Feast on meat at this stunning riverside restaurant
You can keep your Veganuary, we're going meaty all the way! Carnivores rejoice - this meat-focused oasis in Butler's Wharf is scrum diddly umptious.
I've long been a fan of the Butler's Wharf area near Tower Bridge with its wide assortment of riverside restaurant, cafes and boutique shops, perfect for popping into after a long stroll along the Thames. Given I hadn't been to the area since summer, I was excited to visit The Butler's Wharf Chop House, a relaxed riverside restaurant celebrating all things meaty and wonderful.
The location is hard to beat. Smack bang next to the River Thames looking directly across at Tower Bridge, you couldn't get any closer to the bridge unless you were dining on top of it.
If ye olde English pubs are your thing, then the Punchbowl will be right up your street. Brimming with quirky touches that add to its charm, this 350-year-old Georgian pub in the heart of Mayfair is the second oldest in Britain.
Tucked away down a quiet street, the pub shot to fame during its ownership by director Guy Ritchie. Ritchie hung up his pub landlord shoes six years ago, which means you’re much less likely to see celebrities tucking into a roast here these days, but it’s still plenty buzzing with punters who come all days of the week to scoff the hearty lunch and dinner options.
The pub is split over three floors with the main floor consisting of a large bar area with cosy tables and booths tucked into every nook and cranny. The long wooden bar with it stools neatly lined up in a row takes centre place and is the perfect place to sip a pint or two of real local ale.
On the second floor, there is a contemporary dining room that feels distinctly modern compared to the ground floor restaurant thanks to its neutral colour palette and more refined furnishings, making it a great place to take a date for a romantic meal.
Our favourite area, however, is the private dining room on the third floor. Bursting with funky décor, this area has a much moodier and more playful feel to it than the other floors of the pub – think playing cards wall paper, an oversized chandelier, quirky paintings, Chesterfield sofas to sink into with a Negroni and an assortment of bric-a-brac scattered throughout the two adjoining rooms, which make it the perfect place for enjoying a wicked cocktail party!
Traditional pub fare is what they do best here. From Sunday roasts to fish and chips, burgers or Cumberland sausages and mash, they’ve got all of the classics covered.
We were ‘feeling fish’ the day we visited, so for starters, my husband selected the crab fish cakes (which he rated a solid 8/10) and I had the leek and potato soup (a classic that you really can’t go wrong with). Mains continued the fish theme. I opted for the traditional fish and chips (a massive piece of perfectly cooked cod that nearly hung off the plate) and my husband went for the monk fish wrapped in Parma ham, which was superb.
Our youngest restaurant reviewer, our 16-month-old son Evan, tucked into his own portion of creamy mashed potatoes. He seemed suitably impressed and actually exclaimed ‘oh wow!’ upon their arrival! All of the staff went out of their way to be extra accommodating during our visit, which made dining out with our young child a much less stressful experience, which any parent with a child under five can appreciate.
Now, to be honest, we shouldn’t have had dessert because frankly we were stuffed to the gills (sorry, I couldn’t resist the fish pun), but we managed to stretch our stomachs to squeeze in a brownie with banana ice cream, which was very rich and the perfect end to our meal.
Sink your teeth into tasty Mediterranean cuisine at this laid-back restaurant
Beso is a Mediterranean restaurant set in the heart of theatreland on iconic Shaftesbury Avenue. The open-plan kitchen is headed up by Khalid Dahbi, previously of establishments such as Claridges and Bibendum, however, this is a much more down-to-earth affair.
Exposed brick, dark walls and suspended industrial lighting makes for an intimate dining area, with turmeric leather booths and mosaic tiling really driving home the Moorish feel. And for those history and music buffs, it might interest you to know that the Beatles spent hours eating, drinking and song-writing in the basement of this restaurant in the 60s, which is now a private dining room.
Serving up Moorish food with modern flair is the focus here. Refreshingly, the menu isn’t gargantuan, it’s just enough for them to peddle their wares while emanating confidence and ensuring freshness.
To kick off with the boldest of flavours, the spiced beef and lamb Merguez sausages with harissa mayo grilled to juicy perfection are a must (£7.50) and the crispy Southcoast squid with a citrus crème fraiche has the perfect crunch and is the ultimate sharing food (£8).
The grilled Welsh lamb cutlets are also grilled to perfection; blushingly pink with savoury char and nestled into a smoked aubergine puree (£17), benefitting from a side of cumin roasted carrots with yoghurt, though these needed punchier seasoning to stand out (£4).
