Dinner at Lyle's a long, leisurely affair. Unlike most London restaurants these days you can actually book (they even have a telephone!) and stay as long as you like, as there’s no turning tables. The pricing is fair: the no-choice menu costs £59, which gets you four small courses (plus bread, petits fours and filtered tap water), served in a drawn-out procession. The whole thing, from start to finish, takes a languorous two and a half hours or so. The chef is James Lowe, formerly one of the much-fêted ‘Young Turks Collective’ and still one of the most talented cooks in town. We were impressed by a terrific cube of blood ‘cake’ (baked pig’s head, blood, and semolina); mellow braised baby onions; and a hunk of fatty-edged mutton with an intense anchovy cream. Baked washed-rind British sheep’s cheese was lick-the-plate-clean moreish; as was a poached, slightly-tart rhubarb with a rich crème anglaise custard). The sweet staff know their food; and the semi-industrial setting (polished concrete floors, exposed girders, whitewashed brick walls) made for a relaxed setting. If you’re incurably impatient, then perhaps a lunchtime visit, where you can order à la carte and eat at your own pace, would be more your thing. Though to rush cooking like this would be to miss the point.
The Shard you already know. Hutong, halfway up the Shard, needs more than just a ni hao of introduction. Like the original Hutong in Hong Kong, this is a glitzy, high-end Chinese restaurant with magnificent views and ersatz Old Beijing decor, the same Sichuan and northern Chinese menu, and a clientele comprised mainly of tourists and expats. What’s different about the Hong Kong and London kitchens is the level of spice, with the traditionally fiery cuisine having been toned down a bit for the gweilo (foreigner) palate. Delicate starters of chilled sliced scallops served with pomelo segments or octopus salad with hot and sour sauce are followed by mouthwatering mains such as prawn wontons with ma-la (‘numbing, spicy hot’ sauce), a ‘red lantern’ of softshell crabs or Mongolian-style barbecue rack of lamb. It's not cheap, but then this is the Shard, not Chinatown. Also in the Shard: Hong Kong restaurant group Aqua has taken over the 31st and 33rd floors of the Shard. On the 33rd floor is Hutong, a contemporary Chinese restaurant modelled on the Hong Kong restaurant of the same name. On the 31st floor is Aqua Shard, a British restaurant. A three-storey high atrium bar serves British cocktails with an emphasis on gin and tea. On the 32nd floor is Oblix, run by the people behind Zuma and Roka.
It’s not easy to open a spate of brand-new restaurants and maintain high standards, but chef-patron Jason Atherton has clearly moved on from being the sorcerer’s apprentice (under Gordon Ramsay) to being the sorcerer himself. His Little Social deluxe bistro only opened in March 2013, right opposite his fine dining Pollen Street Social in Mayfair. He followed this up, weeks later, with an even more ambitious restaurant in Soho, by delegating the chef role to his buddy and long-time head chef at Pollen Street Social, Paul Hood. The ground-floor dining room has a mirrored ceiling to create the sensation of space in a low room; upstairs is a smart cocktail bar, called the Blind Pig, which also has a separate entrance. Most of the action is in the dining room, though, with a kitchen brigade who are clearly at the top of their game. Smoked duck ‘ham’, egg and chips is a dish that’s typical of Pollen Street Social’s playfulness. ‘Ham’ is cured and smoked from duck breast on the premises, served with a breadcrumbed duck egg that’s molten in the middle, but with an aroma of truffle oil. Umami – savouriness, the taste that enhances other flavours – was also plentiful in a roast cod main course that uses powdered Japanese kombu seaweed in a glaze, served with a creamy sauce of roasted cockles and just-in-season St George’s mushrooms. Presentation is a strong point of Hood’s dishes, just as they are for his mentor Atherton. A starter of ‘CLT’ – crab meat, a fan of blonde castelfranco
