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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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

Selfridges ‘Forest on the Roof’ Restaurant

We decided to give the roof top restaurant at Selfridges a go; which changes theme over the seasons. This winter the theme was ‘Forest on the Roof’ boasting hearty food and seasonal cocktails ‘beneath a starry sky’. Diners get the lift to the fifth floor past the perfume department – it would be a really nice place to take an out of towner –  you arrive upon a magnificent entrance – like something out of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – it is very twinkly.

 They had lost our booking but fortunately they found us a table, this table however was squeezed between the kitchen in a narrow corridor to the outside terrace which was very busy and noisy . We did have window seats however and when and if the weather picks up it will be a delight to look over the City.

 The receptionist was very friendly and sat us down quickly. Our waiter seemed rushed but took our order of lamb stew with root vegetables and a fillet steak with onions promptly. We also ordered a side portion of chips and kale. We felt a little like we were on a conveyor belt – it is a busy place so quick turnaround times are essential. The food was tasty. My lamb melted in the mouth yet looked a little underwhelming – plonked in a pot with a hunk of white bread on the side, no butter, no garnish. Presentation was not its strong point but having eyed up the desserts, they made up for what the main courses lacked. After being rushed through ordering we now waited a long time for our water glasses to be filled up and to get the bill.

 I feel our awkward seating didn’t give us the best start and so I might be being a little tough when I say that the décor was not at its strongest in the dining area , rather at the entrance or leading into the bar. It sort of waned off by the kitchen and back end of restaurant. I felt a little let down I’ll admit. Service was most definitely rushed but what can you expect at a dining spot in one of London’s most famous establishments? My recommendation would be to go for a drink in the bar – if you can find a space – and give the food a miss – although tasty and good value the atmosphere is rather a let down and more TLC needs to go into the savory dishes.

As a result Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls gives this place:

                Food                                                    Service                                     Atmosphere

3 Stars2 Stars3 Stars

Karpo

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Kings Cross has become an unexpected haven for trendy restaurants large and small with the likes of The Grain Store, Voc Bar and Plum and Spilt Milk, and we included Karpo on our growing to do list.  Located conveniently next to the Kings Cross tube entrance, it is small and unassuming enough to be frequented mainly by locals.  We were tempted by the set weekday lunch option which offers a three course selection of European dishes. We decided to try the butternut squash soup, followed by the chicken breast & potato fondant main course and the ‘Karpo burger’.

 The restaurant is a relaxed, independent restaurant; small enough to be cozy. It has a family run vibe with quirky little notes to customers and fun décor such as the grass wall and signage. The kitchen is at the end of the restaurant open for all to see which I personally love.

 The soup took a while to come out – which was fine as we were not in a rush – but one bowl came out luke warm (the other was fine). It had a crème fraise drizzle which added richness to the slightly watery soup with a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds to add depth. I ordered a diet coke and this never arrived – again not a problem as I should cut down but not really the point.

 The chicken – when it did arrive – was tender served with the creamy potato and al dente kale. Yet the burger was a real disappointment. I don’t think it was freshly prepared; it didn’t look or taste quite right. It was medium/rare in the centre – which I usually like – but the taste was not right. Definitely not fresh.

 One of the waiters – I think the manager – was really good and came over to check we were happy but our waitress made ad hoc appearances which probably led to the majority of the delays.

 I really liked the atmosphere, menu options but the slow service and mixed food quality really let it down.

As a results Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls gives this place:

                Food                                         Service                               Atmosphere

2 Stars2 Stars3 Stars

The Big Easy

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The Big Easy classes itself as a BBQ and lobster shack located in the Kings Road and Covent Garden. Having been to the Kings Road location, way back when, we decided to try the much newer Covent Garden restaurant.  They do great deals that change depending on the day of the week which is great for students and end of the month places to eat.

As you walk in, the noise level rises by a few decibels. There is a sense of organised chaos which suits the place; friendly, buzzing and full of life. This is not the place where you would go for a quiet catch up.  We were early and seated at the bar which is full of the most amazing liquor. We sat on one of the 1920’s brass bar chairs and ordered a couple of nigroni’s. The bar was one of the highlights for me.

We were seated by some very enthusiastic waiters, so enthusiastic that I felt a little tired after they had run through the drinks, special offers and al a carte options. Phew. The menu is extensive showing off a lot of great BBQ shellfish and steaks. We hoped it could live up to the menu!

We ordered a sharing platter which included half lobster, giant shrimps, crab claws and dipping sauces. This was served in a huge iced bowl that was elevated on metal stands. It did look impressive and tasted great – although a little messy. For main course we ordered the sirloin steak and the lobster roll. Although the place is ram packed there was not an excessive wait and the service was so friendly we couldn’t help but smile in admiration of their energy. My steak was over cooked and had a lot of fat on it which meant that I left a lot of the meal. It was served with creamed spinach and fries. The lobster roll looked good, the meat was well cooked and was apparently very tasty.

We ordered the bill pretty sharpish as the noise level is only so much you can bear for so long. The food was good but the food did not live up to my hopes and was expensive for what we ordered – however I am sure that if you do order the daily specials then it is much more wallet friendly. The service is very enthusiastic, which is sweet but again can be a little too much; asking us ‘how we are getting on’ at least three times throughout the meal. Atmosphere has a fun buzz and there is often live music which is always a plus. As a result Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls gives this place:

             Food                              Service                  Atmosphere

3 Stars4 Stars3 Stars

Chinese Cricket Club

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We’ve heard good things about this place but having never been a fan of Chinese cuisine we’ve given a miss, well until now obviously.

I have to say since the visit I have a better opinion of the cuisine but again I’d argue this is one of the best places to chow down – excuse the pun.

Chinese Cricket Club is part of the Crown Plaza Hotel in Blackfriars, which is swanky and centrally situated. Usually restaurants in hotels have a bad rep but this goes against the stereotype.

The restaurant itself is uber modern with green leather seats, bamboo entrance and subtle nods to the cricket theme. Well played.

They have a selection of menus including the express lunch – which is handy for a business lunch- but we went for the al a carte option.

We ordered the steak fillet in black bean sauce and the crispy soft shell crab along with egg fried rice to share.  The fillet was beautiful, it melted in the mouth and the sauce was spicy and salty. Just perfect. The rice was a far cry from the egg fried rice you find at you’re local take away, light, fluffy and subtly flavoured. The soft shell crab on the other hand was very dry, to the point where it honestly felt that there was no meat left. The batter was all that seemed to remain. It was a shame as on the whole we were very satisfied.

In terms of atmosphere, people seem to dine later in the afternoon and, unsurprisingly based on location and price, it’s more often than not filled with loud city types. It’s not cheap here but quality reflects this (despite the crab dish). Apparently the thing to order here is a whole crispy duck. We might try next time.

This place is definitely impressive and worth giving a go if you like Chinese cuisine that’s more upmarket than China Town however this comes at a price and the occasional oversight from the kitchen lets it down.

Food                            Service                        Atmosphere

4 Stars4 Stars3 Stars