Blue Boar Smokehouse & Bar

The Blue Boar Smokehouse & Bar is a newly opened restaurant and bar that forms part of the also newly opened Intercontinental Hotel on Tothill Street in Westminster. The Blue Boar’s décor is understandably very five-star hotel-esque – there’s lots of strong oak panelling throughout, and it has been styled to cater to the suits working around the corner at the Houses of Parliament.

Being a smokehouse, the menu offers smoked meats such as pulled pork and pulled lamb shoulder, charcoal and wood grilled foods, plus a range of starters and desserts. On Sundays there is a special brunch menu, which for £45, you can eat as much as you want from the feasting table (salads, seafood and meats), plus unlimited Bloody Marys, Bucks Fizzes and tea or coffee. In addition to this you can choose a main of your choice.

It was the Sunday Brunch that we sampled, and there was a really good range of salads such as smoked feta cheese, with shaved fennel, pomegranate and toasted pistachios; Caesar salad; and hot smoked Scottish salmon with a Niçoise garnish. They were all nicely done, but the best of the lot was a smoked chicken with Granny Smith apple that was great. The chicken was very tasty and moist, and the combination with the apple really worked.

Salad bar

Salad bar

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Karpo

Karpo is the Greek goddess of the fruits of the earth, and its namesake restaurant in the Megaro Hotel pays tribute to this fact by compiling a menu that relies on seasonable and sustainable ingredients. An all day bistro, the composition of the dishes draws on an eclectic mix of influences. There’s the touch of the Italian with offerings such as burrata, blood orange and puntarella, but there’s also a sprinkling of the Americana with the likes of Southern fried quail. Situated across the road from King’s Cross Station, it’s not located in the most auspicious location. Nor did the eco/urban design of the restaurant feel particularly trendy, with the mix of concrete, wood flooring and an eco wall hung with a stretch of plants being rather unconventional.

Karpo didn’t generate a great sense of warmth for me when I first walked in, but one bite of the food and I was sold. A starter of Cornish scallops (£10) was delicious, although less cooking time would have given it a more opaque centre. Accompaniments of chargrilled leeks were tasty and a potato purée was wonderfully creamy, both of which worked well with the scallops. But the most winning aspect of this dish was the fantastic stock reduction finished with balsamic vinegar that gave the sauce both depth, intensity and sweetness.

Cornish scallops

Cornish scallops

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Green Man & French Horn

Ed Wilson and Oli Barker, the boys behind the renowned Terroirs and its sister restaurants Soif and Brawn, have created a certain niche by selling biodynamic wines imported through wine specialists Les Caves de Pyrène. The practice of biodynamic agriculture refers to the use of organic, sustainable and ecological methods in wine making, and it is a practice that has gained momentum in recent years.

Wilson and Barker’s latest restaurant is The Green Man & French Horn. They’ve kept the name of the pub that once graced the site where the restaurant now stands. Located right in the heart of Covent Garden, it’s a quaint little place. But it’s also a tight squeeze with cramped tables and noisy acoustics.

The French menu is rustic, homely and comforting. A starter of chicken livers (£8.50) with artichoke and mâche were fat, silky smooth and dripping in flavour. Cooked to medium rare, they were well seasoned and superbly done. A drizzling of merlot vinegar and olive oil dressing left the dish with a lovely glaze and added a moist finish.

Chicken livers

Chicken livers

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Brasserie Zédel

The latest addition to Jeremy King and Chris Corbin’s ever-growing restaurant empire is Brasserie Zédel, their third restaurant after The Wolesley and The Delaunay. Like its older siblings, Brassiere Zédel has been decorated in the style of a grand Parisian café with high ceilings and lots of marble. Millions was obviously pumped into its design.

Brasserie Zédel occupies the space that was previously The Atlantic, right in the heart of Piccadilly Circus. With its Central London location, what is most surprising about Brasserie Zédel is its prices, which are exceptionally reasonable. The restaurant is housed in the basement, right next to the Bar Américain. There is also a café at the entrance to the restaurant on the ground floor.

