Thursday, 25 March 2010

The Club at the Ivy

9 West Street
London WC2H 9NE

The last time I had lunch at the Ivy restaurant was with the CEO of an ad agency. At 2pm he said "Oh god I better disappear the coach trips will be arriving". I think he wasn't altogether joking. The Ivy in crowd of media biz tycoons and show biz elite were starting to feel threatened by the arrival of 'real people' drawn by the fame of the brand. By then the in crowd had already started to migrate to The Wolseley. Then in September 2008 the Ivy, under Richard Caring's ownership, opened the Club at the Ivy.

Entering the Club is a surreal experience. You rise from the flower shop to the right of the Ivy restaurant to the floors above the restaurant in a tardis like see through lift. The Club is a clever solution to the problem of a very successful restaurant: the in crowd create the demand, the demand drives out the in crowd. The solution: open a club for the in crowd with the same name as the old restaurant and in the same place, and serve up something very similar and charge them membership.

We are having lunch in the Library restaurant. The decor is very similar to the Ivy restaurant and there are the same leaded windows. The only difference is there are books on the walls, some leather arm chairs. The menu too is very similar and, like everything at Le Caprice, J Sheekey and the Ivy, owes everything to Chris Corbin and Jeremy King the revivers of all these establishments and current owners of The Wolseley.
So the menu offers very good simple hearty fare very well executed at pretty high prices (well it is the Ivy). Mains are around £15 to well into the £20s. I have a simple endive salad, my lunch host grilled prawns; and we both follow with the pie of the day which is lamb and Guinness. It is superb. The pastry is flaky and delicious the stock thick and sumptuous. We also have an excellent bottle of oaky white burgundy. The service is also very professional. The club is full. It is more media biz than show biz. I don't see any stars and everyone is deep in conversation. Its all very civilised. Not much signs of recession inside the Club at the Ivy. You would hardly notice the media biz is in turmoil here.

The Club at The Ivy on Urbanspoon


152-4 Curtain Road
London EC2A 3AT

020 7613 0007

"You should eat that its a dried tomato", said our waiter.

"Sun dried?", said my scottish friend.

"No. We have dehydration ovens. Four of them. They cost £1000 each.", said our waiter proudly.

Sun dried tomatoes are so passe, so yesterday. The sweep of history. I thought if those people sheltering close to here from the Blitz in the underground 70 years ago, a nanosecond in geological time, could have heard him. How things change.

Here we are at Saf in the East End of London where they now have special expensive ovens to dry vegetables. We have just finished our first course, the tasting plate £16.50. It is described as "beetroot ravioli, vegetable maki, olives and spiced nuts, tapenade, cashew cheese with raw flax seed crackers, home made pickles and samosa" and..."sun dried tomato". Ha we should have them up before the trades descriptions authority. Sun dried or oven dehydrated this was a very impressive start. The platter looked like something from the most upmarket sushi restaurant. Every piece on it was beautifully crafted and tasted equally delicious or as my pithy Scottish friend said "Its not you arse wipe Vegan bollocks. You can taste this". She is sensitive to how food can be used as a socio political statement.

Main courses were equally impressive both visually and importantly to eat. I had the Phad Thai. There is a sense in which they are struggling with descriptive labels grounding them in the non vegetarian world but adding their own detailed descriptions of what are in fact unique dishes with only a distant relationship with the heading. The Phad Thai included enoki mushrooms, mung shoots and chipotle almond sauce. Anyone who thinks vegetarian food is flavourless really should try this. It is a transporting education! I tried a bit of my scottish friend's lasagne which according to the menu description includes 'sun dried tomatoes' , or were they. Frankly I don't care if they were dehydrated in the basement. The dish was also sublime. There was olive relish and mushrooms and sage pesto in there; nothing like any lasagne I've ever tasted and ,l ike most of the food, and everything I had, cold but nevertheless fantastic.

It was a bit de trop to have puddings after this lot but we couldn't resist. I have chocolate ganache tart £5.50. This is the most conventional eating experience of the evening: its dominated by the taste of high quality dark chocolate but there is no cream; instead there is pernod ice cream, rum and pear compote, cacoa syrup. Scottish friend has Pumkin Pie £6.50 with candied pecans; again very good but closer to what I might expect to find elsewhere.

