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  1. I really like Smiths of Smithfield for brunch: it's got both funky styling and plays nnnts-nnnts music a tad too loud, which appeals; the OJ is great; hanging out on the sofas is fun; and the breakfasts are pretty delicious. Some of the other food is weaker (avoid the bean burger with 'houmous'), but the chips are great, as is coffee, and I always feel like I'm eating in a big city when I go there. At weekends I'd say there's quite an appealing mix of people there, from the aforementioned meeja types to older people and clubby youngsters. Also very good is Flaneur, just down the road: the vegetarian breakfast with spinach, halloumi, bubble and squeak and much else is very well cooked.
  2. I can't help thinking that one of the brothers is being played by Paddy Considine...
  3. Two of the most striking things about the series are the facts that most of them seem pretty uninterested in food and have little experience of eating out. Now I know that the latter comment may sound slightly snobbish but it is quite striking how the judges have had to point out how time-warped most of their food seems to be. If you ate out regularly and inquisitively would it really be so tough to riff on some recent trends to come up with ideas for three puddings, to think of a name other than Studio New York for your restaurant..., or, like most of the contestants, to come up with a design scheme reminiscent of a nasty cafe-bar c. 1992? Almost every starter seems to consist of something plonked on top of some mixed leaves and a really choice moment was in one place where the asparagus were missed off one person's mixed leaves, and then brought back into the dining room and plonked atop the salad... At this early stage it's pretty clear that Green and Brown and Adwoa's and Lloyd's places are amongst the few that are based on a genuine understanding of the restaurant market. Both seem to offer something appealing which is based on an understanding of what is going on out there, but proposing a slight twist to capture people's attention. They also seem to be the only ones to come up with decent names for their places, combined with nice signage that doesn't scream 1986! I think I'd rather eat at LLoyd and Adwoa's place, but it looks like you'd have fun at Green and Brown.
  4. Interesting article. London and NY are two great food cities and I don't think that I'd swap London, but the one thing that NY has which I think is missing in much of London is f'ing great interiors. Most London restaurants are pretty dull-looking places and very few offer a real "wow" factor when you walk in, or if they do it can be for the wrong reasons. Eating in Public and Buddakan there made me realise how uncreatively most London restaurants are lit and how few aspire to really great over-the-top design.
  5. One of the most-discussed restaurants on this thread seems to have been Arbutus, with a number of people tipping it for a star and others suggesting that it shouldn't get one. Well now it has one and I just cannot understand why. We have endlessly debated the merits of "Michelin-style" dining - amuses and all that - in the past, and, whatever one thought of that style, there was a broad level of consistency in the restaurants which were chosen within those constraints. It seems somewhat wilful to have awarded Arbutus a star - as if they are saying, "If you think you need fripperies and add-ons to get a star, then you're wrong." I don't think Arbutus is a bad restaurant, but I don't think it's a particularly noteworthy one, and at the risk of sounding an ass, I cannot understand how a restaurant which doesn't give you a plate for your bread gets a star. In the bigger scheme of things, I'd be all for revolution at Michelin and my sensational local chippie getting a star because it is leagues ahead of the competition, but as that ain't going to happen, I do not get the elevation of Arbutus. Nice to see Combe House in Honiton as a rising star - a very good Cluedo-style country house restaurant.
  6. The Eagle, if you're willing to walk slightly towards Farringdon, or Konstam at the Prince Albert, if you don't mind heading towards King's Cross?
  7. Not sure if there is anywhere in London that I'd rather have lunch than El Vergel at the momenyt. The tacos with refried beans, guacamole, tomato, coriander and spring onion are one of the tastiest, zingiest, freshest dishes out there, and it's a fun place to eat in too: characterful, good service, water in jugs on the tables and also little pots of freshly made salsa. The cherry cheescake mentioned upthread ain't bad either.
  8. From Torquay the following would all be excellent places to visit within 30-45 minutes driving: 1. The Nobody Inn, Doddiscombsleigh: excellent Dartmoor pub with decent, hearty food and three special qualities - a great wine/beer list, a whiskey collection that includes every Scottish malt and a truly fantastic cheese menu (a plate of seven or so Devon cheeses costs around £6-7). 2. Sharpham Vineyard, on the way to Dartmouth: a beautiful vineyard on the banks of the River Dart. It's possible to take a tour of the vineyard, followed by a tasting of the wine and their superb cheeses (Sharpham Rustic is a local classic). 3. 22 Mill Street, Chagford: Just down the road from Gidleigh Park (** but closed until December 11 I'm afraid), with a chef-proprietor who moved on from there). Really tasty, technically skilled cuisine at good prices. I'm afraid I don't know of much in Torquay or Padstow. If you happen to be in the Exeter or east Devon region, there are many more recommendations on this board, not least in Topsham (home of great restaurants, Devon's best cheese shops and marco polo's Club Vino).
