Why is there always a massive queue for The Breakfast Club in Soho at the weekends? It’s a very average place (certainly not worth waiting in a queue for) and there are lots of far better options in the area – Koya Bar for Japanese breakfast, Gail’s or Princi for baked goods, Dean Street Townhouse for classics, and lots and lots more. I even would prefer to go to Côte!
Calçots are related to onions – they look cross between a spring onion and a leek and best described as an overgrown spring onion. We saw that Barrica had them on the menu as a special and so came back later for dinner.
The calçots come blackened, having been grilled over a BBQ and then you peel off the black outer layer and dip them in a romanesco sauce. And these ones at Barrica were delicious!
We also had some slow cooked pork cheeks in PX, a coca with goats cheese, sobrassada and mushrooms, duck egg with morcilla and more mushrooms, orange stuffed olives, padron peppers and a glass each of sherry.
All dishes were very satisfying, and it was a good reminder to us to use our local restaurants more – especially given how many are shutting down in today’s tough economic climate for restauranteurs.
These two Japanese restaurants opened up in our area before Christmas and we decided to test them one weekend after the other, to decide which would become our new local Japanese.
- Sushi Atelier is clean and modern-looking; upstairs consists of a bar overlooking the chefs and downstairs there are tables in a narrow room. The music was quite noticeable downstairs and upstairs was pretty busy and therefore noisy
- I am not sure if Kazu has a downstairs room as we were seated upstairs. The main room is light and airy with big windows on the corner of Tottenham Street and Charlotte Street, and there is a small counter facing the chefs. We felt more comfortable at Kazu (even with people on the street peering at our food)
Style of food:
- Sushi Atelier is focused on sushi and related items (as the name would suggest), for example tataki, sashimi and rolls. It is more fusion than traditional – the nigiri had interesting toppings, like Yashin
- Kazu on the other hand would be better described as a high-end izakaya; alongside sushi and sashimi, there were lots of hot food choices including grilled salmon, noodles, ochazuke and tempura
- Both were pretty similar – they clearly use the same sake importer and the choices of beer were Asahi or Kirin; Sushi Atelier has come up with the good idea of cards to explain the sake tasting flight rather than having their staff fumble over the terms though I wish they’d serve the sake in proper glasses!
- The staff at Sushi Atelier were very friendly and helpful, but at the end of the evening they started to struggle as the restaurant was at full capacity; we had to work hard to get our bill paid!
- The staff at Kazu were polite and efficient – not the type of people who are trying to be your new ‘friend’, but I don’t care about that!
Most importantly – the food:
- The highlights for me from Sushi Atelier were the nigiri, particularly the mackerel, and the butterfish tataki; on the other hand some of the other dishes we had were a little inconsistent, for example overpowering with mayo or wasabi
- On the other hand we really enjoyed everything we had at Kazu, both the cold and the warm dishes. Our highlights here included the ochazuke, the taro salad and kaki fry (fried oysters)
Verdict: Kazu for the win!
(Side note: I didn’t think it fair to do a price comparison as we ordered more and drank more at Sushi Atelier – my sense is you’d pay slightly more at Sushi Atelier but I’d say it’s reasonably even)
I was having a chat with one of my friends who had some of these restaurants on her wishlist and we started having an interesting debate about the various mid-high end restaurants in Fitzrovia.
Here is my completely subjective comparison:
This place got a Michelin Star and is now pretty well-known – however out of the four restaurants we discussed, this is probably my least favourite. There is nothing wrong with it – the cooking is classic with a twist, the service was decent and it was busy when we visited and had a nice atmosphere. But we just didn’t warm to it somehow – it was just a touch too expensive for us to be regulars, and whilst we enjoyed the food and drink, we just weren’t blown away. We had slightly scatty service but to be fair, we went quite early on, and the fact it has a star means the opening wrinkles must have been ironed out. It says something about the food options in the area that it comes fourth in our list.
We’ve been to this place a couple of times now – the menu is genuinely interesting, as is the wine list, and the service is very good, with knowledgable staff. But again, it is a touch on the expensive side for us to go every week and for us probably ranks three out of these four (but you should definitely go and try it!)
Out of the four listed here, this is the newest opening. I would describe the food as classic with modern touches and it certainly is very comfortable – a proper white tablecloth place, and very high levels of service. Interestingly on the night we went there seemed to be more tourists than we normally see in other restaurants in the area (we live in Fitzrovia), which I would put down to the fame of the chef, but still it managed to feel like a high end local. The food was less experimental than Clipstone and Portland, but we just really enjoyed it and had a great time (and somehow didn’t mind the expense). I would be very surprised if this doesn’t get a Michelin Star next year. I would put it at second place in this list.
