1. New Post: What we’ve been up to… Loco Moco at The Diner


    What we’ve been up to… Loco Moco at The Diner

    I’m usually guilty of going for a traditional short stack with all the trimmings whenever I hit up The Diner (they do culinary Americana so well), but did you know they offer a famous Hawaiian brekkie/lunch called the Loco Moco?  Me neither, until a pal and I were invited to try this unusual dish that’s big in the Aloha state, and just one of the many all-day breakfast offerings you can get at The D.


    It’s quite a  full-on meal for 9am, as you get dirty rice topped with a generous burger patty (cooked to your liking), cheese, jalapeño peppers before it’s all doused in gravy, but it’s pretty darn good – and curbed the hunger pangs for a good part of the day. You’ll find Loco Moco under “The Blue Plates” on The Diner menu, but for more info about its history, visit www.whatscookingamerica.net/History/LocoMocoHistory

     Check out more of our pics from The Diner on our Tumblr


  2. New Post: Somewhere You Should Go…Vista Bar


    Somewhere You Should Go…Vista Bar

    It’s easy to think of Trafalgar Square as an area reserved for tourists and pigeons but near the museums and art galleries is The Trafalgar Hotel  which hides the beautiful Vista Bar, a stunning open air rooftop bar with views of the Square, Big Ben, London Eye and the Thames.

    As central London’s largest rooftop bar, if you’re for looking for somewhere a bit special  - perhaps for a date or celebration –  just take the lift up to the sixth floor and stop by for a drink. Fitting in with the impressive surroundings is a drinks menu which of course features champagne and cocktails (though the usual bar drinks are all available). My favourite was the Gin Mary, a Bloody Mary given an update with bacon (!) infused gin.  It gives it an extra kick that somehow works and makes you wonder why more drinks don’t have bacon added to them.

    It’s certainly not the cheapest bar in the capital but considering the location it is the perfect place if you’re looking for something special and areas can be hired making it great for a birthday celebration. As for  food, the menu is a relaxed mix of nibbly bits, salads and snacks perfect for picking and even includes caviar if you really want to go all out.

    Despite  the chilly winter months ahead,  Vista plans to cover the roof and put on extra heating for comfort, so it’ll be worth the visit – just note  it gets busy and is often used for private events – plus there’s a £5 entry charge after 4pm, though they do donate a £1 to charity.  (Words: Lucy Palmer) 


  3. Somewhere you should eat… Reform Social & Grill, Marylebone

    About three or four years ago, restaurants offering robust, butch British fare in clubby surroundings (gentlemen’s rather than night) were the height of fashion, Dean Street Townhouse being the first and I would still argue the best of the bunch. It was a fashion I was very happy with, this being exactly the kind of food I like to eat and the kind of place I like to eat it in.

    Reform Social
    Fashions change however, with each new restaurant opening now seemingly contending to be more niche and novel than the last, so just as I was thinking we’d all moved on to places serving only hot dogs and champagne or authentic pork-bone ramen, it came as a not-unpleasant surprise to hear about somewhere as resolutely - one might say wilfully - old-school as Reform Social & Grill.

    Located in the Mandeville Hotel in Marylebone, Reform consists of a bar area (the Social) serving some pretty spot-on cocktails - they got my vodka Martini exactly right - and the Grill, a large room which with its bare-wood floors, dark Edwardian colour palette and studded leather banquettes and booths is attractive but almost oppressively masculine. On the night Alyn and I visited we were the only diners for almost the entire evening, word having clearly not yet spread that Marylebone, an area well-served for high-end eating establishments but less so for good everyday options, now has exactly that…

    To read the rest, click here to visit Hugh Wright’s blog twelvepointfivepercent.com


  4. Somewhere you should eat… Shrimpy’s at Kings Cross Filling Station

    Think of petrol station food and what springs to mind?  Ginsters, day old pastries, and tea from a machine - and that’s if you’re going for the higher end of the scale - a step-up from the standard groceries, overpriced confectionery, and the wide Pot Noodle selection?  As venues go, they are the complete opposite of culinary, food-as-fuel being the more dominant philosophy.

