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Theo Randall revamps in style

Ten years ago, Theo Randall moved from what was then the fairly casual River Café (where he was head chef) to his own place, nestled within the InterContinental Hotel. The cooking was terrific, and much more exciting than the restaurant’s dining room, which was rather muted and a little cramped. This year it’s had a makeover that made it more expansive and relaxed. The menu has also evolved, with luxury ingredients simply but carefully combined and cooked, thoroughly Italian, quietly stylish.

Another addition is the Sommelier’s Table, tucked into a corner of the room and overseen by head sommelier Vittorio Gentile, where diners can tuck into a five-course tasting menu paired with a selection of wines by the glass, and topped up with information, anecdotes, and advice from the amiable and knowledgeable wine guide; it’s informal but thorough. After glasses of dry and full-bodied sparkling wine, we had unctuous fresh burrata cheese with grilled red peppers swiss chard, and olives (Aurora, “Fiobbo” Pecorino 2014); handmade pasta with peas and broad beans, smoked ricotta cheese, and mint (Marsella Fiano di Avellino 2011); Roast rack of lamb with six roasted vegetables and herb sauce ((Lino Manga Barbacarlo 2005, a rich red from Lombardy) and a cheese plate with a concentrated “Ronco del Picchio” 2010 from Sandro Fay, made from semi-dried grapes, but dry and luscious. Altogether, splendid food and some wonderful discoveries among the wines.

Vittorio said he’d already lined up a couple of winemakers for special dinners: Bellavista sparkling wine and Petra, makers of very good reds from Lombardy, on July 20th, and Vajra, brilliant producers of Barolo and Barbera in the Piedmont region, on October 11th. Theo Randall at the InterContinental, 1 Hamilton Place, Park Lane, London;

The new big cheese in town: Obica

Obica has launched its new London flagship in St Paul’s, with a 120-seat restaurant, mozzarella bar, deli, private dining room and beautiful terrace. The relaxed deli serves coffee, pastries, fresh juices and takeaway dishes in the daytime. In the evening cocktails inspired by Italian aperitivo are prepared at the bar. The very good, wide-ranging wine list includes both traditional labels and little-known Italian grape varietals.

The emphasis is on the best of Italian produce. Mozzarella di Bufala DOP is imported directly twice a week and is served at the Mozzarella Bar with black truffle, sustainably farmed Italian Calvisius caviar, or simply on its own with extra virgin olive oil. Other small plates include a selection of salumi, including 24-month air-aged San Daniele and Parma Prosciutto, and smoked Speck from Alto Adige. From the kitchen, traditional Italian regional dishes are presented in contemporary style: creative and innovative salads, homemade pasta and fish and meat such as tartare di knife-cut ahi tuna and taggiasche olives, Pantelleria capers, heirloom tomatoes, lime, chives & avocado purée; sea bass with Solfino white beans, seasonal vegetables, and roasted Datterini tomatoes; ravioli freschi - ricotta di bufala & black kale homemade ravioli in sage butter sauce, Parmigiano Reggiano. A copper pizza oven resides in a corner of the restaurant. Turning out pizzas with burrata and n’duja (spicy sausage from Calabria) or the NY favourite Pizza Prosciutto, with prosciutto di Parma and rocket.

Taillevent has come to London. . . in style

Two-Michelin starred Le Taillevent in Paris has gained a sibling, Les 110 de Taillevent London, a wine and food matching brasserie in Cavendish Square, opened in September, featuring 110 wines by the glass, including rare and singular wines chosen by Pierre Bérot, Cellar Director of Taillevent Paris, a list that evokes the richness of the original collection. Guests are offered the choice of four wines, in 70ml or 125ml measures, matched with their choice of four starters, fish, meat, desserts or cheese dishes.

The dynamic à la carte menu, developed by Alain Solivérès, Executive Chef Director of Taillevent Paris, has been designed to showcase the wines on offer. A special Wine Time menu at the bar, offering small plates and carefully chosen wines, is available in the early evenings. The interiors also pay homage to wine. A chic and warm setting draws on the green of the vine, rich earth tones and oak-barrelled wine casks. Specially commissioned artworks further the theme. Les 110 de Taillevent London, 16 Cavendish Square, London W1G 9DD.

