Category Archives: Best for Sunday lunch in London

The Landor pub, 70 Landor Road, Clapham North, SW9 9PH

One of my pet peeves about Clapham and Brixton is that there is a real dearth of really good pubs. Not so North London with amazing gastropubs like The Albion, Draper’s Arms,  The Scolt Head and the Bull & Last. West London’s also pretty good with the Prince of Wales in Putney, the Dove in Hammersmith, and all those lovely little pubs along the Thames. Brixton has some good places (particularly The Prince Regent and the Florence but these are more towards Herne Hill) but Clapham lags behind. Sure you can squeeze yourself into The Sun or The Falcon – and that was much fun in my 20s – but now I’m getting on a bit, I need a seat, and, y’know, for it to be quiet enough to talk and stuff. I’d also like some decent food and good wine, not served in pint glasses at £5 a pop. I’d also like everyone I know to move to Brixton and the moon on a stick, just so we’re clear.

And so for me, Clapham finds a winner in The Landor. It has a pool table for lazy Sunday afternoons. It has been done up and looks right nice. It has lovely new management who come out when you’re having a fag to suggest you might want to try the garden later on. It has a brilliant singer on Friday nights with a lovely voice. They’ve done up the beer garden out the back with a lovely covered walkway and trees with lights in them. You can always get a table. But the atmosphere’s still good.

Truth is, The Landor is an integral part of my London story. Lady B and I lived practically opposite for a couple of years in our 20s and were there all the time, often the morning after the night before pretty much in pajamas and with whoever had ended up crashing on the sofa in tow, often playing pool, eating Sunday roasts, drinking pints of beer and bottles of rose in the summer. Lady B once laid down full length on the pool table. She also once spilled a full glass of red wine on her white jeans and stuck her leg up on the bar in order to “salt” herself to get rid of the stain. We had birthdays there. We often invited half the pub back for after-beers. Lady B has settled down somewhat since then but going back there still makes me laugh at the fun times we had.

There’s even a theatre there seating 60 people – I bumped into the theatre director last Friday night in the garden and he is quite a character. I’ve not been yet but its on my list.

So there you have it – an ode to arguably my favourite pub in London, to fun times, and what I love about living here – a good old fashioned pub, with regulars at the bar, good music, Sunday roasts, a game of pool and a pint. Now just to tempt Lady B back to London so we can hang out there together again…

A roundup of recent posh dinners – Dean Street Townhouse, Les Deux Salons & Andrew Edmunds

1. Dean Street Townhouse, Soho

This is the perfect place to take your mum for pre-theatre dinner, or to sit outside drinking cocktails. Its lovely inside – all can-I-take-your-coat and chandeliers and chrome and candles and uniformed staff – and the service was brilliant. Fab toilets. My only complaint was getting told off for taking photos inside – apparently the artists who’d painted the wall art don’t approve, hmm. I ordered a main of monkfish and scallops and it was beautifully and delicately done, as was my mum’s pork. We were surrounded by American tourists and bankers, so it wasn’t quite the romantic atmosphere that screams date night, but it was perfect for me and El Madre.  It feels quaint and old-fashioned and elegant – I’d definitely like to go back with a wad of cash and try a bit more of the menu, or treat a friend on their birthday. The early evening menu is pretty good value – and they do special offers for pre and post theatre supper, and for lunch – check out the website.

Dean Street Townhouse on Urbanspoon

2. Les Deux Salons, Covent Garden

So I cycle past this little slice of France every day on the way to work and I had le soft spot for it – I love French bistros with their candles and white tablecloths and wood, the nice wine and the simple tasty dishes. It reminds me of naughty lunches with girlfriends, weekends in Paris and Brussels, and old-fashioned dates.

