Gail’s Kitchen

Gails Kitchen

Its the simple things, after all

8/10

Gails Kitchen is the first restaurant from the partners behind Gails Bakery, a shop with 16 branches across London. The focal points of both are the bread ovens, central to the brand, where fluffy-sticky balls of dough go in and steam-puffs of bread emerge.

A range of these are sliced and brought to our table, freshly made and served with a glug of olive oil. Enjoy with herby baked olives and gorgeously crisp polenta chips. As seductive as a big bowl of warm bread is, nibble wisely: there is much to be had here, all of it fabulous.

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Silk & Grain

Silk & Grain

Exotically treated cocktails. Competently cooked food. Tick, tick.

7/10

East London’s historical links with the silk industry informs one half of this cocktail bars name, the second part signifying the alcohol connection. Happily, the name fits; the operation at Silk and Grain is as smooth as any sixteenth century Huguenot fabric, as are the beverages.

Silk and Grain operates as a cocktail bar with a pronounced angle. The philosophy here is simply to take the classics and jazz them up with various ageing techniques. As well as ageing in glass bottles and leather pouches, charred oak barrels are also used to imbibe the alcoholic concoctions with tones of vanilla, caramel and spice. A sharper effect is said to be had from the metal ageing process, where flasks are used to give the drinks a notable edge.

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Moo Grill

Moo Grill

Steak gets dirty

6/10

Although Moo Grill occupies four branches across London, it’s still difficult to imagine that any are as small or as insalubriously placed as the Cobb Street venue. Within sight of the expensive, expansive and exuberant city skyscrapers lies the plainer streets of Aldgate. Juxtaposed under the shadow of the Gherkin is this murkier patch of London; an interesting choice of environ for a confident Argentinian restaurant. With under a dozen tables, this is one pocket-sized offering from owner Jose, the man behind the moo.

Its primary function is as a steakhouse, the kitchen kitted out with a parillada grill – ripe for firing up a few cuts of meat. The menu allows for fillet, flank, ribeye and sirloin, and although prices are quoted per 100g the concept of the sharing steak seems unfamiliar here. A request of 700g ribeye to share is brought out as individual steaks, presumably the best two to make up the ordered amount. They are prepared reasonably well, but could be improved with a more even cook. The thick ends are a red-rare hue, whilst the thinner sections cooked to medium.

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House of Ho

House of Ho

Vietnamese with a modern twist

7/10

House of Ho is a modern Vietnamese restaurant, taking inspiration from a worldwide community of food. London is, of course, the perfect recipient for this integrated approach to cuisine, and there aren’t may places more deviant than Soho.

South America is the first casualty for the fusion cause, strung into the mix with a seabass, scallop and prawn ceviche. Actually, its done pretty well here. The fish is coated in coconut milk and mangosteen, its vibrancy humming with the aromatic kick of white truffle. A return to more traditional Vietnamese is seen with slippery Pho Cuon noodle rolls, containing a single bite of crispy sea bass, and translucent summer rolls, the pink blush of prawn winking from within. Dipping sauces invigorate these morsels, their liquid depths balancing vinegar, chilli, sugar and lime.

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The Athenaeum

Athenaeum Hotel afternoon tea

Afternoon tea: Mayfair for mums 

6/10

The Atheneum Hotel won the coveted Best Afternoon Tea award in 2012 by The Tea Guild. The tea is served in 3 sittings in the Garden Lounge, a long sub-ground level room. Heavy drapery helps to create partitions between the velvet upholstered seating and taupe furnishings. Out of the windows are plants, pressed densely in the metre-wide gap between the glass and exterior wall of the premises. These ‘hanging gardens’ are said to be made up of hundreds of different species, and are integral to the design of the hotel.

A tea menu shows off a dozen or so different varieties of the loose leaves, the soporific camomile works wonders at relaxing. Off menu items like a cardomom-rich masala chai can also be requested. Enjoy these with a range of finger sandwiches, including roasted pepper humus and cucumber. The base price for afternoon tea is £34.50, rising to £42.50 for an additional glass of Lanson Black Label Champagne and £49 for Lanson Rose Champagne.

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Film & Fizz

Film & Fizz One Aldwych Axis

Dinner and a show, whats not to like?

7/10

Film & Fizz is a dinner and movie experience, offered by One Aldwych in partnership with Lallier Champagne. For £49.50 enjoy a movie screening in the 5-star hotels private 30-seat cinema, followed by a 3 course meal in either of the hotel restaurants. I’ll just say now, conventional cinemas are hereby ruined for me.