Mimosas unlimited at Urban Coterie

Urban Coterie, the Shoreditch restaurant from Anthony Demetre and Searcys, has launched a new weekend “bottomless brunch” menu, designed by Anthony Demetre and Head Chef Killian Lynch, featuring a choice of any three brunch dishes and unlimited Mimosas for £32 per person. The menu includes dishes such as Scrambled Duck Eggs with Smoked Salmon; Waffles, Bacon and Poached Egg; and French Toast with Mascarpone and Blueberries. For carnivores, there’s the Breakfast Burger; Steak and Eggs with Spiced Green Salsa; and Duck Confit with Fried Egg and Lentils. For dessert there’s a choice of Warm Chocolate Mousse with Almond Sorbet; Waffles, Maple Syrup and Pecan Ice Cream; and a Classic Custard Tart.

From its location on the 17th floor of the M by Montcalm Hotel, Urban Coterie has stunning views of East London and beyond. The weekend ‘Brunch with a View’ menu will be served on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am – 4pm, with unlimited mimosas served for the duration of a two-hour sitting.; tel: 0203 8373108.

Verona skewers kebabs

Verona has joined Lucca in cracking down on foreign or unduly "ethnic" (that is, non-Italian) food, by prohibiting new restaurants that don't honor "the tradition of typical culture of the Verona territory," according to the mayor of the northern Italian city. Decoding some of the rhetoric of the announcement, it turns out that it's aimed at Greek fast food, fried takeaways, and Middle Eastern food like kebabs; there does not seem to be any mention of, for example, McDonalds, which is well established all over Italy (and, as a franchise operation, owned by locals), or pizza joints, not exactly Veronese either. Politics on a plate are never appetizing.

Angela Hartnett’s Café Murano Covent Garden opens

Angela Hartnett has announced Café Murano Covent Garden, at 34-36 Tavistock Street . It’s the second Café Murano restaurant. Next door, the new Pastificio will offer fresh pasta available to take away. The opening menu will include antipasti such as ‘Octopus, potatoes, capers & paprika’ and ‘Ricotta courgettes with preserved lemon honey’. For Primi, pastas such as ‘Farfalle, rabbit, peas & girolles’ and ‘Gnocchi, feta, rosemary & olive oil’ will be available, and a number of Secondi dishes will comprise whole fish and cuts of meat served to share. The wine list will be mostly Italian, with the exception of a select grower Champagne list, and includes artisanal reds, whites, pinks and oranges from interesting, small-scale producers.

The ‘Pastificio’,or ‘pasta factory’ next door to the restaurant, will feature handmade pasta made in house and available to take home every day. The Pastificio will stretch its remit to include a selection of quality salumi, fresh pasta sauces and wines from the restaurant, also for sale at shop prices. Café Murano , 34-36 Tavistock St, Covent Garden, WC2E 7PB.

Tamarind launches tasting menu

Tamarind, the Michelin-starred Indian restaurant in Mayfair, is introducing a tasting menu for the first time in 19 years, a special six-course menu of signature dishes that have evolved over that time, derived from traditional Moghul cuisine cooked in authentic tandoor ovens. The menu begins with an appetizer of fragrant channa chaat (a traditional dish made with white chickpeas), followed by a starter of grilled scallop with smoked peppers and tomato chutney, then Tandoor grilled baby chicken breast, puréed tomato with fenugreek leaves. A tamarind and date sorbet is then served, before a main dish of Elliot farm lamb chops with raw papaya, fennel and star anise. Petit fours of carrot fudge and pistachio kulfi offer a touch of sweetness to balance and finish the feast. The Taste of Tamarind menu will be available for £65 per person or £115 per person with a wine-matching flight from its extensive wine list.Tamarind, 20 Queen Street, London W1J 5PR. Tel: 0207629 3561;

