Coya

In our quest to constantly try what’s new without having to leave the W1 postcodes, Peruvian cuisine has recently been given the London makeover. Lima, of Fitzrovia, remains the best if you are going for the food alone, and was awarded a Michelin star for it. But eating in London is rarely only about the food. So if it’s a pleasant demonstration of Peruvian cooking without the risk of the unfamiliar or too foreign, then Coya will be perfect for you. With outposts already in Miami and Dubai, it is a restaurant made for the international class- those who stay in the Grand Park Hyatt and look down on the exotic streets from their 30th floor room. You can say you’ve been there, and tick it off the list, but really it’s no different to your experience of any other city or cuisine.

Opened in 2013, by Arjun Waney, who is one of the founders of Zuma and Roka, the restaurant is all high design and has a menu that is constructed to please. Set in a grand old house on the quieter end of Piccadilly, it’s a glamorous postcode, but in reality is a thoroughfare for taxis, buses and tourists heading to Hard Rock Cafe. Suited bouncers and an upstairs members club set the scene for a pricey meal. The basement pisco bar and restaurant has a dark and metallic decor with flashes of colour, giving it the feel of a posh bomb shelter. The menu is split into sections, too many to read through, but is essentially raw dishes or food from the grill. It’s Zuma-high prices, so no matter what combination of dishes you put together you’re looking at over £80 a head.

From the starters a wild Sea bass ceivche was a beautiful fresh dish with orange and fennel shavings and a zingy avocado and red onion salsa (£12). Pork belly (£12) had been cooked on the Josper grill giving it a strong smoky flavour, freshened by the fennel and mint, but there just wasn’t enough of it. This was Weight Watchers pork belly, with all the flat trimmed off. A corn salad (£8) was full of different textures, but served by itself meant you were just eating spoonfuls of what tasted like tinned corn. It would have been far more enjoyable alongside the skewers which came next- first beef (£10) that had a lovely spicing but a slightly unusual mushy texture, and then monkfish (£10) which were perfectly cooked with a smoky red pepper dressing.

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A main of sea bream with potatoes and a fennel salad (£17) had a great balance but was let down by the overcooking of the fish. Grilled Tiger prawns with chilli salsa (£27) could have been braver with the chilli and again were a little overdone. From the waiter’s recommendations, sea bass (£33) cooked with rice, lime and sweet corn in iron pot was the best dish of the night. It was a soothing best savoury porridge with an incredible depth of flavours. Once all mixed together it was the sort of dish you want to spoon up on a hungover Sunday. Sides of patatas bravas were like the best bits from the roasties tray and broccoli with sesame seeds and chilli tasted as it does on any other menu.

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To finish a thin slice of salted caramel ganache with raspberry sorbet was rich, and needed the raspberry to cut through it.

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Portions are small and expensive, and if you’re in the mood for drink, the meal can easily creep up to the £100 per head mark. My previous experience of Peruvian cooking was at Lima, where the flavours were completely new to me and every dish surprised. Here the bold flavours are toned down, and many of the dishes taste very similar to what you have at Roka or Zuma, just with slightly different spicing. It’s undeniably a seductive restaurant that coaxes you into emptying your pockets, but break from its spell and you’ll see that it is far from an exciting take on Peruvian cooking, and is just another addition to stylised international Mayfair scene.

7/10 (££££)

118 Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 7NW

Coya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Beast

You can always trust the Asian’s when it comes to a quality crustacean. And so when a friend from Hong Kong told me that London’s moneyed Asian cohort have found a new joint to feast on sea flesh, I was eager to get my fill. Sure enough they were here in their numbers, having flocked over from Burger & Lobster which at £20 is loose change in comparison. They were gorging on a bigger and uglier beast. The Giant Norwegian King Crab. The restaurant is Beast.

