Of the six dishes we ordered, only an aubergine salad stood out. Surprising considering we’d also ordered the fried chicken and the duck.
Verdict: Pefectly fine for an inoffensive group dinner, smart enough for a dinner before going ‘out out’, but still casual enough for a low-key dinner date. However, Andina’s just up the road if you want something tastier.
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Kricket White City
What It Is: The third Kricket restaurant, still serving Westernised Indian food but this time in the old Television Centre in White City.
Perfect For: Catching Up With Mates, Dinner With The Parents, Dinner With The Parents, Casual Weeknight Dinner, Drinks And A Light Bite
When we walk into a restaurant, we always do a quick scan of the room. At Kricket we liked what we saw. There were people on dates, big groups catching up, a couple of solo diners eating by the open kitchen, and some recent shoppers with approximately two hundred bags. Not only that, they all looked happy. We ordered the Keralan fried chicken, samphire pakoras, garlic and coriander kulcha (bread), and the bhel puri with tamarind and yoghurt. They fell into two categories. One: the bhel puri, kulcha, and samphire pakoras were all lovely, not mind-blowing, but lovely none the less. The second category: the Keralan fried chicken, which comes with curry leaf mayo and is an absolute must-order.
Verdict: The food at Kricket won’t alter your universe, but there’s some great dishes on offer and it’s a good spot to know about for when you’re in the Shepherd’s Bush area. Get the fried chicken.
What It Is: A Spitalfields small plates spot.
Perfect For: Breakfast, Coffee, Small Plates, Drinks And A Light Bite, Casual Mid-Week Dinner
Sometimes a restaurant gives us pangs of deja-vu. Not because we’re ‘we’ve seen it all before’ types, but because a place is so similar to so many other places we’ve been to. That said, the anchovy sauce that went with the burrata did stand out. And so does the funky building, which makes the dining experience more interesting than the food itself.
Verdict: Not a bad meal, but beyond the unusual setting it might not leave any real lasting impressions. We’ll be back soon to try breakfast and brunch.
What It Is: High-end Italian inspired restaurant in Notting Hill
Perfect For: Fine Dining, Dinner With Parents, Corporate Cards
This place is casual enough, in that we felt that we could have turned up in jeans and t-shirts (so long as they were our best jeans and our best t-shirts), but we also found everything we expected of a high-end Italian spot. We had ravioli which was filled with rich-people meat, and totally swimming in butter. And then there was butter on top of that. All very tasty of course, but we also paid a pretty hefty price to eat it all, and although the room was a bit cold, it suits the crowd perfectly, and the service was delightful.
Verdict: If Our feeling is, if you’re going to spend this much on a meal - save just a few more pennies and hit up the Ledbury, or Core By Clare Smyth instead. If someone else is paying, do it.
Chick 'N' Sours Islington
What It Is: Another spot for the fried chicken and sour cocktail specialists of Haggerston and Covent Garden.
Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, Quick Eats, Lunch, Catching Up With Mates, Big Groups
The aesthetic here has a touch of the Meatliquors about it. The darkness and neon caught us as soon as we walked in and before we knew it we were eating a lot of food that’s simultaneously tasty and indistinguishable from the last thing you ate. We went a little OTT on the old chicken - burger, wings, toast - and every part of the bird sort of turned into one. Not that it ended up clucking, but it all kind of tasted sickly, sweet, and spicy. Side dishes of aubergine and watermelon were good enough to cut through this fog of flavour though.
Verdict: A solid spot if you keep it simple, don’t go OTT, or expect too much.
What It Is: A new all-day restaurant-cafe-bar in Peckham
Perfect For: Small Plates, Drinks And A Light Bite, Coffee
The coffee shop here is pretty solid, but we went to check out the small plates menu. All the small plates gang were present and account for, and, as a result our lunch felt a bit standard: burrata - check, anchovies/sardines - check, cured meats - check, a cooked hunk of meat - check, the chip that is not quite a chip - check. Everything was fine, it just didn’t set our world in fire.
Verdict: This is a good place for a slightly better than casual meal in the neighbourhood. We’ll definitely be back to check out dinner, and to get involved in their natural wine situation.
What It Is: A casual Thai restaurant near London Bridge.
Perfect for: Literally Everyone
We loved everything we had here. While nothing really blew our minds, the clay pot noodles and massaman curry were both deeply satisfying. Plus, it’s the kind of place we could definitely use for all different types of occasions.
Verdict: Kin + Deun is one of those perfect neighbourhood restaurants, and we’ll definitely be back to try out some more of the menu.
What It Is:A modern British small plates restaurant on Upper Street
Perfect For: Small Plates, Drinks And A Light Bite
The first thing we thought when sat down in 1251 is how much we like natural light, windows, and not being in a cupboard. C’est la vie. This fine dining-ish restaurant is a funny old place. We got involved with the three plates for £15 lunch menu. Brilliant value, but with mixed results. Some things were really quite tasty and of a decent size. Other things were forgettable, and appeared to be props from Honey I Shrunk Your Lunch. The ground floor room is, as mentioned, lacking in windows, which doesn’t quite work when the decor is more canteen than cosy. But the upstairs looks like it could be more comfortable.
Verdict: One to revisit.
What It Is: A modern kebab restaurant in Covent Garden.
Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, Catching Up With Mates, Lunch
A modern kebab is a bit like an electric blanket. An interesting, but potentially dangerous idea. That’s pretty much what we experienced at Maison Bab. It’s a huge spot in Covent Garden with plenty of people, and plenty of enticing menu items. Some of the food we ate - not necessarily kebab related - was nice. Doner beignets, and a mutton curry hit the spot. As did the chicken shish. Other things, like the celeriac shish, and the pork shawarma, were less nice. It’s a busy place, but that doesn’t make up for the need for a flare gun to get some attention, and we couldn’t help feel a bit meh about the whole experience.
Verdict: Good enough for a work lunch. Not good enough to go out of your way for.
What It Is? An all-day bar and restaurant on Upper Street, serving cocktails and Mediterranean sharing plates.
Perfect For: Drinks And A Light Bite, Casual Weeknight Dinner, Catching Up With Mates, Cheap Eats, Big Groups
The first thing we thought when we walked into Alphabet was ‘this is just a bar, we’ve been had’. However, once we made it past all the people getting merry, we discovered a fairly roomy restaurant at the back. Our goat’s cheese and merguez flatbread was perfectly tasty, it just wasn’t as good as our cocktails. This place does an all-day happy hour during the week, so all of their many, many cocktails are £7. We tried The Warning Sign (rhubarb gin, pickled blueberries, lemon sherbet and hibiscus soda). It was pretty good.
Verdict: This feels more like a cocktail bar with some very nice Mediterranean snacks. We’ll be back in to get more acquainted with all 33 of their cocktails, and maybe even try a tagine.
What It Is: A meat-forward restaurant in Shoreditch.
Perfect for: Date Night, Affordable Mid-Week Dinner, Sunday Roast
We couldn’t find much not to love about Blacklock. But then again, we’re meat lovers. It would almost certainly be a different story for a vegetarian, because there’s not a lot for them to eat here. We had a great pile of chops served in a meat juice drenched flat bread and it only cost us £20 each. Well, it would have only cost us £20 each if we hadn’t gone a bit crazy on the £5 cocktails.
Verdict: This is not the best meal you’ll ever eat, but it’s fun, and it’s hard to fault the price. Best enjoyed with a big group of thirst and carnivorous friends.
What It Is: A dark and cosy sharing plates restaurant in Shoreditch.
Perfect For: Date Night
We’d been eyeing up this sharing plates spot for a couple of months. When we finally made it in, we liked the location, lighting, and cocktail list, but couldn’t work out why it was so empty. A glance at the menu and we were most of the way towards solving the riddle. They recommend three sharing plates per person, but most of the sharing plates come in at over £15, and while they were pretty good, that’s just way too expensive. The bone marrow wagyu burger was well worth the money though, and it went down well with a cocktail.
Verdict: We might come here often if it wasn’t so expensive. If you’re looking for a great date night hack, come in for a burger and a cocktail.
What It Is: A South American steakhouse in Southwark.
Perfect For: A Casual Mid-Week Dinner.
We went for The Parrillada “El clásico” which means we got a taste of everything. There were two types of steak, two types of sausage, and it came with what can only be described as a boat-load of melted cheese. It’s not the best steak we’ve ever had in London, but it was semi-reasonably priced.
Verdict: Not a restaurant to trek across town for, but if you’re in Southwark and craving a steak, it’s reasonably satisfying.
Flesh & Buns
What It Is: A new bigger restaurant from the Bone Daddies lot.
Perfect For: Wasting Your Time And Money
Like a sailor drawn by siren calls, we were attracted to this glistening new spot. It’s got a sexy interior, an exciting looking open kitchen, and a pisco trolley that you can call with the press of a button. But once the food was in our faces things turned ugly. Our sushi rolls looked and tasted like runners up at a local flower show, they charged us extra to have buns around our baos, and extra again for a crappy little slice of cucumber and lettuce salad, the fried squid was so salty we were unable to eat it, and the £24 short rib did nothing to justify the price. There were some high points. The pisco sours were pretty good, and the chicken wings were really very good (although they were also quite similar to the ones you get at Bone Daddies, only at an inflated price). The Nutella dessert was nice too.
Verdict: When Nutella is the highlight of a really pricey meal, you know things are bad.
What It Is: A casual wine bar and small plates restaurant near Tufnell Park.
Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, First/Early In The Game Date, Date Night, Catching Up With Mates
We stopped by this spacious wine shop on a Saturday night, and were not disappointed. Despite it being busy, we still managed to walk in and and grab a couple of seats on the corner of their small bar. This place is run by a bunch of French guys, they serve exclusively Francophone wines, and their selection of wines available by the glass move around from one region (of France, obviously) to the next. A couple of glasses of Cahors, and a plancha of cheese later, we were fairly satisfied. The wine was a bit pricey but excellent, and the cheese selection was substantial without being overly generous. Different story with the bread, which just kept on coming, and was probably the best baguette we’ve had in London.
Verdict: An excellent spot for a casual date night or an evening out with small group of friends and some very good wine. We’ll be back soon to try their small plates menu.
What It Is: A pub with grub on Haverstock Hill.
Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, Date Night, Catching Up With Mates, Lunch
The Belrose is a pub refurb where the emphasis has been on creating a casual and communal space. It worked. We didn’t find it to be the cosiest pub in NW3, but the pizzas are solid, and there’s more bottled beers on sale here than we’ll ever have the time to sample.
Verdict: Fine for a casual pizza with friends and family if you’re in the neighbourhood.
What It Is: A casual Bengali restaurant in Covent Garden.
Perfect For: Lunch, Casual Weeknight Dinner, Catching Up With Mates
We stopped in for lunch and were generally impressed with the variety of food on offer. It’s made up of small and large sharing plates which are all fairly reasonably priced. The doi papri chat was the standout dish for us, and while the rest of our order was nice enough, nothing else made much of an impact.
Verdict: A nice spot for a casual, no fuss lunch or dinner, especially if you’re rolling with a crew of four to six people.
What It Is: A Japanese market and canteen at Westfield White City.
Perfect For: Lunch, Quick Eats
We’d expected Ichiba to be more of a Hawker style market than it actually is. What we found was a well-stocked Japanese food market. There’s a sake bar, and a takoyaki and yakisoba kiosk, but apart from that it’s just a single counter where you order the rest of your food. We steered clear of the Shoryu ramen and ordered instead some gyoza and a bowl of beef sukiyaki with soba noodles. We were not overly impressed. While prices are not particularly high, we expected more flavour and more quantity, and the gyoza were nothing more than fine.
Verdict: A decent enough spot for a quick and relatively inexpensive bite at Westfield. But, unlike some of the other food markets popping up across London, there’s no need to make a special trip there.
What It Is: A new bigger restaurant from the Gunpowder team, serving the same home-style Indian food they make at their Spitalfields spot.
Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, Date Night, Literally Everyone, Catching Up With Mates, Lunch
When an excellent restaurant opens a second site, it’s a problem. Not because it’s a bad thing, but because of the expectations. Crippling, crippling expectations. We love the original Gunpowder so we expected to feel the same way about this slick new incarnation. We were (briefly) put off because it’s located in a new development - a glassy, yellow-bricked, straight outta Foxtons thing. But that doesn’t matter because inside is quite lovely and roomy, and what we ate was superb. Gunpowder classics like the venison and vermicelli doughnut or lamb chops are still excellent in their new location, while the new cheese and chutney toastie is an instant classic. Although we ate a sizeable chunk of the menu, an order of a doughnut and another snack, plus a portion of rabbit pulao between two would come to £20 each.
Verdict: Tastier than an Eastenders Christmas special from the mid-noughties, it’s going on the Hit List.
Beef & Brew
What It Is: A small spruced up pub in De Beauvoir Town with craft beers (obviously) and a kitchen specialising in steaks, meat sandwiches and burgers.
Perfect for: Catching Up With Mates, Casual Weeknight Dinner, Drinks And A Light Bite, Outdoor Seating
We stopped into Beef and Brew for a quick drink and an early evening steak, The price and the service was perfectly fine, but the brisket jam nuggets weren’t quite as good our server’s description of them. The £10 early-bird onglet and fries special was perfectly fine.
Verdict: A decent spot for a quick and easy steak and beer. We’ll be back to check out the burgers and other offerings.
Old Compton Brasserie
What It Is: A big, all day brasserie in Soho.
Perfect For: Birthdays, Catching Up With Mates, Lunch, Special Occasions
We headed to this new spot on Old Compton Street on a Friday night, armed with the knowledge that there were many, many cocktails to be had. There’s also brass detailing, big leather booths, plenty of meaty mains, a shiny marble bar where bearded men make boozy drinks, exposed brick, several vegan plant-based options, and a large mural of Bjork. Interesting. Our onglet was tasty enough, if slightly overcooked, but the vegan burger was actually really delicious. Sure, this is the kind of place where the cocktails are named after ‘Soho legends’, and our drinks came with sparklers, but the atmosphere is fun, and the all day menu very affordable.
Verdict: A handy Soho spot to have in your back pocket, and we’ll be back to try more of the menu.
What It Is: A NYC Chinese restaurant transplanted to Covent Garden.
Perfect for: Date Night, Escaping The Crowds, Catching Up With Mates
Our first impressions of this small restaurant was that there’s lots of staff. We figured that’d mean we’d get some great service, but as our meal went on we got increasingly over-attentive, fussy service, and it almost ruined what might otherwise have been a nice casual dinner. The beef fried rice and duck wide noodles were both fine but forgettable, however the cheeseburger spring rolls were an excellent starter, and the soup dumplings were exceptional, possibly the best we’ve ever had in London.
Verdict: Annoying service and prices that add up are more than compensated for by the soup dumplings.
What It Is: A new high end South American restaurant just off Kensington High Street
Perfect For: Date Night, Catching Up With Mates
We found something a little jarring about Zuaya. Maybe it was the decor, which is luxurious but inconsistent, and which we couldn’t quite square with the house music pounding in the background. As the night went on, the service was sometimes inattentive, but the food was pretty fun. We ate a very tasty duck salad, and some good looking prawns, but there was also a pretty tasteless duck stew, and our order of ‘Tacos for 2’ contained - frustratingly - three tacos.
Verdict: Zuaya is totally fine, not too ridiculously expensive for the area, and some of the food is pretty decent.