Peruvian additions: Ceviche Old St. and Lima Floral

Martin Morales, the renowned Peruvian chef and cookbook author, will open a new restaurant and bar at the historic former Alexandra Trust Dining Rooms, located a two minute walk from Old Street tube station. Ceviche Old St. will comprise a dining room with dedicated ceviche bar, Peruvian rotisserie and open charcoal BBQ grill, and a separate bar area serving Pisco cocktails. The restaurant menu will be served throughout, with Peruvian snacks on offer at the bar. Ceviche Old St. will be open seven days a week from lunch through to dinner. It will also be an art gallery, showcasing the work of Peruvian artists, exhibiting paintings, photography, and sculpture. The menu features Ceviche classics alongside new dishes from Peru’s Criollo, Chifa and Nikkei gastronomy, with an emphasis on healthy Peruvian ingredients. Ceviche Old St, 2 Baldwin Street, Old Street, London EC1V 9NU;

LIMA Floral is also part of Peru’s gourmet invasion of London, begun by Peruvian chef Virgilio Martinez with Michelin-starred Lima; this is the second site, in Covent Garden. The restaurant has introduced new ingredients and dishes never seen in the capital before, sharing the latest research and findings direct from Virgilio’s Central restaurant in Peru. “Now that London is familiar with Peruvian food, it is the perfect time to push the boundaries with our menu,” he said. Some native vegetables and fruits from Peru will be showcased, to bring new tastes to customers. The bar menu will be designed for sharing and serving finger food, with small piqueo dishes, basically Peruvian tapas. 14 Garrick Street, London WC2E 9BJ;

Bar Boulud introduces Sunday brunch, French-style

Bar Boulud, the informally stylish bistro in the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, has begun a regular Sunday brunch with an array of tempting dishes on the sumptuous menu. It begins with an aperitif and a chef’s-choice starter, usually a light selection of charcuterie, and then features a choice of dishes such as Eggs Benedict en Brioche (smoked salmon or ham); Lemon Sole on the Bone with brown butter and capers; Omelette, with herbs, baby spinach and Gruyere cheese; Minute Steak; Confit Duck Hash with egg and home fries, and a Brunch Burger with bacon, mushroom, cheddar, an egg, brown sauce, and fries. This is followed by a choice of desserts, including an apple/pear trifle, chocolate brownie, or waffles. Good value for £39, for sure. Bar Boulud, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA; tel: +44 (0)20 7201 3899.

Quo Vadis & Sunday lunch: irresistible combo

Soho stalwart Quo Vadis recently opened on Sunday, for the first time , and will now be open for lunch on Sundays from 1pm, with last orders at 3.30pm. Chef Jeremy Lee's daily changing a la carte menu will be available with the addition of some special Sunday dishes, such as roast sirloin, BLT, or smoked haddock with black pudding and a poached egg. A selection of smashing Sunday cocktails are also encouraged to help kick-start the day and include a refreshing Bullshot, a sweet Breakfast Martini and a buxom Red Snapper! Indulgent desserts are also available. Quo Vadis, 26 Dean Street, London W1D 3LL; tel: +44 |(0)20 7437 9585;

Frescobaldi restaurant opening in Mayfair

The Frescobaldi family, one of Italy’s oldest and most respected wine dynasties, will open its first restaurant and wine bar in London in November. It follows in the successful footsteps of Dei Frescobaldi restaurants and wine bars in Florence and Rome’s Fiumicino airport. The restaurant will specialise in classic dishes that celebrate Tuscany’s rich gastronomic tradition, but with their own contemporary twist, backed by an extensive array of wines produced by Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi, whose extraordinary heritage encompasses nine estates, predominantly in the hills around Florence and Siena. The Frescobaldi family’s involvement in wine dates back to 1308. During the Renaissance, the family traded wine for works of art with Michelangelo and were major financiers to the kings of England, with Henry VIII personally signing their receipts. Frescobaldi, 15 New Burlington Place, London, W1S 2HK.