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Everything about Beast is viagra’d masculinity. The name, the menu (£85 for The Beast Experience- not including drinks or service), the gauntlet to your table through the tanks of mean-looking giant crabs who scrap for space in their tanks fighting their own imminent extinction, to the dark Medieval banquet hall where you scrape up a pew and prepare to dirty your fingers and soul by gorging on the finest meat and crab in town. Of course it’s full of suited city boys chugging down bottles from the pricey wine list and acting like they are wealthy lords from some distant time. But for once this doesn’t make me want to force a crab fork up their chang-caked noses. It adds to the Beast Experience and seduces me to join the orgy. A couple of trendy crafts and a bottle of fizz later, and I’m clashing my hands and echoing my laughs around the room and frustrating the hell out of the Chinese family on the sharing table with me, who just wanted to eat their crab meat and cream their pants with Instagram snaps (or whatever-the-hell the latest app is).

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Once seated it’s simple- you take the blow and order the Beast Experience. Or if you’re operating on a shoestring, watching your weight, or just a downright tosser and shouldn’t be eating here, you go for something lighter off the specials board. You can upgrade too if you’re either a group, a fat bastard, a complete baller, or maybe just somebody who gets a kick out of going for one of the pensioner crabs who thought (wrongly) that having survived seventy-odd years and grown to a whopping 7-plus kilos, that they would see out the rest of their days getting their leg over the rest of the crabs in the tank. If you’re in the latter camp, I salute you.

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So the Experience starts. Well, it tries to start, for what comes as a ‘starter’ is a bit of a pointless distraction. A cock tease before the main event. An antipasti of pickled onions, olives and chunks of strong parmesan with some ancient balsamic glaze might as well be skipped. Pleasant enough, but you’re not coming here to nibble on bits of cheese.

So let’s skip to the main event. The Giant Norwegian King Crab and a slab of rare Nebraskan steak brought out on their own trays- things of pure beauty. Fuck the sides of posh smoked tomatoes, salad and new potatoes, and fuck the cutlery. This is all about ripping, tearing and fighting your way through the meat. Come through the other side with two clean trays and a greased-up mouth and chin and you’ll be a better person. The crab’s legs are huge and filled with chunks of sweet fleshy meat. Lather her up with some buttery garlic sauce and you’ll be panting. The steak is of course spot on with this being part of the Goodman family. To bring beef all the way over from Nebraska it better taste good. And this sure as hell does. Marbled, fatty, rich and juicy. It has it all. This is the fiercest surf & turf in London.

Desserts- some sort of deconstructed cheesecake and a refreshing posset of some sort- are again a bit pointless. You’re spent by then, and they’re only there for the formality of making it a three-courser and perhaps to keep back some of those complaints if it were £85 for one course.

You will crawl out packed to the gullet with meat of the land and sea and you’ll have done your bit to increase the carbon footprint in shipping these creatures over from their native homes. What can I say about Beast other than it is pure indulgent pleasure. Obviously don’t come here if you’re a damned veggie or a a nature conservationist or if you’re on a budget (the bill was £140 a head- you can do it cheaper without the fizz). This is as capitalist, manly and bullish as they come. It’s a throbbing erection of a restaurant. Go and blow your load.

8/10

3 Chapel Pl, London W1G 0BG
Beast Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Roka

With a new branch in Mayfair opening its doors, Roka is once again the destination Japanese restaurant in town. The famed robata grill and seductive atmosphere has long been pleasing the customers, but after going to the original Roka on Charlotte Street a couple of weeks ago, I felt it was lacking in that slick, buzzing city atmosphere that you associate with restaurants like Zuma and Hakkasan. But with the Canary Wharf and now Mayfair restaurant open, they once again offer the full package, combining the consistently excellent food with an electric atmosphere. Of course you are going to pay for this, and it’s always a worrying sign when prices don’t appear on the menu on the website, but after a couple of cocktails you’ll soon be too caught up in the seductive charm of the place to care.