I tried it in a *slightly* different way – I went on a hen night of 21 girls in their awesome sound-proofed (thank God) private dining room, beautifully decorated with pink stuff, personalised menus, balloons and table names. What followed will stay amongst us 21 although I should say thank you (and sorry) to our lovely waiter Roman. The food was lovely too – fairly simple but great quality and really tasty – a lovely set menu of warm salt cod brandade, chicken with lemon and garlic with gratin dauphinois, followed by cheese – although the main restaurant was really quiet by the time we left. I’d put it down as a fantastic posh lunch place and I do recommend the brilliant private room – you can even play your own iPod – who’d have thunk behind those solid brass doors we were grinding to Rihanna? (Actually I think the hostesses thunked it – we got fantastically dirty looks on entry and exit – might have been the wigs and cork hat that did it).

Les Deux Salons on Urbanspoon

3. Andrew Edmunds, Soho

I have literally wanted to go to Andrew Edmunds for YEARS, ever since Lady B recommended it after a romantic evening with her now husband, and Time Out said it was a great place to take a long distant lover (Lady B had obviously done her research).  I’d heard people say it was overhyped, that the tables were too close together and the food was pretty average, but its a Soho institution, filled with media types, and as I’ve said before I love romantic bistros – candles in empty wine bottles and chalked menus on blackboards here, it didn’t disappoint – and booked a table for late supper with The Chef who used to take people there in his wine merchant days.

I was *so* excited about going there that my camera stayed resolutely in my bag – partly so I could savour the meal and enjoy the romance of it all, and partly because I was worried about the tables being so close. Sadly my work had other ideas and I was pestered pretty much non-stop throughout by a demanding client and a beeping blackberry – such is life.

Distractions aside, I really liked it – we got a booth and I did think it was a romantic, pretty restaurant, as did the other diners who were pretty much exclusively made up of couples. It is certainly one for date night rather than the girls. Service was friendly but pretty quick and although I don’t think The Chef was too impressed by the food (but then again if it isn’t Sechuanese at the moment, he’s likely to complain), I really liked it – a simple but tasty bowl of mussels to start, potted shrimp, stuffed rabbit with mash. It reminded me of the food at Vinoteca – homely and traditional and simple and really tasty, with a really good wine list. Our 2 course meal plus wine came to £35 each so it  was decent valud too.

Andrew Edmunds on Urbanspoon

Kaosarn, Brixton Village, Granville Arcade

Oh Khao San Road, Bangkok. How many times have I wandered down your bonkers strip, waiting for a bus to take me to Laos or Chaing Mai or the beaches in the South. How many times have I peered in the window of a tattoo parlour, panicked and walked away. How many times have I sniggered at the white kids getting corn rows or dreadlocks on your pavements, coo-ed at the stray puppies, admired ladyboys (but not their consorts), wandered round the surrounding alleyways with their Thai boxing dens and street food stalls where I ate phad thai and drank Singha or Beer Chang. Oh the fake Diesel jeans and the silver jewelry and the fisherman’s pants and the slogan t-shirts. How many times did I sleep in the Ghekko Guesthouse for a couple of dollars a night, lying under the broken fan to cool down. How exciting it was to find that secret rooftop pool to get away from the heat and humidity. But how sad I was to go back a couple of years ago and discover that you are now inhabited by drunken 16 year olds from Derby with a penchant for starting fights and peeing publicly. Ho hum.

I have no idea if Kaosan in Brixton is named after the Bangkok street so excuse me for the nostalgia-fest, but ANYWAY, Brixton has always lacked a brilliant dinner venue. Sure there are plenty of decent places – Hive Bar, Upstairs, The Ritzy, Satay Bar, Fujiyama – but nothing to get excited about. And of course for lunch options you’re sorted – Franca Manca, Rosie’s Deli, Wild Caper, Brixton Cornercopia – but the market shuts in the evening. You can always shimmy along Herne Hill way to the Lido Cafe, The Florence and The Prince Regent, but sometimes you just don’t want the walk.

