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  1. As in the past, UK wine lovers are doing their part for the Red Nose Day appeals, via Wine Relief. You can actually help raise money for worthy causes by drinking wine - and it's even more fun if you participate in a live wine tasting event online with a bunch of friends. A votre santé !
  2. Did they go to Southern Italy - Sicily or Naples perhaps? Sounds like something that would have been introduced by Arabs, like most things with citrus...
  3. Can't believe I've missed this one ! Have to head over there. Bizarre but somehow endearing website, they have...
  4. Unfortunately Silverbrow is correct: SJW, like Hampstead and W. Hampstead, are - somewhat incongruously - culinary deserts. The nearest decent places are the ones suggested above, unless you count Royal China (just up the road from SJW underground). You could try Bradley's, at Swiss Cottage; Lansdowne or The Engineer, the gastro-pubs on Gloucester Avenue in Chalk Farm (haven't been to these in years though so can't advise on whether they are still good); or could head to Marylebone which has Michael Moore and Galvin.
  5. Yes, like a headline such as 'Bird Flu! Don't Panic!' Ate a birthday meal at Thornton's three years ago, and although pleasant, the presentation was far better than the food itself. However given comments here, I would like to go back to see if/how things have changed.
  6. You lucky Islingtonites, Paul Young - a proper chocolatier, teacher (for himself, for Rococo, etc.) - opens his patisserie/chocolate shop on Monday. It's at 33 Camden Passage. I think he'll be offering freebies. I don't think I'll make it but would love to hear peoples' opinions: paul.a.young fine chocolates 33 Camden Passage Islington London N1 8EA
  7. Actually Naebody's onto something. This is exactly what a restaurateur who's been in Richmond for about 15 years said when I asked how it was possible that his place, a very welcoming, bijou bistro-like place with a wine list to die for, was empty on a Friday night. He said that the demographics had changed since he opened, such that those who worked in central London were more inclined to eat out in Central London, and go straight home where babysitters were looking after the kids. The other reason - and this is a less empirical but personal observation - food is just not important to the vast majority of people, they see it as sustenance rather than as a source of entertainment, catalyst to conversation and fulfilment etc. People who live in Holland Park, Muswell Hill, Hampstead etc. etc. are no different.
  8. Yes - Czech social club is there, but it has a new name (in tiny print on the menu) - have always been curious. And I stand corrected about Louis in Hampstead, apparently there is still a Louis and he is (still) Hungarian. But the atmosphere and the pastries are still desultory/stodgy (respectively). If Gail's is indeed part of the B&S group then it's head & shoulders above anything else on the street, and a welcome addition !
  9. Haven't looked at the wine list at Square (when I was last there, I was with someone of the very old school who doesn't think ladies should bother their little heads about that kind of thing, and I didn't have the energy to argue). I can tell you that there are lots of bargains on the list at Le Gavroche, but what makes them a bargain is that not that they are inexpensive, just that the same wine on another high end wine list or in the open market (if you can even get it) will likely be much more. In fact, in a place like Le Gavroche, you will find much better value among the high end wines than you will at the lower end. At the lower end, upmarket restaurants tend to rip peoples' faces off - i.e. putting a far more obscene mark-up on their less expensive wines, because they know these will turn over faster than the more costly ones. There are no such arbitrages on the wine list at Sketch. I vote for Le Gav, it's a real birthday kind of place. But I really cannot believe what they told you at RHR...book at Le Gav as Plan A, and then if you want to test the theory, try to book as well at RHR, be really nice, if it's a guy who answers the phone, put on a more American accent, say it's a special birthday, say you know how popular the restaurant is but perhaps someone has cancelled...