Yashin Ocean House: Nose-to-tail, Japanese style

Yashin Ocean House is a Japanese restaurant that combines classic dishes with modern techniques. The menu is based entirely around fish and seafood, offering an unusual head-to-tail menu using every aspect of the fish, from roe, to the flesh, to the skin, in more ways than the conventional sashimi cuts or sushi, utilizing a wide range seafood cuts. This includes dishes such as umami mackerel bone and fish skin, salt koji marinaded grouper, and cod cheek with chilli amazu. The 70-seat restaurant’s dining room juxtaposes the elegant Edwardian architecture with contemporary touches. The bar menu includes a wide array of sakes served in the traditional way, as well as Japanese cocktails such as the Saketini or Sakerinha. Yashin Ocean House, 117 - 119 Old Brompton Road, Chelsea, London, SW7 3RN;

Exclusive wine offered at The Quality Chop House

Restaurateurs Will Lander and Josie Stead, who took over The Quality Chop House at the end of last year and extensively restored it (including installing a state-of-the-art wine cellar), have just created the “One-Off List,” an exciting addition to the already extensive wine offering in the Bar, Restaurant and Shop. The list comprises a unique selection of special wines sourced from auctions and private collectors, genuinely exclusive--none of the bottles on the One-Off List is available for sale anywhere else in the UK. There are 20 wines from seven different countries, starting at £45, ranging from the esoteric (Maurizio Zanella’s rare Lombard ‘Ca’ del Bosco’ red from 1988 in magnum) to the historic (a 1973 Chappelet Cabernet Sauvignon from California, no longer available anywhere in America). There are also four different Pinot Noirs from Calera in Monterey, from 1989 to 1997. A 1936 Chateau Sisqueille ‘Rivesaltes’ is currently available by the glass, making this remarkable wine quite accessible. The restaurant is a Victorian townhouse, built in 1869 as a place for working men to repair to for a hearty lunch. The original wooden pews remain in the Dining Room, with the oak panelling and Victorian tile flooring restored to its previous splendour. 92-94 Farringdon Rd London EC1R 3EA
020 7278 1452;

Drakes Tabanco joins the sherry-bar boomlet

There's a sherry boom going on in London, with a dozen small places offering a wide range of that wonderful wine. So far, Capote y Toros, in Old Brompton St.; Bar Pepito, in King's Cross; Jose, in Bermondsey St.; and Copita, in Fitzrovia, are the standouts (and Moro and the Opera Tavern are two fine restaurants that prominently feature a range of sherries by the glass. Now, Drakes Tabanco, a sherry tavern, has joined the fray. The unique feature of a tabanco is that wines are served straight from the barrel. Among the range of largely exclusive sherries in barrel is an off-dry Rare Old India, a blend of long-aged Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez, and a 30-year-old Antique Palo Cortado. Customers will also be able to fill a bottle from the barrel of their choice to take home, or purchase some rare bottlings from Jerez’s most respected family-owned bodegas. These include Fernando de Castilla, El Maestro Sierra, Emilio Hidalgo and Limited Edition Specialists, Equipo Navazos. Towards the back of the tabanco is a dining area, where table service is offered from the full food menu, which will include a range of charcuterie, Iberico pork tongue and goose rillettes, and a seafood board which will include air-dried mojama (tuna), and smoked scallops. Larger dishes such as octopus stew, lamb breast and pork cheek will also be available. Open Monday to Saturday, 12 Noon - 11.30pm. DRAKES TABANCO, 3 Windmill Street, London W1T 2HY.

Bubbledogs creates another wacky dog

Bubbledogs has introduced a new hot dog special, inspired by the classic Bloody Mary cocktail. The Hair of the Dog is comprised of bubbledogs’ traditional frankfurter sausage, paired with fresh tomato slices, fresh celery, homemade pickled English gherkins, fresh grated horseradish, pickled jalapenos and celery salt, topped with Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce and black pepper mayonnaise – served on a traditional steamed bun, available during lunch service only and guaranteed to aid a hangover. Priced at £7.50, the Hair of the Dog joins bubbledogs’ menu of 13 hot dogs, including the BLT dog - wrapped in bacon and served with truffle mayo and caramelised lettuce; the Jose dog - with guacamole, sour cream, salsa and jalapenos; and the K-Dawg - with kimchi, fermented red bean paste, and lettuce. A select menu of sides includes ‘Tots’ and sweet potato fries. Also on offer: a concise list of grower champagne and sparkling wines available by the glass and the bottle. A selection of American and British craft beers is also available by the bottle. Bubbledogs, 70 Charlotte Street, London W1T 4QG;

