Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

Resto 9 Polpo, Covent Garden

March 11, 2018

Odd that I should never have been in Polpo before and this omission was rectified for a birthday celebration prior to Macbeth at the National. After some table shenanigans (we were moved twice) we settled in to look at a particularly appealing menu. Polpo bills itself as small plates so I asked the waiter how many we should order between two. He was of the opinion that if we were five at table we should order five dishes. Which seemed a bit cryptic.

So we used our own judgement. While we worked out what we were having we supped on Bellinis (decent, if not outstanding) and grazed appetisers of olives and smoky nuts. As far as I could see a tagliatelle was good enough for me and we decided to share a salad of courgette and basil. The tagliatelle was excellent – plenty of deep flavoured sauce with good lumps of flaky chicken and mushrooms. I couldn’t resist snaffling a slither of venison meat ball from across the way and that too was top drawer. But the star was the salad! Thinly sliced raw courgette in a yummy dressing.

There’s such a selection of wine that it was very difficult to pick something out. A carafe of 50cl of Soave (we thought we’d stick to the Veneto) went down very well. After a shaky start service improved drastically and a nice touch was a sprig of mimosa brought by the management for the lady in our party to celebrate International Women’s Day. I could do without the tastefully distressed faux authentic trimmings in the room but with superb food and booze coming in at under thirty quid a head I can see why the Polpo CG was packed even at teatime on a Thursday. Likely I’ll be back too.


#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 8 The National Café, Trafalgar Square

March 3, 2018

I’ve reviewed the restaurant on this site before but it’s had a reboot under a different management since then so it does count as a new restaurant. Out has gone the dark wood and red leather banquettes. In comes a more Scandi vibe with pale furnishings and sleek cutlery. They can’t do anything about the windows (obvs) but it does make for a sunnier feeling room even on one of the coldest days of the year.

They’ve also increased the bar area making this a good place to meet if you want somewhere peaceful and reasonably priced on a Friday evening in the West End. I had a glass of wine before looking at the Degas and Murillo exhibs (both free, both excellent) and then returning for dinner in the restaurant.

The restaurant is still a bit ghostly of an evening, there were a few other parties but they were dotted across the room. Queen’s greatest hits on the sound track (the whole evening, I was fortunate enough to catch Another One Bites the Dust twice), while a marginal improvement on U2 and Eddie Reader, was definitely surplus to requirements.

A pre-theatre menu of two courses for 17 quid seemed a bargain. Beetroot salad to start was excellent, with a good lashing of goat’s cheese and plenty of veg. Main of pheasant* was a good portion of leg with yummy crispy skin and a slather of pumpkin for moisture. However, that was it. I should have twigged that anything beyond what was described on the menu was going to have to come from the sides (at £5 a pop) but it wouldn’t have done any harm for the waitress to have asked if we wanted any stodge. A bottle of viño verdhe was very good – in fact the wine list was the star of the show and I wanted to try any number of them – but for carbs I had to pick up some crisps on the way home, which I guess saved me four quid. But I would have preferred my spuds on a plate and daintily boiled and buttered.

* Apparently it was actually guinea fowl. How unreliable I turn out to be on the edibles. But not the music.

7/10 (again)

#Food #London #Art

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 7 Bistrot de la Porte Dorée, Paris

March 1, 2018

After a morning in the rather wonderful Museum of Immigration in Porte Dorée (worth visiting for both building and contents) we were famished. I’d scouted out Le Swann as the place to go in PD but that was shut so Bistrot de la Porte Dorée was our fall back option. And what an option.


To walk through the door was to enter a world that you’d find it very hard to find in the hipster fleshpots of the Marais or République. I suspected it would turn out to be an excellent lunch when the maitre d’ turned round sporting a burgundy shirt matched with a diagonally striped grey silk tie of which Doug Mountjoy in his pomp (c. 1978) would have been proud.


Doug Mountjoy. Welsh legend.

We were shown to a table beneath a kitsch version of a Dutch still life of fruits de mer and various other foods. Dotted around the room were portraits of legends of French chanson and film (Jonny Hallyday’s look was particularly fierce, he seemed to be giving me the gimlet the whole meal through) and the odd transatlantic icon, such as Bob Marley smoking a joint, thrown in for good measure.