I am sitting looking into the restaurant. "I could be in Notting Hill" I say, looking at the elegant spiral lights, the wooden flooring, the attractive staff. " You need to be looking my way at the dismal little cafe outside to be reminded you are in the East End," said my Scottish friend. It was a memorable evening. Oh and vegetarian of course doesn't mean there is no drinking. They make good cocktails here (I had a Margarita) and we had a bottle of Spanish wine (see photo): organic/vegan natch and good value at £19.

Saf on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Viet Grill

58 Kingsland Road
London E2 8DP

020 7739 6686

I have to admit to a few prejudices before I start this. I really like Vietnamese food. We usually have a pre Christmas party and last Christmas we made Vietnamese spring rolls as canapes based on the recipe here. When they are fresh there is nothing quite like them: the soft clammy rice paper that you soak in warm water first, the mint and coriander, the vermicelli noodles, the crunchy beansprouts, the rice wine vinegar and in these soy and a prawn; they are wonderful. We wrapped about 150 of the clammy little things and they all went. I also know Malcolm Gluck who chose the wines for this restaurant and advises on the list.

Viet Grill is a new breed of Kingsland Road Vietnamese restaurant: it has decor! Purists are rather worried by this trend, would rather focus on the food in Kingsland originals which make no pretense to decor like Song Que with its stark bright lighting and crome cafe chairs. I must say I rather like the low well lit wooden tables and banana leaf murals here. Its fun and it is more decorative than its more basic competitors. There is a long bar on the right which is unoccupied at 8pm on Monday while the restaurant is filling. I wait there and order a glass of Calbulco Semillon/Cardonnay 2007 Chile £4 which Malcolm's notes tell me is "Dry yet delightfully full of stone-fruit flavours, lemon and a hint of herb. Great with sizzling seafood". One issue I have is there are only three whites and three reds that you can drink by the glass. That's a shame in a restaurant which is taking so much trouble to demonstrate wine can be a great accompaniment to Vietnamese food. The wine is simple and yes a bit sharp lemony.

I'm having dinner with an old friend and he is late. They are very charming about finding me a good table. I get the impression not that many people book on a Monday night, they just walk in so they are taking special trouble. I am even later offered another table but am happy where I am. I order fresh soft summer rolls filled with king prawn, herbs and salad wrapped in rice paper £3.50. They take a long time to come. My friend has arrived and we order when the waiter who I originally ordered the spring rolls asks if I would still like them. We say yes. They are very good with all the fresh crispy against clammy goodness they should have.

As a starter we have ordered the seafood house platter which two have to share at £7 each. It is huge and goes in the middle of the table. It has soft shelled crab which is crispy and mushy and excellent and battered prawns and lots of quite simple basic salad: cherry tomatoes, lettuce, red onion dominate. For mains we have 'slow cooked mekong catfish' £7.50. This is 'poached in caramelised fish sauce, simmered in a clay pot and finished with cracked pepper and fresh chilli'. This for me is the star dish. It comes with heat under it as you can see in the photo. The fish is flaky and sticky sweet but also chilli hot. There are two sizeable pieces: fantastic for £7. Our other choices are for me not a success. We have stewed saigon beef brisket £8, simmered in lemon grass and star anise. There are very large lumps of flaky chewy meat which are rather tasteless despite the sauce. We also order roast duck wokked with seasonal market greens and spicy sate sauce on a sizzling platter £8. The duck is tough and overcooked, flabby on the outside.

So a bit of a mixed bag overall. The food needs careful ordering. I liked the spring rolls and catfish; nothing else struck me as excellent. I nevertheless liked the place. Although it was noisy we had a lot to talk about and felt very comfortable there. Even though the first thing I ordered took a long time to come the service was unfailingly helpful and courteous. We moved to the bar and stayed a long time after finishing eating. There was no pressure to clear off as there can be in grander places. We certainly ordered more than we needed and most of the beef and a lot of the duck got left. My friend doesn't drink. I had two glasses of the Chilean white and another glass of Spanish red after the meal. As with tapas eating lots of smaller courses and drinking wine by the glass mounts up. The bill managed to get to £74 but you could eat there much more cheaply. I would go back and try other things. As I said I felt very comfortable there even though I was disappointed in some of the things we ordered.