The Canary Wharf restaurant has the same beechwood decor and open kitchen, but with views of neighbouring skyscrapers and a much slicker crowd it has a much livelier feel than the Charlotte Street restaurant. It still retains its warmer and more laid back vibe than the likes of Hakkasan and Nobu, which are a little too much like a nightclub both in their darkness and by the little outfits most of the women there are wearing, for my liking. There’s everything you would expect to see on a top Japanese restaurant’s menu, but the real star of the show here comes from the robata grill, which licks everything it touches with a mouthwatering charred flavour. With three friends down for the weekend all wanting a wild night in the big city, Roka is the ideal destination to get the party started. I lost count of the amount of times we waved to the waiter to bring another plate of something.

The soft shell crab was the star of the small plates. There was plenty of it as well, a much more generous portion than I’d had at Nobu, and with that fiery chilli sauce it was incredibly moreish, which meant we ordered 4 of them.

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The yellowfin sashimi with truffle was sensational, with just the right amount of truffle to not overpower the freshness of the tuna. A less experienced restaurant would have doused the dish in truffle to give the impression of grandeur, but here they had the balance expertly gauged.

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The scallop skewers with wasbi and shiso were plump little things with a good hit of heat from the wasabi. They went down dangerously quickly.

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Then there was the ribs except without the bones, and these were perfectly tender chunks of meat in a delicious sauce with a sprinkle of cashews giving an added crunch. The bits that had charred and crisped up had almost a sweet caramel smokiness to them, and were absolutely delicious.

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The black cod is less exciting to me now because it is on the menu at all of these restaurants and there’s little variation from place to place. Marinated in yuzo miso it really is as juicy and tasty a piece of fish you are likely to try. The fish cuts like butter and has a texture like no other seafood you’ll try. It’s also the price of gold, so be sure to let the person you’re trying to impress know that when they are enjoying it melting on their tongue.

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The lamb cutlets coated in Korean spices were big juicy pieces of meat with plenty of charred fat that had melted down from the grill.

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The chicken skewers were incredibly succulent for chicken, and there was plenty of meat to get your teeth into. A few vegetables options included thick spears of grilled asparagus coated with sweet soy and sesame seeds, and a similar fried eggplant version that had a lovely sweetness to it.

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There wasn’t a dish that failed to impress, which should be the case when you consider that we were paying £100 a head (that included a good amount of drink though). But when you think that other restaurants of this type charge the same, if not higher prices, and have smaller portions and inferior cooking, then Roka certainly is worth it. It is also much less filled with posers and those who are desperate to catch a glimpse of a celeb, and because of this is has the feel of a real top London restaurant, making it the best high end Japanese restaurant (on a par with Zuma) in the city. So if you want the full package and don’t care what the bill at the end will say, then this is the place for you.

Food: 9.5/10

Service: 7/10

Atmosphere: 9/10 (Canary Wharf), 7/10 (Charlotte St)

Value: 6/10

Overall: 9/10

1st Floor, 4 Park Pavilion, 40 Canada Square, London E14 5FW

37 Charlotte Street, London W1T 1RR

30 North Audley Street, Mayfair, London W1K 6ZF

 

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Goodman

Where better to take three women for dinner than a place that proudly serves pretty much nothing else but steak. This was my first experience of Goodman, having remained a loyal fan of Hawksmoor for the last few years. What tempted me to jump ship was Hawksmoor’s Air Street venture which felt too impersonal and big, almost like they’d buckled under the commercial pressure and finally taken that step from independent British steakhouse to a huge corporate beast. Given Goodman’s Mayfair location I was expecting it to be a real stuffy affair, but walking into the confidently masculine dining room, I was surprised by how laid back it felt. It was filled with post-work suits, but had anything but a corporate atmosphere, and even in the back private dining room where we were seated it had a constant warm buzz.

Things got off to a solid start with Beef Carpaccio (£8) which wasn’t doused in a dressing,  allowing the flavour of the beef to come through.

