Persian-to-go; a punchy landscape of sweet and sour, herb and fruit
Dindin kitchen is an all-day eatery on Grays Inn Road, creating its own niche market of Persian food to go. Rather than being a restaurant, it is more of a canteen which I imagine is very popular on a weekday lunch. Think of it as a Middle Eastern Itsu or Leon.
Although it’s not really the kind of place you would have a sit-down meal at, there are a few minimalist tables and chairs – all white and highly practical. Against this almost clinical backdrop, the food presents as a gorgeous cornucopia of vibrant colour and charm.
A temple of cool, a velodrome of good food and drink.
It’s hard to find the right word to do Zigfrid von Underbelly justice. I’m mulling over eclectic, passionate, amusing, and although I hate the word – cool. In a summer where most weekends have been blessedly hot, the large outdoor patio at Zigfrid is the perfect place to lay out in and is big enough to service not just the lucky few. An assorted jumble of furniture is arranged inside Zigfrid including squishy leather chesterfields, painted totem poles, and a few statues sporting the exposed male member. On most nights, Brett Eston Ellis’ American Psycho plays out from large screens on loop, whilst the underground ‘underbelly’ is a gig venue for live bands. For Hoxton’s hipsters this is very much the mothership, the pulsating nirvana.
Situated in a vaulted underground quarter of Covent Garden, Earlham Street Clubhouse produces New York styled pizzas blasted in a wood-fired oven. The Americana extends into the décor of the subterranean space, and includes beachy alcoves straight out of the sunny East Coast, chalk-on-board menus and a classic Wurlitzer jukebox.
Cult classics inform the dishes on the menu, even if only in name. The pizzas are classical New York and can be bought in single slices, as a whole 12” or enormous 20”. The fiery ‘Ferris Beuller’ is a mean pizza dominated with scotch bonnet chillies and chilli chicken. A cooler ‘Happy Gilmore’ is trailed with San Daniele Ham and rocket, whilst the veggies will be pleased with the grilled courgettes and aubergine on an ‘American Beauty’. If you are more a child of simplicity and easy eating then the ‘Plain Jane’ is for you, resplendent in buffalo mozzarella and smoky pecorino.
Benihana is a chain of Japanese restaurants based around the concept of ‘dinner as performance’. The restaurant in Piccadilly Circus is laid out to fulfil this criterion, with sharing tables of 8 around central Hibachi (teppan-yaki) grills. It is on these that the theatre occurs – spiralling flames, fast chopping and lots of drama. To celebrate 50 years, Benihana is running a string of promotions including an 8 course meal for £50 for two. This tasting menu consists of the following:
Onion soup (each) Salad with ginger dressing (each) Part-cooked sushi (salmon, eel, beef – 3 pieces to share between two) Prawn, courgette and mushroom tempura (3 pieces to share between two) Prawn appetizer with courgette and onion ‘volcano’ (2-3 prawns and 2 courgettes each) Seabass with miso sauce (1 small fillet each) Either sirloin steak or chicken teriyaki with egg fried rice and sprouts Sponge cake
Rossopomodoro is a chain specialising in the Naples variety of pizza (thin), with over 80 branches around the world. The Covent Garden outpost is delightfully big, and as airy and light as the pizza bases themselves.
The dough here is made in the customary way, which involves being dutifully kneaded then tossed into a wood-fired oven. The result: chewy, charred crust which is soft in the centre and puffs out at the edges. It tastes lightly salty and effortlessly balances out a sweet tomato sauce.
High Street Kensington is not known for its culinary excellence, but the newly opened Pavilion is strong enough to change that perception. Although the restaurant itself is open to the public, it is located in an exclusive private business members club, and it shows. The restaurant drips with opulence and good taste, dominated by a central champagne bar made of Marquina marble, brass, and pewter trim. Try a cocktail or two here, the Bottled Velvet (Sauvignon Blanc, Pisco, lavender and vanilla salt) being the perfect aperitif. The 22 seats around this square monolith are clad in a mustard yellow leather, and on the walls are an interpretation of Renaissance paintings.
The punk-baroque art is the child of Simon Casson (collected by the likes of Prince Charles, yah), depicting old-school scenes with faces deliberately swiped out. The general tone at Pavilion is symbolic of its art – it is unambiguously high end, but never formal. Contrary to its location, there is neither the hint of corporate or business-chic, beige being resolutely swapped for playful yellow and all the better for it.
The 2 Michelin starred Ledbury is often considered as one of the best, if not the best, restaurant in London. Its head chef/patron is Brett Graham, an Australian who endeavours to keep the standards exceptionally high at this Notting Hill restaurant. His efforts have more than paid off, as the food here is the some of the best I’ve had.
When in the mood for something continental, head to Brasserie Gustave for all-French classics in a relaxed ambience. Richard Weiss, co-owner/ex-sommelier, provides an involved front of house service, whether it be in personally flambéing many of the menu items at your table, or recommending wines to taste. His large and rambunctious nature is incredibly well meaning, and provides an invaluable fount of information. In the kitchen is Laurence Glayzer, with 10 years working at Michelin-starred restaurants in France including Marc Meneau’s L’Esperance in Vezelay, Georges Blanc in Vonnas, and Bernard Loiseau La Cote D’Or in Saulieu. As such, Glayzer can prep any French meal both on and off menu.
Prepare to enter a swinging Manhattan scene at DISCO, a 70’s inspired members club in Soho. The retro theme starts at a PanAM check in desk on arrival (including a moving conveyor belt for personal belongings), and extends to cabinets of roller skates and TV’s blaring out music videos. Tables are modelled on cassette tapes and vinyls, and fancy dress and choreographed dancing is encouraged.
Being invited to review a restaurant is not a new experience (1st world problems), but an invite to La Patisserie des Rêves is another thing. I’ve been wanting to visit this Parisian bakery since it opened earlier this year. The branches in France are spoken of highly and its head pâtissier Philippe Conticini is well thought of in circles who know their pastries.
The main purpose of the invite is to try the new ice cream flavours. There are three variations to choose from, each one mimicking one of La Patisserie des Rêves actual cakes. A St Honore is presented in a cone, full of vanilla ice cream, caramelized almond, and a caramel sauce. Although I couldn’t say if this is a good replica of the cake or not, it is a good example of ice cream. Other ice cream combinations include Lemon Tart (lemon ice cream, almond tuile, lemon confit) and Paris Brest (praline ice cream, mini choux, praline sauce).