And then came possibly the most unctuous and luxurious vegetarian dish of all time - gnocchi with forest mushrooms, Dolcelatte and tarragon – which ticked all the boxes in terms of flavour and balance (£12.50). Its Spanish/Moroccan twist is evident with Ras El Hanout, pistachios, cumin and prunes peppering the menu but a slow cooked Tanjia burger and hake in wild sorrel cream serve as a reminder that this restaurant is European and its influences are broad.
Of the desserts that are freshly made in-house, the white chocolate panacotta has the obligatory ‘wobble’ as well as a delicate sweetness offset by tart stewed rhubarb and the Dulce de Leche cheesecake with flaked almonds and praline is beautifully textured and suitably rich (both £7).
The wine offerings span in origin from Turkey and Romania to South Africa and Argentina, and even the spritzy Txakoli, which I immediately associate with endless nights in San Sebastian’s pintxos bars, makes an appearance. But on this occasion the house wine, a Sicilian Catarratto, is smooth and slightly off dry and works rather nicely (£23). The neighbouring table saw away a variety of eye-catching cocktails. I’ll definitely be indulging in the Marrakech Martinis during my next visit!
Staff are attentive, knowledgeable and seem so at ease in their roles. The manager, Kamil, is a character and his infectious positivity only adds to the charm and appeal of this restaurant.
Located next to St James underground station, you’ll find this restaurant within the St. Ermin’s Hotel. Conveniently located in the heart of Westminster, it’s ideal for tourists, hotel guests or simply those who are seeking a chic and relaxing restaurant in central London.
The modern décor with its tasteful, neutral colour scheme – a palette of taupe, grey and cream - creates a relaxing atmosphere. Pops of colour, such as burnt orange dining chairs and oversized art prints, inject a bit of colour, while beautiful touches abound throughout the décor, such as intricately carved wooden screens, which also provide a bit of privacy for diners, and charcoal grey wood panelling, both which lend an air of sophistication. Candles flickering away in glass votives at each table further add to the ambiance and made our first evening out in ages feel all the more romantic.
Caxton Grill is passionate about sustainability and sourcing local ingredients whenever possible, which is why they created their rooftop kitchen garden, which boasts a variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs that the head chef uses in a wealth of dishes. They also have their own ‘bee hotel’, which provides their honey. Not too shabby for a restaurant smack bang in the middle of Central London!
Our waiter, who was exceptionally friendly and knowledgeable, talked us through the specials and his recommendations and offered to pair wines with each of our courses, and we were more than happy to oblige. As I perused the menu, I enjoyed a Mo, a fruity 'mocktail' from their non-alcoholic cocktail list, which was lovely and sweet and made me feel as though I was on a beach holiday instead of in cold, grey London.
One of the things we loved most was that for each course, you could tell that great care had been taken with every dish, all of which were elegant and beautifully presented.
This is a great place to go if you’re looking for stylish and intimate surroundings with friendly service in the heart of Westminster.
Christmas time is quite possibly the best excuse to dine out with friends, and it's even better after a spot of Christmas shopping. I am a big fan of Japanese food, especially ramen, so when Shoryu Ramen invited us to sample the Christmas menu, we jumped at the chance.
From now until 30 December, Shoryu Ramen invites customers to enjoy a selection of dazzlingly delicious dishes to get you in the festive spirit, including seasonal cocktails.
Located slap bang in London’s bustling West End, it's conveniently located for those looking to grab a bite to eat after indulging in retail therapy. Established in 2012 and recommended in the Michelin Guide every year since 2014, Shoryu Ramen brings Hakata, Japan to the UK under the creative visions of Hakata natives Tak Tokumine and Kanji Furukawa.
There is a cool laidback vibe combined with a bustling undercurrent. It's apparent the attentive staff are passionate about Japanese culture and food, which is prepared in an open kitchen, allowing diners to watch the chefs cook as they sit back and catch up with friends.
Shoryu knows its ramen. As they proudly proclaim on the website, ‘it’s in their bones’. I’ll vouch for that. The limited-edition Christmas menu offers a variety of top-notch ramen, moreish street food and side dishes, such as BBQ Pork Bun with Char Siu BBQ Pork Belly with Japanese Mayo and the signature ramen - Shoryu Ganso Tonkotsu.
For starters we enjoyed the Japanese Pork and Pumpkin Croquette Buns. The Pumpkin Croquette Bun was deliciously crispy and I loved the smooth ,melt-in-your mouth hirate sauce and Japanese mayo! For mains, my dining partner and I chose the signature Shoryu Ganso Tonkotsu, a ramen to write home about - even if you live in London! This dish is a creamy slow cooked pork broth with a special blend of noodles, umami rich soup and toppings all cooked for over 12 hours to perfection. Divine.
