The Phene

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phene

Being an East end girl, I rarely go to West London for lunch or dinner, and realising I am missing a trick we decided to take a Boris bike over to fashionable Chelsea. As winter was drawing in we felt like going to a cosy gastro pub and The Phene sounded like the perfect place.

Located in SW3, the building dates back to 1853. With a cosy yet modern décor this place is perfect for a Sunday lunch or casual catch up with friends after work. The Phene is separated into three; a bar area for drinks and nibbles, the restaurant area for dining only and an outside terrace area with heaters – we went for the warmer climes of the restaurant itself.

We were slightly early for the next sitting but the waiters were great and managed to find us a seat in the dining area as the bar was rather crowded. While waiting for the kitchen to open we immersed ourselves into the wine and cocktail menu which was extensive. We started with a cocktail – raspberry, coconut and basil smash – and ordered a few nibbles to keep us going. This is just the place that you can while away a whole afternoon lazily eating and drinking with good friends.

For food we decided on the beef carpaccio and crab salad as starter, followed by a burger and roast chicken with croquette and tabbouleh. The menu changes regularly, with the seasons, the availability, and whim of the chef. The food portions were generous and perfectly cooked. With the wine and the food we were stuffed – happy but stuffed.

This is the perfect place to go to for a casual lunch or celebratory get together with friends. It was certainly worth the trip West and has made me more determined to make more of an effort in the future.

               Food                          Service                       Atmosphere

4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

Ronnie Scott’s

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Ronnie Scott’s is an institute in its own right opening in 1959 and being pilgrimage for jazz lovers globally as well as those who want to be seen. If you have never been, you must. Even if you’re not a  jazz fan the atmosphere is superb. You are taken back a to a time when music was the core of the Soho scene and it’s pretty cool. Standing and seated tickets are on offer and prices depend on the time you go, the band, and the day.

We went to see Soil and Pimp sessions who had come all the way from Tokyo to gig at the legendary den. The stage is in the centre of the room and those just coming for drinks sit and stand at the front of the stag. The diners are seated to the side which is tiered so everyone can see. The seats are really more like sofas upholstered and sits up to four people. The wall is red and full of famous faces from time gone by. The diners are seated to the side with those just coming for drinks at the front. As the night goes on the atmosphere gets more and more lively and there is a buzz to the whole place.

Now on to what you really want to know – and reason you are reading this post I assume – the food. Now I wouldn’t say you would come here just for the food. It is good, don’t get me wrong, but food is not the purpose of coming here and the chefs know that. As long as the food fills the belly of those drinking heavily or staying out for a long evening, that is all that counts. We ordered a burger and steak with chips. It took a while to give our orders and the food to come out but the waiters have to take food and drink orders from a lively crowd and serve as they go through the night. It is also quite dark so must be hard to see! The burger was tasty and came with chips that were hot and not too greasy. My steak came with vegetables and a peppercorn sauce. The steak a little overcooked for my liking and a little too fatty but was nice on the whole. The wine an cocktail menu outshines the food menu to be fair and as long as you know this you will have a blinder of a night.

Bo Drake

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We’ve heard of this trendy Soho restaurant that is located conveniently on Dean Street. When walking in, you feel more like you are in a Hoxton hipster hangout than a Soho Street surrounded by old institutions such as L’Escargot, Gay Hussar and Ronnie Scotts. Bo Drake’s is an East Asian restaurant with combines US style smoking. The people behind this restaurant are ex-Roka – well I couldn’t resist for one.

The décor is super modern with Scandic wood tables and trendy warehouse style chairs. There is also a nice bar areas for food too. We arrived early and so were seated in prime location next to the window. There is nothing I like more than watching people in Soho on a winter night when you are cosy in the warm. The eclectic bunch of people coming and going is incredible.

To start I ordered crispy squid and my fellow diner order the beef sliders, they both came out fairly quickly and looked an Instagram dream (sorry all I forgot to take photos…). The beef sliders looked more like mini beef burgers. There were three, really cute and most importantly melted in the mouth. The squid was slightly smaller than I liked but were fried in a spicy seasoning and served with a spicy mayonnaise type dressing that was incredibly moreish.