Viet Grill The Vietnamese Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 14 March 2010


39 Hereford Road
London W2 4AB

020 7792 0770

I've been here a few times and enjoyed the tagines; and you really don't need to order a first course here. You get harissa, olives, olive oil and good Moroccan bread before you start all thrown in.

We order lamb mechoui with roasted butternut squash, potatoes, sultanas, french beans with slow baked boneless shoulder of lamb with Moroccan spice (for two) £29.95.

Its around 8pm on a Friday night and the restaurant is very empty; there is only one other group of three. The lamb is full of spicy Moroccan flavour and flaky slow cooked but it just isn't hot enough. It also doesn't seem to me all that authentically Moroccan with the potatoes which bothers me less. What worries me, with so few people in the restaurant, is how they manage to do this, this one off dish which takes a long time to produce when there are so few customers. Is it straight from the freezer? I have my suspicions and that it is not properly heated is worrying, puts me off. I'm saddened by this, feel everything has gone off here a bit. Things are not helped by the fact that Hereford Road is all pulled up with major road works (water?), metal fences obscuring the restaurants and other businesses and making access difficult.

L.O. and I enjoy nevertheless a bottle of heavy Domaine de Larroque Moroccan wine, a merlot/syrah blend, £25.50.

Sahara Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Cadogan Arms

298 King's Road,

020 7 352 6500

Its like a faux Edwardian hunting lodge inside with antlers on the walls and wooden panelling. Only this is a lodge for all sports. There are also fish in cabinets, the stuffed head of a fox. There are red upholstered benches in the style of the House of Lords. There are also other strange touches: an unplastered brick pillar, a panel of hispano moresque tiles on the wall. I like it. The hunting lodge theme only slightly off and hip all at the same time is fun. King Edward VII would have felt very much at home here, only he wouldn't. He would have been confused by the eastern European accent of our waitress for starters and would have been surprised the pillar was unfinished. He would have found the bar billiard sized tables upstairs much smaller than those to which he was accustomed. Its a big space and light with big windows looking out onto Old Church Street on one side and the King's road in front. The restaurant area is at the back and although its a 'gastro pub' its really, like the Harwood Arms, more restaurant than pub. There is no ordering at the bar and paying before the meal here.

We order one course: twice cooked Gloucester Old Spot pork belly, wilted spring greens, Calvados sauce, celeriac remoulade £16.50 and Hare stew, prune dumpling £15.50. The pork belly is marvellous: the pork is crispy and contrasts well with the crunchy texture of the celeriac. The apple in the sauce and the fresh greens make the whole a perfect combination. I try the rich hare stew which is thick gooey and full of flavour, the dumpling again an excellent texture contrast with real taste. We have a glass of Malbec and Shiraz each which go well with this quite heavy meaty meal for all its delicate flavours.

This pub is operated by ETM group which was founded by the Martin Brothers in 2000 and now has 8 pubs in and around London. This is impressive stuff for a group. Let's hope the standard doesn't fall off if they continue to expand!

My only criticism is for lunch the main courses offered, apart from a blue Wensleydale and pear salad, are all quite heavyweight. Maybe that's why it really wasn't as full on a Friday lunchtime as the very high standard might suggest it should be. A few more lighter choices for those who don't want to retire to the well upholstered sofa with a cigar for the rest of the afternoon would be welcome!

The Cadogan Arms on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 11 March 2010


222 Kensington High Street
W8 7RG

020 7361 1717

A previous visit to Byron had been a bit of a disaster: wrong wine, long wait because no gas to cook, no side orders. To the restaurant's great credit though, in a model of good customer relations, they didn't charge me anything when I said that though I acknowledged there were circumstances beyond their control, I wasn't altogether happy. When I wrote the blog post (late on a Saturday evening) they went one further. The MD of the group took the trouble to send me an email first thing Sunday morning explaining all the problems they had had and offering a further gratis meal to L.O. and I whenever we wanted to go back. Well what blogger could resist such exemplary new media relationship handling so L.O. and I, whirring having just taken off the 3D specs post Alice in Wonderland over the road at Odeon High Street Kensington, returned.