For dessert we had the Matcha Cheesecake and the Mochi Ice Cream in green tea and coconut flavours, both of which were fab.
Of course, no festive meal is complete without cocktails. We tried the Christmas signature sake, The Ginza Snowflake, a beautiful drink comprised of sparkling sake and red berry puree, perfectly presented in a champagne glass sprinkled with icing powder with red berries resting delicately on top. For non drinkers, there is the Virgin Snowflake, which consists of yuzu tonic with red berry puree.
Le Chinois is an upscale Cantonese restaurant in the prestigious Millennium Hotel Knightsbridge, headed up by Executive Chef Anthony Kong. Located at the heart of the fashion designed Mecca of Sloane Street, the restaurant appeals to both hotel guests and discerning shoppers alike.
The bar and dining room decor walk a fine line between modern and classic. Just up the whitewashed stairs from the lobby, this open and tranquil space feels a bit like being in an atrium, with its spectacular soaring glass ceiling providing the perfect glimpse of the last rays of the summer sun.
When you peruse the sophisticated new sharing menu, it’s easy to see how Anthony Kong and his team have earned Le Chinois its two AA rosettes. The menu embraces both modern and traditional dishes including delights such as soft shell crab tossed with fluffy egg yolk, Mapo tofu, black cod with a champagne sauce, a deluxe dimsum platter and barbecued char siu pork.
We opened the meal with a delicate steamed scallop displayed proudly on a bed of vermicelli with a Shaoxing broth that was an utter coup. There really is something very special about prising an enormous scallop from its shell. We followed the scallops with intensely savoury squid tossed with peppercorns and adorned with chillies and garlic shards - an ideal starter to whet the appetite.
You know you’re dealing with a refined menu when you see wagyu beef rear its head, and when it arrives sizzling in ginger and spring onion, we knew it was going to melt in our mouths. Paired with the ubiquitous Sichuan dry-fried green beans with minced chicken (the only way I ever want to eat beans again) and steamed jasmine rice, we had all we required for the perfect meal. Upon recommendation we also tried the prawns with Singaporean chilli sauce, which were wonderfully fresh and plump but the sauce needed a tad more oomph.
For a wonderfully refreshing endnote, we tucked into the sago with fresh diced mango, a delicious silky tapioca pudding of sorts that we adored. We also couldn’t resist a portion of good old-fashioned banana fritters.
The Spanish Pez Rio Macabeo Sauvignon Blanc is very reasonable at £25 a bottle and its fresh acidic apple and pineapple notes complimented the seafood but still cut through the richness of our main course. The range of wines and spirits on offer is vast, ensuring it caters for all moods, tastes and occasions.
Le Chinois is no doubt accustomed to some well-heeled clientele, yet it manages to emanate a casual and welcoming ambience with resident guests popping down for a bowl of noodles alongside guests celebrating with more lavish dishes such as lobster and Peking duck.
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Hot Pot, Soho, London
Royal China, Fulham, London
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Wulf & Lamb, Chelsea, London
Wulf & Lamb may not seem like the most obvious name for Chelsea’s newest vegan bolthole, but its motto - “Run with the wolves; eat with the lambs” - certainly taps into all of our current enthusiasm for living with strong bodies and gentle souls en route to total wellness. I’m not surprised to see a number of post-yoga class women arrive for lunch, but it would be doing Wulf & Lamb a great disservice to suppose that this is just another passenger on the ‘Clean Living’ bandwagon: it’s a genuinely fantastic eatery with a vegan offering that manages to feel far more indulgent than virtuous.
It’s a bright but chilly November day when we arrive for lunch in the recently redeveloped Pavilion Road, just off Sloane Square. Already home to a handful of independent retailers, artisan food shops were added to the mix late last year, with Pavilion Wine, Bread Ahead and London Cheesemongers sitting alongside Natoora,The Roasting Party coffee and Provenance, a traditional family butchers. Wulf & Lamb is the most recent addition, opening in October - and, judging from the restoration work taking place on the properties opposite, more are eventually to join its ranks.
Inside, the decor is cool and industrial, with polished concrete floors, brushed metal, marble accents and a striking, textural, 3D wall along the staircase to the upper floor, where there’s a tiny terrace overlooking a courtyard and a slightly more intimate feel. Taking advantage of the clear skies, however, we opt to sit outside, with cosy throws already in place over the backs of our chairs, ready to be draped around us if the chill gets too much.