For main course I Ordered ‘Bossam’ which is smoked pulled pork with kimchi and lettuce.  This came out on a large plate with a huge mound of pulled pork, the idea was that you placed the meat into a butter lettuce leaf with sauce and kimchi and rolled up into a roll. It was delicious. I am salivating while writing this. My friend ordered the roasted cod with porcini salad. When this came out it looked a lot smaller than expected and had fried noodles over the top. However when it came to digging in we realise it was a much heftier meal than expected. We both didn’t like the fried noodles on top – I realise they can add something to the look of the plate and some even like eating it but not us unfortunately – but the cod was cooked to perfection and the mushrooms were full of delicious earthy flavour.

The  service was fast and very friendly, the atmosphere was a mix of hipster/Soho and Asian vibe and the food was pretty much faultless. It is safe to say we’ll be going again.

                Food                              Service                      Atmosphere

4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

Phoenix Palace

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I met up with a couple of friends who had booked us a table at a Chinese restaurant in Baker Street. On Sundays the restaurant does a dim sum menu which brings in the crowds. Having worked and/or commuted by this area for the past four years I had never seen this restaurant. One of the side streets parallel to Baker Street I saw a subtle sign that indicated I had found the location. The entrance looked modest and didn’t seem bigger than a corner shop/. However once through the frosted glass I was stunned with the size of the restaurant which was buzzing with locals. The décor is incredibly ornate with golden dragons on the walls, deep red wall paper and fish at the entrance. All very traditional and opulent. Most of the locals were Chinese themselves and the menus were first an foremost in Mandarin – which is always a good start.

We were seated at the back of the restaurant on a slightly elevated level so there was a nice buzz but we were not shouting over people. We were given green tea as standard and a little form which listed a good 100 dishes for the Sunday menu. We ordered around 15 dishes for the four of us – in hindsight our eyes may have been too big for our bellies – by ticking off the individual dishes and putting a 1 or 2 next to each depending on the amount of dishes we wanted of that individual thing. The dishes ordered included prawn dumplings, duck gyoza, rice pasta rolls with prawns, lemongrass beef balls and calamari. The food came out at different times, which was a relief as it freed the table up a little and gave us time to digest slightly, but was not slow. The food all tasted great although some dishes suited certain palettes over others. I prefer a thick calamari with a light batter whereas these were very thin, rolled in a thick batter. I liked the beef balls but  they were a little strong in flavour and texture for some. And one of our table was gnawing on chicken feet – I couldn’t even look at her doing that – I realise there are different taste in cultures but it’s a no from me.

Although I wouldn’t say I am the biggest fan of Chinese food, I really think this place could be one of my favourites in London. Authentic food which is incredibly cheap (£18 each for all of that!) and although the service might be a little slow, it is friendly enough. I’d recommend.

       Food                     Service       Atmosphere

4 Stars3 Stars3 Stars

 

 

Del’ish – Persian food in Great Portland St

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We love Persian food and found this spot in a quiet street off Great Portland Street and Warren Street. As it was an impromptu meet with a friend we had not reserved a table – this particular friend doesn’t believe in booking at the best of times anyway –but thankfully on this occasion it was not needed. The place was pretty quiet – well it was a Monday night.

 

We were seated in the middle of the small restaurant and given menus bound in rather old fashioned faux leather. The menu was split into small meze sharing dishes and larger grill plates. We went for a mix, ordering; hummus, roast vegetable meze and a sharing mixed grill platter. The mix grills were not served with sides – worth bearing in mind if you do go.  

 

The waiter looked as though he’d rather be anywhere but there and took a very long time to take our order. Any special requests were met with a grunt and ‘ok’.