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The Tiger Prawn Tempura, with Avocado, Mango and Cajun Mayonaise (£12) was a solid starter, but a little on the safe side. The batter was light and crispy but they could have been braver with the cajun spice, as more of a hit of heat would have worked perfectly with the cool freshness of the mango and avocado.

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I had the Buratta with grilled sourdough and olives (£13), although I don’t remember the olives. This was the first time I’d the this soft Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream and I wasn’t expecting the flavour to be so subtle. The only complaint was that it was all a little too mushy, and would have benefited from the sourdough being crisp rather than soggy. It just needed some bite to compliment the smoothness of the cheese.

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The Pan Fried Foie Gras, Roasted Fig, Oyster Mushroom and Truffle Honey (£15) sounded incredibly indulgent, but sadly there just wasn’t much of it. There were a lot of figs which were delicious covered in the truffle honey, but only a tiny amount of the Foie Gras, and not enough to justify the price tag.

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The Goodman 400g Ribeye (£34) was a stunning caramel brown and had my meat juices flowing as soon as I saw it. It was as tender as they come and absolutely packed with flavour. Was it as good as the Hawksmoor ribeye? Not quite. There’s no way to explain this other than that the British beef at Hawksmoor just has a deeper flavour to it. The Béarnaise sauce was great, but the real star was the Stilton sauce. This had an incredible depth of flavour almost like a meaty stock that had been reduced down for hours.

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The 250g Fillet (£34) was slightly overdone in both cases. Fortunately this didn’t have any impact of the taste and it was still a juicy steak. As tends to be the case though, it was some way off the tastier ribeye cut. Also it seemed a little heavy on the price even for a fillet.

IMG_1917For sides the Truffle Chips (£5.50) and Beef Dripping Chips (£5.50) were perfectly crunchy. The Mac and Cheese, Truffle Sauce and Parmesan (£5) wasn’t sticky and cheesy enough for me. The Creamed Spinach with Gruyere Cheese (£4.50) was the pick of the bunch, basically because there really wasn’t any way you could kid yourself that you were having a healthy portion of spinach. The only disappointment was the Carrots with Honey and Ginger Glaze (£3.50) which were overcooked and too sweet.

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We shared the New York Cheese Cake and Berry Compote (£7) which was about as heavy as a cheesecake can get. This wouldn’t usually be a complaint, but after putting away two bottles of red and a 400g steak I’d have preferred something a little lighter. Of course I cleaned the plate though.

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Just as heavy was the Cookie Sundae (£7) which was easily enough for two. Plenty of cookies, caramel and cream. This was a real a belt loosener.

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Overall the food was solid, but didn’t quite live up to the £70 per head price tag. What made me forgive this though, was the service, which was flawless throughout. Our waitress really was as good as they get. I find Hawksmoor can be a little bit like a conveyor belt where the staff are all just part of that steak churning machine. Here the waitress was incredibly relaxed and gave us plenty of much-needed time to let the kilo of food settle. There’s a lot to love about Goodman and I’ll definitely come back, but if like me, you can only convince your partner to go to a steakhouse on a rare occasion, then I’d sooner return to Hawksmoor.

Food: 7/10

Service: 9.5/10

Atmosphere: 8/10

Value: 6.5/10

Overall: 8/10

24-26 Maddox Street, Mayfair, W1S 1QH

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Scott’s

I’m sure the PR team at Scott’s  were telling themselves that any press is good press when their name was all over the tabloids after the whole Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson event. Now that the heat is off, normal order has been resumed, and if anything the regulars here a little bit more to gossip about as they line up on the Mayfair pavement and slurp back oysters and champagne.

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Scott’s really is the gem of Mayfair. It’s a place where celebrities go because they claim they love the food and don’t get bothered there, but really just want to snapped by the paparazzi that eagerly await outside. For the rest of us it is either saved for a special occasion or a place you go so that you can say you’ve seen Ronnie Wood or Bono, or maybe even Bill Clinton. Inside the grand seafood counter is like something you would only find in Harrods, and the art-deco interior oozes wealth and class. This is for a much higher calibre of scenesters than those who slap on their highest heels and shortest skirts and flock to Nobu.