    [caption id=”attachment_4542” align=”alignnone” width=”523”]01_Filling Pic: Jamie Smith[/caption]

    Which makes new opening Shrimpy’s restaurant something of an anomaly, located as it is at The Filling Station, a former BP garage overlooking Regents Canal. Sat at the back of King’s Cross station, it’s visible from the road but gives no indication of what lies beneath (except for the neon green signage reminiscent of some lonely American diner, which is itself a sort of clue). The restaurant is run by the guys behind Bistrotheque, who commissioned architects Carmody Groarke to turn the space into a semi-permanent structure, replete with fibreglass walls whilst artist Donald Urquhart’s drawings adorn the walls of the dining area.

    The food itself draws on influences from all corners of the American continent, with a menu featuring corn chowder reminiscent of the Deep South, ceviche, a Peruvian favourite, and a twist on the hamburger, replacing with the usual beef with soft shell crab, legs and all. As the name implies, the rest of the menu is heavy on the fish, with octopus, monkfish and lobster so strict vegetarians might not be best pleased. But, for everyone else, it’s way better than a Ginsters.

    Shrimpy’s is at The Kings Cross Filling Station, Goodsway, N1C 4UR. For more info visit  www.shrimpys.co.uk (Words: Jane Duru) 


  5. Somewhere you should go…Back in 5 Minutes at Disappearing Dining Club

    Up Brick Lane, through a clothes shop, down some stairs and tucked away in a snug back room is the Disappearing Dining Club -  purveyor of good food, friendly service and a memorable sharing experience.  Decked out in fun vintage decor, the pop-up style restaurant fits perfectly with the Brick Lane crowd - and with a Grey Goose Fizz placed in my hand on arrival, what’s not to like about this place?

    Disappearing Dining Club

    Tonight’s starters are a selection of potted treats from salmon and creme fraiche, salted beef and a beetroot and  a curd mix for the veggies, which is delicious with their homemade sour dough bread. Mains of roast pork come sliced and heaped on a wooden board for the meat eaters to devour (with plenty of crackling), whilst veggies get their own portion of risotto cake - just enough of a twist on the tired veggie staple for me to enjoy. A side of seasonal jersey royal salad with asparagus reminded me of the very English picnic-in-the-park style grub, with extra class. Desserts look equally the part: panna cotta set in a old fashioned glass jar with a rhubarb topping.

    Disappearing Dining Club

    DDC has been around for a while but Back In 5 Minutes is its first restaurant in a semi-permanent location. The plan is to be in the premises for two years and serve dinners on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and a Sunday lunch for up to 30 people. Plus the team have a wealth of experience having cut their teeth on the cocktail bars and private members clubs of west London. The menu changes regularly, keeping up with the seasons and maintaining visitors interest - so even if risotto cake is a becomes a bit boring for a vegetarian option, next time they are sure to have something new for guests to try. Finally, prices are around £30 for three courses, so I am hoping this dining club doesn’t do a disappearing act for a while! (Words: Laura Thornley)

    For more info, visit www.disappearingdiningclub.co.uk

    Disappearing Dining Club


  6. Somewhere you should eat… Cinnamon Soho

    One of the very first restaurants I wrote about when I started the TwelvePointFive blog was The Cinnamon Club, chef Vivek Singh’s magnificent haute Indian in Westminster. Since then I’ve eaten out countless times and that meal still stands out in my mind as being one of the best.

    Expectations were understandably high then when I went along to try out Cinnamon Soho, the second, newly-opened casual offshoot of the SW1 original (the first, which I’ve not been to, is Cinnamon Kitchen in the City). As he’d been my date for that first memorable meal at The Cinnamon Club, best friend Anders was the obvious and only choice to come with me.

