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Thomas’ Cafe at Burberry, Mayfair

December 31, 2016
Thomas' Burberry Cafe, Mayfair

When fashion designers try and do restaurants or bars or hotels they can get it wrong (par example the Versace Hotel in Miami), but trust Burberry to get it so right with their first Café opening: ‘Thomas’’ (names after the founder, Thomas Burberry).

It is beautiful, undeniably so.  With dark walls, dim lighting and a welcoming fireplace, it feels like you’ve walked into someone’s very sophisticated but cosy country home.  And while it’s clear that the interiors are well thought through and stylish, it’s done in an understated, unpretentious way.  Nothing flashy, or too polished.  A bit like the brand itself.

Thomas' Burberry Cafe, Mayfair

Finding somewhere to go for coffee is difficult around Regent Street, unless you’re happy to settle with Pret or Café Nero and a bunch of tourists.  So Thomas’s is welcome for more than one reason.  Also, you can book, which means no unnecessary and tedious queuing for brunch.  And lastly, while you’d think it would have the same eye-watering prices as Burberry itself, you’re wrong.  It’s not cheap, of course.  But it’s reasonable.  And everything, from the beautiful presentation of the eggs with soldiers, to the tea with its own hour glass timer which tells you when the tea leaves have brewed to their optimum, is delightful.

Thomas' Burberry Cafe, MayfairThomas' Burberry Cafe, Mayfair

I could happily sit there for hours, sipping my cappuccino, watching people come and go, until it’s cocktail hour and then gently move on to one of their G&Ts.  There is no rush to leave your table (or if there was, we never felt it).

You are so well looked after here, by young, good looking, could-be Burberry models. Who are exceptionally polite and accommodating. But my favourite thing about the place is the soundtrack, which I recognised from their impossibly glamorous Christmas advert casually starring Siena Miller and Lily James (and which I still wish was a trailer to a 2 hour long movie).

Thomas' Burberry Cafe, Mayfair

And so, with January around the corner, this is a place that will make you embrace winter.  And be the perfect refuge for your post sale shop.

Thomas’ Cafe

Burberry

5 Vigo Street / 121 Regent Street

 

Blog, UK - Outside London

The Painswick Hotel, Cotswolds

November 16, 2016
The Painswick Hotel, the Cotswolds

It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with the Cotswolds.  I go at least twice a year, to escape London and to enjoy the fresh air and long country walks.  I often stay with my friend Hen’s parents, in the Slad Valley, one of the most beautiful parts of the Cotswolds.

A few months ago I read an article in Conde Nast Traveller raving about the newish Painswick Hotel (part of the famous Calcot Collection) which had opened in the beautiful village of Painswick.  As it was only a 15 minute drive from where I was staying one weekend, we decided to visit the Painswick Hotel for afternoon tea.

Located in an 18th century Cotswold stone mansion, it’s a grand and beautiful building.  But despite this the Painswick Hotel feels very homely and cosy.  The entrance is slightly underwhelming – I’m not sure about the neon sign reading ‘the Painswick’ upon entering, this felt a little too Shoreditch and didn’t really fit in with the rest of the place.  The rest of the design however, by Nicky Farquar, is beautiful.  It is a mixture of quirky, more contemporary furniture and lamps and beautiful, OKA-esque interiors.  Nicky strikes the balance just right.

The Painswick Hotel, the Cotswolds

We had afternoon tea in one of their large(r) but warm sitting rooms, with an old fireplace which now is replaced by a cosy wood burning fire.  The afternoon tea is very reasonably priced if you opt for a pot of tea and a scone – probably about £8 per person (and they were amazing!).  The macaroon is tiny (but also apparently delicious) so don’t expect something the size of a scone.  The banana cake/bread might have actually been my favourite.

The Painswick Hotel, the Cotswolds

The bar in the next door room is rather lovely, and stands out with its special ceiling and coloured bottles.

The Painswick Hotel, the Cotswolds

We had a little walk around and admired the outside terrace with beautiful views of the Cotswold hills.  In the summer this must be a dreamy place.  And being located right in Painswick itself is a massive treat, with plenty of other charming pubs and little shops to explore.  The Painswick also has an (apparently) excellent restaurant, and while we didn’t eat here, we certainly loved the interiors here too.  Especially the lunch menu looked quite affordable which is rare in this neck of the woods.