Parfait de foie gras (£8.75) tasted predominantly of chicken liver. It was tasty if a little salty. The accompanying sauterne jelly was bland, and consequently this dish lacked for some acidity. Saumon mariné à l’aneth (£6.50), cured salmon with chives, was decent.

Parfait de foie gras

Parfait de foie gras

Salmon

Salmon

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Riding House Café

The Riding House Café may call itself a café, but let’s get one thing straight – the modern all-day brasserie is a restaurant in every sense of word. It’s been cleverly split into two with a bar area that houses a long wooden table for casual drop-in diners. The bar then leads into a main dining room with leather chairs and banquettes, sumptuous wood panelling and gorgeous low light pendants which have been brought together with a slightly retro feel. The Riding House Café is gorgeous, and it has to be one of the sexiest restaurants I have seen of late.

And then it has the kind of menu which makes you want to taste everything. There are lots of smallish plates for sharing, satisfying sounding salads and hearty rustic mains. Make no mistake; the clever people behind The Riding House Café took great pains in the design of this outfit. This is the kind of restaurant you want to come to eat at and slink around in.

With such great expectations, we decided on a number of small plates, starting with the chicken liver parfait (£5) with truffle butter, cornichons and served on crostini. The parfait was creamy and tasty, and this would have been a good dish had it not been for the over seasoning.

Chicken liver parfait

Chicken liver parfait

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The Refinery Bar

I loved the décor at The Refinery Bar with its elegant industrial take on urban dining. Its use of floor to ceiling glass windows has also helped to create an airy, light and gracious space, and its use of colour and texture added to its comfort. The Refinery Bar is a visually arresting restaurant. Situated on Southwark Street right behind the Tate Modern, it is well positioned to service museum goers.

The Refinery

The Refinery

The menu is varied with a selection of plates for sharing, nibbles, sandwiches, burgers, mains and steaks. There is also a large selection of cocktails to choose from, including a variety of Bloody Mary type cocktails. I went for the Crystal Mary martini (£7.95) which was so fiery from the Tabasco that I found it too harsh on my palate. But this was made good with an excellent Russian rose martini (£6.95). The drink was well balanced and smooth which helped it go down a treat. Also impressive was the large selection of wines on the drinks menu that you could order by the glass and in varying measures.

Crystal Mary martini

Crystal Mary martini

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10 Greek Street

In a location where competition amongst restaurants is fierce, the people behind 10 Greek Street (previously from the Wapping Project) have bravely decided to launch their Soho restaurant with a pared-down approach. Far from being overtly chic or stylised, the restaurant’s laid back stance means that there are no table cloths, that bistro menu is listed on the blackboards, and diners are required to pick up their own cutlery from each of the cutlery holders stationed on the tables. But the casual look of the restaurant feels perfectly nice. Its philosophy seems to be that it should be more about the food, a philosophy which I like.

We started with a soup of sweet potato, farrow, wild garlic and pecorino (£5). I had expected a strong aromatic flavour coming through from the garlic, but what we got instead was something rather bland, healthy tasting, but bland.

Soup

Soup

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Bistro du Vin – Soho

Note: This restaurant has now closed.

Bistro du Vin Soho is the second in the Bistro du Vin chain of restaurants, the first being in Clerkenwell. Situated in the ‘Mecca’ of Soho, Dean St, it has as its neighbours Dean St Townhouse and Quo Vadis (which coincidentally has installed a new chef since I last went). A French Bistro, its menu is simplistic in its approach but reasonably appealing.

The décor suits its French Bistro status and its location well. The restaurant has a rustic and stylish appeal with cream coloured wooden panels and lots of comfy leather booth seating.

An ox tongue, beetroot and walnut salad (£6.50) with a ravigota vinaigrette containing capers, shallots, parsley and gherkins was lovely. The ox tongue was well cooked and tender, the walnuts gave the salad crunch, and there was a nice balance of acidity and sweetness coming through from the dressing.

Ox tongue, beetroot & walnut salad

Ox tongue, beetroot & walnut salad

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