Well I said before that I thought the quality of the meat was very good and so it was again. This time, since the Byron sauce wasn't to my taste, I had the classic £6.25: just lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle: much better and you could really taste the beef. Ok this is very picky (and again personal, but hey its an upmarket burger place)... I like English mustard and I like real mustard! There is just no comparison with the preserved stuff in a jar. This and some real whole grain mustard would make a difference to me!

To try (and it really was far too much and we knew it would be!) we had sides of french fries, £2.75, home made skin-on chips £3.00, onion rings £2.75, and courgette fries £3.00. One of these to share would be quite enough! Of these the courgette fries were the best; very crispy but you could still taste the real vegetable underneath. The onion rings similarly crispy. The fries and skins I found the most disappointing: a bit soft, flabby. Maybe we were just a bit unlucky with this particular batch. We followed this with a huge, so just as well we shared, caramel and honeycomb sundae (with vanilla ice cream and crunchie bits) £4.50. It was very sweet, not sophisticated, but I'm sure would be a winner with kids.

Last time there was a procession of tupperware, bin liners etc between the centre stage kitchen and the back. This wasn't the case tonight which was a big improvement. I find the place a bit starkly overlit but families with kids might well like that. Maybe the lighting, though, could be lowered a bit later in the evening? But am getting too prescriptive here. Really the burgers are very good and that's the main point. Its really inappropriate to comment on the service this time since we were on a set up freebie but for the record it was exemplary.

Byron on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 7 March 2010


89 Sloane Avenue
London SW3 3DX

020 7584 9901

A girl passed our table and a large pendant earring fell to the ground, the gravitational pull too much for it. She apologised to us as she bent down to pick it up. I'm not quite sure why. There is a mixed crowd at Gaucho's in Sloane Avenue on a Saturday night. Its more footballers' wives manque than neighbourhood Chelsea, with a large crowd building up round the bar no doubt waiting for tables. Its dark, very dark (see photos, I don't like to use flash!). A good place for first dates because so bustly, dark and you can see some of these in progress. Choice of table is important though. We are placed, L.O. and I, on a table for four close to the open kitchen. We are enjoying seeing what's going on but had we been on a first date would probably have asked for a table close to the window. They make it uglier by the kitchen than it need be. There are tupperware boxes with ingredients in full view. The key attraction, the grill hotplate where the steaks are being seared, occasionally leaps into flame but its at the back and you can't see it all that clearly. They are busy but don't seem an altogether happy crew in the kitchen but they are under pressure; occasional smiles break out a bit later as the order flow wanes a bit.

Gaucho is now a chain of 12 London branches with two outside London: one in Manchester and the latest in Leeds. The trademark is cowhide seats, low lighting, Argentine steaks and an impressive Argentine wine list: all very macho. Our waitress we discover later is Slovakian and has been in the job two weeks. She shows us a board with all the different raw cuts of steak on it: rump, sirloin, fillet and rib-eye, or, in Argentine Gaucho speak, cuadril, chorizo, lomo and ancho. She then asks us if we would like to try some wine. I didn't have any of this when I came before. Maybe L.O and I just look the types to be up for it. We try the wine, an Argentine Malbec. Its outstanding. Its El Porvenir de Los Andes 'Laborum' 2005 from 1750 metres up in the Salta region. There is no mention of price. I ask how much it is. It is £65.75. Well ok but even if I was a footballer on a first date I wouldn't really want this heavy pressure when the new girlfriend has said "its lovely" to buy (the public embarrassment factor). I know L.O. well enough to feel no embarrassment in turning it down but the hard sell works and we have it. I think this is something that needs to be handled very carefully though and I'm not sure I like it in a restaurant. At the end of the meal we get something of the same thing when the cheeseboard is brought undemanded to our table to show us (strangely its a group of not very exceptional looking English cheeses and we turn it down).

We start by sharing a ceviche of Argentine baby squid, shallots, jalapeno, ginger, mint and guacamole £9.50. The squid is extremely tender but somehow despite all the flavours it manages to be strangely tasteless. They bring it, since we are sharing, with two small plates but oddly for a cold dish they are hot. We put them to one side and eat off the original plate.