The Painswick Hotel, the CotswoldsThe Painswick Hotel, the Cotswolds

The hotel was fully booked, so we didn’t get to see any rooms, but at around £140+ a night they are quite reasonable compared to the other Calcot hotels (like Barnsley House and Calcot Manor).

The Painswick Hotel, the Cotswolds

I’ll have to come back and test the beds and the bathrooms, but overall I liked the place and would recommend it to those looking to escape London for a night or two (or to the Cotswold locals for afternoon tea, lunch or dinner).

For other Cotswold tips, you may find this blog post useful.

The Painswick Hotel

Kemps Ln, Painswick

Stroud GL6 6YB

Photo credit: The Painswick Hotel

Blog, Date Spot, Eat, London

Boca di Lupo, Soho

November 8, 2016
Boca di Lupo, Soho

Considering that Italian food is my favourite cuisine and I spend most of my time eating in Soho, it’s a bit of a miracle that I had never been to Boca di Lupo until last week.

London has some wonderful Italian restaurants; from ‘swanky’ Zafferano, to South Ken favourite La Famiglia, to the more relaxed but no less excellent Trullo and Padella.  But Buco di Lupo is a name I hear regularly, constantly, and it’s always being praised.

Boca di Lupo, Soho

Book to sit at the kitchen bar, where all the action is.  The food is excellent.  Simple, no messing about, wonderful Italian food.  My favourite was the potato gnocchi with sausage.  While gnocchi is usually a stodgy, heavy dish, this was light, delicate and full of flavour. The pumpkin risotto was good too, but didn’t stand out as much for me.

Boca di Lupo, Soho

We ordered the Tagliata to share for the main course.  I’m glad we shared because it is truly massive (and beautifully cooked).  The rocket and parmesan are the perfect accompaniment, and we ordered a tomato salad which worked very well too.

We also enjoyed their wine.  Quite a lot of wine, as a matter of fact, from different regions in Italy (they have an excellent, if expensive, Italian wine list).  My favourite was the Barbera, but, at £17 per glass, it’s not automatically your go-to wine.  The Sangiovese was good too, and I can’t remember what else we drank because things got a bit blurry…

Boca di Lupo, Soho

In Soho, where you are spoilt for choice of restaurants, Buco di Lupo stands out.  The staff are friendly and knowledgeable, the food superb, the setting beautiful, warm and cosy.  Next time my father’s in town, I’m taking him there.  And that’s got to be a good sign.

Buco di Lupo

12 Archer St, Soho,

London W1D 7BB

 

Blog, Drink, Eat, Healthy, London

Brompton Food Market, South Kensington

October 29, 2016
Brompton Food Market, South Kensington

I love it when you come across places which you never knew existed, but have walked past a million times.  South Ken is tricky for brunch.  It’s either super touristy (Muriel’s Kitchen) or a bit chainy (Comptoir Libanais, Aubaine, Pain Quotidien).   And then you get this cute, unassuming Deli/Cafe with a secret garden which is perfect for a summer lunch or an autumn brunch.   We were actually en route to Aubaine, but then passed the Brompton Food Market with it’s inviting ‘secret garden’ sign and thought we ought to have a look.  Let’s just say Aubaine never happened after that.

The Brompton Food Market is actually also a butcher, fishmonger and greengrocer as well.  I.e really the place do all your shopping.  And the experience is ten times nicer than shopping at Tesco’s, I can promise you that.  It’s a beautiful shop with excellent produce.  You could spend hours looking at all the different jams and oils and cheese.

Brompton Food Market, South Kensington

Shopping aside, they have a great selection of wonderful salads and juices for those healthy-inclined, or a mouthwatering brunch menu with dishes like American pancakes with berries, eggs whichever way you want, the list is endless.  My cappuccino was the size of my head.  We sat outside, kept warm with sheepskin rugs and overhead heaters.