So when Jay Rayner gave a glowing review of the family-run Thai restaurant Kaosan in Brixton, The Chef and I and it seems a huge number of other Brixtonites got terribly excited. And it is utterly brilliant. We went there on Tuesday night and had the most amazing meal. You can sit outside or inside and its BYO so we sat under the stars drinking bottles of Sol and eating deliciously spicy food – the atmosphere is brilliant and it had that holiday feeling which is soooo invaluable when you’re living in London.

The food was consistently excellent too. Tender and juicy pork skewers, delicately battered goong tod (king prawns), crispy gaew tod (prawn and pork filo parcels). And then the mains of gai yang, kow neaw, somtum (chicken in a gorgeous marinade with a spicy peanut salad and sticky rice) and the most delicious deep lamb massaman curry. And all this for £15 each.

We both agreed it was the best Thai meal we’d ever had in London and that (shock!) it was probably even better than most of the meals we’d ever had in Thailand. I’m dying to go back and try the pork ribs and the green and red curries and to bring friends and lots of wine and try pretty much everything else.

We met the owner Noy (Noi?) afterwards who was lovely – he runs it with his wife, neice and daughter, a proper family business, and he really cares about the atmosphere and ingredients and his regulars. He did start talking about the “concept” but I chose to ignore that part. He said if you brought a party along he’d make special bespoke meals for you, and he was an incredibly lovely and happy man.

I am so so thrilled to find a fantastic resto in Brixton so thanks to JR for finding it! Icing on the cake was seeing the big man himself on the way there…

Kaosarn on Urbanspoon

The Riding House Cafe, 43-51 Great Titchfield Street, Fitzrovia, W1W 7PQ

 The Riding House Cafe has just opened opposite Kaffeine on Great Titchfield Street and its a beautiful sight to behold. From the same peeps who brought us Village East and The Garrison, it has lovely warm orange leather lounge seats (reminds me of a beloved jacket I bought from Armstrongs in Edinburgh circa 1993 and the wallpaper I had growing up – 70s burnt orange, mmmm good one parentals), beautiful lights and antique wooden tables, wooden sideboards and tiles, lots of tiles (very Spuntino darling). Little cosy booths for gossip and wine and dates – this would be a great date place – and long tables for big groups and a nice long bar with people on their own reading papers and looking happy. Its a lovely set up, and I just loved the squirrel lamps (although I hope that all squirrels died of natural causes and / or of old age).

Pippalippa and I were lucky enough to go there on their opening day and tried their sharing plates – the food was incredibly yummy, delicately cooked and looked beautiful and well priced at £2-5 for each. Here’s what we had:

Sea bass ceviche – incredibly light, refreshing and tasty and perfect for ladies on diets with hangovers (hypothetically speaking) 

Squid and chorizo – yummy

Anchovy pepper-y crostini thing – very tasty

Moorish lamb – incredibly tender, beautifully cooked

AMAZING pork belly – deliciously crispy skin and melt in the mouth middle – absolutely wonderful (note we did manage some broccoli for some green stuff, veh nice too)

Food is 50% off at The Riding House Cafe until 3 May so go along for lunch, coffee or dinner. We shared 6 small plates, had a pudding each and coffee (nicer than Kaffeine’s imho eek) and it came to £12 each – bargain. Sadly no wine as we are very responsible and busy people (Pip can we go back to have lots of food and wine there please?!). Even at full price, I reckon you’d pay £30 each for food (the sharing plates are between £3 and £5 each and sides are a couple of quid) and wine, and it would be such a charming post-work dinner spot. A lovely addition to an already stunning assortment of places to eat in Soho, Fitzrovia and Covent Garden (I cycled past Kopapa tonight which was buzzing) – we’re spoiled for choice London! 