A set menu was on offer, €32 for two courses and €41 for three, wine included. Bargain, especially as an apéritif of something pink and fizzy was part of the deal. The food was classic French stuff, making no concession to the past 40 years of culinary fashion and none the worse for that. With the apéro we munched on toast and pâté de maison and considered.

I went for a starter of beef cheek, always a favourite. A generous amount of cheek paired with a lentil salad and carrots. All good, apart from the carrots which were overly salted for my taste. A full-bodied 2009 Gaillac helped that down admirably and proved to be a more than adequate match for a main of rabbit and pasta. Did we want dessert? Yes, but we also wanted to be able to walk the half an hour to the Château de Vincennes so we just had a coffee instead.

So the food was good but the real joy of the room was the people watching. Our waiter, not a young man, had a plaited rat-tail beard of the kind found on superannuated trustafarians yet to reintegrate back into civvy street. Across the way a party of eight or so retirees consumed their lunches while arguing vociferously about politics. And to our left a lone lady of a certain age with improbably jet black hair demolished a bottle of rosé in single combat.

A bill of €70 was a bargain and the reason why I’ll never go back to the Bistrot de la Porte Dorée is that some memories are too good to disturb with fresh layers of experience. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go, you should.


#food #Paris

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 6 La Petite Porte, Paris

February 28, 2018

Arrival in Paris was delayed by snow so we had to be satisfied with a planche and beers adjacent to the theatre. La Petite Porte was right next door so we plumped for that.

Good call. The bar we had been in while cheap (€3.50 a pint in happy hour) was colder than Vladimir Putin’s eyes. La PP on the other hand was warm in both welcome and ambience. We slipped into a table at the back and didn’t even look at the menu. We wanted planche (it was after all the only thing on offer) and we wanted white wine.

We took a bottle from the Languedoc that was noticeably good. The planche was a superior product with 5 cheeses (stinky, blue, goaty, creamy and crunchy in case you were wondering) and plenty of meat. Bread was hacked before our very eyes and was yum double yum if you’d not eaten for several hours. My one quibble is that the planche was undervegged, I like a bit of greenery whether it’s cornichons or rabbit food.

The room filled rapidly and by the time we left it was a squeeze to get out the door. Young went elbow to elbow with the more mature and everything was very convivial. La Petite is highly recommended.


#food #paris

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 5 Middeys, Crouch End

February 25, 2018

Middeys. Or should it be Middey’s? You be the judge.

Saturday morning was set for a Frühschoppen with a visiting Frankfurter so we met in Crouch End at 11 o’clock. Could we find a pub that was open? No we couldn’t. Since the demise of Wetherspoon’s the Broadway has definitively rid itself of working class drinking culture and breakfast beers are off the menu. So we turned to Middeys and a second helping of breakfast to supply the required helping of whoopee soup.

I’ve never been in any of the various incarnation of food outlet in the old ‘lectric board showroom (apparently they’re a source of constant heated debate on the Crouch End Appreciation Zzzzzzocietyzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz Fazbook page) so this was a new experience for me. A nice big, bright room is what you get – filled on a Saturday morning with the usual CE suspects. But that’s not a bad thing, although it does limit one’s liberty of expression somewhat when you’re surrounded by pre-teens and grandparents.

Prosecco was demanded before we saw the menu and I had a look at breakfast. I didn’t want to go large so went for a sourdough toast with cheese of goat and sundried tomato. It was fine. Across the way the classic 80s combo of baked potato and cheesy beans was a far more substantial affair.

Service was prompt if not disposed to any kind of verbal repartee and for fifteen quid a head the cost was par for this area of London. But we did have to repair to the Queens to get what we had wanted an hour earlier – cold lager, uninhibited, occasionally scabrous conversation and nice’n’spicy nik naks. Such things are too easily taken for granted.