  9. Tried Imli for the first time recently. The food is actually better than the tag-line 'Indian food tapas-style' would suggest, though not so great that I'll be hurrying back. We began with papads which had a distinct air of Phileas Fogg poppadoms, with three fairly average chutneys. We then had: spiced potato cakes, bulgar bean salad, vegetable brochette on a spicy mushroom risotto, aubergine masala and matar paneer. On reflection the bulgar bean salad and the risotto were both excellent and all of the rest of the dishes were good, so I'm not quite sure why I fell so so-so about this place. It may be the relentless conceptual quality of everything there, from the tapas shtick, the modish decor, the silly-looking plates and the even sillier looking wine glasses. In the end this is just a pretty decent Indian restaurant with a few frills. Other places I've tried recently for the first time include Paolina, a Thai cafe on King's Cross Road, and Mawar, a Malaysian basement joint on Edgware Road. Both are basic, cheap and pretty decent. Mawar is especially good because it's a really atmospheric, if scruffy, place with a popular cafeteria style section and a slightly more expensive restaurant area. Portions are generous and dishes with chilli much to be recommended. Both these places are BYO.
  10. Not sure if this has been discussed on another thread, but a nice little food market is now operating on Exmouth Market on Fridays and Saturdays. It's compact and mainly aimed at foodies, with a number of stalls obviously emanating from shops on Exmouth Market. Plenty of cakes, breads (De Gustibus amongst others), a veg stall, a wild mushroom stall (nice-looking stuff if nose-bleedingly priced; yet to try the winter chanterelles I bought there at £3 per 100g), a Vietnamese coffee stall and an intriguing Italian stall selling a mixture of cheeses and patisserie. I tried a raspberry macaroon from the stall which was absolutely sensational - clean, rich and deep in flavour - and will report back on the lemon, mint and vanilla macaroons sitting in my kitchen. If the others are as good as the raspberry, then I'd say they're a hell of a lot better and cheaper than the Laduree ones at Harrods, though the packaging isn't so cute.
  11. This may piss all sides off, but I was moving to Scotland, one of the things which would excite me would be the carby, high-fat specialities. While it's true that there's much more to Scottish cuisine than such fare, and while it is a shame that on a general level there's a gap between the presence of world-class ingredients and the way in which restaurants which serve them, I don't see why one shouldn't celebrate Scottish comfort foods. I guess they've got a bad name because they've become associated with all sorts of dietary, health and political issues, but there's a danger of ignoring the inherent tastiness of some of these things because they are "bad for you". So here are some Scottish bad things which can be good for you: 1. Morning rolls, with plenty of butter or, even better, Aberdeen butteries (Scottish croissants!). 2. Salt and sauce on your chips, especially in Edinburgh. Perhaps with Mars tempura to follow. 3. Deep-fried haggis or maybe deep-fried pizza. I know that deep-frying incredibly cheap pizzas is seen as terrible by many, but I think they taste great. There's no point comparing them with pizzas from Naples or even from Zizzi - they're just a different dish. I draw the line at blue lemonade from chippies though. 4. Baked potatoes with masses of grated orange cheddar. 5. Cakes, especially for breakfast. I used to be a postman in Edinburgh and while it was sometimes stomach-churning delivering to bars at 0630, it was great that there were plenty of bakeries open then. 6. Similarly, Tunnocks tea-cakes, and lots of other Scottis confectionary. like a good piece of tablet, is not to be knocked.