So you thought you loved the Palomar. You thought you’d be faithful and true. But that was before you met little sis the Barbary. It’ll make you want to quit your job, pack your bags, and run away into the sunset together. The Barbary, you see, takes everything that’s good about the Palomar but ditches the bits that don’t quite work (like the fact that the ‘fun seats’ up at the counter are also the most cramped; or the fact that the raw bar is the weakest link on the otherwise stellar 'modern day Jerusalem' menu). At The Barbary, all the stools are arranged at 24-seat horseshoe shaped counter bar. Down one wall, there’s a standing counter, where they’ll feed you moreish bar snacks (like deep-fried pastry ‘cigars’ filled with cod, lemon & Moroccan spices) while you wait for a seat. And if the queue spills outside, you’ll find yourself in pedestrian-only, full-of-character Neal’s Yard. As places to loiter go, it’s not too shabby. Oh but the food, the food. Where the Palomar is intentionally progressive, looking to push the boundaries of 'Jerusalem' food, the Barbary looks to the past. The team, led by Tel Aviv-born chef Eyal Jagermann (ex-Palomar), have scoured the wider region, travelling down the eponymous Barbary coast (the stretch of north Africa from modern-day Morocco to modern-day Egypt) to revive the dishes that have informed their own culinary heritage. The signature ‘naan e beber’, for instance, is made to an ancient recipe for leavened bread, with just four ingred
Who needs stuffy old museums? The dining room of the Gallery at Sketch is one of the most playful – and most pink – places to be enveloped by art. The walls have around 200 original prints and drawings by Turner Prize-winning David Shrigley, their cartoonish quality adding to the sense of fun. He’s even designed some of the crockery: ‘ghosts’, say the teapots, ‘forget about it’, quips the inside of your cup. You can come here for dinner, but afternoon tea is what The Gallery has become famous for, so much so that you can get it before noon (it starts, specifically, at 11.30am). Service is outstanding. Once your charming host has talked you through how it works, you’re looked after by a dedicated ‘tea master’: glam gals in slinky cocktail dresses and baseballs shoes. Who happen to really know their brews. After you’ve decided on drinks and a menu (standard, children’s or – if notice is given – a special dietary needs option), the fun begins. First, there’s the caviar man, in a panama hat and pale blazer. You get a spoonful of caviar (Russian Sturgeon, cultivated in France) alongside Egg and Soldiers: two slim, cheesy toast strips and a fake egg in a very real egg cup (the white is an exceptionally good Comté cheese mornay, the yolk is from a quail and cooked to an ultra-soft 63 degrees). There’s a similar level of creativity throughout the sandwiches and cakes. Star of the sarnies was a black bread Croque d’York, or the salmon and soured cream on rye, while a perfect pear t
There’s a dedicated entrance for the restaurants in Heron Tower, from where a glass lift will whizz you in seconds up to Duck & Waffle on the 40th floor, or its glitzier sibling Sushisamba two floors below. The views are, as you might expect, stunning – if you’re pointed in the right direction and, preferably, sitting at a window table (many of which are for two diners only). Alternatively, linger in the entrance bar, where you can press your nose against the glass and gawp unhindered. Food is an on-trend mix of small plates, raw offerings (oysters, ceviche) and a few main courses (including roast chicken and the namesake duck confit and waffle). Our dishes ranged widely, from the spot-on (three dense pollock balls in creamy lobster sauce) to bonkers (who thought it a good idea to combine beetroot chunks with watery goat’s curd and sticky knobs of honeycomb crisp?). Prices are as sky-high as the setting; it cost £8 for a harissa-tinged herdwick mutton slider that was undoubtedly tasty, but came unadorned and vanished in a mouthful. Desserts of cold rice pudding, and chocolate brownie sundae, were better (and bigger). Service wavered between keen and offhand. Another downer: all that glass, plus marble and wood tables and a low ceiling (with yellow ‘waffle’ design) mean the acoustics are terrible. D&W is open 24/7, so breakfast or late-night snacks are further possibilities.
Venue says Spread joy this Christmas season at Duck & Waffle’s whimsical winter wonderland with snow-covered trees & other magical winter trimmings.