7/10 (docked a point for being undertrapped in the ladies)

#food #London #N8

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap


Resto 4 La Giaconda, Hornsey

February 6, 2018

Hornsey is an area on the up. Developments in and around the New River water treatment plants mean that the High Street is starting to lose its bleakness and gain a level of spangle that will be welcomed by some but strike dismay into others. Pubwise there’s still plenty of pleasant grot to be had but you can also pay £6 a pint if you’re looking for somewhere more upmarket.

So La Giaconda, which predates the March of the Estate Agents, is in an interesting position. Do they make a bid for the new market, or do they stand on their trad Italian values? At the moment it’s the latter.

It being early evening on a cold Sunday there were few customers other than for the takeaway side of the business so we had the pick of the tables. We had for company a guy in a Napoli tracksuit top who muttered ‘Cazzo!’ every time someone went out without shutting the door (it was a very cold draught), which I found lent a welcome layer of authenticity to the atmosphere.

Mixed antipasti up front was very good, plenty of cold stuff with some especially good mozzarella. To be frank the wine (a Trebbiano) was ropey, if not lethally so. Star of the show was a grilled sea bass across the way. My diavolo pizza delivered the required heat and had a good base. They were also happy to make a green salad up for me, which is a plus. The waiter was a charming feller though it was clear that at slow times like this the kitchen is more focussed on satisfying phone orders rather than those in the room. But we weren’t in a hurry so I wasn’t fussed.

The mystery was how they could have made such hideous coffee! It was simply the worst coffee I’ve ever had in an Italian but in an indescribable way. It looked like coffee, and even smelt like coffee. But it tasted like filth. Which is why I knocked a further mark off. My wife, who didn’t have coffee, would’ve awarded a 7.

#food #London


To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 3 Prezzo, Trafalgar Square

January 23, 2018


Looking for somewhere near the Playhouse Theatre prior to Glengarry Glen Ross we chose to walk towards Trafalgar Square rather then the cluster of places by Embankment. Prezzo was the first resto we came to and it being January we ducked in for fear of worse weather ahead.

First impressions were not good. The room is cavernous like a provincial airport lounge. And peopled like one too – the air rang with an estuary twang and I realised that we were in the heart of a specific locus of Tourist London.

The menu is standard Italian – pizza, pasta, risotto and a few meaty/fishy things. We like to share a calamari up front but as I was quite ravenous we opted for breaded mozzarella too. The calamari was average, the flaw was in the batter not being crispy enough. The cheese on the other hand was pure evil. Like deep fried Dairylea. It was a struggle to eat it but being a completer/finisher I stuck it out to the end.

Mains were better – pork belly across the way met with a thumbs up while my Vesuvio pizza, if not quite Vesuvian in heat, was at least a recognisable pizza with plenty of pepperoni.

I couldn’t resist getting a bottle of Andrea Bocelli’s Pinot Grigio, as I suspected it might not be worth the 10 quid premium over the house white and wanted to be sure. Were Prezzo scooping the profit or was it Bocelli himself, spurning his public image as the Stevie Wonder of opera (actually, that’s a disservice to Stevie, who is/was a bona fide genius rather than a bland populist) to chisel mid-table restaurant grazers? Well, whoever it was they’re robbing folk, it was on the level of a Tesco BOGOF.

Service was the star of the visit – friendly and efficient for a place this size – and we left with plenty of time to take a digestif in the excellent Ship and Shovell. As to the play, Christian Slater may nowadays resemble a hamster in a toupée but he’s got star power for sure. And a convincing American accent. The rest of the cast lacked the ferocity that I was expecting from a Mamet show – those boys wouldn’t have lasted 10 minutes on the IPE.

#food #London


To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 2 Le Jockey, Paris

January 12, 2018

Having gorged our eyes on Malick Sidibe’s photos of Malian 70s hepcats in the Fondation Cartier (to a cracking soundtrack) we didn’t want to stray too far to get some grub. Le Jockey was among a cluster of cafés at the end of the road and we were drawn in by its bright interior, the décor having a beach-house vibe about it that made a nice contrast to the drizzly grey day outside.

