Brawn and 6 Portland Road – 2016

Their menus are quite similar. Two single sheets of paper, both typed in black ink, with the word Dinner on the top of one, under the restaurant’s logo of a bottle in the shape of a pig (or is it vice versa?), and both carry that evening’s date. Both also carry the same wording at the bottom that ‘some of our egg and dairy products are unpasteurised.’   They both start in a similar fashion, too. Half a dozen snacks ranging from salted almonds to a plate of Corsican ham…






Park Chinois – Alan Yau’s most extravagant venture

For the first time in all the years I have known him – and I was a fan of Alan Yau’s first wagamama restaurant that opened close to the British Museum back in 1992 – I feel he may have made a mistake. Not an irredeemable one – and he has been known to readjust his approach and, more importantly, the style of cooking, in several other of the restaurants he has inspired over what has proved to be a highly successful 30 years for him in London. But this is…






Small, unbookable and very busy

On the Monday before Christmas I walked from Covent Garden and into Soho and past several well-known London landmarks. The crowds around Leicester Square tube station; the relative quiet at 11.45 am outside Maison Bertaux on Greek Street; and then, turning on to Old Compton Street, I caught a glimpse of three Japanese chefs scurrying out of Dozo restaurant for a quick cigarette before their lunch service got under way. I then turned into the bottom of Frith Street and was immediately made aware of one of the biggest changes…






Greeks bearing fish

This is a version of an article also published by the Financial Times. At the end of my first meal at Estiatorio Milos, the Greek fish restaurant that originated in Montreal in 1979 and has subsequently opened outposts in New York, Athens, Miami, Las Vegas and, in mid August, in London’s Regent Street, I spotted a Frenchman who specialises in restaurant franchising lunching with a Russian. In contrast to my rather mundane dishes from the £29 set lunch menu (octopus that should have been more tender and an overcooked tuna…






​Dinings for danger

A version of this article is also published by the Financial Times. The most memorable Japanese restaurants, whether serving a formal kaiseki set menu or an informal izakaya, principally a bar with food attached, or a sushi counter, invariably leave me with two sensations very different from those experienced at other restaurants. The first is a sense of danger. This comes from eating more raw food than I usually do, as well as having the opportunity to watch chefs wielding extremely sharp knives to such beneficial effect at close quarters….






Algerian cooking in Notting Hill

This is a version of an article published by the Financial Times. Over the course of our evening at Wormwood in Notting Hill Gate, West London, a restaurant that draws its principal culinary inspiration from North Africa, the broad appeal of what lay on the restaurant’s shelves was matched by the dexterity evident in what emerged from the basement kitchen. There was a mound of sweet seffa couscous surrounded by four large pieces of lobster tail around which was poured a thick lobster bisque, a combination I had never enjoyed…






Barrafina – like the 73 bus

Sam and Eddie Hart seem unlikely contenders for the title of the ‘bus drivers of the London restaurant scene’ with their posh accents, their extensive knowledge of food and wine as well as a great sense of hospitality inherited from their hotelier father (Hambleton Hall). But in one respect they most certainly deserve this title. Having kept their customers waiting for four years since the opening of their first Barrafina, their classy tapas bar on Frith Street, Soho – where demand is such that the 30 seats serve over 1,000…






Chutney of St James

This is a version of an article also published by the Financial Times. I ought to have known better than to stop right in the middle of the dining room at Chutney Mary, the long-established Indian restaurant that has just moved from Chelsea into a new home at the bottom of St James’s Street in central London. Within seconds, a human traffic jam comprising a mâitre d’, several hungry customers and numerous waiters carrying trays of food had backed up behind me. But this was not entirely my fault. On…






Aussie brekkie rules

This is a version of an article also published by the Financial Times. Restaurant business buzzwords to have caught my attention recently include ‘elevated casual’, ‘natural wines’ and the ‘Aussie breakfast’. The first particularly strange combination refers to the style of restaurant many are seeking to open today, somewhere that is comfortable and professional but informal while giving the customer the opportunity to spend well. The second is a style of wines currently favoured by many young sommeliers although I rather like the comment of one Australian winemaker that these…






Harwood Arms – from roof to table

This is a version of an article also published by the Financial Times. Just after we finished coffee at the Harwood Arms in Fulham, where the exemplary British food under chefs Alex Harper and Brett Graham has gained a Michelin star, Charles Dowson turned to the barman and said, ‘I’ll be back later to water the garden.’ Dowson then drove me in his worn Mercedes estate – with bags of compost in the boot – to the second garden he takes care of, at The Imperial pub on Kings Road….