Friday, December 3, 2010

London Restaurant Reviews

At 'Texture'

To mark THREE MONTHS in London I thought I’d give a quick overview of all the restaurants I’ve patronised. There does seem to be an awful lot of them. Considering that I’m supposed to be living ‘la vie boheme’ – the student life – I have done very well on the eating front. Some of the snippets below are collected from earlier posts, with some new comments and additions.

Here’s my own personal star system:

*Never eat there (nothing on my list goes this low).
**Adequate, unlikely to go back.
***Good, return visit likely.
****Liked it a lot, would love to go back.
*****El bulli standard (nothing on this list rates this highly).

You'll appreciate that there's a mixed bag here, from cafe chains to Michelin stars, so the relativities don't really make sense, so just treat the star system as my own idiosyncratic thing, OK?

101 Restaurant                  ***

This evening I had a last minute invitation from a friend visiting London to join her for dinner, so I went to Knightsbridge, where we at 101 restaurant, a favourite of Brigitta’s. Norwegian crab claws from the Barent Sea (known as the most dangerous catch, because of the severe sea conditions), and something named ‘sea bass’ – I’m usually wary of anything bearing this name, but in this case it was delicious. Very classy restaurant. 

101 Restaurant at The Sheraton 

The Betjeman Arms
The Betjeman Arms       ***

Otherwise known as ‘the pub downstairs’, or – as they like to put it on their sign – ‘the last pub before Paris. This is a ‘gastro pub’, as pubs which serve decent food are known in London. I’ve had the British staples – bangers & mash, fish & chips, beef & Guinness stew – and they’re all very good. They have a fake fire in one room.

Bistrot Passage Cafe      ****

This tiny hole-in-the-wall bistro is terribly French. Carrollanne and I ate here soon after I arrived, and everything was delicious. They serve cider if you want it.

Bistrot Passage Cafe

Byron Hamburgers          **

Byron Hamburgers
We favoured Byron Hamburgers in Covent Garden with our custom - an upmarket hamburger joint. I enjoyed my meal very much, but Evan was less enthusiastic (as he has been generally unenthusiastic about London food so far - he finds it heavy compared to Sydney.) The burgers were generous and fresh, and the fries with aioli very delicious. It gets very crowded here, not a place for a solitary diner.

Carluccio's           ***

When I arrived in London, I had my eggs and cappuccino at Carluccio’s in Earlsfield, which is on a busy street inappropriately named Garrett’s Lane. At intervals the light from the front window is blocked by a big double-decker red London bus stopping at the bus stop outside. This one gets an invasion of mothers and babies by mid-morning. In St Pancras there’s a Carluccio’s on the Platform Level a few seconds from my front door. I favour it for supper after my late class on Mondays. They do lasagne like Italians should. I've also eaten at the Carluccio's in Covent Garden, and the one in the Brunswick Centre at Russell Square. They're pretty ubiquitous.


A very fun evening inspecting the art on sale, and chatting to the more interesting gallery people, was followed by an excellent dinner at The Chelsea Brasserie on Sloane Square (more new territory). Muchas gracias, Carrollanne. There was a choice of restaurants in Chelsea, but we were lucky to get a table at The Brasserie, which was hopping and full. The food was delicious, service slick. I’d go back.

Lunch today was a nice little meal in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, at Cooper’s, with new acquaintance Gail. The food was fine, and the service friendly, although they completely dismantled our table at the end of the meal when we went to the loo. Kind of odd.

A nice business lunch-y kind of place (they give you little note pads on the tables with which to take business notes, should you be sealing a crucial deal or something like that). I like the food (especially the cauliflower soup) and the portions are not too ridiculously large for lunch. We had a very pleasant time, and an amusing little Spanish red.