Brompton Food Market, South KensingtonBrompton Food Market, South KensingtonBrompton Food Market, South Kensington

This is the perfect place for a cosy, laid back and affordable coffee or brunch, in the heart of touristy London.  It’s ideal if you’re looking for somewhere quiet and local, and away from the tourist hordes.

The Brompton Food Market

33 Thurloe Place

SW7 2HQ

Blog, Date Spot, Eat, London

Clipstone, Fitzrovia

October 29, 2016
Clipstone, Fitzrovia

Before going to restaurants I always love checking out the menu (mainly to prepare myself for the bill).  Clipstone’s menu reads like it was ‘written by Chaucer’, as my friend Harry so aptly put it.  We didn’t understand half of it.  What’s ‘ventricina’ and ‘hispi’ cabbage, why put ‘mallard’ instead of just plain ‘duck’ (apparently because mallard is a wild duck), what’s a ‘torched gurnard’ and a ‘Paris-Brest’?  I’m clearly not really ‘with it’ anymore.  But it didn’t put me off at all.  It actually made me more curious.

While it’s high on my list of go to places, I am yet to try the much-praised restaurant Portland which opened in January last year.  Then its sister restaurant Clipstone opened this summer and the reviews were as good, if not better.  And for some reason I was even more drawn to it than Portland.  So I went last night.  And it was excellent.

It started very well with their homemade warm sour dough bread.  Thick and soft and filling and just what you need when starving and downing your first cocktail of the weekend.  The Halloween appropriate pumpkin with apricot, crispy herbs and creme fraiche was incredible.  The hispi cabbage (a diamond shaped sweet cabbage, apparently) was perhaps one of my favourite dishes, as were the leaks with gibriche sauce (effectively leak tempura – so so good).  The ravioli of celeriac & ricotta was unbelievably moorish and I could easily have had another plate of it.  Our meat options, the pork with quince (the sweet quince made this dish) and the pheasant (beautifully cooked) were good too, but it’s the vegetable dishes that receive the standing ovation.  There’s a clear love here for fermenting, smoking and pickling food and it allows for the perfect autumnal dinner.  It’s very hard to fault this place.

Clipstone, FitzroviaClipstone, Fitzrovia

The service was excellent and friendly and they put up with us asking what every other word on the menu was.

Pudding was a hard choice between the Paris Brest and the Buttermilk pudding, mainly because I didn’t know what to expect from either.  But I’m so glad we went for the Paris-Brest (effectively a lot of cream and choux pastry).  It was to die for and apparently very much the pudding du jour in London at the moment.

Clipstone, Fitzrovia

But one word of warning.  If you want a post-dinner aperitif, don’t, whatever happens, order the pear liqueur.  If you opt for it you can expect poison in a glass and a consequential blurry evening.  But everything else on the menu: order, order, order away.  You won’t be disappointed.

Clipstone

5 Clipstone Street

Fitzrovia

 

Blog, Eat, Healthy, London

Honey & Co, Fitzrovia

September 26, 2016
Honey & Co, Fitzrovia

Word of advice.  When a restaurant says it’s fully booked when trying to book a table online, don’t let this put you off going.  I’ve been wanting to go to the much praised Fitzrovian restaurant Honey & Co for ages now, but every time I try and book, it says ‘nothing available’ or offers me the 9:30pm slot.  So last week, having read that they do allow some walk ins, I decided I was just going to risk it.

I arrived at 6:30pm and it was full.  This was to be expected, and I was not put off.  Things looked positive when I spoke to a very friendly waitress, who said she’d take my name and number, and call me when a table was available.  Seemed reasonable.  My friend Emily and I grabbed a glass of wine at the pub next door and eyed up Honey & Co’s small outside terrace.  It was a beautiful, warm September evening, but we could sense that people were leaning towards eating inside.  After about 30 minutes I got a call, ‘We’ve got a table free, but it’s outside I’m afraid.  When can you be here?’   Bingo.  We were there in seconds.

There is one disappointing thing to mention first, then we’ll focus on the positives.  Emily is a vegetarian and, despite the Middle East being so good at vegetarian food, she was disappointed to have only one choice of main course.  Which was, incidentally, a very delicious baked aubergine dish.  But still, I had five other options to choose from.  Funny also that all the starters were vegetarian.  It just doesn’t quite make sense.  Perhaps they should offer the starters also in larger portions as mains?