La Brasseria Milanese
What It Is: A good looking Italian brasserie in Marylebone
Perfect For: Wasting Your Time And Money
We came across La Brasseria Milanese on a perfect late summer evening. It seemed to have good lighting, beautiful interiors, and the patio was full of people lounging in the evening sun, looking like they were having a great time. Unfortunately the food was an absolute mess. Everything we ordered - from a disappointing tuna tartare and a tasteless carpaccio with truffle, through to a very poor chicken parm and veal escalope - suggested a paint-by-numbers approach to Italian food, and very little flair.
Verdict: Lots of style and very little substance. We won’t be rushing back for the food but can’t rule out stopping by for a drink at the bar or out on the patio.
Boxcar Baker And Deli
What It Is: A bakery, deli and butcher in Marylebone that’s also open for sit down lunch and dinner.
Perfect For: Quick Eats, Lunch, Casual Weekday Dinner
Boxcar Baker is a trendy looking spot in Marylebone, and is a bit of a jack of all trades. It’s a deli, a butchers, and a bakery. Unfortunately, on our visit, it was a master of none of those trades. The pastries were average, and the lamb chops were a disgrace. On the plus side, the burger was pretty damn good.
Verdict: Boxcar is fine for a sit down burger if you’re in the area and their all-day menu could be useful if you’re in a tight spot.
The Chipping Forecast Soho
What It Is: A slightly modernised take on the classic fish and chip shop, situated in the heart of Soho.
Perfect For: Catching Up With Mates, Casual Weeknight Dinner, Lunch, Takeaway, Literally Everyone
The Chipping Forecast has the classic, unmistakeable scent of battered fish, but there’s not a plastic counter, wooden chip fork, or reproduction painting of a Sailboat At Dawn in sight. The tables are wooden, there’s suave brown leather seating, and crab mac ’n’ cheese on the menu. Yup, there’s even cocktails. This is fish and chips, gone just a little bit fancy. We had the cod scotch egg (not so special), the crab mac ’n’ cheese (tasty) and, of course, the cod and chips (very good). We also, very boldly, ordered a couple of mojitos and if you’ve ever left a tinny in a tent for three days and then decided to drink it anyway, you get a good idea of what they tasted like.
Verdict: A really nice restaurant for a classic British fish supper. We’ll be coming back, but when we do we’ll probably stick to the classics and completely avoid the cocktails.
What It Is: An affordable handmade pasta spot in Covent Garden.
Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, Date Night, Literally Everyone, Catching Up With Mates, Lunch
Bancone is all about pasta. Hand-made, fresh, butter dripping pasta. There are 11 dishes to choose from, ranging from a slow cooked oxtail ragu pappardelle to a brown shrimp and seaweed butter tagliolini. Of those we tried, all were pretty delicious, but the silk handkerchiefs (entirely glorious squares of thin pasta) with hazelnut butter and confit egg yolk were the standout. This is the kind of dish you travel across town for, and merrily wade through Covent Garden’s three billion tourists to eat. The fact that the pastas range from just £7.50 to £13.50 is just a bonus.
Verdict: The silk handkerchiefs alone are worth a visit, it’s going on the Hit List.
Casa do Frango
What It Is: A-more-upmarket-than-Nando’s piri piri chicken place in Southwark/London Bridge.
Perfect For: Catching Up With Mates, Casual Weeknight Dinner, Group Dinners, Date Night, Lads Night Out, Girls Night Out, Literally Everyone
It was only a matter time before somebody ran with the Nando’s idea and took it up a notch. That’s pretty much what Casa Do Frango has done. It’s above Native in Southwark/London Bridge, and the room is similarly bright and airy, but with the happy buzz that only a busy piri piri restaurant provides. What we ate was undeniably better than the famous all-conquering chain. Fried sardines with paprika aioli and lemon are a simple and tasty start, but what you come here for is the chicken. A half is £9 and it’s as juicy and charred as a Brit on holiday. The one piri piri sauce here is nice, we’d rank it as medium on the Nando’s scale, and the chips were decently crispy. It was busy, not surprising given the value and quality, but the iffy service meant that we couldn’t help but think a bit wistfully about the ease and familiar satisfaction of you know what.
Verdict: An excellent shout when you’re in the area and someone’s pining for Nando’s, but you want something different.
Maple Restaurant And Bar
What It Is: A big all day drinking and dining spot in the new Westfield London development.
Perfect For: Lunch, Cheap Eats, Drinks And A Light Bite
Maple is very pretty. As soon as we walked in there was a lot of ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the copper details, the shiny bar with ember glass, and the big red booths. Sadly, that was where the wonder ended. The ‘botanical cocktails’ were basically a nice standard tipple with a flower thrown in for good measure. This time at least, the food felt a bit like someone performing a terrible jazz rendition of your favourite Beatles song. Our crab linguine would have been lovely, if they hadn’t laced it with so much chilli that our earlobes started sweating. Our chicken with gnocchi and summer squash was more like eating tiny rock-solid roasted potatoes (do not deny us promised gnocchi), and the squash was raw. Maybe, just maybe, they were having an off night, or they haven’t quite hit their pace, so we’ll be back to check it out again.
Verdict: A nice looking spot for a drink.