The Riding House Cafe on Urbanspoon

Some nice places I’ve eaten at lately – The Albion, The Gay Hussar and Hereford Road

1. The Albion, 10 Thornhill Road, Islington, N1 1HW

All you need to know about The Albion is that it has a really really lovely big garden that would be perfect for leisurely weekends drinking Pimms in the sun, and does a great Sunday roast. Inside, its all wooden floors and tables and great sharing plates of beef rib, so it makes a great wintery Sunday lunch place too. Last time I was there (with Juicy Jigsaw and Helga), we ate THE most incredible sticky toffee pudding I think I’ve ever had, a ton of white wine and some lovely fishcakes, and it came to £40 each which was very reasonable considering the amount of vino we managed to consume. I’m definitely putting this in the “best Sunday lunch” / “best beer garden” lists.

The Albion on Urbanspoon

2. The Gay Hussar, 2 Greek Street, Soho, W1D 4NB 

A blue-blood London institution this and not normally one I would have chosen for a girls’ night oot in Soho, but thanks to a deal from Keynoir (3 courses for £16), Giovanna, Tallulah and I went merrily along for dinner a couple of Saturdays ago. Its a Hungarian restaurant famed for its patronage by politicians and the atmosphere can be a little old and stuffy – the clientelle was an odd mix of gentlemen dining with their mothers, couples, and groups like us all wet behind the ears and clutching our vouchers. It hasn’t had great reviews lately which would be the reason for the deal, but we had lovely service, really delicious Hungarian wine and I thought the food was great – my mackerel starter and sea bass main were delicious and my friends loved the venison goulash and choucroute-type thing. We were the last to leave at around 11pm though (I was tempted for a shot of Unicum to remind me of my trip to Budapest but sadly denied), so it’s not the best place to take a group of friends, but is still definitely worth trying for its amazing character and history (I loved the bookcases full of political biographies) and delicious Central European food. I’m putting this in the “best place to take your elderly Conservative great Aunt / Hungarian colleague / local MP” list.

Gay Hussar on Urbanspoon

3. Hereford Road, Notting Hill, W2 4AB

Hereford Road was featured in Time Out’s best 50 restaurants in London, is near where friend Amaia now works, and it comes highly recommended from friends, so I went along for dinner last week. Try to get the booths at the bottom rather than the smaller tables at the top, but its a very cute restaurant inside. It features British cooking with a chef formerly of St John, so I’d go for red meat and sharing plates – the skate was beautifully cooked (above) but so delicate and tiny that we were starving afterwards and had to go for the chocolate cake to make up for it. The chocolate cake was INCREDIBLE but I was jealous at the beautifully smelling meat wafting around us from the open kitchen. Main, a carafe of wine and sharing a pud came to £30 each which wasn’t bad. I’m marking this as “best for date night” and am hoping to go back soon *HINT*.

Hereford Road on Urbanspoon

Spuntino, 61 Rupert Street, Soho, W1D 7PW

The Chef and I are decided – lunch is the best meal of the day. Even better is an impromptu lunch. Better than that a boozy long impromptu lunch. And the best of the best is a boozy long impromptu lunch where you don’t have to go to work afterwards and can do a pub crawl round Soho for the rest of the afternoon.

Well, we managed most of the above yesterday anyway. Spuntino is the new New-York-speakeasy influenced baby from the people that brought us Polpo and Polpetto and its really a delight that they are cornerning the market in Soho with cool, friendly, great value restaurants. Spuntino says it has no telephone number, no reservations, and The Chef and I thought there is no WAY we’d be able to walk in on Friday lunchtime and get a table easily. But we did – easy peasy – 5 minute wait, and the short wait continued for the rest of lunchtime, so don’t be put off by no reservations.

Spuntino looks fab – having just been to Wilton’s Music Hall the night before to see Iolanthe, I’m a big fan of shabby chic and Spuntino has been pared back to its original features and looks great for it – beautiful tiles like it was formerly a Roman spa or a swimming pool, lovely lights. Although you all sit round a bar, you get enough privacy and its sexy enough to be a fantastic first date place and there’s a great mix of friends, couples and solo eaters. We also noted that all these places seem to have the same type of staff – trendy without being pretentious, cool and friendly and enthusiastic and laid back. It makes for a great atmosphere. Thanks to the lovely Nigel for our lunch and for the pepper and thyme popcorn that make us cough.