  12. We were taken to El Bulli at Hacienda Benazuza in May and I've just located the scrawled notes which I took during the meal. Those notes simply listed ingredients, so it should have been very tricky remembering the details of the meal, but fortunately the taste memories are pretty strong in the case of many of the dishes! In terms of excitement and pleasure, I think that the meal was only rivalled for me by the first time we ate a good restaurant, Overton Grange in Ludlow, when Claude Bossi, now of Hibiscus, was there. My overriding impression of the meal was what great fun everything was, because there was such a simple thrill in admiring and then eating all the food. I should mention here that I'm vegetarian, so I was especially impressed that so many vegetarian El Bulli greatest hits were rustled up from the kitchen at short notice. We began with whiskey sours with passion fruit and then ambled through a colossal series of tapas, the most memorable of which were oilve oil wrapped in olive skin (I loved the presentation of this and the ravioli dishes, where individual ravioli were dispensed from jars at the table), hazelnut ferreros (well, a salty hazelnut and chocolate dish that played on the idea of Ferrero Rochers), mushrooms (with massively intense reconstituted flavour, one of the few poor notes for me), parmesan (one of the few preparations I can't remember), aniseed nuts, a crispy radish concoction with great freshness and flavour, spoons of reconstituted corn with lime (like an evening of tortilla chips and beer with lime on a single spoon), yoghurt coated yoghurt balls, grilled cauliflower and rasberries (a super combination), walnuts with mayonnaise (ditto), coconut ravioli with balsamic vinegar (I adore sweet/savoury mixing, so I was in a very good place by this point), beetroot ravioli (I can picture it very well right now, but can't find any to hand in my office), a mozarella-type raviolo, and Catalan-style barbecued spring onions (calcots) with mushrooms. This last dish probably signalled a move slightly away from experiment and more towards pure pleasure and comfort in the "main" dishes, best exemplified by the cocktail glass full of truffled potato foam, which was the kind of thing I could have polished off many times over. After the meal, my impression was that I had definitely preferred the tapas to the mains, but looking back on the meal, I realise that one of my favourite courses was a plate of green aspargus with grapefruit and piles of hot mayonnaise. I'm not quite sure why the dish was so good, but it worked amazingly well. This was followed by melon with eucalyptus and nutmeg, which somewhatfell between the experiment and pleasure styles . Pudding was tiramisu four ways, which was not quite my thing as I'ver never really got tiramisu and the dish seemed slightly pedestrian compared with the imagination of earlier courses. Petits fours included marshmallows, chocolate mints and great-looking chocolate coral. We drank Muscadet and Rioja, but to be honest my mind was almost always on the food. Service was good: friendly, unstuffy and efficent. I've no idea of the cost as it was a treat, and what an amazing privilege to be taken there. This was a truly unforgettable meal and one of the best aspects of it was that not only was it a sensual pleasure for hour after hour, but it also made one think a great deal about food, and not just in a cursory manner but in a way that affects me even now when I'm cooking, remembering the ideas, tastes and combinations which made it such a great experience.
  13. Found Lola's van for the first time today and very much enjoyed a pineapple and chilli sorbet. Probably the nicest sorbet I've ever had: great balance between the two flavours with deep and rich pineapple flavour. Lots of other food goodies available at the Exmouth Street festival, and still more at the Italian festival in Clerkenwell.
  14. Very good first lunch at the Capital. Started with excellent bloody marys in the bar, with pistachios. chilli olives, mixed nuts and cherries in alcohol. We were fans of the '20s ocean liner look of the place. Amuse was a zingy melon soup with champagne and mint, while we both had a starter of asparagus fricasee with jersey royals and a poached egg. This was tasty, but probably the weakest course. We both enjoyed spooning up the sauce at the end. The breads were really top-notch; not only was there a huge selection, but there was a great variety between them: I had tomato bread and then a really good plum and brazil nut roll, whilst Becky had paprika and cheese and then olive bread. A doggy bag of bread would make for some nice lunches... For a main we had a millefeuille of vegetables, which was a really well thought out dish, with a series of ingredients cooked in contrasting styles: char-grilled mushroom, blanched asparagus, dressed baby carrots and herb gnocchi, set between layers of pastry made with cheese (parmesan?) and grain mustard, plus a salad. It may sound a bit much when written down, but it tasted great and was a really interesting dish. We shared a plate of cheese, the highlights of which were a fluffily light roquefort and a chaource. For pudding I had a rum baba with olive oil and peanut ice cream - on the basis that the weirdest sounding puddings are often the best - while Becky had apple and blackberry iced yoghurt crumble. Both were very good. The rum baba was exceptionally boozy... Service was good throughout and the only downsides were the prices of everything beyond the lunch deal (£9 for a bloody mary, £29 for one of the cheapest wines), though, as Andy Fenn, says, they are good with tap water and the prices were not unusually high for a restaurant of that type.
  15. Mangal II is a great Turkish place much recommended on here (by Marlena Spieler originally I think). The grills are fantastic and it's excellent for vegetarians. There is the added bonus of often spotting Gilbert and George having their dinner there.
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