COVERS & CAPERS

London

Posts by S. Jones

Chiltern Firehouse – Chiltern Street

Posted on April 11, 2015

A year after opening Chiltern Firehouse is still on everyone’s bucket list. It’s still the place to be seen, and it’s still just as difficult to get a table. André Balazs’ properties tend to have this in common. He’s found the formula for generating the hottest places in town, attracting the well-heeled and far-famed like moths to a flame, and has watched his empire grow with rip-roaring success. Chiltern Firehouse is no different. It’s been ablaze ever since the hotelier turned his attention to London and transformed Marylebone’s beautiful old fire station into the most happening spot in West London. It’s created such a buzz that the building’s gates seem permanently besieged by the paparazzi. As such it’s never out of focus for too…

Wild Honey – St. George Street

Posted on March 17, 2015

We’d just spent the last 5 minutes slagging off the scallops when the waitress came over to clear the starters. “How was everything?” she asked with mild concern, a phrase that when fed into Giles Coren’s ultra-cynical restaurant-speak decoding device drops out the other end as: ‘like I give a f*ck’. There was a hesitant pause. We weren’t happy but it’s a lot easier to say so when the aproned backs are turned and the dishes’ architects will remain oblivious in the basement kitchen below. “Just ok”, said Chris in brutally honest fashion taking the table by surprise. But he was right. The relatively clean plates suggested otherwise but we’d been waiting one very long hour, neglected in plain sight, for under-caramelized scallops with…

Barrafina – Adelaide Street

Posted on March 5, 2015

Until this week I’d never been to Barrafina. Although I’d like to pass this off as the ice-cool evasion of what, for everyone else, had been the hottest thing since Josper grills, it really was just the significant failing of a professed restaurant buff. I couldn’t even recount a visit to Fino, the bigger, restaurantier brother of Barrafina, by way of consolation either. Both Michelin starred Frith Street and the younger Covent Garden joint (it’s more like Charing Cross), which opened last summer, have eluded me for reasons entirely unknown. So when an old friend, (now a chef saddled with those famously antisocial working hours), proposed an early dinner one Monday evening, the chance arose to alleviate the Sam-and-Eddie shaped monkeys from my back…

Blacklock – Great Windmill Street

Posted on February 18, 2015

You’ve got to hand it to Gordon Ker. He’s hard at work painting the frontage of his new restaurant on Saturday lunchtime when the rest of Soho seems to be celebrating. Not only is it half term, it’s the turn of the Chinese New Year and central is manic. But tucked down Great Windmill Street, Ker is quietly putting the finishing touches to his new baby having transformed an illegal strip club renowned for it’s dodgy dealings and exorbitant rates into a neat little basement restaurant offering chops and cocktails at refreshingly low prices. It’s a good job he’s outside. Apart from a temporary painted sign, it’s undistinguishable as a restaurant and we nearly walk right past it. He reassures us that they are…

Grain Store – Stable Street

Posted on February 15, 2015

Bruno Loubet has a couple of things in common with my dad. The first is a faint resemblance to Rowan Atkinson, the second is an admirable dedication to his vegetable patch. For many years my dad, more Bean than Blackadder, pottered clumsily between greenhouse and garden tending to his principal family of perennials. He brandished his knobbly carrots and oversized marrows with pride, forcing my horrified sister and I into consuming mutated veg any way he could. Beetroots ended up in places they should never be seen: in chilled soups, sandwiches and wrapped in cling-film and slipped into lunchboxes; the curse of the vegetable patch well and truly blighted our early memories of food. Sorry, Dad. But at Grain Store – the restaurant Loubet…

Eight Over Eight – King’s Road

Posted on February 13, 2015

A couple of years ago, Tatler, the magazine synonymous with goings on along the King’s Road, said the following in its 2013 Restaurant Guide: ‘The great thing about Eight Over Eight is how consistent it is. Dinner on a Monday, late lunch on Sunday, even when the Mongol hordes descend on a Friday or Saturday night, it goes on doing what it does so well’. It was, indeed, Friday night and the Mongol hordes – I couldn’t have put it better myself – were upon us. This being Valentine’s weekend, they’d galloped in from Essex and other far-off lands two by two, their polo necks high and their tits even higher, occupying four tops with an infuriating entourage of coats, cards and flowers. The…

Portland – Great Portland Street

Posted on February 10, 2015

It’s Friday lunchtime and Portland is packed. It’s been this way for the three and a half weeks since opening the waitress tells me, due, in part, to a five-star review from Timeout’s Richard Ehrlich who deemed the latest restaurant from Will Lander and Dan Mortengau of the Quality Chop House and 10 Greek Street respectively, a place of pure ‘astonishment’. The upside of this is that, surely, I was in for a treat. The downside: I’m left tableless, perched on a stool with the glass fronting inches from my nose, my back to the restaurant, looking out on a rather unremarkable stretch of Great Portland Street and equally visible myself to the scrutiny of Fitzrovia’s lunchtime rush. I was in a culinary vivarium,…