Orders are made at the counter, where a number of cakes and salad bowls are on display for the takeaway crowd. I’ve already got my eye on the über-pretty, petal-scattered, mini Bundt cake for later, noting approvingly (and a tad greedily) that this, and a number of other cakes on display, are gluten free. Which reminds me - I‘m gluten-intolerant. On mentioning this, I’m immediately given a specially marked menu and my friend and I go outside to compare notes on what I’ll be eyeing enviously from my side of the table.
Happily, and surprisingly, there’s not much. Being accustomed to places where “gluten free” radically limits my ordering options, I’m delighted to find that the breakfast granola is already nut and seed based, and that GF buns are available for burgers. The Wulf Burger, which uses meat alternative seitan, a product derived from wheat gluten, obviously isn’t an option but with a Spicy Veg Burger, Chilli “non” Carne and Green Coconut Curry, plus various salads and sides, to choose from, I’m really not bemoaning its off-limits status. Delight levels are doubled when we examine the list of vegan-friendly wines and ales and decide that, since the last vegan place we visited had NO gluten free options and only served mocktails, it would be silly - and in fact, probably rude - to not order a bottle of wine with our lunch.
The differences from this most recently visited restaurant don’t stop there. While that one lacked any atmosphere, this one - with its constant flow of puppy-carrying locals, multi-generational lunchers, suit wearers and buggy pushers - both to the restaurant and the surrounding businesses - makes for a pleasantly upbeat ambience. And the food, which at the last place was pared-down, a bit bland and somehow limp in terms of its presentation, is here fairly bursting with exuberance: my veggie burger (complete with plant-based cheese and sauerkraut) is a proper, hard-to-wrap-your-mouth-around size, the bun holds its shape, the flavours are kicky and vibrant, and the curved, grainy wooden platter on which it is served is reassuringly chunky. Whatever it is that some people tend to associate veganism with - asceticism? joylessness? constant hunger?!! - this is most definitely not it.
Across the table, Lisa is in similar raptures over her bowl of Chill ‘Non’ Carne - a substantial portion of spicy, smoky mushrooms, lentils and kidney beans on rice with cashew sour cream, lime and coriander cress. I offer to trade a few of my sweet potato wedges and some house slaw for a mouthful and it’s sensational. “Unbelievable. Delicious!” we say, when a staff member comes to clear and ask how everything was. “I can tell,” she smiles with obvious pleasure, gesturing towards our completely empty plates. “Now, how about some dessert?”
WULF & LAMB
243 Pavilion Road
One would be forgiven for not being familiar with Dukes London. Tucked down a sleep side street in St James’s, it’s gem of a find, located moments from Green Park and yet seemingly in another world from its contemporaries.
Nestled on its lower floor is GBR (Great British Restaurant), a bright, spacious all-day dining venue. The menu which is overseen by Norfolk-born Executive Head Chef Nigel Mendham features traditional British dishes with contemporary twists.
Every Saturday and Sunday from 12-4pm is Bottomless Brunch. For £24.50 guests can indulge in two dishes from the menu with unlimited bubbles for an additional £15. I’m a big fan of a bottomless brunch but admittedly, I usually end up in a raucous Clapham pub, so swapping for a change of scenery to a civilised dining room made for a pleasant change.
The menu features a selection of brunch staples with delicious additions including confit duck hash and kedgeree. The Eggs Benedict featured a succulent slab of ham and a fabulous Hollandaise, though the portion was slightly on the small side. I chased the eggs with a plate of waffles, smothered in a devilish caramelised banana sauce and sticky toffee walnuts; something so delicious I’ve since tried to recreate it at home. My date enjoyed the smashed avocado with rich duck egg and chilli pepper, followed by a much-lauded round of French toast with sweet cured bacon and lashings of maple syrup. I’m not sure how we had space for dessert after all that and in between all the prosecco, but the raspberry trifle was a delight.
GBR (Great British Restaurant) at DUKES London
35 St. James’s Place
*During my visit I was hosted by GBR (Great British Restaurant) at DUKES London. All views and opinions are my own.
Quaglino's, London, UK
Founded by Giovanni Quaglino in 1929, Quaglino’s has long been a symbol of decadence. Loved by royals, celebrities and the public alike, dining here has always had an air of exclusivity.
In the 1950s the restaurant was said to have had a table permanently reserved for the regular visits by Princess Margaret, the Duke and Duchess of Kent and Princess Alexandra. Other notable royals who have graced the establishment include Queen Elizabeth, King Edward VIII, and most recently, Prince Harry. And what’s a hip place without a celeb following? Celebs who have visited include Judy Garland, Barbara Cartland, Elton John, Mick Jagger, Benedict Cumberatch, Alexa Chung and Lindsay Lohan, to name a few.