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A dozen mixed oysters with wild boar sausages (£39) and a bottle of Bruno Paillard Rosé champagne (£110) got things off to a fittingly indulgent start. If you are looking for a way into oysters, as my partner was, then having a good old clump of sausage to go with it, is certainly a help.

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The octopus carpaccio is dressed with chilli, spring onion and coriander (£14.25) and is one of the specialities here. It is a glamorous plate of food and there’s a good hit of heat from the chilli too making it a vibrant starter.

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My partner had the pan-fried duck egg with wild rabbit, black pudding, devilled sauce (£10.50) which although by no means a disappointing starter, lacked the star quality mine had. The egg was really the heart of the dish, with the rabbit as more of an afterthought. Most of the food here is simple but expertly cooked, but this dish was a little too far on the safe side.

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For main I had the seared sea bass with lemon and herb butter (£26.50) which needed a side of creamed spinach (£5.50) to complete it. I’m never a fan of mains that come without any sides, but that’s the style at Scott’s, and although paying over £30 for a fillet of sea bass is expensive, there was no denying the quality of the ingredient and cooking.

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My partner had the 16oz grilled Dover Sole (£42) that was just about the best piece of fish either of us have tried. Again no sides accompany it, so with broccoli coated in hazelnut butter (£5.75) this is almost a half tonne main course and you’d struggle to find a main for much more than that in London.

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We shared the Scott’s dessert plate (£10) which is made up of trio of miniatures. We had the toffee fondant, apple pie and cheesecake, all which were excellent, and this is perfect for those who, like me, are both greedy and indecisive.

The bill came to over £100 a head, and whilst prices are high,  if you are going to Scott’s and aren’t a regular, then this feels like the only way to do it. Champagne and oysters aren’t something you indulge on every day, and there is no finer place in London to enjoy this luxury than on one of the coveted seats in Scott’s. They remind you of this privilege with the cover charge of £2. It’s a restaurant I will come to once a year, either for a special occasion or as a sure-fire way to get myself out of the dog-house and back into the good books with my partner.

Food: 8.5/10

Service: 8/10

Atmosphere: 9/10

Value: 7/10

Overall: 8.5/10

20 Mount Street, London W1K 2HE

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Cafe Murano

This review has been sitting in my drafts for a good couple of months. Mainly because I drank so much red wine on the night that it has taken me that long to piece my memories of it together. But what memories I do have are all good. Cafe Murano is the second recent opening involving Angela Hartnett, the other being Merchants Tavern that opened in late 2013 as well. From what I could tell from the very little information given away before its opening, it was basically going to serve up affordable Italian food; and being the younger sister of the Michelin starred Murano it was hard to resist this combo. I went on the first Friday it had opened, but there was nothing to suggest that they were having any teething problems. The staff were excellent and the food was top notch at very reasonable prices.

Inside a long bar area leads to the main dining room. Unfortunately we never got to experience the warmth of that room as we were given the worst table in the restaurant, stuck between the cloak room, the check-in desk and the front door. This meant we were cold and also constantly had people standing over our table.  It also made the atmosphere less lively as we were tucked away from the action. This is the only complaint I have from the night. Thankfully the waitress serving us was excellent, and soon the food and drink made up for it.

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We started with a couple of cocktails. A Cubism, which was basically an Italian spin on a Mojito, and was a little too heavy on the bitter and light handed on the rum. And my partner went for an Amaretto and cherry based drink, that tasted exactly like a cherry bakewell tart. The cocktails were nothing special, and it made me think that this isn’t a cocktail kind of place. Had this been Soho, I’d have got it. But here, with the quiet bar counter, it just didn’t fit. We turned to the wine list, which is made up of an extensive and fairly pricey selection of Italians and not really paying too much attention I went for what turned out to be a too drinkable red for £35.

