Official iStarvin Restaurant Reviews

Latest reviews by resident London restaurant critic Oliver Thring

Terroirs

Terroirs
Modern European - Westminster

27th April, 2010

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A new basement section recently doubled the size of this terrific modern European wine-bar-cum-bistro just off Trafalgar Square. Ed Wilson's food is francophilic and accessible: gorgeous bone marrow with mushroom duxelle and truffle oil on sourdough toast; chicken roasted with 40 cloves of garlic; duck breast and beetroot salad with hazelnuts. It's invariably stunning-looking food, and though the flavours occasionally don't deliver, it's easy to have a good meal without feeling ripped off. Plonk plays a predictably major role, particularly lived-in, biodynamic stuff; there are more than 200 bins and plenty by the glass and carafe. The lunch deal is a main course and a decent swill of vino for just a tenner, and shouldn't be missed.

Kitchen W8

Kitchen W8
Modern British - Kensington

22nd April, 2010

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Phil "The Square" Howard's Kensington venture wooed just about every critic in London when it opened, and it's easy enough to see why. All the food at W8 is homely, considerately made, efficiently served and smartly familiar. It's a shame, then, that the dining room is a lugubrious beige-and-cream monstrosity, and that the punters should uniformly be lunching-ladies and doddery old chaps – but just look at your plate. You could have an oxtail soup with bone marrow soldiers, then follow it with a fillet of red bream in a bacon and mussel chowder. The set lunch could involve a duck ravioli with trompettes de mort followed by steak with pommes salardaise. We should mention that the green salad (off-menu) is also brilliant. In the pricing, the restaurant exposes itself as being a long way from a true 'neighbourhood' joint (main courses are all around the £20 mark), but the set lunch is just £19.50, and a very good way of experiencing this fine restaurant.

Mooli's

Mooli's
Indian - Soho

20th April, 2010

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A rare gap in the market smartly spotted by two Indian ex-City boys, Mooli's offers speedy Indian street food to lunchtime scoffers and pissed-up clubbers (they're open past chucking-out time). Wraps are fresh, cheaper than the average burrito and not much more expensive than Pret: the 'Goan pork' version is jewelled with pomegranate seeds, the paneer model comes smeared and swollen with a lovely tomato chutney. There's also dahls, some beers (including Kingfisher and, less obviously, Negra Modelo), and the space is bright and pleasant. You wouldn't linger, it's not the most imaginative food, and the menu isn't going to win many awards for presentation – but it's quick, clean, fresh and fun, and it'll do very well.

Byron Hamburgers

Byron Hamburgers
Burgers - Kensington and Chelsea

15th April, 2010

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Probably the best burger chain in London, always in the same uncozy setting: hard angles, glass and white tiles. The newest branch at ex-goth pub The Intrepid Fox has some exposed brick, but looks much the same as the others. The food is always adept and generous: gloriously juicy, firm burgers and fries of crisp, golden sizzle. There are thoughtful touches like the frozen beer glasses for the Brooklyn Lager, and pickled cucumbers on the side. The signature Byron Burger comes with dry-cured bacon, a flap of cheddar and 'Byron sauce' - essentially tarted-up Thousand Island dressing. They serve wicked onion rings and slimy deep-fried courgettes, and you can finish with a textbook Knickerbocker Glory – but don't let any of these distract you from the central beefy event. In all, it's glorious stuff.

The Restaurant at St Paul's

The Restaurant at St Paul's
British - City

15th April, 2010

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A welcome addition to Wren's great cathedral, and as British as Monty Python, the surprisingly airy crypt serves a robust and unabashed English menu. Sourcing is religiously (haha) local: 'Britain in a glass' is sparkling English wine with rhubarb and apple juice; the salmon is smoked at Chalk Farm; and the honey comes from Regent's Park bees. Menus change about once a month. It's simple but dextrous cooking: chicken liver on toast; home-made faggots with mash and peas; sides include a 'forgotten vegetable' - though it's debatable how many customers will need reminding of the existence of runner beans or curly kale. Puddings, predictably, are exemplary: the standard nannyish stuff of fruits, custards, pies and puddings. Overall, it's far better than you'd expect in such a tourist trap, and could do much to dispel lingering continental stereotypes of English food.

