Fetch me a llama! I need to make a sacrifice. That’s the way to show gratitude to Pachamama. In Peru, Pachamama is the goddess Mother Earth; in London, she is a new Marylebone restaurant. But the name is apt: this is a place to revere. Four pillars underpin the Quechuan cosmos (water, earth, sun and moon), and four pillars support a great restaurant: food, service, decor and ambience. This hotspot has it all – and a price tag that mere mortals can afford. We arrived with no great expectations. There’d been no buzz about the place, and we’d have walked past the door had we not been looking for it. Just another Peruvian bandwagon-jumper, we assumed, trotting down the stairwell into the basement. Oh, how wrong we were. Firstly, it looked gorgeous. There was a thoughtful mix of rough and smooth, like a beautiful old hacienda in the process of being done up: chunks of plaster knocked out of the pillars, pretty vintage lampshades, wooden dressers full of pot plants. Low lighting, laidback Ibiza sounds and a constant influx of impeccably groomed twenty- and thirtysomethings (where do they all come from? Are the cooks cloning them in the kitchen?) made for a vibe that was electric. Not bad for a restaurant that had been open for less than a month, and should by rights have been inhabited only by friends, family, and bloggers with big cameras. On weekends, said our nothing’s-too-much-trouble waiter, the place goes from being ‘civilised party’, to ‘party party’, with a DJ on the deck
You can always judge a restaurant by its loo – which is why I was pleased to see the tapestry of frolicking nudes at Blanchette East. This toilet said: naughty but nice, fun with a certain je ne sais quoi. There’s another naked babe above the bar; clearly, this Shoreditch spin-off of popular Soho hangout Blanchette doesn’t take itself too seriously. Foodwise, think decent bistro fare with a few twists – North African-inflected, with Provençal and Basque overtones – rejigged into small plates you’ll want to share. I could’ve left happy after the snack alone, a merguez sausage roll with harissa mayo for dunking – spicy, flaky and ever-so-slightly sweetened by the onion confit. Ooh la la. A divisive-sounding escargot surf n’ turf of seared hanger steak topped with (shell-less) snails, parsley, garlic and a velvety onion purée was a highlight. Lamb tagine was no less gorgeous, speckled with almonds, its richness cut by whipped labheh. Green bean and comté salad and pomegranate couscous were also exquisite. My rose-tinted specs did have to come off when dessert arrived; a chilled peach and saffron ‘soup’ was redolent of shop-bought smoothie and a coconut macaroon was inedibly brittle. Zingy basil sorbet fared better, but I’d stick to post-prandial cocktails instead. Because hey, not everything can be perfect. Blanchette East is a solid-gold date night option; or, if you want to romp in a group, request the lovely back table, secluded by frosted glass and velvet drapes. Like I
First opened in 2014, the food at this Marylebone favourite is tapas with – you guessed it – a twist. In practice, what this means is that it’s creative modern tapas: modish, but not outlandish. More importantly, it’s outstanding. From Sicilian red prawns served like a sashimi salad (cold, with thick slices of Japanese scallops, slivers of cucumber and a sharp dressing) to crunchy, warmly spiced ’nduja croquettes or fatty-edged lamb chops with a burnt aubergine purée, this just happens to be some of the best tapas in town. Even the ‘Josperised’ (deliberately burnt) hispi cabbage came ‘spritzed’ at the table with a chilli and garlic oil. Better yet, though dishes can occasionally veer towards the fancy, the place itself is ultra-casual and buzzy, with a look that’s rustic chic: worn wooden floors, unpainted plaster walls, copper-pipe wine racks. Not to mention warm, low lighting (thanks to bare filament bulbs, obvs). It’s gloriously atmospheric. It’s a pity, then, that on the night of our visit, service wasn’t quite as warm as the setting. Staff were a tad brusque, and the wait between plates was like hanging on for the right Overground train. But do go (with a thick skin and plenty of time), as the food and vibe at this tucked-away gem are absolutely worth it.
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 Join us after hours for new late night dishes, unique cocktails and perfect sunrise views everyday from 11:30PM - 5AM
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!
It was a marketing wheeze that really, really worked. This new café/takeaway in Covent Garden sold every dish for a penny on opening day, and when we went a few days later there were huge queues waiting for tables and (mostly) takeaway. It reminded us of the old drug dealer’s trick to get new clients: ‘the first one’s free’. Addiction to Black Penny may become a recognised medical condition, but it won’t be because of cost – low though that is. When you finally reach the counter, you see dishes that look like those at many another coffee place: soup, sandwiches, salad, quiche, a stew, lots of baked sweet things. But when you finally sit down in the small back dining room, you realise this isn’t the stuff of two-for-a-penny cafés. The quality is high in both sweet and savoury dishes. Salads are a particular strength, with confident seasoning in the dressings and excellent assemblies of sprightly ingredients to carry them. The kitchen has a masterful pasty-maker, as we saw in both a savoury tart and a Pennsylvania-Dutch-style apple pie. They also had a good ceviche on the menu when we were there. Portions are enormous and prices eminently reasonable - £7.50 for a salad box that some people would be happy to share between two, sandwiches just under a fiver. In the food, the only downer was inelegant presentation of salad selections. The separate components were piled together so that their flavours blended in some unappealing ways: ceviche on top of couscous is never a good
The neon sign outside reads ‘sex shop’; the mannequin in the entrance wears a PVC gimp suit. But the real excitement begins when you descend the stairs into the bowels of this nightclub-like restaurant. It’s so dark and loud you’ll need a moment to adjust (the light bulbs have been blacked out). By comparison, the homely Mexican cooking can feel run-of-the-mill, though effort is put into presentation. On our visit, soft flour tacos with a tender beef filling arrived beautifully arranged on a specially designed wooden board; a crunchy cheese and roasted tomato quesadilla was served ‘open’; pinto beans with a spicy chorizo kick came in a dinky glazed bowl. The real highlight was the dish least concerned with its own looks: a rich lamb shank in intensely dark juices. Seafood cazuela (a one-pot dish like a wet paella), containing clams, squid, prawns and mussels, was creamy, tangy and perfectly fine, though not especially memorable. Factor-in the small portions and two-hour table limits (though you can decamp to the bar), and you might wonder what the fuss is all about. But that would be missing the point. You come here to see and be seen, and for a thrilling atmosphere and exceptionally friendly service. A must-try. La Bodega Negra also have a cafe round the other side (entrance on Moor St).