Anyway the food was brilliant:

 Lardo crostini and thingy-berries, delicious

Amazing truffle egg on toast – delicious strong cheese (almost Swiss, raclettey), gooey egg and truffle – you have to taste it, is amaaaazing

I think this was a bone marrow “slider” – ridiculously deep taste almost like an Italian ragu or spag bol, really lovely. Want to go back and try the other sliders

Mac and cheese – only disappointment. A little underseasoned and the cheese could have been stronger – I prefer the Villandry Kitchen version

Peanut butter and jam sandwich – this was also amazing and still makes my mouth water thinking about it. Peanut ice cream with rich berries and crumbled peanuts, absolutely delicious and so CLEVER

Spuntino made us both smile loads – we had an incredible lunch and all this food, plus an old fashioned cocktail (guess who’s been watching too much Mad Men), 250cl white wine and kwoffees (served Americano filter style) came to only £30 each which was fantastic. It was a treat and a pleasure and the setting for our plotting the aforementioned Soho lunch and pub crawl. In fact the whole thing was incredibly Mad Men cool now I come to think about it. I will definitely be back – to try the other sliders and the soft shell crab and the stringy curly fries. You can so easily pay £30 for an average meal in Soho so I’m so happy these guys are revolutionising the place – they can really do no wrong right now!

Spuntino on Urbanspoon

Some more nice places to eat – Polpo (Soho) & Santa Maria Del Sur (Battersea)

1. Polpo, 41 Beak Street, Soho, W1F 9SB

Going to Polpo for Saturday lunch was one of the best ideas I’ve had lately. First, you can actually book a table – you can’t for supper hence several disappointments  – and secondly, it felt like a real treat from the Saturday day norm. I don’t know about you, but in the last few years, Saturday has turned into my slightly dull “admin” day. I get up early, do yoga, then bum around all day doing chores and generally waiting until Saturday night happens. I used to meet my friend Esmerelda for coffee or lunch but she was selfish enough to move to Australia so it’s been rather lacking of late. Sunday is my long-boozy-lunch followed by a film day, but until the weather is hot enough for cycle trips, Saturday has become a bit meh.

But Saturday daytime is a lovely time to see friends. I often meet my girlfriends for post-work dinners during the week but this isn’t ideal as we’re normally wired from our working week, a little stressed, and need to get home at a decent hour. Sundays are always under the shadow of Monday mornings and the Sunday blues. But on Saturday, you can have a 4-hour lunch and still fit in yoga before and parties afterwards, AND have a whole day to recover with the papers on Sunday.

So last Saturday, Tallulah and I went along to Polpo – the perfect place for a long leisurely catch-up lunch. And we didn’t just talk about boys. Erm.. Service is good but unintrusive, you can sit for hours. The wine is lovely and by the carafe – we had the light Poeta (£6 for 250ml and £12 for 500ml, we tried both for research purposes). The food is Italian tapas-style sharing plates which is always brilliant for sociability and ease of ordering. But Brits will always refuse to eat the last portion on each plate. They were delicious:

Arancini – these were new to me but little parcels of risotto – delicious

Calimari – tasty but a little dull?

Flank steak – the best plate for me – perfectly cooked juicy beef in peppery rocket and a lovely creamy truffle sauce

Cauliflower – delicious take on cauliflower cheese, my FAVOURITE SCHOOL DINNER EVER 

Polpette – delicious and tomatoey

All this grub, plus the wine (only downside – Saturday night got a bit blurry due to lunchtime vino drinking – beware)  and a coffee came to £28 each including tip which is brilliant – highly recommended for lazy weekend lunches or after-work dinners if you can get a table (or try Polpetto which serves similar food but where we got a table easily).