Byron Hamburgers

Byron Hamburgers
Burgers - Soho

15th April, 2010

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Probably the best burger chain in London, always in the same uncozy setting: hard angles, glass and white tiles. The newest branch at ex-goth pub The Intrepid Fox has some exposed brick, but looks much the same as the others. The food is always adept and generous: gloriously juicy, firm burgers and fries of crisp, golden sizzle. There are thoughtful touches like the frozen beer glasses for the Brooklyn Lager, and pickled cucumbers on the side. The signature Byron Burger comes with dry-cured bacon, a flap of cheddar and 'Byron sauce' - essentially tarted-up Thousand Island dressing. They serve wicked onion rings and slimy deep-fried courgettes, and you can finish with a textbook Knickerbocker Glory – but don't let any of these distract you from the central beefy event. In all, it's glorious stuff.

Petrus

Petrus
French - Kensington and Chelsea

14th April, 2010

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Gordon Ramsay reopened Petrus in March 2010 after a much-covered spat with his former buddy Marcus Wareing. The new room, on a quietly plush Belgravian backstreet, is a little chilly and soulless – customers sit around a gigantic tower of wine bottles, which of course is the restaurant's central focus. Perhaps the biggest star here is the maitre d', Jean-Philippe Susilovic, perhaps the best of his kind in London. When we went, the set lunch was just £25: exceptional value for a restaurant at this level. Rabbit and foie gras terrine was smooth and luscious, with a pleasantly acidic crunch from a carrot chutney, lifted by a green salad flecked with hazelnuts. The signature pudding is a sphere of chocolate with honeycomb and milk ice cream: in a pleasant enough trick, they melt the chocolate tableside to reveal a scoop of ice cream within. But it's fair to say the food lacks punch: everything is a little dainty, delicate, prissy and restrained. This isn't somewhere you'd necessarily ache to return to: there are other restaurants in London doing the stiff-food-on-starched-linen stuff a whole lot better.

Dean Street Townhouse

Dean Street Townhouse
Modern British - Soho

22nd March, 2010

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This venture from Nick Jones of Soho House and The Ivy's Richard Caring packs in the A-listers; tables are in huge demand on Saturday nights, and don't expect to hold one for more than a couple of hours. The food is classic, comforting, Ivy-clad stuff: crab mayonnaise; smoked haddock soufflé; fish and chips; puddings like trifle, rice pudding and so on. The signature is famously mince and potatoes (£10.50): an ungarnished heap of (basically) bolognese sauce with a few potatoes steaming on the side. A tasty enough dish, but hardly worth the journey. But the atmosphere is genuinely terrific, and worth paying for; a lovely, well-stocked wooden bar; walls decorated with gloomily monochrome art; and a wine list with plenty under £20. Staff have just a touch of snootiness towards ordinary mortals, but don't let it bother you. It's open for breakfast and afternoon tea, too, and would be a nice place for a solitary full English with the morning papers.

Polpo

Polpo
Italian - Soho

26th February, 2010

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A stunning Venetian-style bacaro stitched to a sliver of Soho, Polpo feels like it's been around for ever. It actually opened in late 2009, to near-universal – and, in our view, wholly justified – acclaim. The restaurant's tapas-style small plates are bang on trend, and pricing is exceptionally, jaw-droppingly keen. Arancini are gorgeously unclaggy risotto balls nestling strings of beautifully melted cheese; pizzatta bianca is moreishly topped with onion and bubbling top-drawer mozzarella, while pork belly with radicchio and hazelnuts is a masterclass in contrasting flavours – bitter leaves tempered by the soothe of nuts, the tender wobbly pig bringing oomph and oink. There are tons of wines by the carafe and glass, as you'd expect, and house red is only £15. This is, for us, one of the best recent openings in London. There's no booking in the evenings, though, so queues can be worthy of Alton Towers: ring up a week or so in advance to bag a lunch table.

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Oliver Thring
Oliver Thring, our resident London restaurant critic writes weekly, his reviews of popular London restaurants.

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