Honey & Co, Fitzrovia

However, moving on swiftly.  The starters were delicious – we shared a basket of fresh bread (how do they make pitta quite so good?) and a labaneh and a spicy pumpkin and pepper dish.  The ideal first course, filling but not overly so.  I could have licked the plate.  As Emily devoured her aubergine, I opted for the roasted lamb salad with plums, tarragon, greengages and fennel seeds as my main course.  While lamb is my big go to, the rest of the accompaniments were not very ‘me’ (I don’t really like fruit in my food, unless it’s pudding).  But the combination worked beautifully and it felt both healthy and delicious.

Honey & Co, Fitzrovia

The place has a very local, neighbourhood feel to it.  Everyone is friendly, the staff lovely, and there is a pleasant buzz about the place.  It’s one of those places which makes you want to return.  It’s as far from a chain restaurant as you can get.

Too full for pudding, I decided I would return here for brunch, as this seems to be most legendary here.  Since drinking wine at the pub at 11am at the pub next door may not be quite so appropriate, I might have to surrender and actually book that (well) in advance.

Honey & Co

25 Warren St

London W1T 5LZ

Blog, Date Spot, Drink, Eat, London

J Sheekey Atlantic Bar and Terrace, Covent Garden

September 25, 2016

A fairly sweltering September means that my hunt for the best alfresco bars (or bars with decent terraces) for post work drinks has continued.  Bronte (my regular), is a big favourite of mine in Central London.  It has a large terrace, a decent bar menu and there’s always a table free.  But apart from that it’s always quite tricky to find a relaxed terrace in Covent Garden or Soho. Further North I have more luck; in Fitzrovia Foley’s has a cool alfresco bar (but with very limited seats), Percy & Founders has a large outside seating area, and Charlotte street offers many restaurants with small terraces ideal for drinks in the sun (the big favourite being the Charlotte Street hotel).  So when Grace Dent wrote a rave review about J Sheekey launching their new Atlantic Bar & Terrace (a revamp from their old Oyster Bar), located in the West End, I thought I’d check it out.

J Sheekey Atlantic Bar & Terrace, West End

London’s West End is known to be very busy and very touristy, and the immediate area around Leicester Square is not necessarily a place I spend much time.  J Sheekey is right in the thick of theatre-land, tucked away down a little alley way.  It looks pretty old school.  I mean, J Sheeky has been around for decades.  But you can tell that it’s terrace has had a bit of make over; with bright colours and comfy red chairs it looks fresh and welcoming.  And it’s prime people watching territory too (not long after we spotted Ian McKellan smoking a cigarette around the corner).  I also loved its new menu with artwork by my favourite Quentin Blake.

Quentin Blake

You can’t just drink here, you need to order some food.  But with a mouth-watering fish-heavy menu, that’s not exactly a problem.  We ordered the sea bass ceviche and the tuna and avocado tartare, both excellent.  The wine list is decent, though it’s easy to leave here with a fairly large bill (a glass of wine and one dish each set us back close to £25 each).

J Sheekey Atlantic Bar & Terrace, West End

In short, if you’re looking for a pre-theatre or cinema place for an alfresco drink and a quick bite, this is the place for you.  Alternatively, you can of course just stay here for a proper fishy dinner – there’s a reason why this place has been around for so long, the food is great and the service is too.

J Sheekey Atlantic Bar & Terrace

33-35 St Martin’s Court,

London WC2N 4AL

Blog, Eat, London

Flat Iron, Covent Garden & Soho

September 25, 2016
Flat Iron, Covent Garden

Flat Iron is not exactly new to the London dining scene, and its original Beak Street restaurant is a bit of a Soho institution. Known for excellent steak and excellent value, Flat Iron has been popular from the outset.  I had heard about the long queues of patient fans, who, because of the typical Soho no-booking policy, were more than happy to wait in line for a juicy steak for a tenner.

