Mews of Mayfair

There are a string of notable eateries on Lancashire Court, a darling little stretch off Bond Street right in the heart of Mayfair. There is Rocket, which serves decent and affordable Italian, namely pizzas; Hush, which is owned by Roger Moore’s son, Geoffrey Moore; and Mews of Mayfair, a unique bar (ground floor), restaurant (first floor) and lounge/club (basement) experience that stretches over three floors. The restaurant has recently undergone a refurbishment. Where it was once all shiny, white and a little harsh looking, it is now bathed in softer tones and exudes a warmth that is both charming and stylish. I liked the makeover – the new look makes it the kind of restaurant that you could easily settle into for a classy night out.

And enjoy we did. A smoked haddock scotch egg (£4.50) was remarkably good. Although not particularly smoky, the haddock was flavoursome and moist, and the egg, showed off a shiny golden yolk that had been perfectly cooked to a runny yumminess. I would have happily eaten more.

Smoked haddock scotch egg

Smoked haddock scotch egg

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Donostia

There are some incredible Spanish tapas restaurants in London at the moment. The ones that immediately spring to mind are José, Pizarro and Barrafina all of which are fabulous in their own way. The latest tapas restaurant to burst onto the London scene is Donostia, named after the Basque word for the Spanish foodie mecca that we all know and love as San Sebastian. Head chef is Tomasz Baranski who use to run Barrafina and Fino, both of which are owned by the hugely successful restaurateur brothers Sam and Eddie Hart.

Situated on trendy Seymour Place, just down the road from Vinoteca, Donostia has a canteen look to it, albeit a very stylish one. Dark wood floors provide a contrast to the restaurant’s long, sleek and white interior. Donostia rings with a comfortable and contemporary casualness.

The menu is designed for sharing of course, and there is a range of pintxos (smaller plates) plus larger ones that cover a range of meat, fish and veg. First up were the tempura prawns (£4.20) with Bayonne ham and mango. The prawns were well cooked and firm, but was let down by the fact that it was very, very salty. The batter was neither flaky nor airy in the way that proper tempura batter ought to be, but was quite crispy nevertheless. The ham and the mango was a nice contrast for the prawns.

Prawn tempura

Prawn tempura

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Hakkasan – The Lunch Menu

I used to love the food at Hakkasan, not to mention their specialty cocktail, the Hakka, so much so that I use to be a semi-regular at the restaurant. Founded by Alan Yau who fused sexy interior design with high-end Chinese food, he created something iconic on the London dining scene. Alan Yau sold his majority share of Hakkasan to an Abu-Dhabi based company in 2008, and since then branches of Hakkasan have sprung up all over the shop with one in Mayfair, four in the US, two in the Middle East and one in Mumbai.

It was difficult to believe that standards would stay the same with the change in management even though it has still managed to hold onto its star. I haven’t been back to Hakkasan since the sale, and to test the waters, we decided to try their three-course set lunch menu (£29). The first course of dim sum platter contained a beef ball, a steamed scallop dumpling, a char sui sou (pork with flaky pastry) and a deep-fried pork ball.

Dim sum platter

Dim sum platter

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The Grill Restaurant – Montcalm Hotel

The Grill

The Grill

The Grill Restaurant at the five-star Montcalm Hotel has a fabulous location on Great Cumberland Street right near Oxford Street. The restaurant was refurbished and reopened last October and exudes a relaxed and modern style. The Grill makes a strong point of using British sourced ingredients, and all the farms which service the restaurant with produce are part of the RSPCA Freedom Food Programme.

A fish soup (£11) had a nice seafood essence but could have done with further reduction for a greater concentration of flavour. It came with saffron potatoes, some nicely grilled prawns and grilled sour dough croutes.

Fish soup

Fish soup

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Cinnamon Soho – Sunday Lunch

Cinnamon Soho is the latest restaurant from chef Vivek Singh, the man behind the much-loved one star Michelin restaurant Cinnamon Club and its sister Cinnamon Kitchen. In contrast to the chic elegance of Cinnamon Club which caters more to politician types from its location in The Great Westminster Library, Cinnamon Soho exudes a more urban feel to it from its home in the trendy Carnaby Street area.