Bibendum Oyster Bar re-opens, includes breakfast

The Bibendum Oyster Bar reopens in the ground floor of Michelin House on 4th November 2013, following a redesign which incorporates specially-commissioned glass screens that cover part of the open forecourt. For the first time, the Oyster Bar will open for breakfast between 8am and 11am Monday to Friday and 9am and 11am on Saturday. The new breakfast menu includes viennoiserie, Eggs Bibendum (two poached eggs, English muffin, duxelles and hollandaise sauce) and the full Bibendum cooked breakfast.

Head Chef Matthew Harris and Simon Hopkinson have devised a new all-day menu of luxurious but unpretentious food. Crustacea and Fishy Things naturally sit at its heart, but there are plenty of non-fishy alternatives to suit all occasions, from mid-morning coffee to late supper: Nibbles (including quail’s eggs with spiced sea salt, and Parmesan biscuits); On Buttered Sourdough Toast (such as chopped avocado, prawns & jalapeño, and Scotch woodcock); Tarte flambée, Pizza and Pasta (including vincisgrassi); Substantial Dishes (such as boudin noir and roast quail with sage); Substantial Salads (for example, frisée with lardons & poached egg); a Daily Roast, served with potato salad & watercress; and a bounty of desserts. The wine list includes many available by the glass (from £5.25). Every weekend will be celebrated with a take-home lobster special from the Crustacea Stall. Bibendum, 81 Fulham Road, London SW3 6RD; tel: +44 02075891480.)

Kaspar's Seafood Bar and Grill at the Savoy

The Savoy is launching Kaspar’s Seafood Bar and Grill on Thursday 2nd May. The art deco inspired restaurant will offer all-day dining, seven days a week. An elaborate oyster bar will take centre stage. Head chef James Pare’s menu features selections from the cured and smoked fish bar, main courses, grill, salads and desserts. Many courses will be available as starters or mains, and children will be welcome, choosing from a mini menu. Starters include smoked brown shrimp & eel cocktail (£14), celery and Pecorino soup (£7) and roasted ox tail consommé (£9). Signature mains will be smoked salmon sausage, apple sauerkraut and horseradish sauce (£18), Dover sole with brown butter caper sauce (£34) and lobster club sandwich with chips (£25). In addition, specials will display unusual and daily market catches.

The restaurant is named for a three foot cat sculpture made in 1926 by Basil Ionides to stave off bad luck, following the death of South African diamond magnate Woolf Joel in 1898, who held a dinner at The Savoy for 14 guests; when one cancelled at the last minute, the dinner continued, but one superstitious guest announced that death would come to the first person to leave the unlucky table of 13. Joel took that gamble and a few weeks later he was shot dead in Johannesburg. Thereafter, The Savoy offered a member of staff to join tables of 13. This was not unpopular with guests, and thus Kaspar was born. He joins in with napkin around the neck and a full place setting to 'enjoy' every course. Winston Churchill, who adored Kaspar, insisted that the cat join him with his The Other Club meetings, a political dining club Churchill founded in 1911.