It was the very end of lunchtime so there weren’t many diners in the room and we took a nice booth table next to a gaggle of grannies. The menu is straight up French fare – not complicated but very welcome when you’ve been marching around all day. We both went for the special of onglet, which came with a good slew of chips but no veg, which was a bit of a disappointment. And as I chewed my way through the meat I was reminded of why I haven’t taken an onglet for some time. But at least by jaws got a work out. The sauce was excellent though and I would have liked to have had a bowlful of it.

Dessert (as it was epiphany) was a galette du roi. Crisp flaky pastry and plenty of almonds in the frangipane made for a good way to round off the meal with coffee (Richard seems to have a monopoly in Paris but at least his product is good) on the side. Service from a floppy haired beau mec was excellent and I’d go back to Le J but although I’d splash out on the entrecôte next time, the meal as a whole was excellent value.


#food #Paris

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 1 of 2018! Pizza Pernety, Paris

January 8, 2018

After a very quiet festive season on the eating side of things (apart from visiting some old haunts like the Gilbert Scott and Bun&Bar) it took me a trip to Paris to try somewhere new for 2018.

With an evening at the excellent Entrepôt in mind we wanted to lay in some ballast against a long evening of Malian music and the local pizzeria seemed a good option. Pizza Pernety wasn’t too busy on a Saturday evening – à emporter seems to be as popular as dining in la salle – so we had plenty of room for our elbows as we perused the menu.

They do pizza (obvs) but also the usual Italian standards for carnivores. I had a tuna pizza and we shared a green salad. The salad was a good size and fresh. The pizza had a crispy base and plenty of topping. The only disappointment was a fairly ropey Orvieto but for around 15 quid a head I guess that was inevitable.

The owner is a bit gruff but friendly and I’d recommend PP for a cheap bite if you’re in the area. And if you are in the area I would especially recommend that you catch some music at l’Entrepôt. World class world music for €10 entry is hard to beat.

#food #Paris #pizza


To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 74 Il Pescatore, Southend-on-Sea

December 24, 2017

Should you find yourself in possession of a stinking cold while on a train to Southend in mid-December I don’t recommend taking a copy of Sartre’s Nausea as your sole source of entertainment. However, any bleakness induced by the the crapulous Gallic miserabilist was blasted away by the bracing gust of tangy air blowing in off the majestic Thames Estuary as we made our way to a family rendezvous at Il Pescatore.

Of all the restos of my acquaintance in Southend (and I’ve known a few) Il P reigns supreme. From the street, were it not for the legend ‘Italian Restaurant’ printed not one but twice on the frontage, it might be mistaken for a moderately successful insurance office. Inside it is a womb of fuzzy Sicilian nostalgia. Its check floored, kitsch-fish clutterbound walls create an indeterminate mid-twentieth century vibe that is becoming more and more difficult to find in the retro-wank chainstore faux-ethnic filled high streets of Britain.

A warm welcome is a good way to start and we were given a roomy table for three in a nice corner from where I could see the clientèle arrive in a steady stream over lunch. It seemed rude not to take the Christmas set menu at £21 a head for three courses and coffee so we did that. Prawn cocktail up front was everything I expected, which is not to say it was a taste sensation. But it did take me back to the days when I thought Paul Mariner was a God amongst Men.


Mariner, to use the terminology of the time, sticks it to the Jocks.

Being full of rheum and halfway into a Christmas week binge I went for fish again for main. This WAS high quality eats. Perfectly cooked bream (grilled golden brown, flaking off the bone) with silver serviced veg. House white (Pinot Grigio, clean tasting, good quality) helped that down and we eyed desserts.

Could I really eat more after consuming my own weight in cauliflower cheese? I could give it a go. Affugato is what Irish coffee thinks it sees when it looks in the mirror. A double espresso after that and we were done.

But The Fisherman isn’t just about the food. You come here for the ambience and the service. The ambience is provided by the people of Southend, who know a good thing when they see it. And the service is the reason why they come back, the professionals at Il P are as good as any I’ve met this year.

To cap off an excellent lunch I went to the loo to make sure that Baggio and the boys from the World Cup were still in place. They were. All is good.


#food #Southend #Italian

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

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