Polpo on Urbanspoon

2. Santa Maria Del Sur, 129 Queenstown Road, Battersea, SW8 3RH

Oh how I miss Argentina. The horses, the weather, the steaks, the Malbec – just not the same in London. After a crappy meal at the Pampa Grill on Battersea Rise, I was excited about going back to Santa Maria Del Sur. I’ve been before and raved about it (one of the best steaks in London I said! I have not been to Hawksmoor still!) but this time was following its win on Gordon Ramsey’s F Word for the UK’s best Americas restaurant (and you knew it – now impossible to get a table without booking well in advance) and after big-biceped manager Jose moved to the Moo Grill.  

The Chef and I were hungry and I was excited to see a really authentic menu – Fernet and Coke! Quilmes! – and our starter empanadas were just aaaamaaaazing. We then ordered the mixed grill which has 2 steaks – bife de chorizo (sirloin) and bife de lomo (fillet) as well as 2 sausages and some provolone cheese . Oh and some black pudding just in case you hadn’t got the meat sweats yet.

The steaks were excellent – really juicy and perfectly cooked. I’d go for the fillet steak which was perfect. The sausages and black pudding were good, but I could take or leave them, and the cheese although lovely was random. No necessito in my humble opinion. Decent Malbec (I ordered the Zuccardi because my friend Aileen fancies the owner’s son) but not amazing and I’d have loved to see some better names on the menu. Main disappointment? The sides were terrible. In Buenos Aires, the best meal I had was at La Cabrera where you got amazing steaks with delicious sides of mustardy things and salads and veggies. But at Santa Maria the sides were rubbish – a salad was some lettuce and tomatoes with not much else and the peppers were tastless, although the chips were good (I avoided – damn no carb diet). We finished up with a delicious flan with dulche de leche

All this food, with G&Ts to start and a bottle of Zuccardi Serie A (£27) came to £65 each which I think is a bit much for a local restaurant. The steaks were good and the but I’d have a fillet steak with chips next time and hope they’d improved their sides, with a cheaper bottle of wine. Still a lovely atmosphere for a date though, which explains why it was fairly heaving with couples.

Santa Maria Del Sur on Urbanspoon

Some nice places I’ve eaten at lately

I’ve been trying to lose some weight so I’ve restricted my dining out to … oh … three times a week or so. Here’s a little selection of the places that have tingled my taste buds in the last couple of weeks:

1. Mason & Taylor, 51-55 Bethnal Green Road, E1 6LA

A cute little bar near Old Street serving an incredible selection of craft beers and real ales – best beer I’ve had in London and so nice to see some great blonde and amber Belgian beers like Chimay and Westmalle served ice cold on tap.

Accompanying your beer are some well-thought out locally-sourced organic English tapas plates. Sadly these weren’t as amazing as I wanted them to be. Unlike Terroirs (French), Polpo/etto (Italian), Dishoom (Indian) or most Spanish tapas, you just didn’t get that zing or oomph in every small plate. This isn’t necessarily their fault – the menu is certainly really interesting – but the food was a little under-seasoned and The Chef pointed out that trying to do English tapas is hard because you don’t get those powerful flavours and spices that you get with other cuisines. Everything was nice – ox tongue, Scotch quails eggs, wild boar sausage with beetroot mash, arbroath smokie, beef sirloin – but just a little dull. To oomph it up you’d need much more seasoning, some spicy mustard or horseradish perhaps, full “wow” flavours, something a bit deeper. But it was my first experience of jerusalem artichoke (which was lovely with a nice aioli) – delicious and indeed fartichoky. I would certainly not have been welcome in Malawi last Wednesday evening.

I would definitely go back to try the delicious beers again and am reliably informed by a friend that after several beers, the Scotch quails egg tastes like manna from heaven so they may just have got it right after all.

The Chef and I were guests of Mason & Taylor and thank them very much for their kind hospitality & lovely service.