Texture wins top wine award: No surprise

Texture, the Michelin one-star restaurant and Champagne bar in Marylebone, won the top honor for the UK's Best Wine List at the National Restaurant Awards 2012. The restaurant was opened in 2007 by chef Agnar Sverrisson and master sommelier Xavier Rousset. Xavier also runs the duo’s other London business – the two 28°50° Wine Workshop & Kitchen venues in Marylebone and Fetter Lane, where wine is also very much the focus. Texture also placed 33rd in the list of 100 top restaurants overall. The awards are decided by the 150 members of the National Restaurant Awards Academy, which includes chefs, critics and restaurateurs. Texture, 34 Portman Street, London W1H 7BY. Tel: 020 7224 0028;

The Modern Pantry launches Wine Tasting Menu

Anna Hansen’s The Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell is now offering a seasonally changing Wine Tasting Menu, devised with the help of wine consultant Bill Knott. The initial offering was a menu matching food with Riesling from all over the world. Menus will include ‘Natural Wine Selection’ (April/May), ‘Best of British’ (June/July), ‘Bad Press Grapes’ (July/August) and ‘Wines from New Zealand’ (September/October). The Modern Pantry ground floor café is open seven days a week from breakfast through to dinner. The first-floor dining rooms are open for lunch and dinner, offering the new tasting menu as well as the a la carte. The Modern Pantry, 47-48 St. John’s Square, London EC1V 4JJ. Tel: 020 7553 9210;

Blue Elephant relocates in style

London’s most spectacular Thai restaurant, Blue Elephant, has now moved to a location alongside the Thames, at Imperial Wharf, with new menus, featuring "Thai Cooking of the Past," based on ancient recipes, such as Ma Auan, steamed minced chicken with crab and foie gras, and Tom Jew Kai, a free range chicken soup; "Thai Cuisine of Today" features classic Thai dishes such as green curry with free range chicken in coconut milk and steamed sea bream with organic lemongrass and fresh lime juice. "Thai Kitchen of Tomorrow" includes Isaan Carpaccio, spicy raw slices of beef with fiery papaya salad, rock sea salt, a hint of olive oil and parmesan cheese, one of several dishes that add a contemporary twist to the traditional. There is also a special Sunday Brunch, served from 12 noon until 3:30pm. The interior of the building has been thoroughly redecorated, modeled on the historic royal ‘Saran Rom’ Palace in Bangkok; it adjoins a large outdoor heated terrace, with views over the river. Another new addition is a stand-alone cookery school on the first floor, similar to Blue Elephant’s esteemed schools in Bangkok and Phuket, offering an introduction to Thai cuisine. Blue Elephant, The Boulevard, Imperial Wharf, Townmead Road, London, SW6 2UB,

Jeremy Lee moves to Quo Vadis

Sam and Eddie Hart have announced a new partnership with Jeremy Lee, who will take charge of the kitchen at Quo Vadis. The restaurant will be closed for refurbishment from the 24th of December and will be reopening with a new menu and decor in the second week of January. Jeremy was part of Simon Hopkinson’s fabled kitchen brigade at Bibendum, and then went to the Blueprint Café in 1995, where he quickly established himself as one of London’s best chefs, with an assured, slightly quirky menu that he defined as “modern British,” though he pushed the envelope a bit with dishes like squid, samphire, and peas; Abroath smokie and potato salad; smoked eel sandwich with red-onion pickle; thick roast lamb chops with girolles; and a dense hare-and-chorizo pie. That part of Dean Street is one of Soho’s truly historic spots: Mozart once played the piano across the street, Karl Marx lived upstairs (“in some squalor”), and Charles De Gaulle drowned his exile’s sorrows a few doors down during WWII; Quo Vadis has been a well-known restaurant and hangout since 1926. Quo Vadis, 26-29 Dean Street, London W1D 3LL,Tel: +44 (0)20 7440 1450. Open for lunch and dinner (from 5:00 p.m.) Monday-Saturday.

Zagat Survey 2012: some thoughts

Whatever you think of the Zagat Surveys—and my thought is that it’s a very mixed bag in terms of recommendations—it’s a pretty good snapshot of the restaurant scene in whatever town it’s covering. This year’s London survey rounded up the opinions of 5,497 diners who eat out a couple of times a week. The favorite cuisine is, unsurprisingly, Italian; more than a third are influenced by a connection to a famous chef, and three-quarters visit a restaurant’s website before eating there; a majority think “green” food (locally sourced, organic, etc.) is important, but the amount of people willing to pay more for it is down (that’s also true of supermarket surveys, too). A majority think texting, tweeting or talking on a mobile phone is “rude and inappropriate,” but don’t mind diners taking pictures of their food or companions, as long as it’s done in moderation (no definition of “moderation” for this crass behaviour is supplied). Top complaint? Service, as always.