Along with a crisp glass of Champagne Lallier Grand Cru Grande Réserve Brut, the deal also includes limitless sweet and salty popcorn. Sink into the spacious royal blue seats with a measure of fizz and relax through one of the most enjoyable cinema experiences of this city. The film tonight is ‘Her’. Verdict: actually it’s quite good – tender and sensitive throughout, funny in places. I admit to tearing up a little at the end, and feeling a renewed sense of hope when it comes to dating. This doesn’t leave the blog.

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Mele E Pere

Mele E Pere

A Soho Italian with a difference

8/10

Opened a few years ago, this Soho institution takes its inspiration from the hometown of head chef, Andrea Mantovani. Previously of Arbutus and Wild Honey, Andrea now cooks homely Northern Italian dishes at Mele E Pere. The homestyle philosophy is apparent in how the kitchen operates; all bread, pasta, desserts and ice-creams are made in-house every day. The bar follows suit, making its own variations on vermouth – an aromatic and fortified white wine flavoured with botanicals, spices, fruits, roots and herbs.

A cocktail list includes many options that utilise this fragrant spirit, whilst more traditional ones include well-made cosmopolitans and espresso martinis, as well as a pear-spiked bellini. The advantages of making your bread fresh are obvious, our focaccia being unsurprisingly moreish, dotted with pesto and delightfully soft. With this try the stracciatella, in Italian a word which means ‘torn apart’. In the food world, stracciatella is a product of Puglia and refers to strands of mozzarella soaked in fresh cream – the milky insides of burrata. At Mele E Pere, the cool and loose creamy cheese is served with heirloom tomatoes and black figs. For a smokier offering, try the fried squid with paprika-dusted aioli.

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The Princess of Wales

The Princess of Wales

A pretty pub in Primrose Hill

6/10

London is hectic, to put it mildly, but even in its tireless confines there are areas of peace. Just north of Primrose Hill and west of Camden is a sheltered pocket of land that manages to be entirely delectable. In this leafy slice of suburbia there are delicious Georgian townhouses, piled five stories high and enveloped in foliage. There are sweet little churches, with worn stairs that wind down to the endless Regents Canal. There are honest-to-God, beer and grub pubs; todays venue, The Princess of Wales, is one such institution.

Its clientele include hirsute, round-bellied fellows, with a few trendier bods from Camden no doubt. The area is residential, the houses cost a pile and the shops are more bespoke than not. The pub itself has undergone something of a relaunch. Evidence of this is peppered throughout the three story space – velvet chandeliers, a banksy-inspired beer garden and embossed wallpaper. Still, this is a low-key affair and a strictly local pub.

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Cocomaya

Cocomaya

Classy cake

7/10

Cocomaya is the sweet-shop collaboration between a trio of fashions biggest names – former head of concept at Liberty Joel Bernstein, Agent Provocateur co-founder Serena Rees, and accessories consultant Walid al Damirji. With three branches around the Hyde Park area, the newest is our venue today located near Sloane Square.

With seating for up to 16 people inside and a few tables outside, this is one petite offering. No matter, the cakes here are all delightful. The interior of the shop is shabby-chic, the crockery is dainty and mix-and-match, and all the cakes are displayed on faux tree stumps. Pushing open the story-book door leads you into warm, curving insides. Wood-lined walls sport an excess of shelving, each length holding a cacophony of items; savoury pastries, scones, crodoughs, cakes, and miniature version of each to boot.

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Forge

Forge bar London

Work hard, play harder

7/10

Forge is a city-slick bar located not minutes from bank station, attracting a vibrant afterwork crowd. A £2million refurbishment has seen this double level space scrapped back and given an industrial-chic makeover. Chill out with a few well created cocktails on the ground floor, or descend to the clubbier basement. As described, you might at first think that the food takes a back seat to the drink. To our delight, this initial impression proves to be a mistake.

Meat is the order of the day; either cooked in ‘the pit’ or on ‘the spit’, options include caramelized coco cola glazed pork ribs, spit roast chicken, and grilled sirloin on the bone. The highlight by far on the meat menu is a 200z Tomahawk sharing steak, tendered over a blazing pit and then sliced open. Both the charcoal-blackened bone and meat are served on a platter with chips, onion bhajis, tomato relish and red wine jus. Although this is recommended for 2 to share, it could easily sate 3.

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