I don’t have the patience for long queues, and so, when the newest (and by far the largest) Flat Iron opened on Henrietta Street (December 2015), around the corner from where I work, my interest was renewed.  Taking colleagues out to lunch posed as the perfect opportunity to try this place, and we were all very impressed.

The menu is short & simple, and their signature Flat Iron steak for £10 is what you should order.  Yes, they had specials (a burger in our case), but I’d seen the beautifully pink sliced steaks come by and knew what I wanted.  It comes with a side salad, though you can of course order triple cooked chips, or other vegetables with it.  They also offer sauces (£1) – from an excellent Bearnaise to the creamy horseradish I went for.  The steaks came quickly, were perfectly cooked, and tasted divine.  Lunch was all over in under 45 minutes.

To top it off they offer a complimentary salted caramel ice cream upon departure.  The ice cream was almost (almost) better than the steak.

With friendly staff, attractive interiors and incredible value, I can completely understand the appeal.  The bonus of the Henrietta Street restaurant is that it is large enough to head there for lunch without queues.  I shall definitely be returning for dinner…

Flat Iron

17/18 Henrietta Street

Covent Garden

With other restaurants in Soho on 17 Beak Street and 9 Denmark Street

Blog, UK - Outside London

Foxhill Manor, Cotswolds

September 19, 2016

There are beautiful countryside hotels, retreats, pubs with rooms. And then there is Foxhill Manor. It sets itself apart because it’s more like a home than anything else. In fact, the Manor can be rented out in its entirety, should you wish.  There is no reception desk.  There is no breakfast time. There seem to be very few ‘must dos’ at all.  Apart from perhaps helping yourself to as many glasses of champagne and warm scones as you want upon arrival.

Foxhill Manor, CotswoldsFoxhill Manor, Cotswolds

We arrived too early for check in, but instead went for a long walk in the beautiful Cotswold countryside, where we ended up in the very picturesque village of Broadway for a delicious pub lunch at the Swan.  Having walked back (50 mins) we were greeted by a very friendly member of staff, who showed us around.

Broadway, Cotswolds

There are a few fun things about Foxhill which again sets this place apart from the rest.  There’s the spirit selection in the warm and welcoming sitting room, where you can drink all day and all night, should you wish (free of charge).  There’s a wine cellar you can lose yourself in (now this is sadly not for free).  There’s a cinema with huge beanbags and an infinite number of DVDs (and fresh popcorn, of course).  And there’s the Pantry (possibly my favourite thing), where, should you be as greedy as me, you can help yourself to a never-ending selection of sweets and treats, juices and beers.

Foxhill Manor, Cotswolds

Then there are the rooms. Only eight in total, three of which suites. We were lucky enough to be upgraded the the Beech Suite, which was so ginormous we didn’t even use our sitting room.  We spent a great deal of time in the bathroom (always my favourite room), wallowing in their oversized roll top bath, admiring their mega power shower, giggling at the gnomes through the window.  The bed was difficult to get out of after an obligatory nap. And ideal to watch Sky TV from after we crawled up the stairs (via the Pantry), after our four course dinner.

Foxhill Manor, CotswoldsFoxhill Manor, Cotswolds

Dinner can be eaten wherever: on the beautiful terrace with stunning views of the valley, in your room or in their lovely dining room.  Another quirk: there is no menu. You meet the chef, discuss your likes and dislikes, he suggests a menu of the day. But you can have whatever you like really (to some extent).  And it was all rather delicious.

Foxhill Manor, CotswoldsFoxhill Manor, Cotswolds

Breakfast we enjoyed outside on the terrace, reading the papers (there is a huge selection), and slowly working our way through bread, pastries, eggs and smoked salmon.

Foxhill Manor, Cotswolds

If eating isn’t all you want to spend your time doing (a mystery to me), then there is plenty else to do.  Foxhill is part of the Farncombe Estate, and the better known Dormy House is its sister hotel, a walk (or short drive) away. Here you can use its extensive spa facilities or dine at one of its restaurants. Apart from that you can go riding, walking, clay pigeon shooting…the list is endless.

Staying at Foxhill Manor is the best way to totally relax after a hectic working week. To spoil yourself. And to put on half a stone.  I can’t think of a better way to do that.