    Located in a somewhat dark, fairly bland but inoffensive two-floor site on Kingly Street, home to both the estimable Wright Bros and execrable Fornata among others, Cinnamon Soho isn’t without competition for the stomachs and wallets of the price- and quality-conscious diners it’s aiming to attract. Based on what we ate, Vivek Singh isn’t taking the competition lightly, because there’s some seriously brilliant food coming out of the kitchen…

    To read the rest, click here to visit Hugh Wright’s blog twelvepointfivepercent.com


  7. Somewhere you should eat… MEATmarket

    The speedy success of the MEAT empire feels like the archetypal American dream story, only in burger form. Owner Yianni started out selling burgers in Peckham from a roadside food van. It was unceremoniously named Meatwagon, but popular, so much so that it evolved into Meateasy, a pop-up in an old pub in New Cross. Meateasy sold the kinds of burgers that draw the kinds of crowds only hyped up word-of-mouth can. Soon outgrowing the pop-up, MEATliquor, the first permanent bricks and mortar incarnation of the brand opened to great acclaim last year; again, with the queues. And now, the latest stage on the path to world domination – MEATmarket - has just opened in Covent Garden.

    It had to happen of course. The current appetite for Americana in London seems unstoppable right now -  everywhere you look there are burger joints, rib shacks and steak houses opening up - see the hubbub around Pitt Cue Co in Soho, or the Rib Man market stall in Kings Cross where the lunchtime hoards line up for rib pizza. But for burgers, head to MEAT, where the burgers are cooked medium well, and come on the drippy side loaded with condiments; messy eaters will be in their element.

    Whilst some items on the menu will be familiar from MEATliquor such as Dead Hippy, and the fried pickled gherkins (which have people raving like the newly-converted) there are new additions - hot-dogs now join the menu, and there are some new burger appearances such as the Black Palace, a double patty burger topped with extra fried onions. One more difference: the new location is more geared towards ‘convenience’ so there’s a take-away option for those in a hurry and the decor leans much more towards the fast-food end of the interiors scale than the slaughterhouse aesthetic of Liquor. Still, the popularity of this place is sure to echo its previous incarnations. Go now, before those queues start. (Words: Jane Duru, Pic: courtesy of burgeranarchy.com )

    MEATmarket is open daily from 1200 - 2300 at the Jubilee Market Hall, 1st Floor, Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 8BE.  For more info visit www.themeatmarket.co.uk


  8. Somewhere you should eat… Bunga Bunga

    Bunga Bunga – it can only mean one thing right? Sat on an unassuming street corner off Battersea Bridge Road, the blacked-out windows and red neon signage certainly tip a wink towards a certain sort of establishment. However, step inside and you’ll see the name is less homage to Berlusconi’s babes, and more an exuberant celebration of all things Italy (whether it could be considered tasteful is another question). So this isn’t an Italian restaurant, it’s an Italian-themed restaurant.

    If you’ve come to eat a simple meal – pizza, pasta, antipasti, charcuterie, salads – rest assured, the food is good. These are Pizza Express prices but a better quality level. The zucchini fritters with basil aioli are guilt-inducingly good, with the aioli elevating flavours succinctly, whilst the combination of meat and sweet in the prosciutto & fig bruschetta complement each other well and although my companion and I both find it a little on the dry side, it’s nothing a little oil can’t sort out.

    Our mains – the Artichoke “Heart Stealer” (artichoke, olives, anchovies and capers) pizza and Tutti Frutti (chicken, spinach, mozzarella and chilli) pizza have pleasingly thin, sourdough bases, and come in adjoining rectangles, rather than the usual 12” disc, making sharing much easier. The spinach on the Tutti Frutti is again slightly dry, but I enjoy my artichoke pizza immensely, and the generous portion size means that any hunger is swiftly abated, though service is a little on the slow side.