This is definitely our favourite; it is run by the same people as Portland but is its younger, more informal sister. The drink list is just as interesting as Portland and the food really tasty. It has no pretentions to be a Michelin Star place but then, it’s just great to have a really great local restaurant. We go back when we can (and when we remember); for us it is the top out of the four.
Aside from these four there is also the incredible Kitchen Table on Charlotte Street which is definitely worth visiting; it is just so different from these that it doesn’t bear comparison. On the other hand, I am not a fan of Pied a Terre and I wouldn’t put it as a realistic alternative to these four mentioned above.
We are lucky to have so many great restaurants on our doorstep!
I’m tired even thinking about this – the food was good, experimental and modern and *just* the right side of being too fussy…but it took us three and a quarter hours to get through dinner. And when you have had a long week at work, it’s probably not the best thing to do on a Friday night!
Good drinks pairing though.
This place has been open for a little while now and we finally remembered to go along. It’s pretty small and therefore a bit hectic but the food came quickly and was full of flavour – for example, phuchka, semolina balls filled with spiced potato, came with a mint and tamarind dip.
We had two vegetarian curries; one was paneer with a poppy seed and cashew paste and the other was a five vegetable curry, cooked with melon seeds and cashew paste. The rice was laced with ghee and we went home full and very definitely satisfied.
*Edit: now shut!*
There has been a lot of anticipation for Xu, the latest from the team behind Bao. We got a 5pm reservation on a Saturday (which is ok for us as we tend to eat at odd times at the weekend). After battling through the crowds attending Pride, we settled down at our table with some delicious, smoky cocktails.
Somewhat at a loss with respect to the menu, we went for the safe option of the tasting menu. I chose the sea bass for the main and my dining companion chose the iberico pork collar (belying her Spanish roots).
My favourites were the clams and the beef and marrow pancakes, but all of the food was great. I wasn’t expecting my seabass to be so vinegary and spicy, but it balanced well with the soft white rice.
The food had a delicacy that is hard to find in general Asian in restaurants London, and the Taiwanese whiskeys and tea based cocktails were great. If we manage to get another reservation, we’ll go back – and take our Taiwanese friend to check the authenticity!
I read the Kevin Kwan ‘Rich Asians’ trilogy recently and the following quote amused me, describing the Singaporean group’s favourite places in London:
‘The Holy Trinity are Four Seasons for the roast duck, Mandarin Kitchen for the…lobster noodles, and Royal China for the dim sum”
I think it still holds true (though I’d swap out Royal China for Bright Courtyard)!
My friends and I went to see Wonder Women at the cinema in Whiteleys shopping centre and afterwards we felt brave enough to try the queue at Four Seasons. We were pretty lucky and got a table after 5-10 minutes; not bad for a Saturday night.
Of course we had the duck, the real highlight of the meal, succulent and crispy and not overly sweet. Otherwise it was soothing standard Cantonese food, including sweetcorn and chicken soup and king prawns in rice. Mmmmm…
This guest post has been provided by my dining companion!
The food was unusual – not traditional polenta but different flavours, shapes and textures. It was interesting and very yummy; suprising in a good way. We had a liver salad with bacon (two good things) and the place had decent Italian drinks like Aperol. The waiters also seemed Italian and there was a strange mixture of tourists and regular customers. The staff were useful in explaining the menu but not super annoying. The only thing is that the dining room is pretty noisy and I needed to shout to have any sort of conversation with my friend. It was totally value for money and I would go back again.
We decided we needed pizza, and remembered that we hadn’t tried Homeslice in Fitzrovia yet, so off we went.
I used to come to this site a lot in the past, when it was Soho Japan – a comfortable, neighbourhood place, reliable and soothing. Now the plaster is all stripped off, and it is much more hipster chic – the bare bricks make it quite noisy. Plus the people eating there have changed; where before there were locals avoiding cooking for the night, now there are the young and (somewhat) fashionable (I suspect local workers and a scattering of students).
Despite feeling a bit out of place, we opted to share a £20 pizza with a mixture of mushroom, ricotta and pumpkin seeds as one half, and anchovies, onion and olives for the other.
The toppings were good, the base thin and tasty – my only minor complaint was that I would have liked it to have been cooked a touch longer to make the crust, well, crusty. It’s certainly not traditional but it does the job.