 

The food came out fairly speedily but considering how quiet it was, there would be no real reason for a hold up. The grill came with spicy sausage, lamb kebabs, chicken skewers, lamb chops and prawns (which we swapped for falafel). It was well presented on a sharing platter with separate sections for the different meat but all of the meat was over cooked. It was tasty but just a little dry.

 

This place is a quick, convenient and wallet friendly spot in central London; perfect for a quick catch up with friends after work, but nothing more. Don’t expect great service or rich Persian cuisine. This place is good, not great.

            Food                              Service                Atmosphere

3 Stars2 Stars2 Stars

Jose Pizarro – Broadgate Circus

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We went to Jose Pizarro on a rainy evening – I love Broadgate when it is dark and lit up. It has much more of an atmosphere in the evening when City slickers are having a couple of afternoon drinks rather than at lunch time when the stark beige buildings dominate over the circle. We’ve walked past this Spanish place before and thought we’d give it a try – just before our Spanish holiday – getting our taste buds prepared was the excuse.

The restaurant itself is small but incredibly busy. The bar was three people deep as there is no real area to just drink unless easting. We had booked a table so were in the slight less packed dining space – the bar and dining area separated by a large bar table – so were able to hear ourselves think. There was a blackboard with specials as well as a well thought out tapas menu. Service was a little ad hoc either we had three people asking to take our order or mysteriously disappearing when we wanted another glass of wine or the bill.

 We ordered patatas bravas, iberico ham, calamari, cod cheeks and octopus. All the food was delicious and made more so by the Spanish wine we were sipping. Service as I say was a little hit and miss however. The food was terribly overpriced too but I guess they were catering for the City bankers so…

                  Food                                Service                        Atmosphere

4 Stars2 Stars4 Stars

City Social

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City Social is my guilty pleasure, yes I know it is full of city type who are there to be seen, but I love the views, the cocktails and the  atmosphere. This was the first time I’d been here to eat. Usually I am holding up the bar. We did have a few drinks at the bar while the bar man found us a table – this was a spur of the moment thing so we hadn’t booked in advance. We didn’t have to wait long before we were showed to a table by the window overlooking the Lloyds building.

As I was rattling off my (limited) architecture knowledge, with my fellow diner stifling a yawn, the waiter took out food and drink orders. Another Vesper Martini for me and Korean Fried Chicken (KFC) for me. I think one of the draws of this place is that you truly feel like you are living the London dream. As a country girl originally I still am in awe of the London skyline and the endless things there are to do here.

The food was served – and I ordered another Vesper – on a wooden platter. The KFC was basically a poached poussin served with fried sweet cauliflower balls. Delicious. I was a little worried as there was blood coming out of the chicken but the waiter patiently informed me this was because of the poaching process. I did feel a little bit of a philistine and decided to hope sofa would swallow me up – in true British style.

The food, the cocktails, the service and 1920’s décor is just spot on and who cannot like those views? It’s a big fat yes from me.

Food                       Service                         Atmosphere

5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

Marco Pierre White’s Steak House Co.

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We decided to visit fashionable Chelsea and have lunch at Marco Pierre White’s Steak House Co. on Kings Road. There was a £25 four course beef tasting menu offer. As a huge steak lover I couldn’t resist

The area we sat in was fairly small, with another two areas on other levels for busier days. The area we were seated was modest, with clean lines and plenty of mirrors to give the perception of space. The clientele were generally either older or couples celebrating a birthday or such. So there was a gentle hum, it felt rather grown up.

We were welcomed by the waiters who were incredible professional and friendly. We were given the menu (MEAT!) and given a few minutes to decide. The first two courses were set, beef carpaccio followed by ribs, and then we had a choice of a few beef dishes for main course. The carpaccio came out quickly – not quick enough to make you wonder if it had been pre-plated and had been lying around though – and was drizzled with basil oil and peccarino. The meat was so tender it literally melted in the mouth. Divine.