Mason & Taylor on Urbanspoon

2. The Telegraph, Putney Heath, SW15 3TU

This place prides itself as being a country pub in London and it is indeed – huge and high-ceilinged with wooden tables and chairs and a fire in winter and lots of greenery outside. I also thought you might like to admire my new bike panier in the foreground of the shot (newly christened bike geek!). Anyway, like all good Sunday lunch pubs, it serves a good spicy Bloody Mary, decent Chilean Merlot, and a nice roast dinner. It’s also a nice cycle ride from here to Richmond Park if you wanted to work all that food off.

It’s a good place to come if you’ve got kids or want to watch the rugby – but the room upstairs contained about 200 small children – including 20 or so newborns (scary-looking NCT Sunday lunch?) – so if you’re feeling a little delicate from the night before you’d probably be better off sitting downstairs.

A bloody mary, pint of cider, starter, roast dinner and far too much red wine came to £35 each.

Telegraph on Urbanspoon

3. Lantana, 13 Charlotte Place, Fitzrovia, W1T 1SN

I’d tried a Lantana coffee a while back for my coffee shop project, but had never eaten there, and was tempted to go back to meet Maximillian for lunch and to eat their corn fritters with bacon, rocket and creme fraiche. I am a massive fan of corn fritters having had a fetish for them ever since my mother used to cook them with our Sunday fry up. My mother’s corn fritters remain the best I have EVER tasted, second place being at Bill Grainger’s restaurant in Sydney. We need MORE corn fritters on brunch menus please, as well as more huevos rancheros.

Anyway Lantana is a nice place only I wish they’d just knock down the wall between “in” and “out” to make it a bit more open and less narrow. And that they close the door as it was freezing throughout lunch (I realise I’m verging into whingeing territory here which is very un-HPL but Max and I have this covered – we are setting up an anti-HPL blog for the express purpose of whingeing & moaning, so this blog can remain as enthusiastic and positive as normal). Anyway, the corn fritters were yummy – lovely salsa and creme fraiche and nice crunchy bacon, only I’d have loved to taste the creamy salty corn a bit more – el madre could maybe give them a few tips. Lovely flat whites to finish too.

My corn fritter, apple and elderflower juice and flat white with 12.5% tip added to the bill (not really necessary for lunch?) came to just under £20.

Lantana on Urbanspoon

Dim sum @ Hakkasan, 8 Hanway Place, Fitzrovia, W1T 1HD

Another day, another Michelin star, sigh. Actually this time it was a completely impromptu, completely brilliant idea by a friend for pre-Christmas lunch. Called Hakkasan last minute and my friend estimated it would be about £15 a head plus drinks each. I thought this was wishful thinking but turns out this was completely right – bargain.

Whatever it is like for dinner, Hakkasan is brilliant for a dim sum lunch. It’s pretty swish inside, service is great, food was awesome. And yet it has one major major problem – the price of the wine. Let’s face it, you have to have wine if you decide to go for a posh lunch, a working one or otherwise. It is against my religion not to. And yet glasses of wine were priced at a quite ridiculous average of £9 for a small (?!?!?!) and £13 for a large (?!?!?!). Made me quite angry – I don’t care how nice the wine is, the mark up must be huge, and any decent restaurant should have a good value house wine or similar that is affordable. I was annoyed. But not annoyed enough not to have wine. So I got a small (tiny really) glass which was marked at £9 but somehow ended up as £7 on the bill – which worked out at about £1 a sip. So silly when the rest of the meal was such great value. I hope they sort this out as I’d love to pop in and try some more dim sum.

