Ivy Market Grill – Covent Garden, London

Can you book? Yes
Food: 3/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Price paid per person: £27

I’ve never actually eaten at the Ivy (the real one), but given how popular (and expensive) it is I assumed its latest offspring, Ivy Market Grill would be pretty good. How wrong I was!

The surroundings are pleasant; it’s buzzy, the decor is full of oppulent velvets and dark rich colours, you feel very in the action and the crowd is glamorous. The food, however, was disappointing and I had a bad feeling as soon as I looked at the menu. Absolutely nothing excited me, and you should be able to pick up a menu and feel torn between at least two options, leaving the restaurant worrying that you may have missed out and planing ahead to your next visit to try more dishes. Continue reading

Bayou – Camden, London

Can you book? Yes – but you may not want to after reading this…
Food: 2/10
Atmosphere: 4/10
Price paid per person: £25

Can Creole food get more crummy than Bayou? It’s doubtful. It was with great discomfort last night that I paid over £50 (for two) of hard earned cash for what was probably the worst food I’ve eaten in quite some time.

For reference, Creole cuisine is a style of cooking originating in Louisiana (USA) which blends French, Spanish, West African, Amerindian, Caribbean, German, Italian and Irish influences, as well as more general influences from the southern states. Continue reading

Berber & Q – Haggerston, London

Can you book? No (but the wait is pleasant and not too long)
Food: 10/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Price paid per person: £40

I emailed Berber & Q a few weeks before going to ask if they would consider bending their ‘no reservations’ policy, for no real reason other than fear of being turned away and sulking all the way home. They said no, but in a very friendly way, so we made it our business to get there early last Saturday evening and arrived just before 7pm. It isn’t a large restaurant, there are two sharing tables running along the centre, another five or so smaller tables against the wall and a few seats at the bar. We were told the wait could be up to an hour so put our names on the list and were advised to enjoy a cocktail either at the bar or either of the next door bars but to stay close as we would receive a call. Continue reading

Five Guys – Covent Garden, London

Can you book? No (but you won’t have any problems)
Food: 10/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Price paid per person: £10

Eating at Five Guys was such an efficient experience I’m going to summarise it in five short sentences, including this one.

By the time I thought about taking a picture of my Five Guys burger I had already gobbled it all up, that’s how good it was.

As my boyfriend will testify you really can order every single topping on the menu at no extra charge.

They give you free peanuts whilst you queue, still in their cases so you also have the fun of crushing them.

The buns are refreshingly simple (no fancy brioche), the meat is not overdone, you can be done in under half an hour, and for two burgers and regular spicy chips it cost £20.

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Joe’s Southern Kitchen – Kentish Town, London

Can you book? Yes
Food: 8/10
Atmosphere: 9/10
Price paid per person: £24

What is it about the name Joe? Why is it always used in conjunction with fried chicken, lumberjack shirts and Jack Daniels? Don’t get me wrong, clearly as a Jo I’m not in any way against the name, I’m just terribly curious as to what the connection is. Even Google couldn’t help me. But what’s in a name, right? Continue reading

Portobello Garden Caffe – Portobello Road, London

Can you book? Yes
Food: 9/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Price paid per person: £13

Out and about on a lunchtime constitutional along Portobello Road last week something interesting caught my eye. Set back from the road, hiding behind vintage clothes in the arcade, was an alluringly attractive Italian restaurant. On my own, without reading material and in a hurry to get back to work, I had no intention of sitting down to eat but I was compelled to go in and investigate. I glanced at the menu and clientele, was charmed by the decor of hanging dried meat and flowers, and decided I would return imminently.

Continue reading

Ember Yard – Soho, London

Can you book? Yes
Food: 6/10
Atmosphere: 6/10*
Price paid per person: £40

*I went on a Sunday night, never a particularly atmospheric night anywhere.

Hollywood’s favourite pirate Johnny Depp once said, “I pretty much try to stay in a constant state of confusion just because of the expression it leaves on my face.” If that is the case then he should dine every night at Ember Yard, the fourth restaurant to be born from the Salt Yard group, for confused is very much how I felt after eating there on Sunday night.

Most dishes were so lovely that I felt a genuine pang of sadness when they were nearing their end, whilst the odd few were almost offensive. Continue reading

The Pig’s Ear – Dublin, Ireland

Can you book? Yes
Food: 9/10
Atmosphere: 10/10
Price paid per person: €50

Once you’ve drunk all the Guinness you can handle and downed so many taster shots of Jameson whiskey that you can’t tell the difference between an 18 year old vintage and a young American, it’s time to sober up with some good quality Irish fare. Great quality in the case of The Pig’s Ear.

After eating there I discovered The Pig’s Ear was awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2009 and retained it since. This is unsurprising. The food on the whole was excellent, and in the rare cases it wasn’t, I applauded the chef’s creativity. Continue reading

Maguro – Maida Vale, London

Can you book? Yes
Food: 6/10
Atmosphere: 6/10
Price paid per person: £21

Maguro is a dimly lit sushi restaurant located on a small side street, with few tables quite close together, creating an exclusive hidden gem impression. It’s one of those places that make you feel as though you’ve suddenly gone on holiday, to LA maybe.

The menu boasts an impressive selection of interesting appetizers, regular sushi favourites, more exciting sushi and rice/noodle mains. Continue reading