Cinnamon Soho has a good value Sunday brunch/lunch menu where £25 will get you a three-course menu with a side dish. The evening a la carte prices also seemed reasonable with starters at about the £6 mark and mains ranging in price from £11 to £17.

We kicked of our lunch nicely with a sweet lassi smoothie (£4) which was wonderful – icy cold, creamy and not too sweet, this was one of the nicest lassis I have ever tried.

Stir-fried shrimp with curry leaf and black pepper was exceptional with the prawns being well cooked, firm and juicy. The spices used included cardamom, fennel, turmeric and cumin, and the way in which they had been combined was incredibly well done to not only give the dish heat but also elegance.

Stir fried shrimp

Stir fried shrimp

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The Wright Brothers – Soho Oyster House

As its name suggests, The Wright Brothers Soho Oyster House is a seafood restaurant with a predominant emphasis on oysters. Located on Kingly Street in the Carnaby area, it is well located for the shopping pleasures of the independent boutiques and designer brand shops of this famous area. Carnaby also plays home to a string of other tasty restaurants such as Dehesa and Cinnamon Soho, and the boutique cake shop Choccywoccydoodah.

Wrights Brothers Soho Oyster House is arranged over three floors with a lovely inviting atmosphere. There is an open plan ‘raw bar’ on the ground floor that looks over Kingly Court, banquette seating upstairs and a communal dining area on the lower ground floor.

There is a decent range of oysters at The Wright Brothers, all of which are sourced from the Duchy Oyster Farm on the Helford River in Cornwall and other farms in the British Isles and France. Colchester oysters (3 for £6.50) were fat and intensely irony. In contrast, the Lindisfarne oysters from Northumberland (3 for £6) were milky and creamy. Wrights Brothers also offer a choice of oysters with toppings, one of which was caviar and crème fraiche (3 for £12). Using the Carlingford oysters from County Louth, Ireland, the combination of the topping with the creaminess of the Carlingfords proved a good match. All the oysters were delicious.

Oysters & prawns

Oysters & prawns

Oysters & caviar

Oysters & caviar

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La Portes Indes

La Portes Indes is an Indian restaurant with a difference. Opened in 1996, the food contains a Gallic twist and is inspired by the dishes of Pondicherry, an area in India that was formerly a French colony. Being a Franco-Indian restaurant it is possible to find dishes such as cassoulet de fruits de mer on the menu.

The restaurant occupies an incredibly grand space. Set over two floors, La Portes Indes has a look of the exotic to it, with a 40ft Mogul waterfall, a marble staircase and antique Indian artifacts.

The menu is plentiful with options. We started with a tandoori seared foie gras (£13.00) which was rich and unctuous. It was pleasantly sweetened by a fig and ginger chutney that matched the foie gras well.

Foie gras

Foie gras

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Atari-ya Sushi Bar Take Away, James St

I have always been a huge fan of Atari-ya Sushi Bar, especially the one on James Street for their ‘cheap and cheerful’ disposition. As far as hole-in-the-wall places go, this tops my list. Their sushi and sashimi is some of the best in London, and the fact that they supply Nobu and Zuma bears credence to this.

Time for a revisit, and I again lapped up the luscious salmon sashimi which is a very reasonable £1.80 for three pieces. (But I still remember back to about four years ago when Atari-ya use to charge ONLY £1 for three pieces!) The salmon nigiri (£1.40) was also fantastically fresh, as was the scallop nigiri (£1.40) which I adore eating with my favourite Japanese herb, shiso (which I always request) for its burst of aromatic flavour. The sea bass nigiri (£1.40) was also particularly satisfying with its lovely sweetness.

Salmon sashimi, various sushi and soft shell crab roll

Salmon sashimi, various sushi and soft shell crab roll

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