Friday, 4 October 2013

National Cafe

National Cafe, National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN 
2 course lunch for two: £50

The term cafe is misleading here. This isn't a cafe in the traditional sense of the word. This is a brasserie. A simple restaurant. A fine place to break a day's outing to London. Or to entertain clients or foreign dignitaries or a friend. This is one of my favourite places for lunch in London. The room is light and airy. The funky lights and simple decor smack of modernity, but it is also elegant; a classic venue in the historic heart of London. And the food is good too: solid, seasonal British cooking.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Flat Iron, Soho

Flat Iron, 17 Beak Street, W1F 9RW
Steak, wine and sides for roughly £25 per head

Going out for steak in London is far from straightforward. At one extreme is steak so good you need a spare kidney or a second mortgage to pay the bill. Lurking in the middle-ground is the Angus Steakhouse: a dire London landmark and gastronomic sinkhole. There are cheaper steaks that excel, but they are squirreled away on the menus of London's fine gastropubs and brasseries. Enter Flat Iron, an extremely affordable Soho steak house that is both excellent and hip. Happy days.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

The Begging Bowl, Peckham

The Begging Bowl, 168 Bellenden Road, SE15 4BW
Meal for two with wine: £60

I expected the Begging Bowl to be a little rough around the edges, more hipster chic than polished, clean design. And yet it is the latter - a gleaming, neighborhood restaurant that wouldn't look out of place in one of London's more obviously gentrified areas. Its bright dining room is lit by a wall-length window leading to a pavement-side glassed in veranda. It's filled (literally - you may have to queue) with a hip, moneyed crowd, drawn by the promise of excellent and authentic Thai food. There are people better qualified than me to judge the cooking's authenticity. But I can confirm that it is excellent.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Shake Shack , Covent Garden

Shake Shack, 24 Market Building, WC2E 8RD
Concrete: £4

The UK's first Shake Shack opened in Covent Garden last month. One of several recent New York imports, Londoners, bloggers and critics have been queuing up to point out that it's not as good as [INSERT NAME OF ZEITGEISTY LONDON BURGER JOINT HERE]. They're right of course. Patty and Bun, Byron, MEATliquor/market/wagon deserve the credit for London's increasing maturity as a centre of burger innovation. But we're missing the point. Shake Shack isn't from the Brooklyn hipster heartland. No knowledgeable New Yorker would queue for hours for a Shake Shack burger. They're all up to their eyes in pig flesh at Pork Slope

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Flesh and Buns, Covent Garden

Flesh and Buns, 41 Earlham St, WC2H 9LX
Meal for two with a cocktail: £60

The eagerly-anticipated sister to Bone Daddies, Flesh and Buns brings another little slice of Tokyo to London in the form of a hipster izakaya. It's vast and buzzing, with booths for groups and long tables to share. It's also not quite ready to be open, or at least it wasn't last Friday. The food is competent but not exceptional. The staff are charming but they lack experience. Given a few weeks or months, it may just be perfect. In the meantime, there is a risk that, like us, you'll leave feeling unsatisfied.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Blend, Paris

44 Rue d'Argout
75002 Paris

Meal for two with beers: 38 euros

It's August, and London is awash with US imports. Londoners are spending hours queuing for honest-to-god, real American burgers. Critics are vying with each other to be most underwhelmed by the experience. They must be laughing at us in Paris. They don't need a US import. They have Blend.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

China Town Noodle Bar

China Town Noodle Bar
2 Bath Passage
B5 4SZ

Meal for two with beers: £20

This cheap as chips cafe has been a favourite haunt for Birmingham's many students for more than a decade. Ten years ago, I was one of them. But it's more than just a cut-price feeding station for those rich in time but poor in money. With a voluminous menu spanning several regions of China, as well as a handful of other Asian cuisines (not recommended), there's a reason it also attracts well-heeled shoppers and Chinese customers of all ages. And with most dishes coming in well shy of a tenner, it has long been one of my favourite places for lunch. Yet somehow life has come between me and my first neighbourhood-restaurant-love. Last weekend, after an absence of nearly five years, I returned to rekindle my affair with their Big Plate Rice.