XO – Belsize Lane, London

XO has all the chicness of Mayfair but it’s local enough that the thought of going there on a cold Sunday night isn’t daunting. Local is of course subjective, but for those who don’t live in or near the area, luckily XO is part of the Ricker group of restaurants (http://www.rickerrestaurants.com) so has sister pan-Asian restaurants, namely Great Eastern Dining Room in Shoreditch and e&o in Notting Hill. I recently became aware that La Bodega Negra is part of the same group but the vibe, not to the mention the food, is very different.

What makes it so chic is the lighting and decor. It’s so horrible when a restaurant is too bright and makes you feel like you’re at a conference. I much prefer to be in a dimly lit setting (although too dark is not good either) as it’s much more relaxing. XO has the lighting spot on to create a chic yet laid back, warm atmosphere. The decor is stylish and inviting.

We shared edamame, duck and watermelon salad, chicken green curry, black cod dim sum and tuna tartare.

All were very good; tasty food and generous portion sizes. For me the duck salad stood out as the winner as it was so refreshing. If you don’t like spicy food, avoid the curry. The black cod dim sum was nothing special, but the tuna tartare was excellent.

Another good thing about XO is the drinks. They have an extensive cocktail and wine list, as well as a bar area at the front of the restaurant that is lovely enough to spend an evening at in itself.

Other points to note are a) you can hire out sections for private functions, and b) next door to the restaurant is a take away version called XO to go where you can get sushi, salads or mains to heat at home.

And finally, XO is unique in that I’ve never before been complemented by the waitress for keeping the table cloth so clean…

The food won’t knock your socks off, but it is of a very high standard. This restaurant has an understated glamour though that makes it very worthwhile coming back to again and again.


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