Foxhill Manor

Farncombe Estate

Broadway WR12 7LJ

Blog, Date Spot, Eat, London

The Ninth, Fitzrovia

September 5, 2016
The Ninth, Fitzrovia

It might seem like a bit of a cheat writing a blog about a restaurant where I’ve only had pudding*.  But this pudding is so good it deserves its own blog.  Even though I had it 3 weeks ago I cannot stop thinking about it.  I’m plotting when to return.

Let’s rewind.  Having had a delicious dinner at Bao Fitzrovia, which fully lived up to expectations, I decided I wanted proper dessert and a proper (large) glass of wine.  Being right by Charlotte street we were in no better area to find both items, and so we strolled along until we got to the Ninth.  I’d read good things about this place, no less regarding its attractive Japanese celeb chef Jun Tanaka, but mainly about the food.  It also, like most Charlotte Street restaurants (another reason why I love it so) has a little terrace outside, with, in our case, empty tables.

The staff were ever so charming and more than happy for us to enjoy dessert and wine outside.  The dessert menu had some very appealing options and I was almost tempted to go for the Tarte Tatin.   But the (lovely) waiter insisted I try their famous ‘Pain Perdu’, which sounded like my sort of thing.  Best decision ever.

The Ninth, Fitzrovia

It’s really rather pleasant sitting on their terrace with the heaters on, watching Charlotte Street go by, sipping a good glass of French (obvi) wine.  But life got just that little bit better when a loaf of beautifully caramelised French toast was placed in front of me.  With wonderful vanilla ice cream.  The loaf was soft and warm on the inside, but with a slight caramel crunch on the outside.  It’s quite a lot of pudding, but scary how quickly and easily that vanished (my Instagram photo below).  Don’t get one to share, it’s too good for that.  And while a portion that size might leave you feeling sick, it wasn’t overly sweet so I felt just fine afterwards (if slightly on a sugar high).

The Ninth, Fitzrovia

The great thing is that since I didn’t actually have dinner there, I have an excuse to go back (the menu looks good, and prices reasonable).  Inside was also appealing, dimly lit, buzzing without being noisy, the ideal date place perhaps.

If the rest of the menu is anything like the Pain Perdu, then it will certainly be a dinner to remember.

**Since writing this blog I actually went back for lunch in the sun with my father.  We enjoyed two of their delicious salads/ceviche and their oxtail croquettes which were delicious.  To finish, we had the Pain Perdu, of course!  Couldn’t recommend this place highly enough.

The Ninth, Fitzrovia

The Ninth

22 Charlotte Street

Fitzrovia

Photo credit: The Ninth

Blog, Drink, Eat, London

Samarkand, Fitzrovia

August 31, 2016
Samarkand, Fitzrovia

An Uzbek restaurant might not be your first choice on Charlotte Street, where you have a vast array of excellent international – and British – restaurants to choose from.  But I was curious, no less because of the promise of craft vodka and a dish called Jizbiz (I know…).

I rarely write bad reviews, mainly because I don’t want to waste my time writing about places I would simply not recommend.  The only negative one I wrote was about Restaurant Ours, because there was a hype for no reason, the prices were inflated and the service was appalling.  The problem with Samarkand is that I genuinely quite liked the restaurant (and bar), I thought the interiors were appealing and – most importantly – the service was really good.  So I feel for them a little, writing this review.

Samarkand, Fitzrovia

But there is one big problem with Samarkand, and that is, very unfortunately, the food.  Arguably we enjoyed the 50% soft launch offer, which made for a very affordable and fun dinner.  However, the prices of the food cannot be justified without it.

To start with we ordered the beef and lamb ‘Manti’, Uzbek dumplings.  I’m always a bit of a fan of dumplings, but not of these.  Soggy, falling apart and bland, even the sauce which accompanied it resembled a Dolmio tomato sauce.  Maybe that’s the Uzbek way, but if it is, I wouldn’t put it on the menu.