The Lebanese Bakery
What It Is: A grab-and-go middle-eastern bakery in Covent Garden with the option to grab and stay.
Perfect For: Lunch, Takeaway
We can still taste the hummus from The Lebanese Bakery. It really lingers. But, in a good way. Actually, in a great way. The hummus came in a tub the size of a brick with just the right amount of olive oil, toasted pine nuts and, was served with a fluffy white dough flatbread that could feed a family of four. They’re open from early to late, and we went in the evening but it felt like the kind of place you’d want to hit for lunch. The flatbreads were delicious. Especially the minced beef, lamb and pomegranate manousheh, which tasted of Christmas and summer simultaneously.
Verdict: A definite spot to hit for lunch in Covent Garden, but not necessarily the best spot for a sit-down catch up.
What It Is: A homemade pasta restaurant off Abbey Road.
Perfect For: Catching Up With Mates, Date Night, Literally Anyone
With its filament bulbs and minimal monochrome decor, Morso feels very Padella but without the queues. There was a good crowd on the weekday evening we visited, and the pasta was excellent. A couple of the sauces were slightly lacklustre (mascarpone and ’nduja was particularly disappointing) but the cacio e pepe was very good. We also enjoyed the polenta crisps.
Verdict: A solid shout if you’re in northwest London and can’t be bothered to trek into town for some properly good pasta.
The Coal Office
What It Is: An upscale middle-eastern restaurant at Granary Square from the team behind The Palomar.
Perfect For: Impressing Out Of Towners, Action At The Bar, Date Night
Despite arriving at 6pm, just as they opened, we were told they were all booked up and so we’d have to sit at the counter. This wasn’t a problem because the counter overlooks the open kitchen, and if you’ve ever eaten at The Palomar you’ll know just how fun it can be to watch these chefs do their thing. We were greeted with a shot of punch to get us started, and followed up with a couple of excellent cocktails and the kubalah, one of three freshly baked breads on offer. It was served with yoghurt, and we ordered a plate of chilli dips to go with it. It was incredible. A few of the sharing plates were underwhelming (sashimi, polenta) but the chicken liver pate was fantastic, as was a fig dessert which was served with tahini ice cream.
Verdict: This is an exciting place to be, but it’s expensive, and the food didn’t hit all the marks we hoped it would. We’ll be back to give it another try before deciding whether it gets a spot on the Hit List.
What It Is: A vegetable and fermented foods focused spot in Fitzrovia from the Ottolenghi empire.
Perfect For: Date Night, Perfect For Everyone, Impressing Out Of Towners. Keeping It Kinda Healthy
This place is a well-oiled machine, and we could tell from the moment we walked in that they know exactly what they’re doing. We sat at the bar because, even on a weekday night, it was completely booked out, but this is a great place to be. It seemed appropriate to start with a couple of cocktails, including a very good lapsang souchong old fashioned, but everything else at Rovi is for sharing, and everything was bigger than we expected it to be. From the £5 tomato salad, to the celeriac shawarma, which at £14.50 was not only one of the best value dishes we’ve had in London recently, but is also hands down, one of the best things we’ve eaten in London this year. Honestly, the shawarma and the corn ribs (a slightly alien looking ear of corn) was all we really needed, and these two dishes alone are reason to come back again and again. And again.
Verdict: We love this place and it’s going on the Hit List.
Lady Of The Grapes
What It Is: A female winemaker focused wine bar in Covent Garden.
Perfect For: Drinks And A Light Bite, Date Night
Lady Of The Grapes quickly became the kind of place that someone would have to drag us out of come midnight whilst we cradle a bottle of organic Slovakian wine to our chest. The atmosphere, the cheese, the rustic interior, was all very addictive. We can’t speak for their French tapas as we didn’t try it, but we’ll definitely be back to check out the full menu and honestly, we’re pretty hyped to get back to exploring that wine list.
Verdict: A truly lovely wine bar that has all the potential to be a Covent Garden favourite.
What It Is: A new British restaurant from the people behind Kitty Fisher’s.
Perfect For: Date Night, Dinner With Parents, Lunch, Catching Up With Mates
We’re big fans of Kitty Fisher’s, so we went into Cora Pearl with pretty high hopes. The feel of the restaurant is a bit different. It’s more Soho Farmhouse than country manor house. But the food is similar. Basically tarted up meat/fish and two veg. A few dishes were really excellent - the veal, the most impressively engineered chips we’ve ever had, and milk and cookies - but some were less so. It’s not that there were low points. It was more like there were some highs, and some slightly less highs.
Verdict: An excellent addition to Covent Garden, and a worthy addition to our Hit List. Also, the chips win a spot in the potato hall of fame.
What It Is: A seriously upscale restaurant sitting on the upper floor of Japan House at High Street Kensington
Perfect For: Corporate Cards, Wasting Your Time And Money
There’s no doubt about it, Akira is beautiful. Unfortunately, the food is, well, just food. Actually, it’s very expensive food. It’s all served on big rocks and in bento boxes, which we guess is supposed to impress. It doesn’t. And nor does it justify the frankly stupid prices. The sushi is perfectly fine, but some of the more innovative combinations (orange ponzu) just don’t work.
The Verdict: If you want some imaginative and expensive Japanese food, just head across the road to Yashin Sushi. If you want to spend a pile of dough to eat okay food in a stunning room, come here.