With chains such as GBK and Zizzi for company, you might expect a restaurant next to the Tower of London to be brimming with selfie stick-wielding tourists. Thankfully, that’s not the case at Coppa Club. Having originally made its home next to the Thames in Berkshire, this all-day restaurant has taken the plunge into London with a second riverside restaurant, which comes with quite a view. Positioned next to Tower Bridge and opposite the Shard it boasts what must be one of the largest riverside terraces in London, but the big glass windows mean you can soak up the sights even when it’s too chilly to go al fresco. A relaxed menu combines small plates, dishes from the grill, pizzas and pasta, as well as nibbles if you’re just in it for the views. An unlikely snack of deep-fried truffled gnocchi was seriously moreish, while light, crisp calamari had an extra kick from sriracha mayo on the side. Rib-eye steak was juicy, tender and cooked to order, although the supplementary truffle cream didn’t really add anything to the dish. Better still was a delicate whole roasted sea bream, stuffed with rosemary and slices of courgette, served with a fresh tomato and fennel salad. A rich chocolate and almond cake with citrusy crème fraîche rounded things off nicely. The only slight hiccup was a clunky ordering system that meant waiters had to painstakingly search for each dish or drink on a smartphone, resulting in a mix-up with our drinks. But if they can iron out the kinks in the techn
Any restaurant where you can say the words ‘Thai’ and ‘barbecue’ in the same breath gets my vote. Kiln is the latest gaff from self-taught chef Ben Chapman – of Smoking Goat fame – and aims to take its by-the-roadside cooking style to the next level. And yup, his Thai barbecue game is pretty strong. Smoking Goat has more of a dive bar vibe, with a handful of dishes and the kitchen out of sight. At Kiln, the ground floor is all about two things: cooking or eating. A stainless-steel counter runs its full length. Behind it runs the equally long open kitchen. There’s action and cheffery and drama at every swivel of your stool. Sit at the back for the pyromaniac seats: a view into the kiln itself. Inside this small, insulated furnace, chestnut and oak logs are sent to their fiery end, the glowing embers occasionally removed to ‘feed the grill’ (as in, the chargrill) or ‘feed the tao’. A tao, in case you’re wondering, is a round ceramic container: you keep adding embers until there’s enough heat to cook on, using either a wok or a clay pot. Want to turn the heat down? Simple: take out an ember. It’s brilliantly low-tech. The food is similarly stripped back. Dishes may be inspired by rural Thailand, but, where possible, they’re made with world-class British produce, mostly from indie Cornish suppliers. The lemongrass and Szechuan pepper, for instance, comes from a coastal polytunnel (a project Chapman helped fund). The pork loin – cut from rare breed, fully free-range pigs – s
Just off the North Circular in Brent, the Ace Café is in its seventh decade serving up coffee, rolls and rock ’n’ roll to the leather-clad faithful. It’s the oldest biker bar in London. And the newest? Welcome to The Bike Shed: originally a blog and forum for custom bike nerds, now IRL and occupying two big railway arches right next to Shoreditch Town Hall. Alongside a shop selling biker bits and bobs (and a rockabilly barbershop) this Shed contains an upmarket cafe/bar/restaurant for bougie bikers and dedicated pedestrians alike. In fact, it’s only the faint smell of engine oil and the choppers parked up outside that give the game away. With a wooden bar up one side and red leather booths down the other, The Bike Shed looks like any other trendy arch-based London eatery. Burgers, bangers and other biker caff staples share a menu with superfood salads and detox juices. There’s an extensive breakfast/brunch selection, a long list of cocktails, and beers that range from Peroni to Beavertown, including non-alcoholic options for anyone actually on wheels. To drink after 8pm you need to either order food or become a member, which should keep the bikers safe from rowdy City boys. Both our burgers – one meat, one veggie – were accomplished and generous, piled high with onion rings and served in brioche buns with homemade gherkins and coleslaw. Crispy mushroom and polenta fritters made a great starter. Prices are decent for Shoreditch, and the portions are hefty enough to refuel e
Venue says With more than 10,000-square feet of restaurant, lounge, shop and event space, Bike Shed offers something for all. We also have a barbers!
You know what’s better than new? Old. Not ‘old old’, like when your housemate leaves a packet of chicken at the back of the fridge and goes on holiday, but the good kind, that evokes the best of a bygone era. Vintage. That’s the vibe at Xu. (Which, btw, is pronounced ‘Shu’. Not ‘Joo’. Not ‘Sue’.) The first ‘smart’ restaurant from the crew behind cult hit Bao, it’s a love letter to 1930s Taipei. It’s got class, but no hanger-up-its-bum. Our waiter was in black tie, yet effortlessly switched from ‘chummy and attentive’ toward those of us obvious Bao groupies, to ‘polite and obliging’ for the ostentatiously wealthy family that arrived, took umbrage with their table and demanded to be instantly rehomed. True, it’s not a perfect site. It’s one of those narrow, awkward Soho spaces, but the Xu crew have been fairly clever about it, carving up the two small floors into a bundle of mini-spots, each with its own air of intimacy. There’s dark wood panelling, crisp air con and ceiling fans idling overhead. The upstairs room has a teeny bar at its centre, offering a few more seats and a railway clock. It’s the louder of the two floors, with lively chatter and Dean Martin singing ‘Papa Loves Mambo’ (anachronistic but fun). At street level, there’s another central bar – more of a hatch, really – with someone polishing not glasses, but porcelain tea cups. Tea is big at Xu. But you didn’t come for the tea (though it’s very good). You came for the food. And oh my. It’s magnificent. There’s a
Venue says XU's new brunch menu comes with free-flowing Perrier-Jouët Champagne, for just £25 extra per person! Available Saturdays and Sundays!
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