We then of course go for steak. Its what you do here. I have been before and had a rare fillet. I remember it being fantastic: thick, seared on the outside and juicy red inside. The meat was beautifully tender as you would expect with fillet but there was something about the industrial restaurant grill that seemed to have been able to char the outside in a way you could never achieve at home. This time we opt for sirloin (L.O.) and rib-eye. Our waitress, because of the marbleised fat in these cuts, said to us that in order for the fat to melt it is optimum to have them medium rare rather than rare. We take her advice. I'm rather disappointed in my rib-eye relative to what I had before. The trade off with steak should be that if you have a 'lesser' and less expensive cut than fillet it is a bit tougher but has more taste, flavour. I didn't enjoy my rib-eye nearly as much as the memory of the fillet. I have a 300g one but it is cut thinner than a piece of fillet. I would have thought it very good in a pub but this is a high end place and I expected more. It was seared on the outside but a bit tougher, less juicy, somehow nothing out of the ordinary and I like my steaks blood red whatever the impact on the melting fat. We had humitas with it. These are mashed up corn in the corn husk (see photo). They with the wine were the most distinctive and interesting thing about the meal but difficult to get out of the husk without a spoon. We asked for one.

Our wine was brought by a sommelier from Gaucho who was training the staff, visiting this branch for 3 months. He told us current theory on the impact of altitude on Argentine Malbecs (they tell you on the wine list how many metres high the particular vineyard is at Gaucho). I discussed with him the issue of wine sampling in a restaurant and say how easily I feel this could misfire.

I love the combination of Argentine Malbec and blood red steak seared on the outside. If I go back I'll skip the ceviche and go for the rare fillet again. The wines are marked up very heavily here. I find the 'Laborum' for £21.96 here and for £28.75 in Gaucho's own retail Cavas de Gaucho. The steaks at 300g range from £16.25 for the cheapest cut to £28.50 for the fillet. Commendably for an upmarket restaurant there is no mandatory service charge. Our bill comes to £125. We leave a £15 tip. Its not surpising our waitress was keen to sell the wine. Even without it though the meal would have been close to £100.

Gaucho Grill on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 6 March 2010


35 Walton Street
London SW3 2HU

020 7584 3148

In the no man's land where Knightsbridge, Chelsea and South Ken intersect, close to the great battleship landmark of Harrods sits The Enterprise. "It's informality is its drawing power and it attracts a very fashionable and up-scale client base, described as 'the only pub in town for ladies who lunch.' ", proclaims the website. Lucky ladies. This really isn't quite a gastro pub though. There is no booking except at lunchtimes in the week, but you don't order at the bar pay and sit down. Its very much restaurant style, pay at the end of the meal, table service. It does however have the informal style of a pub. We are there early, you have to be to secure a table towards the end of the week in the evening. Its sevenish pm. There is a throng of people at the bar and more than half the tables are occupied. Most of the tables are arrayed along a banquette. We sit at one of these. I am looking at etched pub glass in the windows. There are books in the window embrasures. They obscure some of the lettering which says SPIRITS on the right and for a moment because half of one letter is obscured on the left I read FINE BUMS. Its actually FINE RUMS. At the back is a tiny kitchen, open plan, where three chefs are already working furiously. Above them is a small rectangular blackboard with the specials. The clientele are not the young City types with families, public school voices and labradors that you get in Fulham and even Brook Green (see Havelock Arms ). Here they are more metro, older and international as the proximity to Harrods and Knightsbridge might proclaim. The atmosphere at the same time manages to feel residential, neighbourly. You can tell I feel uncomfortably comfortable here.

I'm shocked when writing this and looking at the website to discover that The Enterprise is under the same ownership as Christopher's in Covent Garden a place which I think, apart from the bar, has completely lost the plot (see linked review). We share tempura of calamari and courgette with a soy ginger and honey dip as a starter, £8. The batter is light, crispy, the courgette still firm, not overcooked, the calamari firm too but not rubbery. Delicious and easy to share too. A perfect not too enormous starter. I then have fettucine, wild mushroom and thyme ragout, parmesan and truffle oil, £14. It is excellent. The mushrooms have real taste, the fettucine is fresh and soft, the truffle oil flavour is not drowned out by the other tastes and it is not too creamy buttery either. I try my guest's whole roast sea bass, parmesan roasted fennel, herb butter £16.75 which has been ordered with some spinach. The sea bass is beautifully cooked: crispy on the outside flaky moist fish which falls off the bone just as it should do. We drink a bottle of Wolf Riesling, Dr. Loosen, Pfalz, Germany 2008, £25. It manages to be the perfect accompaniment to both dishes: aromatic, slightly sweet but with a dry finish. Since we arrived early we have already had two complimentary glasses of merlot. The riesling though was in a different class and a bargain at the price. Pretty perfect meal. Not cheap pub prices though at £75 all in. A central London restaurant bill. As I said earlier, lucky ladies and management, I know its trying to do something different, but please send the people at Christopher's down here to see what can be achieved!