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Now the food. Had it not been for the waitress I’d have probably ordered the whole lot. I was in a particularly indecisive mood and couldn’t understand  how this menu worked with all the different sized plates. I’d love for somebody to explain the Italian system to me, as I had the same problem at Cecconi’s and ended up having a five course lunch. The waitress kind of helped by telling us some people try everything, others just go for a bowl of pasta. The gist of it was basically to just order whatever sounded good.

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To get things going some fresh foccacia came which on its own wasn’t the best I’ve had, but the oil it came with (exclusive to Cafe Murano we were told) was some of the best I’ve had. Next were the Truffle Arancini (for only £3!). I would have happily eaten them all day. Just enough truffle (oil I guess) so that it wasn’t sickly. This was Mayfair’s version of the pork scratching. As bar snacks go, it was as good as it gets.

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Joining it was Mozzarella and Charred Aubergine (£6.50). This was an incredibly light dish, and it was a perfect example of how all you need to do with great ingredients is keep things simple.

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The Warm Octopus, Chickpeas & Pesto (£9.50) was probably my least favourite of the night. I’d have liked more of a hit from the pesto, and it wasn’t the biggest portion I’ve seen.

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Then came the Swiss Chard, Spinach & Ricotta Tortelli (£8 for the smaller portion). This is without a doubt the best pasta I have ever eaten. I didn’t even know pasta could reach this level. The filling was rich and creamy and there was plenty of that amazing olive oil and parmesan coating it, but the pasta was the unrivalled star of the show.
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Then there was more pasta, this time Red Mullet linguine (£11) with a strong hit of chilli and garlic. Again the pasta was perfect, and the flavours had been carefully balanced so that the Red Mullet still took centre stage.
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For main my partner won the battle to have first choice (I couldn’t argue as it was her birthday) and she went for the Risotto Milanese, Osso Buco (£15). The risotto was perfectly al dente, but a little on the runny side. I always thought risotto should hold its shape a bit more, but I’m no expert. It was a little salty as well, but not enough to take anything away from how good this dish was. It was the poshest of comfort foods and so warming we soon forgot we were sitting by the door.

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I went for the Roast Silver Mullet, Potatoes, Olives & Thyme (£15), and it wasn’t the most exciting plate of food I’ve seen. It all looked a little bit flat. The fish was cooked to perfection, as were the potatoes. But there wasn’t much else to it other than good ingredients well executed. I was extremely jealous of my partner’s dish.

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I finished things off with the best Tiramisu (£6.50) I have ever eaten. It was comfortably big enough to be shared, but after being trumped on mains I kept it to myself. The sponge was soaked in booze and strong coffee and the cream was light. I’d heard about the Tiramisu at Murano, but didn’t expect it to be this good.

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My partner chose the Apple Crostata and a scoop of rich vanilla ice cream, which was good, but there was no doubting who was licking their lips more. I’d go back just for that Tiramisu.

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The bill came to just over £180, which for a restaurant that offers simply cooked, affordable Italian food might sound like a lot. But we had our fair share of booze, and admittedly the cocktails weren’t needed, nor was the second bottle of red. The small plates can add up though if you’re in a particular hungry mood, or like us just don’t understand the way an Italian menu works. But you could quite easily come in here and have a glass of wine, a great bowl of pasta and some of those truffle risotto balls for less than £30. We had a fantastic meal, and if this was only the first week, then I’m sure things will only go from strength to strength.

Food: 8.5/10

Service: 9/10

Value: 8/10

Atmosphere: 7/10

Overall: 8.5/10

33 St James’s St, St James’s,  SW1A 1HD

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Cecconi’s

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There’s nothing I hate more than when a restaurant makes you feel like you should thank them for letting you eat there. It should always be the other way around. At Cecconi’s, I imagine that even if you are one of the wealthy regulars who swans down from their Mayfair pad for a casual lunch and catch up about the latest shop window displays on Bond St, then maybe, just maybe the staff will care about who you are. But for the rest of us though, it is tough luck.