What It Is: A casual small plates and pasta place in Crouch End, with specialities from all over Italy.
Perfect For: Catching Up With Mates, Date Night, Solo Dining, A Casual Weeknight Dinner, Lunch
We’re fans of Paesan’s original spot on Exmouth Market, so when they took over an empty site in Crouch End, we raced over to check it out. It’s a small and intimate spot and already mobbed with locals in the evening, so we went for a quick solo lunch at the counter downstairs. We were not disappointed. We ordered the Pugliese garlic bread, a generous but inexpensive bowl of orecchiette with friarelli and n’duja (also from Puglia), and a flourless chocolate cake for pudding. All were good. And we’d happily eat it all over again.
Verdict: This is a perfectly fine and inexpensive everyday option if you’re a local, or if you’re heading up to Ally Pally for a thing. Also, the menu lets you do an eating tour of Italy without leaving north London.
photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli
What It Is: A £20 million mega-restaurant thing in Mayfair. There’s a downstairs bar, an upstairs tasting menu spot, and all-day fine dining on the ground floor.
Perfect For: Breakfast, Corporate Cards, Impressing Out Of Towners, Special Occasions
Our first impression of Hide was that there’s lots of wood in there. The whole restaurant is like the the creative vision of a Bond villain who was tormented by bark as a child. It’s magnificent. But it’s also quite a lot. We opted to eat our early dinner à la carte on the ground floor, and found it slightly hit and miss. Starters were uniformly excellent, a barbecued octopus main was spectacular, but the lamb dish we ordered failed to blow our minds. While we’re complaining, the bread was ho-hum. Oh, and it was really expensive.
The Verdict: This place does some very nice food, but it comes at a price. We’ll be back soon to dig a little deeper.
What is it: A casual small plates restaurant serving modern European food in St James’s.
Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, Catching Up With Mates, Date Night, Dinner With The Parents, Eating At The Bar, Literally Everyone
When we walked into Scully we were convinced we’d stepped through some kind of tesseract. One minute we were in St James’s, in the heart of establishment London, the next, we were doing the small plates thing, sitting at casual counter seating, and wondering what they keep in all those mysterious pickle jars. We could have been in the depths of Peckham or Hackney, and it was a fantastic surprise. As was the food. We ate a spiced chickpea snack that should be served at every bar in London, a short rib croquette that we now want to get delivered to our office every day, and a fresh tomato salad served in a sauce that made us want to lick our plate clean.
Verdict: We’ve put Scully on our Hit List and we’ll be coming back here with all our friends.
Abd El Wahab
What It Is: A massive Lebanese Restaurant in Belgravia.
Perfect For: Corporate Cards
This smart, good looking restaurant is perfectly fine. They serve all the dishes you’d expect of a Lebanese restaurant in London: hummus, grilled meats, halloumi. But it all felt rather clinical.
Verdict: By all means go if you’re in the area and need a spot for a business lunch. Be warned though: this place has zero bants.
Cecconi's Pizza Bar
What It Is: An all-day (and late-night) pizza and pasta spot in Soho.
Perfect For: Catching Up With Mates, Cheap Eats, Dining Solo, Lunch, Literally Everyone
Walking into Cecconi’s is like walking into any other Italian-themed restaurant in any city on earth. There’s nothing particularly special or notable about it, except for the outstanding value £10 pizza and a beer (or glass of wine) weekday lunch. At that price we might have forgiven our pizza for being merely okay. It wasn’t. It was actually fairly good.
The Verdict: A new go-to for an unspectacular, but cheap and civilised lunch in Soho.
The Hero Of Maida
What It Is: An old pub in Maida Vale that’s been converted into a posh bistro.
Perfect For: Dinner With Parents, Outdoor Seating, Group Dinners, Impressing Out Of Towners, Sunday Roast
The Hero of Maida is just about as gorgeous as a pub conversion gets. It’s still recognisable as a boozer, but it’s had an elegant facelift, and the soaring ceilings and massive windows made it an incredibly nice place to have a meal. We knew much of the menu from our visits to their sister restaurant in Clerkenwell, and the French-style bistro food here was just as good. In particular, the grilled rabbit topped with bacon, and served in a creamy mustard sauce, was outstanding.
The Verdict: An excellent spot for any occasion. Even if you’re not local, it’s worth travelling to Little Venice for. We’re putting it on our Hit List.
What It Is: A wine bar in Spitalfields with food by pasta-specialists, the Sood Family.
Perfect For: Lunch, Catching Up With Mates, Dining Solo, First/Early In The Game Dates,
This wine bar at Old Spitalfields Market had been on our radar since we heard that pasta specialists, the Sood Family, were moving here from their former spot in the Spitalfields Kitchens. Our first visit was for a light lunch with a glass of wine, and we were not disappointed. With dozens of wine available by the glass, there’s plenty of drinking options. And the food is on point too. Particularly an excellent bowl of handmade spaghetti all’amatriciana with crispy guanciale.
The Verdict: A really good new food and wine spot for Spitalfields. We’ll definitely be back.
What It Is: A restaurant and wine shop near the Canonbury Overground station.
