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,…

The Hand and Flowers – West Street, Marlow

Posted on January 30, 2015

The Hand and Flowers can’t be a pub because it’s nobody’s local. Sure, it looks like a pub. It has low, uneven ceilings, and even lower beams – the type that require a sign of caution – and a few ale pumps standing to attention, pricked like a set of hare’s ears, ready to maintain the pubby frontage with every pull of a pint. But it isn’t a pub. It’s a high-end restaurant in boozy drag, one that’s bloody difficult to get into. It becomes clear on entry. A handsome extension houses the bar, which, topped with polished pewter, gleams against the exposed brickwork and glows like bread oven, its under lighting exhibiting a thing of real beauty. And rightly so – the bar…

The Manor – Manor Street

Posted on January 29, 2015

I’m not one for giving restaurants marks out of ten. I find it impulsive and superficial, fickle and vague, but I’m even less keen on being made to wait for something I want – like food I’m paying for – and assuming you’re reading this to because you want to find out if The Manor in Clapham in any good, then here you go: 7/10. It’s closer to ‘must try’ than ‘don’t bother’, and phrases like ‘worth a visit’, ‘good effort, but could do better’ and ‘not as good as The Dairy or Fera, but better than Rabbit’ would be mildly accurate. Let’s put it this way, if you’re willing to hike to Clapham to eat, you might as well do it properly at…

Rabbit – King’s Road

Posted on January 17, 2015

Brought up on a smallholding vineyard in West Sussex on an alfresco diet of hunting, foraging and lungfuls of country air, the Gladwin boys enjoyed a bucolic childhood, one that left them fated for the food business. But even so, a restaurant cooperative inspired by the frolics and the landscape of their youth couldn’t have been anything more than a pipedream. Who else in their right mind would pay to eat flora from the underside of a rotting trunk or choose ruminant offal over prime cuts unless they’ve been bred that way? Well these days it seems just about everyone. Foraging is on trend. What was once a form of survival has become a fashion statement in the restaurant world. It’s seen as wholeheartedly British…