The ribs were a great surprise to me  – I am not really keen on meat on the bone – as the chefs had deboned and left two juicy lumps of meat on top of homemade coleslaw. For main course we both went for the rump steak served with chips, vegetable and a peppercorn sauce. We asked for it to be medium rare and it came out more rare than we asked for but I personally like rare steak so I was more than happy.

For desert we went for the cheese board and summer fruits cheesecake both of which again were great. I was so stuffed.

All of this was washed down by a bottle of Argentinian Malbec. What more do you want on a rainy Sunday afternoon?

                      Food                        Service                        Atmosphere

5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

Gaucho Piccadilly

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gaucho
I will keep this post brief as the majority of you will have been to Gaucho, and those of you who have not should go, just to say you’ve been. Gaucho is an Argentinian steak restaurant chain.  You could do a lot worse than going there for good quality steak, service and convenient locations – less easy on the wallet though.

 They offer a good selection of South American starters including ceviche, empanadas and cured meats. We went for the tuna ceviche and beetroot salad on this occasion. Main course we opted for the fillet and the ‘special cut’ with a marinade and peppercorn sauce. Sides of fries, field mushrooms and spinach to share.  All cooked to perfection. It was delicious. To finish off we ordered a selection of cheeses and a pisco sour. Needless to say a long run was in order the next day.  

 My only nit – actually there are three things – with Gaucho is the way they stride over with a wooden platter of raw steaks, asking if ‘you’ve been here before’ before explaining the types of steak cuts on the menu and what they look like, regardless. This annoys me on a number of levels, first of all it’s a waste of good meat as they can’t serve that after being showcased around. Secondly, do they seriously assume that all of their clientele doesn’t know the difference between the cuts? Three, even if you are not au fait with type of cuts, we can read! the menu explains (with the Spanish name annoyingly written first in bold…) what the types of cuts are and what to expect. You just have to prepare yourself for this charade and sit there and nod politely.  

The other issue I have with Gaucho is the décor, leatherette and cow hide seats with black wall paper and far too much reflective metallics. For those of you who have not frequented at Gaucho, it’s as if they’ve asked Lawrence Llewelyn Bowen to ‘go wild’ with the Argentinian theme and make it relevant for youngsters with money to spend. The outcome is like something out of a 90’s pop band music video.

 Saying that the food and service (except the explanation on the cuts of meat) are great so you could do a lot worse. But it’s not cheap and the Hawksmoor or even Paternoster Chop House do as good – if not better – steak without all of the fuss.

   Food                                                  Service                  Atmosphere              5 Stars 4 Stars3 Stars

 

 

Beast

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Don’t be put off by the fact that Beast is from the same people at Burger and Lobster. Don’t get me wrong I like Burger and Lobster for what it is – a fast food chain that does a wallet loving lobster but this place is in a different league all together.

 Based in the heart of Mayfair this place is trendy, it has a Scandic feel as you walk through reception downstairs and welcomed by gigantic (and I mean gigantic) live crabs. The restaurant looks like the set from the Hogwarts dining room with impressively long benches – making for a great social buzz – with gothic chandeliers hanging above.

 The waiter was helpful; suggesting the weight and type of the steak based on our preferences and offering suggestions.

 We ordered 700g porterhouse steak with honey roast carrots, oyster mushrooms and truffle chips. The menu is deliciously simple offering steak, lobster or Norwegian crab only– this is not a place for vegetarians. The blackboard has a range of steak cuts and weights which are scratched off when they are ordered – Hawksmoor style.

 When our food was served in front of us on sharing dishes we dug straight in. The steak melted in the mouth like butter, the chips were unbelievably moorish and the vegetables were well cooked. The only slight niggle was that the carrots were overly sweet –  too much for my palate.

 I cannot recommend this place enough, it’s not too showy but still aims to impress. It is pricey, and when I say pricey, let me put it in perspective. For a 125ml glass of wine you are looking at £15-20. But saying that the wine is all of the finest quality, there is no plonk here. A young couple opposite received their bill and cried, literally. I joke not. So make sure you have enough in the bank.

                         Food                                     Service                                   Atmosphere

5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars