From a distance, with its white wooden cladding and high pitched roof, this restaurant does look suspiciously like a shed. Home for years to the old Ark restaurant, under brothers Oliver and Richard Gladwin it’s had a playful makeover that’s as much barnyard as back-garden, with piggy portraits, bits of tractor, and charming staff in check shirts. It’s a fitting setting for the food, which goes beyond the usual hackneyed take on British. Plates are small, meant for sharing, and divided into sections such as ‘mouthfuls’, ‘fast cooking’ and ‘slow cooking’. The menu changes regularly; many ingredients are sourced from in or around the family farm in Nutbourne, West Sussex (including wine from Nutbourne Vineyards). From fresh-tasting carrot houmous with sourdough breadsticks, to the meaty goodness of the Nutbourne banger with own-made mustard, it was all delicious, and inventive without being tricksy. Hake with samphire, capers and a slick of red pepper sauce was possibly our favourite plate, though spatchcock quail with cucumber, poppy seed and a delicate barbecue sauce ran it close. Only a slightly too salty, overly fatty veal blade with haricot beans and black cabbage disappointed. Puddings are wickedly good – their ‘Magnum vienetta parfait’ is a reinvention of the old standard (with added salted caramel and dark, dark chocolate) that has to be tried. We’ll be back – especially as prices are so very reasonable for the area and the quality.Read more
Remaining laudably tongue-in-cheek while the rest of Ladbroke Grove drowns in chichi spots, Trailer Happiness is not a cocktail bar as such – with its deliberately tacky decor (Tretchikoff paintings galore) and DJ hatch, it’s far too informal for that. However, the drinks here are taken seriously, with many of them made to vintage American recipes, and both the mai tai (Appleton V/X rum, orange curaçao, orgeat syrup, bitters, fresh lime) and the Cotton Mouth Killer (Elements 8 Platino, Mount Gay and Wray & Nephew rums, lime, apple, guava juice, apricot brandy, Galliano) do justice to the legend. The recommended beer is not American but König Pilsener from the German town of Duisberg; ingredients for the food, among them ‘TV dinners’ such as beef fajitas, are sourced as much as possible from the area.Read more
Few haute establishments have the hospitable hum of the Ledbury. Whether it’s due to the off-centre location, the Aussie input, or diners’ sheer delight in securing a table, this former pub remains top-tier for gustatory good times. British ingredients – Hampshire buffalo milk curd, smoked eel, Cumbrian lamb – line up alongside delicacies such as foie gras, Tokyo turnips, Bresse chicken and black truffle, but it’s chef Brett Graham’s clever contemporary treatment of them that sets the place apart. Best go for the set lunch or commit to the mesmerising £105 tasting menu; at £80 for three courses, the carte does not have the other menus’ winning sense of value, particularly if you choose the simpler ingredient-led dishes. A spring plate of creamed Jersey Royals with morels cooked in tea would have been a delightful inclusion in a dégustation, but served as a starter was not sufficiently above mashed potato to justify the outlay, even though the mushrooms were sublime. Ledbury signatures, however, are consistently thrilling – particularly the flame-grilled mackerel with pickled cucumber, celtic mustard and shiso; and, well, all the desserts. The wine list is personable with a particularly good choice of sweet wines by the glass, plus great beers from Australia, the US and even Notting Hill.Read more
This stylish addition to the capital’s Hellenic dining scene opened in 2012 in what used to be Costas Grill. Its food has more in common with the creations of leading Athens restaurants than anything you’d find in London – and the relief from the city’s Greeks is almost palpable. Purists might be troubled by the progressive presentation – mezédes are served in Kilner jars; tyrópitta is separated into filling and filo for DIY crumbling – but the flavours are reassuringly authentic. A jar of creamy white taramá hit just the right note of tangy, savoury deliciousness; another of fava (spilt-pea purée), accompanied by tender octopus, was so light it could have been whipped. Horiátiki contained top-quality oil and feta, properly ripe tomatoes, and (unexpectedly) Cretan-style rusk croûtons and salty capers. The hot dishes are better still. Keftédes were sublime and Mazi’s slabs of feta encased in black-sesame tempura with punchy lemon marmalade might well consign the humble saganáki to history. An all-Greek wine list showcases the region’s best bottles but on a Friday night, cocktails made with mastiha resin spirit were preferred by the gangs of young Greeks tightly packed either side of us in this fresh and contemporary dining room.Read more
Gentrification has sunk its claws into this once-scruffy boozer, for years one of the holdouts along the Portobello Road. Fronted by a couple of pavement tables but no real sign, Portobello Star ‘take two’ is a long, thin room; the only relief from the plain walls is provided by the sturdy bar along one side and a lovely radio-themed mural. It’s a handsome space, more appealing than it seems at first glance, but the real draws are the likeable bartenders’ powerful, convincing renditions of cocktails both traditional (a richly flavourful mint julep with Woodford Reserve, a margarita modified by agave) and modern (Dick Bradsell’s Bramble). You may have to shout to make yourself heard when the DJs crank it up a little – the music policy bounces from generic indie to more danceable tunes – but the lively crowd of Notting Hillbillies don’t mind a bit.Read more
At its best, this affecting biopic of the cosmos-rattling astrophysicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) smartly avoids schmaltz. Hawking has often seen the dark humour in the disease that began robbing him of his muscular functions as early as his student years. ‘The Theory of Everything’ runs with that irony: this is a Hawking profile in which you’ll see the wheelchair-using, speech-impaired scientist happily rolling around his living room dressed up like a Dalek.More substantially, it’s also a movie that delivers science in an approachable, Brian Cox-like way. An early scene has a thoughtful professor introducing the Cambridge student to a lab where all the action happens; it’s a lovely moment of quiet inspiration. The film is filled with snazzy visual metaphors: a swirling cup of coffee becomes a symbol for dark and light matter. A formal dance, where Stephen twirls with his future wife, Jane (Felicity Jones), twinkles with party lights and a hint of the universe falling into place.The film is Jane and Stephen’s story (the script is largely based on the second of Jane Hawking’s two memoirs), and even though it smooths out some of their domestic unease and eventual divorce, there’s still a painful strain below the surface, from playful sparring over religion to the tougher realities of ambitions put on ice. Both performers are extraordinary, and while Redmayne has more physical mannerisms to master, Jones burns hotter as a strong woman who can’t forget her own needs.Read more
The word ‘taquería’ is traditionally associated with street stands churning out endless tacos. They do that here too, but in rather more salubrious surroundings and with a clipboard-toting greeter thrown in for good measure. It’s a charming, independent-feeling little place of two rooms, with dark wood floors and pristine white walls decorated with a few Mexican film posters. The food is equally unfussy: a dozen or so tacos (using corn tortillas made in-house daily), a handful of tostadas and a few monthly changing specials. One taco of ‘house-made chorizo’ came topped with flavoursome mince; a slow-cooked pork version contained meat as soft as cotton wool; another of steak was just the right side of chewy. A ceviche tostada had great texture – silky yet chunky pollack – but tasted too fishy, suggesting it wasn’t the freshest of catches. Service was swift if somewhat harried. To drink, there’s Mexican beer, aguas frescas (cooling fruit or nut-based drinks), an extensive selection of mezcales and tequilas and some fine cocktails. The delicious habanero hot sauce is made by sister operation Cool Chile, and available to buy. The acoustics were our only real cause for complaint – something about the main dining room amplified our fellow diners’ chatter to wince-making levels.Read more
Venue says: Jerk Bucket List: 'jerk and ting' chicken leg, jerk wings, sweet potato fries, house 'slaw and an ice cold Red Stripe or a rum punch, £14.50
With its artfully sun-faded painted wooden slats cladding the walls, and corrugated iron over the bar, Rum Kitchen’s decor is designed to invoke visions of liming on the beach. It succeeds nicely, making a welcome change from the downmarket café aesthetic that characterises so many Caribbean venues in London. Drink is also a draw, with the west London party crowd piling in to sample the 100 or so rums and cocktails. Menu-wise, the restaurant offers traditional Caribbean food next to more unusual dishes such as jerk lamb cutlets, pan-fried sea bass with butternut sofrito, or spicy fries and chilli jam. The kitchen does the staples well: ackee and saltfish with fried plantain and dumplings was fresh and light, if a little stingy on the saltfish. But jerk chicken caesar salad was an in-betweener: lacking the bigness of Vegas on the one hand and the lip-smacking heat and rich flavours of the Caribbean on the other. Our very friendly waitress told us that the menu was soon going to be ‘authenticised’ with some more Jamaican dishes and flavours. What the 21st-century local will make of that is anyone’s guess.Read more
Looking at it one way, ‘Boyhood’ is a spectacularly cheap way of saving on actors’ salaries. To capture his rambling yet absorbing Texas family drama, director Richard Linklater (‘Before Midnight’) agreed with several actors – including his eight-year-old daughter Lorelei – that he’d shoot a movie with them over 12 years in dribs and drabs. Teenage voices drop, waists thicken and, in one benefit nobody could have predicted, Linklater’s star, Ellar Coltrane, playing the younger child of a divorced couple (Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke), develops into a shyly charismatic heartbreaker. Cool as it sounds, this long-game gimmick doesn’t guarantee a deep film. But amazingly, depth is what Linklater achieves, by letting the years play out in an uninterrupted, near-three-hour flow. ‘Boyhood’ feels unprecedented for its intimacy; the process is quietly radical, but the unassuming script even more so. We’re introduced to the clan in bursts. Olivia (Arquette), a single mother heading back to college, preps her kids for relocation to Houston, while their cool dad Mason (Hawke) shows up in a muscle car at weekends for trips to the bowling alley. You want the couple to reunite, but the plot has other plans, bringing on a procession of new husbands for Olivia, most notably a professor who becomes a vicious alcoholic (Marco Perella). Hawke’s character, meanwhile, drops the attitude and the wheels, eventually marrying a sweet, conservative Texan from a religious family. Both Arquette aRead more
The Museum of Brands, Packaging & Advertising spans a 120-year period in the history of consumerism, culture, design, domestic life, fashion, folly and fate. It is presented as a magnificently cluttered time tunnel of cartons and bottles, toys and advertising displays, and is a small part of the collection amassed by Robert Opie – son of the celebrated collectors of children’s lore and literature Iona and Peter Opie – since the day in 1963 when the 16-year-old arrived home with a Munchies wrapper and declared his intention never to throw away anything ever again. The emphasis is on British consumerism through the last century, though there are items as old as an ancient Egyptian doll. One for Brti-brand nostalgists.Read more
The New Angel
Venue says: Special occasion... romantic evening... business meeting... we are known for it!
This Notting Hill restaurant represents John Burton-Race's return to London. The kitchen is headed up by Stephen Humphries, with Norman Fabrizi running the dining room. There's a French slant to the modern-European menu, with a la carte options ranging from a pressed terrine of foie gras served with peanut praline, seasonal fruit purées, radish and toasted brioche to a tortellini of truffled goat's curd with toasted almonds, crispy garlic, white Alba truffle and a sage beurre noisette. Tasting menus are available, too. The wine list, put together by Burton-Race and sommelier Csaba Adamy, boasts a French bent too, complemented by further old world options plus some new - including bottles from Japan and Hungary.