The name of this Chelsea newbie is not (thankfully), a twee riff on the word ‘chic’. Chicama is actually just a coastal town in Peru. Which is fitting, when you consider that this is the newer, more seafoody sibling of Marylebone’s Pachamama (a party restaurant, also Peruvian, popular with young moneyed sorts). The people here are no less beautiful, just a shade more mature. This is the southern, ‘resi’ enclave of SW10, after all. So the fiesta has been toned down, but, hey, this is still a lively place where you can have a good time. Deep Latin beats ripple through the L-shaped room – a space once home to neighbourhood trattoria Osteria dell’Arancio – while the large open kitchen adds to the hubbub. Flirty young staff, as impeccably groomed as the diners, squeeze between swish marble tables dishing out plates that are modish, mini and – on the whole – marvellous. From the selection of small plates (the most exciting part of the menu) came a knockout seabass ceviche, its citrus-cured flesh layered not just with fragrant heritage tomatoes, but with toasted sweetcorn kernels and pickled red onion. There’s a wide selection of chargrilled fish, like delicate fillet of sea bream. These all come with intriguing sauces (smoked ají panca and horseradish, say), but absolutely no carbs: just the thing if you’ve got a size six dress to squeeze into. But for sheer brilliance and creativity, the prize has to go to a simple ‘snack’ plate, of ‘tapioca marshmallows’. Imagine a chewy, glue
Just off Regent Street is Sakagura, a smart Japanese restaurant and sake bar. It’s like somewhere you would actually find in Japan, rather than your typical clichéd translation of a ‘Japanese restaurant’. You get all the trimmings – hot towels, impeccably polite service, a sake menu so vast that it’s organised by province and, of course, really excellent food. Attention to detail abounds. The décor is modern and sleek, with rich wooden tables, curved-back chairs and touches of black leather, but be sure to ask for a booth – partially screened, they’re the best seats in the house. The traditional crockery is beautiful and the chopsticks are double-ended, which is a nice touch for when you’re serving food for sharing (the Japanese frown on using the same chopsticks for eating and serving, unless, of course, those chopsticks have two ends). There’s even a sake sommelier. Despite Sakagura’s size and swishiness, it’s not at all intimidating, with friendly staff ready to talk you through what you’re about to eat without being patronising. Order the sashimi moriwase – when it arrives your pupils will morph into love hearts. At £39, it’s no cheap eat, but with 18 pieces of incredibly fresh fish, edible pansies and flowers carved out of daikon (plus fresh wasabi), it’s well worth it. Seabass carpaccio with subtle, truffly notes was intricate and exceptional. There’s plenty for veggies too – sushi rolls with burdock and carrot maki really sang, while the sprout tempura was so delicio
Venue says celebrating Japanese maple leaf season with an autumn leaf installation and exclusive limited-edition seasonal drinks menu until November.
Every table in the seventh floor restaurant of the South Place Hotel (part of the D&D empire) has a view over the surrounding rooftops and cranes; it’s a serene spot, with pristine white tablecloths and chic flower arrangements, though on summer weekends it’s more of a party space, complete with DJs. This relaxed style permeates the building – staff are as switched on as you’d expect from the restaurant’s Michelin star, but charmingly unstuffy with it, and that blend suits a restaurant poised between the old-school City and the new world of the Silicon Roundabout. British fish is the speciality, impeccably cooked and presented, from a menu by executive chef Gary Foulkes. The star of the show was cuttlefish bolognese with basil rigatoni, Amalfi lemon and olive oil, a sprightly, springtime starter bursting with flavour. A main of john dory with mousseron mushrooms, three-cornered leek (a wild allium with a short season of only a few weeks) and Tuscan lentils was also splendid, with beautifully crisped skin and tender fish. Both dishes came from the set lunch menu, brilliant value at £34 for three courses (which is less than a single main course from the à la carte). Alongside the fish there are a few meat options, but when the fish and seafood are this good, it seems pointless to stray. Chocolate pavé with banana and reduced milk ice-cream was a pleasing mix of fancy and comfort food to finish. Special mention should also go to the yeast butter, delightfully light and with a
Venue says Join us this Autumn on our rooftop terrace and enjoy our partnership with Talisker, to bring a taste of the Isle of Skye to the City.
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