Indigo at One Aldwych

Jamie's Italian    ****

Jamie Oliver
For supper we stopped by Jamie's Italian - the Leicester Square version of Jamie Oliver's Italian chain. Very glad we did - this is a restaurant to which I'd happily return. We ordered straight-forward Italian dishes and they were straight forwardly delicious. The service was friendly. You can’t make a reservation here, but we had no trouble being seated after the theatre.

Le Pain Quotidien            ***

Le Pain Quotidien in St Pancras
I have changed my breakfast allegiance to the chain le Pain Quotidien. At my local version, I like to sit at the long wooden tables with lots of eccentric British people, and have a choice of rather good breads, and order soft boiled eggs (no poached available). The enormous soup-bowls of coffee are not too caffeine-heavy to order, because they are really just steamed milk with the vaguest suggestion of coffee flavour. The service is abysmal, but they are getting to know me. My local is very busy with St Pancras travellers.

Les Deux Salons       ****

Greeba and I enjoyed a yummy pre-theatre meal at Les Deux Salons just around the corner from the theatre in William IV Street, completing the French theme for the evening. I have been back to this one by myself – was crowded but they were happy to seat me at the bar, which was nice. The food is lovely butter-laden French. I have had slow cooked lamb with parsnip puree and it was very good. The ambience is classy French provincial. I like this one.

Rowley's             **

Pre-theatre dinner was in Jermyn Street at Rowley's, well-decorated, efficient (in London!), conveniently located and good plain food. It is known for its unlimited french fries, but we didn't avail ourselves of those.

Sarastro               **

This crazy place on Drury Lane is open late. It’s known for its wildly over-done decor and for playing loud opera music. The night that Evan and I went after the theatre the live music was Middle-Eastern. A large party was enjoying it, but it was a bit overwhelming for us. The food here is rather basic but was fine on the night we visited.

Tea & Tattle     ***

A sweet little teashop opposite the British Library, which is downstairs from an Oriental and African bookseller. They serve you huge servings of cake, scones, sandwiches - far too much, they'll go out of business at that rate - and a wide choice of proper tea. A nice interlude from museum-going or book shopping.

Texture             ***

We took ourselves out to dinner at a one-Michelin starred restaurant in Mayfair named Texture. The chef, Agnar Sverrisson (Aggi to his friends), is the first Icelandic chef to be awarded a Michelin star. His menu says that he aims to provide satisfying food which doesn’t make you feel over-full, and to assist this he avoids cream and butter in all his savoury dishes. Evan felt that this admirable aim was achieved. I am a poor food reviewer, but will mention that we had pigeon (Evan), scallops (me) and beef (both of us). I found the food very good, but rather too many ingredients in each dish (cucumber with my white chocolate; bacon popcorn with the pigeon), and due to the extremely thick accent of our waiter I had no idea what I was eating most of the time. I did like the ‘coconut ice’ which accompanied the scallops. The ambience (an old interior with a coat of white paint and modern furnishings) and the service were both excellent. This would be the most expensive restaurant on this list: very.


Kyle and I ate here while checking out Somerset House - we found it by lucky accident. The rooms are lovely - three of four different decors. The food - a Saturday brunch - was delicious, very slick service and great ambience.

Tom of Tom's Kitchen at Somerset House

This wine bar is off Bury Place, behind the London Review of Books Bookshop, and I've eaten there a couple of times after some intense book shopping. It's an order-at-the-bar kind of place, with outdoor seating and cosy indoors. Bangers & mash and a glass of red wine.

Wild Honey        ****

This rather lovely restaurant is run by the same people as Les Deux Salons (and Arbutus, where I have eaten in the past, not very enjoyably). The theme here is game meat, and there is even a warning on the menu that you might find shot in your dish (though we didn’t!) Evan and I both liked the meal very much. I had hare, but Evan could bring himself to try it, what with his pet rabbit Floppit waiting at home for him. The service was friendly and the small place is all wood grain and brown upholstery – but very slick. Nice.

Wild Honey

 Well, I thought that first three months in London had passed by very quickly. To judge by this list, that could be because I have spent so much time eating.

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