Perfect For: Date Night, Casual Weeknight Dinner, Catching Up With A Friend, Drinks And A Light Bite, Outdoor Seating
This cute little wine shop and restaurant has all the makings of a neighbourhood gem. It’s the kind of place you’d want to wander down to after a long day at work, when you just can’t face opening the fridge. At least that’s why we went. It didn’t disappoint. A big, rustic plate of fregola with pigs cheek and spring onions was perfectly satisfying. We will be back, because it seems like it could be fun spot to hang out at with friends.
The Verdict: A decent new local restaurant and wine shop that should become a regular spot for those living in the area.
What It Is: A casual Burmese restaurant in Shoreditch
Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, Catching Up With Mates, Date Night, Keeping It Kinda Healthy, Vegetarians,
Lahpet’s new spot on the Bethnal Green Road is all dim lighting, cocktails and curries to share. Our lentil curry, baked aubergine, and chickpea paratha were all very satisfying. We’ll be sticking to the vegetarian options next time though because the pork and dish curries didn’t blow us away.
The Verdict: Decent. Not one to travel across London for, but an excellent back-pocket restaurant for when you’re in the area.
What It Is: A casual laksa bar on the Holloway Road.
Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, Date Night, Catching Up With Mates, Solo Dining, Action At The Bar
After a short wait, we got a seat at the bar and ordered a hefty portion of laksa, a Malay spicy noodle soup with king prawns and chicken. It tasted very good, it had a proper kick (and by proper we mean, like a drop kick to the private parts), and we’ll definitely be back to try side plates like fried chicken, salads with peanut sauce, and some of the rice dishes once the new opening excitement dies down a bit.
The Verdict: A welcome addition to north London, we’ll be heading back once they get into their stride.
photo credit: Karolina Wiercigroch
What It Is: An Indian meat specialist in the City.
Perfect For: Action At The Bar, Big Groups, Birthdays, Catching Up With Mates, Guys Night, Girls Night Out, Impressing Out Of Towners, Outside Seating, Literally Everyone, Sports
Walking into Brigadiers we found it hard not to let out a long, hard ‘phwoar’. It’s a maze of a restaurant, and behind every corner, there was something else we wanted to do: book one of their private dining rooms for our next party, rent the pool room and tell them to keep bringing the pao while we help ourselves to beer and whisky, sit at the bar grazing on masala chicken skins whilst watching the game... The list could go on. But, as well as being a playground for grownup children, it’s also a spectacular Indian restaurant. From the butter chicken wings and bhajis, to the bone marrow and beef shin biryani, everything is first class. We’ll definitely be back.
The Verdict: A serious contender for our favourite Indian restaurant in London, we’re putting it on the Hit List.
St Leonards Restaurant is permanently closed
St Leonards Restaurant
What It Is: A sleek sharing plates spot in Shoreditch.
Perfect For: Date Night, Catching Up With Mates.
St. Leonards, is a spacious, modern feeling spot on a back street in Shoreditch serving meat and fish and veg. Everything manages to be both simple and complicated at the same time, if that makes sense. We had grilled hake with a crab aioli, and a charred cabbage with a pork and xo crumb. It was fine. Nice enough at times. But not very memorable. We’ll have to come back and try it again.
The Verdict: Nothing about the food left much of an impression. Neither a good one, nor a particularly bad one.
Xi’an Biang Biang Noodles
What It Is: A Spitalfields spot specialising in Xi’an cuisine.
Perfect For: Cheap Eats
The food at Xi’an Biang Biang didn’t make us very happy. That’s not to say it was terrible, it just wasn’t great. Actually, that’s a lie, the potstickers and the pork burger were fairly terrible. But, the pork and vegetable wonton in chicken broth and the cold noodles were nice enough. It felt a bit like getting back from a first date and mumbling ‘it was alright’ to your friends. You know it wasn’t a complete waste of time, but are you going to see them again? Possibly not.
The Verdict: If we happened to live or work on Wentworth Street and wanted some hand pulled noodles, we’d happily hit Xi’an Biang Biang. However, we don’t.
What It Is: A vast Turkish restaurant in Mayfair.
Perfect For: Girls Night Out, Guys Night Out, Catching Up With Mates, Group Dinners, Action At The Bar, Corporate Cards
The first thing we noticed when we entered Ruya was just how big it is. It’s an enormous corridor of a restaurant. It just seems to go on forever. The other thing we noticed was how empty it was on the weekday lunchtime we visited. We were two of about ten diners, and by our count we were outnumbered 4:1 by staff. The upshot was very attentive service, which isn’t something to grumble about. Nor was the food. Generous portions of cheesy, egg-y pide, calamari, and aubergine crisps got us started, followed by some kebabs, some fish, and a couple of decent desserts.
The Verdict: The food here is fine. In fact it’s slightly better than just fine. We’ll have to return in the evening to see if it gets any better (and busier) though.
Lina Stores – 51 Greek Street
What It Is: A pasta bar in Soho from the 70 year-old deli on Brewer Street.
Perfect For: Dinner With Parents, Date Night, Casual Midweek Dinner, Practically Everyone, Catching Up With Mates
Lina Stores on Greek Street feels like going back in time to the Soho of our dreams. Upstairs is all bustling counter and charming ice-cream parlour pastels, but we ate downstairs. We’re glad we did. It’s far roomier down there, and we needed the space when we ordered everything they had an offer. The aubergine polpettes made for an especially good starter, and truffle and ricotta tortellini were rich and delicious. That’s not to say the menu is all fancy. In fact it’s perfectly sized, and excellent value for the quality.
