Ah, how I admire the passion, enthusiasm and commitment of any new London restaurant blogger. “MUST GET TO NEW RESTAURANT IMMEDIATELY!!!” Me, I’m sitting in front of Netflix on a Friday night with a bottle of wine. Go out to eat on a Friday night? No thanks. Hummus and pretzels for dinner for me! (Penn State pretzels, sour cream and chive. My favorite.) Every so often, I do leave the house. And you know what? I’m feeling particularly generous in 2015. Life is good! Restaurants are good! London is grand! Someone, quick, serve me something terrible or else I won’t have anything to talk about. Here’s where I’ve been eating lately.
Ember Yard: They don’t know what to do with a solo diner. I am given a seat at the bar overlooking the kitchen. Bad idea. I smell like smoke for days on end. (There’s a reason why they call it “Ember Yard.”) But the burrata with chargrilled aubergine is delicious as is the lamb slider. But then…I spend a lot of time waving my hands in the air for the bill. The Verdict: Go, but don’t sit at the bar.
The Square: My friend Jen had a baby in October and of course I got the baby presents but I wanted to get Jen a present too. So I took her to The Square, where the service was supremely lovely. The lighting was a bit too bright, but the loos were delightfully chilly. We loved the slow cooked duck egg and the surprisingly large portions for a lunch tasting menu. Also nice, the butter. But we had to practically beg for more. Afterwards, we went to Claridge’s and drank ridiculously expensive champagne by the glass and tried to guess if anyone was a hooker. (Apparently, hookers prefer the Blue Bar at The Berkeley.)
Hakkasan Mayfair: I had naively booked a couple of tables for lunch over New Year’s thinking…who doesn’t want to go out to lunch over New Year’s? Well apparently, I am the only one who wants to go out to lunch on New Year’s Eve. Because not only would no one come with me, but the restaurant was empty too. Watch your wine glass here. They will take it away from you before you are done. And when you’ve had the dainty set lunch and really, really really want more venison puffs, they will judge you. They will suggest that rather than eating the macarons that come as part of your set lunch, you take them to go. (There are five macarons, so you will be okay with this, really. But still…it’s the principle of the thing. Why can’t you eat both the venison puffs AND the macarons in the restaurant at your table?) Best bit not related to Hakkasan: I took money out of the cash machine next door and it gave me fifty pound notes!! Fifty pound notes!! Ah, Mayfair. The Verdict: Good.
Berners Tavern: It’s beautiful but TOO BRIGHT for lunch. They need to turn the lights down. (They do so, later, at the end of our meal. Lending a rosy glow to the mostly male patrons. Where are all the women??) The service is lovely and the food is good. We particularly enjoyed our lobster and prawn cocktail to start. The venison, perfectly pink, was also nice. This is the type of place to take out-of-town visitors. Atmosphere, you know. The Verdict: Take that special someone here. In the evening, when the lights are low. Pretend you are George and Amal!
Mint Leaf: I cause problems with my friends. They think I have expensive tastes. “Going out to dinner with you is expensive,” they say. They don’t know how much I love Pret a Manger and Itsu. And they never consider that maybe it’s not me that’s the problem, but maybe our other friend who does not stick to the “better value” end of the wine list and prefers bottled water to tap. (But we still love him.) Hmmm…availability bias? Not sure what to call it. Because I made the booking and I sent the e-mail, the bill is my fault. Hey, dinner anywhere can be a good value if you stay away from the 2005 Bordeauxs. Me, I prefer Portugal. Lots of good values in Portugal. Do you know what’s a good value at Mint Leaf? Wines by the glass at the bar! Although when I asked for a glass of Viognier and they brought me a Cabernet, I laughed and they didn’t. You know what else? The food was good! I liked it! 17 quid for what amounts to chicken tikka masala is a bit steep though. Next time I’ll stick to Cobras. The Verdict: Good for a scene-y, vibe-y group dinner. Try the smoked cocktails at the bar too. Fun for the entire family!
Royal China Baker Street: Dim sum, I love you above most things. We stuffed our faces with order after order of prawn dumplings and it was only 17 quid a person. 17 quid!!! (Note friend who prefers 2005 Bordeauxs not present!) The loos are clean and nice and the service is prompt and efficient. I could eat here every day and be very very happy. Maybe I will! Dim sum coma everyday in 2015?? Fierce. The Verdict: Go!
So that’s it. I think. I am all caught up now, with London restaurants that is. Maybe…