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It really is a place-to-be seen and everybody here is dressed for the occasion. It’s one of the only restaurants where you type its name into Instagram and get more photos of people posing there, than actual photos of the food, which just about sums it up. It’s an incredibly good looking restaurant, and has the feel of a younger and more casual Scott’s. Prices are high, but given the location I don’t mind parting with the money, and there are many restaurants neraby that are more overpriced than this.

But beneath the glamorous surface, things began to fall apart. My  parents were down for the weekend and so I booked it for a Saturday lunchtime. After two incessant voicemails telling me to confirm my reservation I rang them only to be on hold for 7 minutes. I hung up. On Saturday morning I rang them to tell them that my parents’ train was delayed, and asked if they had anything later. No of course not. So we changed the table to a 2. When my parents train made up time, meaning they could then join us, I immediately asked if we could up the size of the table again. No, the table had gone. This may have been the case, but what was frustrating was that three tables around us sat empty for the duration of the meal.

So after the whole fuss with the table we were seated by the window and given a menu and some good bread and olive oil. We ordered two glasses of wine which we then had to remind our waiter twenty minutes later to bring (no apology of course). Rather than chatting to us, or even welcoming us, his first line was to reel off the specials. He then promptly left. He was like this for the whole meal, and literally couldn’t have been less helpful. He was so aloof that it felt like I should have swapped places with him and then paid for his meal.

So to the food. Not learning our lesson from Cafe Murano where we ordered just about everything, we again failed to grasp the Italian style of dining and ordered too much food. From the cicchetti we had Aubergine parmigiana (£8) which really was tasty, and much better than the one we had at Zucca a few weeks back, and even though it was only a little slice it was so rich that it was sufficient.

We also went for a small porion of the crab ravioli (£15). Again for this price portions were a little small, as it was only four pieces of ravioli. But each one was filled with crab meat and the pasta had a lovely bite to it.

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We also had the meatballs (£7) after we were told they were out of porky belly. The meatballs were tender but the sauce was boring. It basically tasted of the tomato passata you’d buy in a supermarket.IMG_0346

Next up was the Calamari fritti (£12) which were about as good as calamari can get (although not quite as good as the squid I got a few weeks ago in José). A good squeeze of lemon and dollop of fresh mayonnaise with a hint of garlic is all they needed. IMG_0347

Judging by the starters, I wasn’t then expecting the size of the main courses that turned up. The lamb shoulder with potato and artichokes (£22) was a huge portion, so big that I couldn’t finish it all. Maybe the style is to share? The lamb was tender from the slow cooking but overall the dish was just a little boring and needed a hit flavour from somewhere. Maybe even just some garlic. It was solid homecooking, the type you can’t always be bothered to labour over on a Sunday, but for a restaurant of this standard they could have added another dimension.

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My girlfriend chose the lobster pasta (£29) and again it was a huge portion, although admittedly there was a lot more pasta than lobster. Again it was a fine dish without doing anything to overly excite. Really all there was to the dish was a basic tomato sauce and (presumably) homemade pasta. It was only the addition of lobster that meant the price shot up. All I was thinking was just how good value Burger & Lobster is when compared to this dish.

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We passed on desserts and with three glasses of wine lunch came to just over £140 for the two of us. We did order too much food and this could easily have been dinner, so the bill could have been less. Overall the restaurant has a great feel to it with a constant buzz and it’s easy to see the appeal. It isn’t about the food here, so if you want top Italian dining then go elsewhere, instead this is about getting a taste of that scene, which will keep bringing people back. What puts me off rushing back  to join them though is the service, which was really poor.

Food: 7/10

Service: 4/10

Atmosphere: 8.5/10

Value: 6.5/10

Overall: 6/10

5A Burlington Gardens, W1S 3EP

Square Meal

Standard