  10. I've been living in W. Hampstead (just over the NW3 border, in NW6) for five years and I fear I take a very dim view - from a food point of view - of Belsize Park, W. Hampstead, Hampstead and Primrose Hill. For a place with so much potential (and money), it is indeed a sad and lonely place to eat. Finchley Road is mostly an abomination of downmarket chains; West End Lane is pretty crummy too; and Hampstead High Street and Haverstock Hill are most depressing of all, totally mediocre Flintstonian background copies of every other 'better' neighbourhood high street - i.e. cookie cutter 'upmarket' and 'family-friendly' chains with laminated identikit menus. The old-timey Hungarian pastry shop (formerly Louis of Hampstead) probably is no more Hungarian than I am, and has pretty sad fare - though I haven't been to the other one in Hampstead, which is still Louis I think, maybe that one is good. I agree Bagel Street (Belsize Park & off Hampstead HIgh Street) have the only decent bagels in London other than Brick Lane - and I'm not just saying this because the chain is owned by a friend of mine. But you wouldn't want to eat them for every meal. On West End Lane, the ony bright spots are Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Lupa pizza (if you're desperate for takeaway pizza), Wet Fish for brunch, and Walnut Tree or Walnut something used to be good but the last time I ate there it was deafeningly loud, had terrible service and the food was way too salty. There are a couple of OK Japanese places on Finchley Road: Wakaba and Haro (I think? It's up a couple of blocks from the 02 centre) but I'm not a connoisseur, and I'm not rushing back...There's even a Benihana, but I don't know how it stays in business. The exceptions for more special meals, as a couple of people have noted, are Artigiano, very decent Italian in Belsize Park Village, and Bradley's, with dependable French-ish food. Sadly Eriki (uprmarket Indian on Fincley Road) used to be good but has slid down, and I notice they now either sell pizza, or advertise it on behalf of another restaurant - there's a big sign in the window - a sure sign of desperation. I note with interest that Green Cottage - decent Chinese that had been there forever, but closed - has reopened after many months - and looks exactly the same as before. Maybe they changed their minds. Anyway, I can't think of more than five restaurants that *may* be owner-operated, much less have anything closely resembling a Chef. As an aside - though I don't think of Camden/Chalk Farm as near enough to include local haunts - I have to disagree about Marine Ices, I find the flavours are bland and the ice cream has a chalky texture, as if it has been thawed and refrozen. If you're going to go that far for ice cream, may as well go to Odonno in Selfridges or South Ken, which I think may have the only decent ice cream in all of London at the moment but happy to be proven wrong. Gastrochick - all that said - I live in hope, and am always open to suggestion. I would LOVE to venture a bit farther afield, for Polish food, Japanese, for good Italian - haven't heard of Sardo Canale - and make some new discoveries, so do PM me if you're looking for a dining partner.
  11. I agree with most of the above, Curley is right now the best retail patissier in London. Some additional thoughts: - Baker and Spice and la Fromagerie do excellent breakfast-type pastries, 'artisanal breads' &tc; not sure if La Fromagerie do their own, but I believe B&S do. B&S also do great strudels, scones and the like, possibly the best I've had in London. Definitely the best rugelach I've bought here. - If there isn't a B&S near you, Maison Blanc do almost-proper croissants and the like, as does Pain Quotidien. All are probably on a par with Paul, one step up from PV; - Richoux used to do decent ones but I haven't been there in a long while. - PV's croissants are on a par with those of the pre-frozen "fresh" ones sold at Waitrose, S'bury's et all (i.e. all soggy dough and dripping with low quality butter, no flake) - and in general, all of their pastries tend to taste exactly the same, except different shapes. But PV does good apple cakes and tarts (the rest of their cakes taste like sawdust, their chocolate cakes have no chocolate flavour at all. - At PV & Maison Blanc, the fruit fillings (for patisserie, breakfast pastraies, cakes) taste industrial, their lemon tart fillings for example, taste like cleaning fluid. - The eclairs, mille feuille etc. at Maison Blanc are decent - None of the above does a decent baguette. - Minamoto Kitchoan (also in New York) is the Japanese place on Piccadilly, shocklngly, I've never actually bought anything from either place. - If Wolseley did takeaway, that would be a good bet for breakfast pastries (though I admit I haven't been there since before their pastry chef decamped)
  12. magnolia


    The College Hotel (that Lucy mentions) is indeed great fun, it's a converted school and that's it's 'theme'. The rooms are bright white with gym lockers for your clothes, and text books. The breakfast room has school desks. Comfy, fun and not expensive. Another good one - a bit 'grander' and smack in the middle of it all is the Hotel Globe et Sicile. But these are both regular hotels, so no kitchens. You've got nothing to lose, though, by asking at the College Hotel whether they might let you use their kitchen, they seem like quite funky/flexible types. You might also check whether there are any serviced flat-type hotels, like Citadines, in Lyons. They're not deluxe but they have kitchens.
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