In the 90s Quaglino’s was revered as the hottest restaurant in town to see and be seen, thanks to it being a favourite spot of Ab Fab characters Patsy and Eddie and its reputation as a place to let your hair down in style. The signature ‘Q’ ashtrays that were scattered throughout the bar, were often nicked by guests as they were seen as a status symbol. Rumour has it that over the years more than 25,000 ‘Q’ ashtrays 'mysteriously' disappeared.
Today, Quaglino’s retains its style and charm thanks to a £3 million facelift by owners D&D London in 2014. There is a sense of 1920s grandeur throughout the restaurant, thanks to intimate lighting and a moody colour palette of charcoals, burgundy and gold, which creates a sexy atmosphere. As guests sip cocktails in the upstairs bar, they can relax on black quilted leather banquettes, which encourage you to stay a bit longer than you probably should.
Even the bathrooms are seriously stylish with striking monochrome zigzag decor, which has given us serious bathroom design envy.
At the heart of the restaurant is a grand staircase with illuminated stairs with a gold tortoise shell design, that simply begs for guests to make a fabulous entrance as they shimmy down the stairs to the dining room below. The expansive dining room is an impressive space with a circular gold bar and a stage flanked by red velvet curtains, which serve as key focal points. Each night guests can enjoy performances by either live bands or a DJ, which adds to the sense of occasion.
Saturday brunch at Quaglino's
We visited on a Saturday afternoon for the Q Brunch (available Saturdays and Sundays from 11.30am-2.30pm). If you’re feeling festive, there is the option to add unlimited prosecco for £18 per person, when eating two courses or more for the duration of your meal.
The Saturday brunch offering features standard options such as Eggs Benedict, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs (a safe bet), sandwiches (croque monsieur or demoiselle), a variety of fish dishes (sea bream, cod, stone bass), a sirloin steak and egg or venison tartare and oysters as well as a selection of sides and desserts.
The salad with mozzarella, tomatoes, nectarines and endive was fresh and light and the croque monsieur in all its cheesy, carby glory is the perfect cure if you’ve indulged a bit too much the night before.
Service is top-notch, as you’d expect, and is refreshingly friendly rather than stuffy, which makes it all the more welcoming.
We’ll definitely be making a repeat appearance, but next time we’ll be indulging in dinner and sipping classic cocktails. Get your glad rags on and give it a go – it’s the cat’s whiskers.
Hot Pot, Soho, London, UK
Hot Pot, Soho
Hot Pot is an Asian restaurant in Soho that was inspired by the Mongolian tradition of sharing a ‘hot pot’ (a large pot filled with broth and various ingredients) with family and friends. This communal style of eating later became popular throughout Asia and today there are thousands of hot pot varieties that can be found in Vietnam, Thailand, China and Korea, amongst other countries.
The 4,500 square-foot restaurant covers two floors and in addition to the main dining room, there is a private dining room that can be hired for larger groups. The décor features oxblood red booths, simple tables with wooden chairs and crackle-glazed jade tiles and industrial style light bulbs suspended from the ceiling behind the bar.
At Hot Pot guests are the star chefs as they choose every ingredient that goes into their own unique hot pot creation. Each table comes equipped with an induction burner, which guests use to prepare their own hot pot, filled with their choice of broth and fresh ingredients from meat to vegetables.
The concept encourages diners to savour the experience as their selected ingredients bubble away while they visit. As variety is the spice of life, you can split your hot pot into two sections, so you can have a different broth and ingredients in each side of the pot.
To begin making your hot pot, you first select from one of five broth varieties, each of which comprises more than 50 ingredients and is made fresh daily. Next, you select your ingredients – there are more than 60 dizzying options to choose from, which can be slightly overwhelming if you’ve never been before! There is also a sauce and toppings bar, so you can further customise your creations to your heart's content.
Some of the ingredients on offer include British rib-eye, marinated chicken, sea bass, king prawns, shrimp wontons, fresh abalone, shitake and golden needle mushrooms, sweet potato, fresh tofu and quail’s eggs, to name a few.
The classic goya pork starters were lovely and fresh and the homemade spare ribs slathered in a sweet, sticky glaze were divine – we could have eaten about 20 of them!
The hot pot making proved to be a fun experience as we waited in anticipation to see how our concoction of marinated beef, sliced pork, ho fun noodles, morning glory, shiitake mushrooms and fried tofu, would turn out. Thankfully, our selections proved to be a great choice.
The only thing we weren't crazy about was the chicken broth, which we found to be a bit on the bland side for our liking, but the fiery Mala Sichuan broth with dried chillies, Sichuan peppercorns, herbs and fermented beans was fabulous – although seriously hot – the servers warned us beforehand to ensure we were confident we could handle the heat!
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