Greater Than the Sum of Our Parts

a miscellany of the wonderful and the banal

Posts Tagged ‘leicester square

Places To Eat in London

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I was reminded recently that my “where to go in London” post which I made in about 2006 hadn’t really been updated in a while, so I thought I’d make a series of new ones. Click the “where to go in london” category for more of the same.

RESTAURANTS

Balans, Soho

Atmosphere: Located smack bang in the middle of the Gayest Bit of London. I would say it’s impossibly trendy, but trends change every second, so what I will say is that it is very flash, very “vibrant”, and very loud. It’s the kind of place you go to eat if you have plans to do something afterward, like heavy drinking, dancing, or watching a show (very well situated for this given that it’s a stone’s throw from the West End, and you can walk in off the street and get a table).

It’s snazzy and loud and excitable and filled with cocktails and cute young waitstaff; there are mirrors on the walls and indirect lighting and floor-to-ceiling windows and a general sense of happening.

Food: Good stuff, reasonably priced. There is a wide range on the menu and a good selection of specials, and it serves breakfast through to supper; my favourites are the Big Chips and their steak is really quite good. Definitely worth indulging in the cocktails.
Goodman’s, Mayfair

Atmosphere: This is in Mayfair, so there is an instant sense of upmarketness; it is also quieter than a Soho restaurant. Unfortunately this does mean you will occasionally have to rub elbows with wankstain businessmen, but thanks to Goodman’s being large you at least won’t have to sit too near them. Waitstaff are not only polite and soft-spoken, they are knowledgeable about their area (MEAT) and will bring the cuts out to demonstrate exactly what you get when you order each thing. Recommendations are given with restrained enthusiasm.

“Quiet” is absolutely the key to this place – the oak panneling and and depth of the rooms from the street give a sense of being removed from the world in order to enjoy good food. This place is all about the food.

Food: Superlative. Their deserts are mouth-bothering, their starters are inventively delicious, small enough to whet the appetite but not to diminish it, and the meat is beyond description. Lindsay has made so-so motions about their burgers (the best burger place in London is Byron’s in High Street Kensington) but you don’t go to Goodman’s for burgers. You go for steak.

Guys. I cannot say enough good things about their steak. There simply aren’t words. I can fling about specifics of my favourite there – Irish grass-fed dry-aged for 28 days, T-bone – but it won’t do it justice. This is BEEF. BEEF the way BEEF should be fed to people – rich and red and virtually raw (well, the way *I* ordered it, which was blue, because I am a disgusting carnivore), and tasting extremely meaty. It stuns people to silence.

Succulent, perfectly-prepared beef. To use the sauce (choice of four) given with it would be sacrelige. Save that for the chips. Which are also delicious.

Banners, Crouch End

Atmosphere: Homely. Crouch End is a middle-class-ish area with a history rooted in stand-up comedy and 60s music, and although Banners is on a busy road it’s still a fairly secluded busy road. I cannot stress the eclectic, comfortable, laid-back charm of this place; covered in ancient posters, cork-boards advertising local community things, and framed prints in a strata of interesting things, a motley collection of naked, unvarnished wooden tables and chairs, odd hanging lamps, and a bar equipped with a cinema popcorn warmer. The menus are garish and strange and drawn by children; there is a slight emphasis on ethical interests, long-past boxing matches, and biker culture. It is like being in the living room of someone with a wealth of funny and fascinating anecdotes to tell and a warm and welcoming nature.

Very, very-much child-friendly.

Food: One of the things which sells me on Banners is their variety of choice which, in opposition to Ramsey’s rantings, they cook to an equitable and thoroughly delicious standard. There are small-portion options, a children’s menu with free ice-cream, and a slight bias toward Caribbean dishes. However, like the decor, the selection of dishes is delightfully eclectic and not wedded to one particular style or place.

The quality and presentation of the food is gastro-pub rather than restaurant, in that it is not fussy or frilly, and comes in sizeable, satisfying portions. “Comfortable” is the key with Banners, and rolling sittings from breakfast to supper it would be quite pleasant to spend an entire day there.

NB: While it is possible to book at all three so far, Goodman’s is about the only place it is really necessary to make a reservation at; walk-ins at Banners and Balans are the norm.

Grieg’s, Mayfair.

Traditional English food. Extremely good traditional English food and justly famous for its steaks. The key word for everything – fish, starters, prawns, steaks, pie, anything they serve – is succulent. Idiosyncratic and anachronistic setting, an impressive winelist and good service. Not for the faint of wallet.

Abeno Too, Leicester Square

Small and closely-packed, busy at every time of the day and therefore worth making a reservation; service can take a while due to this and the nature of the food, but it is worth the wait; food falls within the £10-£30 range and is mind-bogglingly tasty. The restaurant specialises in okonomi-yaki, a kind of Japanese Spanish Omelette which is prepared in front of you on a hot plate; the process of preparation is honesty some of the best dinner entertainment I’ve had in a while and there are few things as pleasing as watching a skilled professional plying their art.

Advice: Order smaller-sized okonomi-yaki as they are extremely filling, and try the plum wine squash, which involves diluting plum wine with lemonade to create a less sickly-sweet cocktail which pairs very well with the mains.

Haché, Camden

A gourmet burger place within easy stagger of Camden station, sandwiched between bars and a market, Haché is narrow and gregarious, and very welcoming; the décor is interesting to the point of distraction. The burgers themselves are fat and juicy, prepared however you wish, with a variety of themes – my party ate our way through the Mediterranean with a Spanish-themed burger featuring choritzo, a Scillian burger topped with parma ham and mozzarella… the most charming touch, to my mind, was the fries, served in tiny little frying baskets.

Recommended: the chocolate brownie. Highly satisfying, if you can fit it in after one of Haché’s substantial burgers.

Not recommended: hot chocolate. It was rather unpleasant.

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