We have been going to several of the restaurants in the Tas group for a good few years now. They are ideal venues for vegetarians as well, as the menu covers a number of interesting non meat dishes.
The first one Tas The Cut is still the best, followed by the Tas Borough High Street. The one in The Cut is very efficient and delivers good quality food. Ironically based on my experience you are more likely to spot a celebrity here, than at the Ivy – the Old and Young Vic Theatres are in the same street. On our last visit the actress Jenny Agutter was dining at the table next to ours.
The Tas group specialises in Anatolian cuisine, and also runs a couple of delicatessens.
They have a larger venue call EV located under the arches near Southwark Tube station. This is great on a summer evening for drinks or for a cheap night out with a large group, as is Tas Pide, which is right next to the Globe Theatre.
My first visit to Roast was just a few days after it opened and I enjoyed the experience, it is a stunning venue, in a lovely building overlooking BoroughMarket.
A later visit for Sunday lunch was disappointing, as the food was very ordinary, almost pub quality I would say.
I would not call this a “destination” restaurant, but rather one that you might just go to if you were in the area and wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of the market, personally though if I am in BoroughMarket I would go to the excellent Tapas Brindisa instead and get in the queue.
Bloomsbury, Covent Garden, Fitzrovia, Holborn, Marylebone, Mayfair, Seven Dials, Soho, St James and Westminster.
That is a pretty large area, so I am going to focus on the centre of the West End or Tourist Central, i.e., places around Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus. This is mainly because finding a decent restaurant or bar in this area is a bit like finding a needle in a haystack.
So here are recommendations, in no particular order.
Thai Square, Trafalgar Square – it’s not the best Thai restaurant in London by any means, but it is part of a reliable chain. (It has recently won an award to say it is the best – so judge for yourself). It is also a good location for larger groups.
Asia de Cuba, St Martins Lane Hotel – Very stylish and expensive venue, food is specifically designed for sharing, so ideal for groups of 4 or more.
The Mint Leaf, Piccadilly – a stylish, Modern Indian Restaurant and Bar. Good Pre Theatre venue.
5th View Bar & Food, Waterstones, Piccadilly – For a book store cafe, this place is great, it does good reasonably priced cocktails and the food is way better that you would expect (limited choice though). Nice selection of cakes – the carrot cake is particularly good.
The Wolseley, Piccadilly – European Style Brasserie, very popular, stunning room – great for people watching if you can get a table.
Atheneaum Hotel, Piccadilly – The restaurant focuses on British style food. The hotel also does a really good “Afternoon Tea” and has a bar that is both cosy and stylish (and expensive!).
There are several restaurants and bars in the Vinopolis complex. I have been to most of them, on more than one occasion. The Cantina Vinopolis in particular delivered much better food than I was expecting, and off course being where it is, it’s hard to beat the wine list. If you do the wine tour first you can normally find some of the wines from that on the wine list.
It’s a large room, so works well for groups.
The Blue Bar, situated next to Vinopolis is a relaxing venue. It has a good cocktail list and does a mean white wine Kir.
The Wine Wharf is a fairly conventional wine bar with an excellent wine list and good bar service.
The Brew Wharf is a livelier venue that is good for groups.
The complex also has the only Majestic Wine Shop I am aware off in London that lets you buy individual bottles rather than cases.
UPDATE : March 2010 – Vinopolis is not such a serious wine venue these days, seems to attract a lot of hen and stag parties. Majestic has also been replaced by Laithwaites.
The Cinnamon Club is probably the most famous high end Indian restaurant in London. It’s located in a lovely building and has two bars, one in the Library that is cosy and a more flamboyant one in the basement.
Service was a bit lax initially, but it improved after we ordered. We went for a menu with matching wines, which was not very successful. Benares handles matching wines to Indian cuisine much better. The wines at Benares complimented the flavours of the very subtle Indian food. The Cinnamon Clubs Wine matches were competing too much with the flavour, all of them were really heavy and full bodied. I found the whole experience exhausting.
Some friends who visited The Cinnamon Club a few days before us, had issues with not being allowed to transfer the bar bill to the restaurant bill, which was inconvenient as the bar was busy and they ended up having to wait 15 minutes for it.
The restaurant has 2 AA Rosettes, which sounds about right.
On our last trip to Barcelona, we had planned to spend the Saturday evening at Moo, but could not get a table, so at short notice via toptable I made a reservation at El Raco d’en Freixa instead.
When we arrived we were taken through the attractive front room, past the Kitchen into the rather dull small backroom, yes it looked like we had got the worst table in the Restaurant.
As we often do when we first try a restaurant we went for the tasting menu. The food here is “fun” as the chef likes to play with your preconceptions. The meat course looks like a dessert, and the desert looks like meat etc. The highlight was “the burger!”.
The biggest surprise was not the food however, it was the guest at the next table who got up and came over to speak to us. Talk about a small world, it was Markus Lindner, the restaurant Manager of the Foliage in London. He was also there as a second choice, when he could not get into Comerc 24 on the Saturday evening, so definitely a touch of serendipity there.
Update : February 2009 – El Raco d’en Freixa has now been replaced by FREIXA Tradicio.
Must do a return visit to Restaurant Gordon Ramsay – Royal Hospital Road, maybe once the credit crunch is over. On my first visit I was pleasantly surprised how low key and unpretentious this place was, as all really good restaurants tend to be. The staff were highly professional and friendly.
The food here was off a high standard – do not confuse this place with other Gordon Ramsay outposts like :-
Boxwood Cafe – which on my visit served up fairly boring food on chipped china!
Claridges – which has 1 Michelin star that I do not think it merits. This is based on my own experience and reports from friends, the conclusion being that the food in Claridges is quite ordinary and the service leaves a lot to be desired.
Maze – which does provide good food and wines, but is let down by the casual style of service and the room, which is far too big and somewhat lacking in ambience.
Royal Hospital Road however is the real deal – haute cuisine at its finest. When we were there the man himself was actually in the kitchen (this must be a rarity now with all his TV work). The wines are also top quality, I had a stunning Gewurztraminer to accompany my Fois Gras. We over ordered on the dessert front though, as after a lovely light pre-dessert, we elected to share a rather large tarte tatin (we had spotted one at the next table and it looked so good), and some how managed to find room for the lovely petit fours too. We left the restaurant fully satisfied and off the opinion that this place seriously rivaled our then favorite restaurant Pied a terre.
Marks out of 10
Food – 8.8
UPDATE April 2010 : The Boxwood Cafe is now closed and Claridges has lost its star.
UPDATE November 2010 : A friends recent visit to Royal Hospital Road, confirmed that the restaurant is still delivering outstanding traditional french haute cuisine and first class service.
The Capital had been on my wish list for ages. I certainly did not expect to get a booking at a few days notice, especially for lunch on the Saturday after Christmas. However if you do not try, you do not get. One email reply later and we were all set. The down side was that the only choice seemed to be the a la carte menu.
I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the room, it is small and quite intimate.
The style of food was pretty conventional – classic french cuisine. One standout was a herring fish course, the flavour was so strong and distinct.
The matching wines were also first rate, even if they did push the price up quite dramatically. Overall it was a superb meal.
Welcome to the No Expert food blog. Our reviews cover restaurants, cafes, products and food related events.The opinions on these pages are our own or those of our dining companions. We’re not food experts that can describe the ins and outs of cooking techniques and ingredients so don’t expect autopsies on every dish we’ve ever eaten. What we do know is what we like.
Not everyone will agree but we hope you might find our culinary experiences useful as some of these restaurants can be very expensive and maybe we will save you some time and money by avoiding the disappointing and recommending the very best.
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