Enterprise on Urbanspoon

Friday, 5 March 2010


4 Princes Street
London W1B 2LE
020 7629 3931
There is a lot of choice for japanese food around Mayfair. At Chisou just south of Oxford Circus there is a restaurant and separately next door a sushi bar and take away area. Lunch at the sushi bar. I had the five different sashimi selection on the menu, £14.50. You get three bits of each. They were very fresh and good, but small. See the three small triangles of tuna in the photo. Definitely more for less and just as good quality at Atari-Ya just north of Oxford Street. Nevertheless the presentation is more stylish here, you eat off attractive plates and you can order from your seat at the bar. For that and Mayfair you are paying. The Ikura (salmon roe) sushi was particularly glisteningly fresh but £5.40 for two pieces!

Chisou on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 2 March 2010


10 Hogarth Place
London Sw5 0QT

020 7373 7000

I went here entirely because I had read a very flattering review by London Eater and happened to be fairly close. It was truly memorably fantastic. A destination place! There is something very heart warming when you go somewhere, meet someone whatever which has had a good advanced press and not only does it not disappoint it exceeds all expectations. They do other things here but their specialty is Szechuan food, or Sichuan (see linked article) much of which is hot, chilli spicy.

We asked our waitress what she would recommend from the Szechuan signature dishes on the menu. She suggested the boiled beef (boiled beef in extremely spicy soup lavishly topped with chilli and Sichuan pepper) £8.50. It was enormous (really I'm not kidding enough for lunch for four with some rice on its own). It came with a kind of sieve to go fishing with. You can see it in the photo. The Sichuan pepper has an interesting aromatic lemony flavour. The beef was in a rich heavy stock. It was amazing. Quite oily like much Szechuan food I have been exposed to but spicy fragrant hot, extraordinary. We also had dry fried pieces of duck with chilli and Sichuan pepper (and also a lot of sesame seeds). This was beautifully crispy and a nice contrast to the soupy beef. We had a vegetable dish: aubergine and green and red peppers, £6.50. It was a little salty for my taste. This was no doubt party because of the soy sauce involved but subsequent discussion with our waitress suggested that it was worth asking for less salt if that is what you like. The aubergine were in skinned soft strips floating in a spicy mixture of peppers. It was an excellent accompaniment to both the beef and the duck.

This amazing meal, more than enough for a hungry four, cost £32 for two of us with Jasmine tea. The restaurant is simple with little square stools with no backs, black tables, wooden floor. There is much else to try on the menu and I will return.

No. 10 on Urbanspoon


82-84 St Martins Lane
London WC2N 4AG

020 7497 5050

Eight of us went to the theatre and had a meal here beforehand. Its was very conveniently located. Enron the play is on next door. Browns has been going since 1973 and has restaurants in 8 cities in the UK with a further 6 outlets in London. The one we were at is a big bustly stage set. Just the thing for pre theatre.

I can't fault the service. They are clearly well practised in St Martins Lane at feeding people with a deadline to meet. It was 6 30pm and the restaurant was full. Some of our party were a bit late but they brought their orders very fast and they were soon catching up with those of us who had arrived first. There was also no long wait for the bill; not that I was paying. We were being taken.

The problem is the food doesn't match the stage set or the service. I had Steak Frites (60z prime sirloin served with a lemon parsley and peppercorn butter watercress and chips) £12.95. I ordered it rare. Can't go far wrong with that I thought. The steak was seared brown on the outside but raw not rare inside, too thin and chewy sinewy tough. The chips were ok but dumped rather inelegantly across the plate (see photo which is as t came). I tried some smoked fishcakes. To me they tasted dry and of potato and sawdust, nothing fishy about them. The burger to my right, which I didn't taste, strangely had three buns (a mistake?); burger on one, salad and bits sitting on the other and one white, lonely on its own.

