Think TGIFs, except with a clubbier vibe
Core is a city-based venue with a clubby kind of feel, and is cut from the same cloth as the likes of Tiger Tiger, TGIFs and Hard Rock Cafe. Its interior is quirky and boasts some fun features and a lot of seating, compensating perhaps for the lack of imagination when it comes to the food.
How not to work a trend
The humble pudding is going through something of a revival in London. Pollen Street Social have their own exclusive dessert bar and there is also a new Pudding Bar in Soho. So far, so sweet. The concept of the speakeasy has also been recharged over the last few years, with the likes of my personal favourite, Nightjar. Basement Sate is a contender in a long list of imitations of a more glamourous era, centred on desserts and cocktails – unfortunately for us, it falls far short of the mark. Music blaring onto the street from an unmarked, wide-open door does not a speakeasy make – must try harder.
Afternoon tea: glossy, vibrant and utterly without fault
The Rosebery recently opened in the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Knightsbridge, offering the newest afternoon tea yet. The venue is sprightly and fresh, situated in a set of airy Victorian rooms. Soaring windows offer views down on to Brompton road, whilst also serving to fill the space with delicious light. White walls reach high into a ceiling decorated with elaborate cornicing and flourishing medallions, but the features are neither stuffy nor overbearing. The launch of the Rosebery at the Mandarin Oriental has a particular symmetry, being that the space was once a tea room in the 1920s frequented by the most distinguished personas of the time, including Lord Rosebery. Against this rich tapestry is a luxe and modern interior full of contemporary pieces and plush seating.
Really quite rubbish
The only reason I’m at Villandry tonight is because I’ve been sent a £50 voucher from the food fairies at Zomato. There are two branches of this brasserie-styled restaurant in London, and the one just south of Piccadilly Circus is our venue tonight. Truth be told, I haven’t really heard much at all about Villandry and I’m guessing that you haven’t either. All you really need to know is that it’s a bit crap, bar a few things – the bread, the building, and the service. The bread first – the foccacia is dotted with roasted tomatoes and sea salt, and the brown loaf has a delectable malty-moodiness to it. Our smiley waiters parade around with baskets full of it; with the benefit of hindsight comes the knowledge that I should have maxed out on the worthier carbs.
All the rustic charm of a small-town, without ever having to leave London
Provincial villages can be remarkable hubs of food and produce, the result of cement-free and unpolluted landscapes. The rustic mess of small-town cuisine can be had in many guises around London; one of the most honest coming from the kitchens of Cigalon. This Holborn based restaurant is rich in rural eccentricity, decorated with spindly olive trees, winding rattan and velvet seating. The comfort and space of the countryside is also replicated; the bosom of a generously proportioned booth provides both privacy and a sense of general wellbeing. From these pillowed confines, prepare to enjoy the splendour of food and wine from the southern belly of France.
Afternoon tea; the best yet, apart from the setting
Café Royal has an abundance of history, accumulated from its inception in 1865 to its refurbishment and rebirth as a 5* London Hotel. The premium location of the premises has remained the same, sat in the snug curve of Regents Street between Piccadilly and Oxford Circus. Apart the gold lettering on a maroon flag, there is no indication of the grandeur that lies within. The Oscar Wilde Bar (previously known as The Grill Room) has been painstakingly restored to its original Louis XVI detailing, and named after one of its many celebrity patrons. Throughout the years, Café Royal has played host to the musings of all manner of people, from Oscar Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, to name but a few.
The Oscar Wilde Bar is a room covered in a diverting amount of gilded filigree. Every centimetre of it is festooned in with gold-leafed latticing that would not look out of place at Versailles. The ceiling boasts gilt flourishes and sepia frescos of cherubs and naked ladies, the decadence concentrated further with mirrors and marble pilasters. You can’t deny the opulence of it, and there is something in its indulgent nature that suites an afternoon tea which starts at £42 and rises to £85 per person with a glass of Dom Pérignon.
Macarons & martini’s, what could be better?
Although I don’t usually blog about events, the prospect of attending Ohlala’s Macaron and Martini Masterclass sounds so delicious that I’ve made an exception. Ohlala is a travelling event, and is held in various venues across London. The venue this afternoon is at the Antoni & Alison boutique shop, or more specifically in the café above the shop called ‘Ye Olde Worlde Super Modern Tearoom’.
The format of the event is simple: first, we are shown how to make the French macaron mixture. This includes instructions on how to handle the ingredients (aging the egg whites, pulverising the ground almonds further with icing sugar, using gel/powder dyes instead of liquid), as well as a demonstration on making the macaron mix. Although there are two different macaron recipes, we are taught the simpler one which uses French meringue instead of Italian meringue. There is some debate as to which is better, but it is widely accepted that Italian meringue macarons are the superior species both in taste and texture. With this in mind, you should be aware that this event does not produce Pierre Hermé or Ladurée grade macarons. In fact, although most of the macaron here have good texture there are some which are of a markedly lesser quality.
A new set lunch menu takes the sting out of this Mayfair venue
Until recently you really needed to possess an expense account, a doting boss, or a generous partner to seriously consider dining at Coya. You’d have to accept that a meal here would soak up rather a lot of your hard-earned dinero, with mains priced in excess of £25 each. Of course, this is not an uncommon affliction when dining in Mayfair, a spot of concentrated foreign wealth which manifests most often as crisp Hermes scarves wafting with Arabian Oud. The new launch of a set lunch menu helps to take the sting out of the experience; choose to go for either 3 or 4 courses at £26.50 and £29.50 respectively. Although there is an absence of premium produce, the better value for money is still something to be celebrated.
A reminder of how bad London’s food scene used to be
Andrew Edmunds is a little-known bistro serving brit-euro food. The restaurant sits next to the print shop, both named after their owner. It’s clear on arrival that Andrew Edmunds isn’t trying to pull in new punters; it’s very much happy with it’s loyal following amassed since opening in ’86. My review won’t put any of them off, each I’m sure have their own love affair with it.
The food is the kind of stuff that you might produce in the comfort of your own kitchen. Although portions are large and their contents hearty, there is much amiss. A brothy creation of cuttlefish and saffron is just the thing that you would plunge your head into on a cold day, and although I adore the richness of it’s tomato sauce it is disappointingly under seasoned. The pepper mill gets hot from trying to make mains of whole lemon sole and leg of rabbit more palatable. Its a trick that works on the latter, but more is needed for the former. The whole fish is doused in anchovy oil and served with wood-textured purple sprouting broccoli. More than being just unpleasant to eat, it’s gravely in need of zest, salt, pepper, sauce, herbs. Flavour.
Not for the faint-hearted
Tonight is my first proper solo-dining experience – an accident really. I was invited to a certain venue to review the food, only to arrive at the restaurant and be confronted with a fashion event. Needless to say, it wasn’t quite my scene. I laid down the skinny cocktail which had been pressed immediately into my hand, and under the pretence of taking pictures made my escape. Away from the perpetually under-fed, I promptly took myself for a bite to eat.
I’ve been meaning to visit Ember Yard for a while now, having read good if not great things about it. The newest addition to the Salt Yard Group joins the ranks of sister restaurants Salt Yard, Dehesa and Opera Tavern. To differentiate Ember Yard from its siblings, an emphasis is placed on charcoal-grilling. You should be aware that although prices for each individual tapas-style dish seem reasonable (hovering between the £6-£9 mark), there is a tendency for costs to rack up.