So to the food – 3 each is perfect to be reasonably full and it’s best to share, although I think for feng shui reasons you get 3 pieces of dim sum per plate so it can be hard with 2 Brits and our horrible politeness for not taking the last one. But it was really really excellent. Below are some photos of what we ordered and some comments on it (I’ve lost the dim sum menu so descriptions are not as good as they could be):

Beef dumpling “thingies” – really really tasty 

Pork and prawn xiao long bao – recommended by our lovely waitress these were amaaaazing, probably my favourite, filled with a really rich soup – lovely

Chive prawn dumpling thingies – really fresh and interesting

Duck roll thingies – yummy

Sea bass – really delicate and delicious

Sweet black sesame rolls (as dessert) – wierd gloopy consistency and a bit like Nutella inside, but in a good way

 So all this yummy food, a good 1 1/2 hours of chat and a delightful waitress set us back only £15 each for the food (and 3 dim sum makes you deliciously full). My only concerns being the ridiculously expensive wine and snooty woman at the door. It ended up costing me £25 with wine and service which is still good though for a special lunch. So much more on the menu to try (although I’d avoid the wierd mango thing which was inexplicably served on a bed of squeezy mayonnaise – more photos of other dim sum that my friends had are on the HPL facebook page).

Hakkasan on Urbanspoon

Salt Yard, 54 Goodge Street, Fitzrovia, W1T 4NA

I love Fitrovia. I love the name Fitz-roooo-via, the fact it sounds so awfully posh. If you don’t know (and I didn’t really until I started working round here), it’s the area between Marylebone and Tottenham Court Road / Bloomsbury, north of Soho and behind the Selfridges side of Oxford Street. I love the fact that there are a million and one great coffee shops, there is Charlotte Street with its bars (I like the Charlotte Street hotel and the bar at the top of Bam Bou) and pubs (Fitzroy Tavern) and restos of every type and price range (to name a few – Pied A Terre and Roka, but also Thai Square and Dim T). There is Harley Street to whiten your teeth and laser your eyeballs, and there is Nandos.

And so last Friday I met an old friend who we shall call Che, for an impromptu catch up lunch at the Salt Yard, which I’d heard great things about. It is sort of posh Spanish tapas, with charcuterie platters as well as hot plates, and the food was pretty awesome. We ordered a glass of Selva Capuzza (Groppello, Lake Garda 2009) (not picked by me but amaaazing, £6.50 each) and tucked into the delicious-sounding menu – they suggest about 3 plates each.

We had the Spanish charcuterie board which was perfect with the wine and very nom, and the Courgette Flowers stuffed with Goats Cheese in a light batter and a wonderful honey sauce which were just mouth-watering (see top photo above). And then Jamon Croquetas with Manchego which were light and delicious too (see photo above).

And then the big guns – the delicious Salt Marsh Lamb with Cipollini Onions, Wet Garlic and Fennel Pickle (top photo above) which was mouth-wateringly tender and just YUM and then Chargrilled Bavette with Pumpkin Caponata, Shallots and Crispy Bone Marrow (middle photo above) which was cooked wonderfully rare and juicy and was probably my favourite dish and finally the Crispy Squid with Sea Purslane and Shellfish Alioli (bottom photo above) which was delicate and light and crispy. The menu is bloody brilliant, we kept stopping to nod and mumble praise at each plate, and I’d like to go back to try other things like the pork belly and chorizo with peppers.

So we then had another glass of wine because it was just THAT GOOD it would be rude not to, and left feeling warm and happy for the rest of the afternoon. We both agreed it was a spectacular lunch – beautifully cooked, interesting and delicious. The downside was that it ain’t cheap – for 2 glasses of wine each, a huge lunch and 2 coffees, it was just under £100 or £50 each and just popping in to sit at the bar to have a glass of wine and charcuterie board to share (which looks ace) would set you back at least £30 each I reckon. But I wasn’t paying so it was all good. And although I wouldn’t make it a regular lunch venue at that price, for a special-ish occasion, it would be the perfect place to take your best mate / mum / beloved for lunch or a wine-and-charcuterie snack, like after Christmas shopping in town. Yes, for me shopping is a special occasion. Alternatively, do like the HPL and wangle an invite for a free lunch.

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