Texture’s wine list elevates Riesling

Texture, the award-winning restaurant near Portman Square in London, has overhauled its wine list, with the intention of bringing it more in line with chef Agnar Sverrisson’s northern European cooking (he is Icelandic, and the menu features interesting variations on fish cooking). The menu has evolved over the four years since the restaurant was founded, and co-owner and Master Sommelier Xavier Rousset has decided re-align the wine list to create more harmony among many of his dishes; thus, more Riesling, from Germany, Alsace, Austria, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries, including some rare and old vintages (and also an increase in Burgundy and Pinot Noir from elsewhere). Texture, 34 Portman Street, London W1H 7BY. Tel: 020 7224 0028;

Zagat ratings: The Ledbury up, Ramsay down

Tim Zagat was genial, even ebullient—as you’d expect, having sold his business to Google for a rumoured $200-million--at The Cut, Wolfgang Puck’s sleek, chic new restaurant at 45 Park Lane, as he presented the Zagat Survey 2012 results of London restaurants. With 5,497 diners reporting on 1,187 restaurants, it’s a fairly good snapshot of the scene. The Ledbury was up in several categories, number one for food (no argument from me there), and second for service (the Waterside Inn came first); it also entered the top-ten list for most favourite for the first time. Meanwhile, Gordon Ramsay’s flagship restaurant at Royal Hospital Road was down in all those categories—it led the food ratings for most of the last decade, but has now dropped to number eight. Also of note: The average cost of dining out has jumped by 6.3 percent—that’s slightly less than the average cost of dining in, judging by my market basket.

Champagne Bar opens in Paddington Station

Following the success of its elegant Champagne Bar in St. Pancras Station, Searcy’s has now opened Paddington Champagne Bar, in that station. Notable houses will be represented, and prices will range from £8 a glass (there are 14 offered by the glass) up to £320 for a bottle of Dom Perignon 1990. (For a real indulgence, there is also a Balthazar of Laurent-Perrier Brut NV for £1,200.) The menu features small plates, tapas-style, designed to match with Champagne, including cured British meats from Trealy Farm, daily seafood choices, and fine cheeses. Sharing boards are also available; prices range from £4 to £29. Another feature is Tasting Flights, with selections of smaller glasses of different styles. There’s also a selection of Champagne cocktails including The Paddington Bear (Grand Marnier, bitters, Champagne and candied orange). The elegant bar is in art deco style, and open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon to 10:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Angela Hartnett’s Café Murano Covent Garden opens

Angela Hartnett has  announced Café Murano Covent Garden, at 34-36 Tavistock Street . It’s the second Café Murano restaurant. Next door, the new Pastificio will open in July and offer pasta cooked daily by Angela’s chefs, available to take away, with a bottle of wine or salumi.

The opening menu will include antipasti such as ‘Octopus, potatoes, capers & paprika’ and ‘Ricotta courgettes with preserved lemon honey’. For Primi, pastas such as ‘Farfalle, rabbit, peas & girolles’ and ‘Gnocchi, feta, rosemary & olive oil’ will be available, and a number of Secondi dishes will comprise whole fish and cuts of meat served to share. The wine list will be mostly Italian, with the exception of a select grower Champagne list, and includes artisanal reds, whites, pinks and oranges from interesting, small-scale producers. A list of sparkling Italian wines will cover not only Prosecco, but Lambrusco and Franciacorta.


The ‘Pastificio’, next door to the restaurant, translates from the Italian as ‘pasta factory’. True to description, pasta ‘fatta a mano,’ delicate spinach and ricotta tortelli and meaty agnolini will be made in house and available to take home every day.  The Pastificio will stretch its remit to include a selection of quality salumi, fresh pasta sauces and wines from the restaurant, also for sale at shop prices. Café Murano , 34-36 Tavistock St, Covent Garden, WC2E 7PB.