Samarkand, Fitzrovia

Next came the Shashlik (grilled skewered meat).  We ordered the Wagyu Beef with Truffle and a Buttermilk Lamb one.  Bearing in mind that the beef shashlik (one skewer – albeit 100g) costs £24, you’d expect some seriously good meat.  But it just didn’t do it for us (though the lamb was better than the beef).  The biggest mystery of all was the truffle clearly resembled truffle shavings but tasted of, well, nothing.  Nor did it smell of truffle.  It just looked like it.  When questioned if it was perhaps Uzbek truffle (if that exists) our very charming waiter said he’d check with the kitchen, and returned adamant it was Tuscan.

For the main course we decided to order the JizBiz, since a dish with a name like that surely can’t be ignored.  This was a rack of lamb with a potato cake.  It was fine, but not more than this – and just could have been so much better if they had properly grilled the lamb so the fat was crispy rather than soft.

Samarkand, Fitzrovia

We moved to the bar area (which I really liked) after dinner to try some of their vodka.  They recommended two kinds: a sugar beet and a malt vodka – both completely new to us.  We couldn’t dine at an Uzbek restaurant and not have a vodka.  But then to our complete surprise we were served British vodka, two types of craft vodka made in London in fact.  I just couldn’t understand why a restaurant from an area famed for its vodka would serve British vodka.  Totally bizarre (I did like the Uzbek tea cups the vodka was served in).

Samarkand, Fitzrovia

Samarkand’s not all bad, as I said above.  I really liked the staff, who were attentive, enthusiastic and clearly proud to be working at there.  The head barman could talk for hours about the vodka we were drinking.  Some of the cocktails we had afterwards were good too (though the Whisky Sour could do with more whiskey).

This is not a place for a summer’s day (it’s underground), and should be better in the winter, where the British vodka can warm you, though the truffle with still mystify.  So in conclusion, I’d grab a pre or post-dinner cocktail here, but choose one of the plethora of other excellent restaurants on Charlotte Street (Roka, the Ninth, Barn Yard) or Bao around the corner for actual dinner.  If Uzbek cuisine wants to make its mark in London, it’s going to have to improve dramatically at Samarkand.

Samarkand

33 Charlotte St,

London W1T 1RR

Photo credit: Samarkand

Blog, Date Spot, Drink, Eat, London

Bronte, The Strand

August 19, 2016
Bronte, the Strand

I’ve found my new favourite post-work drink place.  And it’s not just because it’s about 2 minutes’ walk from my office.

Bronte opened a few weeks ago, right by Trafalgar Square.  An odd location, you might think. A place which will probably attract a lot of tourists, was my first thought. But actually, no.  Either tourists haven’t clocked on yet that there is this rather glamorous (yet still very welcoming) bar and restaurant a moment’s walk from London’s highlights. Or perhaps they just prefer Pizza Hut and Garfunkels (fine by me). Because Bronte seems to be full with mostly locals and people like me, who head here for a welcome glass of wine after a long day’s work.
Bronte, the StrandBronte, the Strand
Tom Dixon – famous for doing the interiors of the wonderful Sea Containers – has also done the design here.  His style is recognisable: bright colours in the form of a stand out pink granite bar (love it), and green banquettes.  Quirky but attractive lamps hang from the ceiling and large pot plants add a slightly exotic feel to the place.  My favourite though, is to sit on their spacious colonnaded terrace – which feels remarkably calm, despite the busy Strand happening all around you.

Bronte, the StrandBronte, the Strand
But this is not just a bar. The food is good too. Admittedly I’ve only tried their snack menu (their crab summer rolls are very good), but if it’s anything to go by, the rest of their menu should be delicious.  And pricing is reasonable too.

Some praise must also go to their staff. Every time I’ve been there the waiters have all been exceptionally friendly and helpful, mostly Italian and very upbeat gentlemen.

Bronte, the Strand
I’m not one to keep returning to places, especially in a city like London, where new places open every day and I get serious FOMO if I don’t jump on a soft launch or new opening. However, I might make the exception for Bronte, which, with its good looks, convenient location and (usually) free tables, is the perfect place for a mid-week drink and a bite.

Bronte

Grand Buildings,

1-3 Strand,

London WC2N 5EJ

Photo credit: Bronte

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