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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Bocca di Lupo – Visit # 2

I was lukewarm on Bocca di Lupo when I first ate at this glamorous looking Italian (to read about my previous visit click here). The food was good but it wasn’t as good as the hype. Despite this, the restaurant’s reputation remains strong, and the fact that it continues to be a destination spot for many Londoners and celebs such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Cameron Diaz does not escape me.

So it was time for a revisit. The restaurant is far more gorgeous than I remembered from last time. The décor is stylish yet warm, and even though we were perched at the end of the bar, there was no escaping the fantastic chandelier than hangs over the main dining room.

We started with crescentine (fried flatbread from Bologna) with fennel salami and squacquerone cheese (small – £7) which was scrumptious. The crescentine was crispy on the outside and fluffy and light on the inside. The delicious texture of the bread worked well with the creaminess of the cheese and the meatiness of the thinly sliced salami.

Crescentine with fennel salami

Crescentine with fennel salami

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Copita

Copita Restaurant takes over from the site that was once Bar Chocolate on D’arblay Street. This is another tapas offering to hit London with a no reservations policy, but luckily we had no problems securing a spot for two on a Friday night. The vibe is chilled, relaxed and very Soho.

We kicked off with ajo blanco and beetroot (£3.95) which was lovely. A creamy dish, the sweetness of the beetroot pieces provided a lovely contrast to the runny garlic sauce.

Ajo blanco and beetroot

Ajo blanco and beetroot

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Ducksoup

Ducksoup has to be the most interesting restaurant name to hit London in recent times, at least I think so anyway. Brought to us by a team of people who previously worked at the Hix chain of restaurants (chef Julian Biggs, Clare Lattin and Rory McCoy), it adopts a similar formula to the one tried and proven in the Russell Norman empire (Polpo, Polpetto, Spuntino, da Polpo) of great location (Dean Street), no bookings except at lunch (very annoying), and reasonably priced food (always appreciated).

But Ducksoup’s approach is slightly more no-frills, so much so that paper napkins come from paper napkin dispensers. The décor is also simpler. It’s comfy, but cool like Spuntino it is not.

There are a number of bar food options, mostly at £3.50, which is great value for this part of town. From the daily changing hand written menu (dotted with a few spelling mistakes) we went for the bar choice of bitter greens with gorgonzola. This was really impressive with the greens being fresh, crispy and nicely dressed. The gorgonzola was creamy, rich and served at the correct room temperature.

Bitter greens

Bitter greens

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Spuntino

Spuntino, another ‘tapas’ style small eats restaurant (gosh they are popping up everywhere in London), is the third offering by Russell Norman and Richard Beatty, the people behind the ever-so-popular ‘tapas’ small eat places Polpo and Polpetto. Venture number three has every reason to be as successful as its predecessors. This place, with its New York East Village speakeasy feel simply oozes cool. Its distress-tiled walls, low dangling lights and bar stool seating give it a raw, grungy feel. The frontage is non-descript as well with the restaurant’s name display being barely discernible. From the décor to the staff, this place is so cool it does not take reservations, have a phone number or a menu on their website.

As the restaurant doesn’t take reservations, one needs to queue. The layout is similar to Barrafina in the sense that you line up alongside the wall, during which time you can order snacks and drinks.

Our meal kicked off with some complimentary spicy popcorn made with chili. These were fantastic if a little greasy.

Spicy popcorn

Spicy popcorn

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Nopi

Nopi is the latest venture by wonderchef Yotam Ottolenghi of Ottolenghi fame. His Mediterranean/Middle Eastern/Asian inspired food is divine, and his deft handling and matching of wonderfully fresh produce makes even the simplest ingredients seem sexy. And gosh, can Ottolenghi bake. The delectable selection of baked goods on display in his stores is utterly irresistible, and I can NEVER ever resist tucking into one.

After having eaten at Ottolenghi, I was certain that Nopi would be every bit as good. Nopi, with its two storeys, is much bigger than his only other eat-in restaurant, Ottolenghi in Islington. The basement space advocates a shared seating arrangement (a common Ottolenghi theme), and is extremely inviting with its display of dry goods set amongst a white tile backdrop and a view of the kitchen – its almost as if you’re eating in someone’s home. By contrast, the main restaurant area upstairs is more rustic with its wooden décor. The basement toilets are an eyesore however with its mirrored walls.

As at Ottolenghi, the menu at Nopi is designed for sharing and the restaurant suggests that diners choose 3 dishes per person. A dish of seared scallops (£12) was simply beautiful – wonderfully browned and moist in the middle. It was served with pickled daikon and green apple, and the contrast between the sweet and sour was a winning formula.

Seared scallops with daikon & apple

Seared scallops with daikon & apple

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El Cantara

El Cantara is a newly opened Spanish and Moroccan restaurant on Frith Street. Much care was taken in decorating the restaurant. Moroccan interior designer Nadine Rovass spent months trawling through the markets of Southern Spain and Morocco searching for unique pieces that would bring the Spanish and Moroccan theme together. To this effect, you will see the nicest of finishings in the restaurant including hand-painted floor and wall tiles, beautifully hand-stitched cushions and pillows, Moroccan lanterns and hand-engraved brass tables. The bathroom in the basement is special too, and houses the finest organic Moroccan hand soap. There’s also a terrace on the first floor with lounge seats where you can sit comfortably, smoke shisha and simply chill. On Fridays and Saturdays, there are also belly and Flamenco dancers available for your entertainment pleasure.

I went to a bloggers dinner at El Cantara a couple of weeks ago as a guest of the restaurant. The menu is divided roughly into tapas to share, tangines, seafood dishes, cous cous, paellas and grills. We started with a number of tapas dishes, including gambas al ajillo (£5.45) which was crunchy and firm, although they could have done with a touch more garlic.

Gambas al ajillo

Gambas al ajillo

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