The Verdict: Not every pasta was a hit, but this is charming new spot in Soho for a casual meal.
What It Is: A wine bar and sharing plates place in Shoreditch.
Perfect For: Eating At The Bar, First/Early In The Game Dates, Small Plates, Catching Up With Mates, Dinner With Parents
London probably doesn’t need another natural wine and sharing plates place, but Leroy, an airy restaurant on the corner of a relatively peaceful Shoreditch backstreet, is low-key and comfortable enough to stand out from the crowd. There’s a choice of nibbles, some vegetables, some pasta, a bit of salad, and some meat and fish options. There’s also lots of very good wine. To go with our glass of aglianico, we had the house salad. It came buried under slivers of cheese (like all good salads should) and was delicious. The rest of our order - asparagus and ricotta, a plate of cavatelli with mushrooms, and some boudin noir - was fine, if slightly unmemorable.
The Verdict: We anticipate spending lots of time in this delightful room, especially when we’re happy for the food to play second fiddle to the wine.
What It Is: A Fitzrovia Neapolitan pizza specialist.
Perfect For: Cheap Eats, Casual Weeknight Dinner, Literally Everyone, Vegetarians
Whenever we head into Fitzrovia to check out a new spot, we kind of expect an expensive experience. Santa Maria certainly isn’t that. It’s a clean and bright restaurant which was just the perfect amount of busy on the weekday evening we visited. The menu is made up almost entirely pizzas, and they’re good: all rich tomato sauce and thin crispy base. This is what we came here for, although we couldn’t resist that urge to order some meatballs on the side. We were not disappointed.
The Verdict: An excellent addition to Fitzrovia serving quality food at reasonable prices.
What It Is: A Hackney Wick, seafood-focused, sharing/small plates spot.
Perfect For: Corporate Cards, Small Plates
Cornerstone is in a bright room that feels modern and fresh. Unfortunately, besides a decent but tiny potted shrimp crumpet, and an £18 plate containing three scallops in green sauce, the food was unmemorable. A sickly sweet pork belly dish was downright unpleasant. Friendly service and an oddly generous crumble for dessert wasn’t enough to salvage a meal that we were still hungry at the end of.
The Verdict: We’ll come back here for dinner as the menu changes regularly, but at the moment it feels like a nice place that’s being let down by the food.
photo credit: Karolina Wiercigroch
Temper Covent Garden
What It Is: A third restaurant from The Temper people focussed on fake pasta and amazing pizza
Perfect For: Literally Everyone, Fun Date Night, Girls And Boys Night Out,
This new spot from the crew behind Temper City and Temper Soho is a little bit the same, but also quite a bit different from those other outposts. It’s the same in that it’s got a similar air of excitement about it, like a party could break out at any moment. But it’s different in that it specialises in pizzas rather than the meats on offer at those other restaurants. In typically iconoclastic fashion, the pizzas come with weird toppings, some of which were wonderful, like the cheeseburger and kimchi Detroit-style pies. Elsewhere on the menu, something called ‘not-pasta’ features batshit inventions like lardo carbonara, where the lardo stands in for pasta. It’s every bit as filthy as it sounds.
The Verdict: We like this place a lot. It’s fun, it gives zero f*cks, and serves cool, slightly ridiculous food that we’ve never had anywhere else. We’ve added it to our Hit List.
photo credit: Karolina Wiercigroch
What It Is: A loud and proud spot in Soho serving Japanese and Korean inspired sharing dishes.
Perfect For: Small Plates, Quick Lunch, Group Dinner, Before You Go Out Out
Inko Nito is a spacious, calming refuge from the madness of Soho. For this first visit, we took a counter seat, and ordered a brace of dishes. A fresh hamachi salad, some nigaki (which is described as something between maki and nigiri), the whisky glazed pork belly and cauliflower with parmesan panko from the robata grill. And some fried chicken. Obviously. Everything we had was good, although only the charred coconut soft serve we had for dessert was legitimately great.
The Verdict: Inko Nito is a fun, casual, and relatively inexpensive new spot in Soho.
The Duke of Richmond
What It Is: A new posh pub in Hackney.
Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner, Dinner With Parents, Catching Up With Mates
The Duke of Richmond is the kind of spot we were hoping would be great. That way we’d be there everyday. Unfortunately things were merely fine. A duck salad tasted like the kind of thing that would get served at a nice dinner party food, but the brown butter skate was so buttery, we had to have a serious lie down afterwards. As a result we skipped dessert.
The Verdict: Underwhelming, but we’ll be back.
What It Is: Italian small plates on a courtyard in Covent Garden.
Perfect For: Eating With Parents, Business Lunch, Mid-Week Dinner, Date Night
This peaceful spot in the heart of the West End has something for everyone. There’s a good selection of pastas, tiny (over priced) wood fire pizzetta’s, and meat off the grill. There’s nothing on the food front that wowed us, but we were able to nab a sunny table on the courtyard and that was fairly delightful.
The Verdict: A solid spot in a really nice location.