    But unlike the country from which it takes inspiration, food is not the be all and end all here. Bunga Bunga is brash, bold and slightly surreal in a way that its food is not - twice during our meal, all the waiters stop, do a 30 second dance, then continue as if nothing had happened. The first thing you’ll note upon entrance is the lounge singer entertaining the patrons (who on the night was very good), bikes hanging from the ceiling, the faux-classical sculptures mounting the walls, and postcard scenes and posters everywhere. In case that wasn’t enough, there’s karaoke later on in the evening.

    Nowhere is the cliché taken further than with the drinks. If you’re the sort who’s horrified by the thought of cocktails in novelty mugs then turn away now (ours came in Berlusconi and Mario mugs); likewise any easily-offended Italians – this place is pastiche and not for the purist. Attracting groups of yuppie Clapham-types and glamorous Chelsea inhabitants wanting to slum it south of the river, it’s an entertainingly odd place and was packed on the Wednesday when we went. If you’re after a quiet, intimate meal, well, bung-a pizza in the oven and save the party for another night; otherwise grab a group of friends, enter into the spirit of it and you’ll have a great time. (Words: Jane Duru) 

    For more info visit www.bungabunga-london.com


  9. Somewhere you should go… Electric Social, Brixton

    40 Acre Lane has been home to many a venture, the last being a Ghanaian nightclub/ restaurant that audaciously sold tickets for a Ghana v Uruguay screening during the World Cup (but unfortunately sealed its fate when the electricity failed mid-match, leaving alot of  footie fans vexed to say the least and spelling the demise of yet another hangout on the  Lane). So after being acquired by a new owner and following a nine-month refurbishment, it’s now the  Electric Social - a vast and spacious two-floor bar which pays homage to the stylings of an old English manor, and could very well give some of East London's most notorious after-hour drinking holes a serious run for their money.

    Six months new, and ES is already building up a fanbase of locals and non-Brixtonians, as weeknights pull in crowds that are after comedy, open mike and salsa dancing, and Saturdays operate a free entry policy (That’s when hip-hop and funk take over the ground floor and house and dance can be found upstairs for the party pros).

    Drinks-wise, cocktails like the Forbidden Fruit are dangerously delicious, and in the food arena, expect a slight twist on English classics (apparently their Sunday Roast is  five star), with the wonderfully potted shrimp with muffins, sandwich bloomers with various fillings (try the Thai chicken) and jerk duck with plantain being some of the grazing highlights. Electric Social shows plenty of promise, so  for more info about this new SW2 spot, visit www.electricsocial.com (Words: Matilda Egere-Cooper)


  10. Somewhere you should eat… Banana Tree, Soho

    I had to admire the chutzpah of the marketing guy who sent me, unsolicited, a pretty-generous gift voucher to spend at the newly-opened Soho branch of growing Indochine canteen chain Banana TreeWe would like to invite you personally to come and try out our new restaurant in Soho!” went the accompanying email; “If you like us, blog it! - if you hate us - let us know, as we are all about improvement and value all opinions, especially yours.”

    Flattery will get you everywhere with me, and where it doesn’t get you bribery usually will, so an offer comprising both was always going to be pretty compelling. If I felt the slightest hint of righteous indignation at so flagrant an attempt to curry my favour, it was swiftly dispelled by the mischievous knowledge that even if I did love the place I didn’thave to write about it, and if I hated the place, I didn’t have to not write about it - the very opposite of their desired outcomes and more fool them for sending out money willy-nilly. Talk about sticking it to the (marketing) man.

    But such an expensive and potentially risky marketing strategy must have been backed up by as much confidence in the product as money in the budget and sure enough, Banana Tree was, well, pretty top banana…

    To read the rest, click here to visit Hugh Wright’s blog, Twelvepointfivepercent.com - London Restaurant Reviews Of Real Discretion. 

    Follow Hugh on Twitter: @HRWright