Browns on Urbanspoon

Monday, 1 March 2010

Cha Cha Moon

15-21 Ganton Street
London W1F 9BN

020 7297 9800

I'm a fan of Alan Yau's ventures so dropped in for the second time to Cha Cha Moon his fast food restaurant in Ganton Street off Carnaby street. When it first opened everything was priced at £3.50 a promotional wheeze which didn't last. The website tells us that it is a Chinese noodle bar which goes "beyond noodle pop culture and into the soul of regional Chinese cooking". Not for me it doesn't.

I had Fujian style udon which is prawn, squid, fishcake, belly pork, choi sum and udon noodles, £6.90. The sliced fishcake resembled cheap tofu, the squid was rubbery, the choi sum not quite cooked and the pork in little tiny bits in a glutinous chili hot but otherwise flavourless sauce. The whole was dominated by tasteless noodles with a springy texture. I had a Holy Vaasna, an Apple, Carrot and Orange juice which somehow managed to be watery and much less tasty than the ones at Pho.

At £3.50 everything was at least very cheap. The wok noodles now range from £5.10 to £7.50 and the soup noodles from £6.00 to £7.00. It is neither cheap nor good. It does have something of Alan Yau's legendary style all the same: elegant huge wooden tables, low lighting, open kitchen (see photo). It wasn't full on Monday at 1pm and the Whiteley's branch has closed. Things need to change for this to roll out like Wagamama!

Cha Cha Moon on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 24 February 2010


56 Old Compton Street
London W1D 4UE

020 7734 5951

Tuktuk describes itself as a Thai/Oriental noodle bar on the menu. There is certainly another one in Queensway but I don't know whether there are others. There is no website I can find. These places are fantastic value/quality. The one I know and went to today after a meeting in Soho for a quick early lunch, is in Old Compton Street. It is very simple inside: brightly lit with a thin banquette along the walls, chrome chairs and table supports. Not a place for romantic dinners. It is straight opposite 'Trashy Lingerie' as you can see in the photo.

The menu serves great and enormous noodle soups at budget prices: Tom Yam Gai £3.90 and Laksa with its distinctive coconut milk stock for £4.90. Today I had crispy aromatic duck for £5.80. As in much smarter places they come and shred a duck quarter (leg and thigh) at your table; it comes with pancakes in a metal container, spring onion, cucumber and plum sauce. It is described as a 'side' but is quite big enough for lunch. At £5.80 (along with other £5.80 dishes including King Prawn Red Curry) it is the the highest price on the menu. I also had green tea. This is not a tea bag in the bottom of a mug, but a whole teapot of tea made with real tea leaves for £1. This sophisticated lunch cost me £6.80 with tip optional. The duck was crispy, the pancakes as good as anywhere, the spring onions and cucumber fresh.

Tuktuk on Urbanspoon

Monday, 22 February 2010


20 James St
London W1U 1EH

020 7491 1178

I wanted to go here because last week I had been to their shop in West Acton. Atari-Ya is a chain of four shops, the sushi take away, and another sushi bar in Hendon. Its one of the few places where you can buy black cod (I believe you can get it in Selfridges sometimes but if anyone knows where else you can get it please leave a comment!). The shop is near a Japanese school, has a ready supply of customers, Japanese staff who really know what they are talking about and very fresh fish. With supply lines like this I thought that their little central London take-away place (it has a few seats but this is principally what it is) would be bound to be good. The black cod was excellent. Its not that difficult to make a marinade with Mirin (rice wine), Sake, sugar and white miso paste to ape the recipe available at Nobu and for that matter Hakkasan where they serve Silver Cod with a different recipe (its the same thing. The Japanese call it Gindara which means silver cod. In fact it is not cod at all but what they call sablefish in the US).

Atari-Ya in James Street proved to be just as good as the freshness of what was available in the West Acton shop heralded. I had fresh salmon roe, and sashimi. You get three slices and it is good value: Tuna £2.00, Sea Bass £2.60, Salmon £1.70 and the highest grade Fatty Tuna £3.90. Everything with a green tea was under £15.

Its a very basic place and crowded at lunch time. You queue, place your order, pay, get given a number which they call out, probably share a small table. They serve it there just as for take away (see photos). Highly recommended though.

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