I'm mrfrisky from London. I've been Qyping since 01-09-2008
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Platform 11 Paddington Station, London W2 1HA
Certainly more appealing than its former guise - it earns its "craft beer" claim by having a decent range of interesting bottled beers and the times I've been in they even had 2 Brew Dog beers on keg (among the usual selection of usual suspects).
It's hardly The Euston Tap, but it's pleasant enough - I was amused that you can use a Bite card to get 20% discount, which is certainly unusual at any pub/bar.
They have a selection of pub-type food (the main thing that leaps to mind is pork pies), and while not having the "make this look like a traditional boozer" feel to it that the Fullers pub upstairs has, it's definitely not a terrible place now to sit & sip whilst waiting for something (a train, presumably). I doubt they'll get many bookings for work Christmas parties, but hey - in the scheme of things as far as in-station boozers go, it ain't bad.
Frome Street 94, 5000 Adelaide
The overwhelming key topic here is fresh, quality ingredients - and you see it right from the moment you walk in the door. It could so easily be cheesy if they were displaying papier maché ham legs and plastic fruit, but Andre wants you to see the freshness of what they're doing right from the minute you walk in.
The menu's a changeable affair to keep it interesting for all, but the night we were in the carpaccio we had was utterly irresistable, and we shared about 4 different polenta-based dishes and discovered just how versatile it can be. We never wanted to leave, and after a couple of decent bottles of red found ourselves being coaxed into a coffee, and then selecting from the range of Italian digestifs... some more idiosyncratic than others (artichoke liqueur is an acquired taste).
Friendly service, great vibe, immaculate food - not cheap, but then what is these days?
66 TRAFALGAR SQUARE, LONDON, London WC2N 5DS
22-12-2011 (updated on 14-02-2013)
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Edit: Feb 2013
This place has really gone downhill in the last couple of years. Today a friend and I went in for lunch and booked a table based on their “Steak, chips & glass of wine for £10” offer. I was running late but my colleague was offered a squishy table so luckily he chose to wait for me.
When we were seated & given menus, we said we wanted the steak offer. The waitress took the menus away and shortly later the manager came up and said that they’d had a busy lunch and had sold out of the steak offer. I asked what from the menu we could have for £10 instead, and she said the offer was only for the steak. I asked her how I was able to book in for an offer and arrive to find it not available, and she expressed surprise, asking “When dd you book?” (even though she’d crossed off the booking as we arrived).
We were left sitting for a while, and nobody had asked how we wanted our steak done, so I beckoned her over and said that we hadn’t had our order taken. 5 minutes later our steak arrived. The waitress came back partway through our lunch and asked if everything was ok and did we need anything else, and I enquired if the 2 glasses of red wine that had been sitting on the bar for 20 minutes now were ours. She rolled her eyes, and fetched them over for us… not sure who she was eye-rolling at, as she was our waitress.
The quality of the steak & the wine was certainly not an issue, but there’s no way these guys are winning any awards for service.
Antler-bedecked Trafalgar Square bar & restaurant Albannach is unquestionably home to one of London’s finest selections of whisky. The food’s great, and due to its central location it makes a perfect place to meet friends for a classy drink & a chat, or to grab some dinner if the occasion’s a little on the “special” side.
The menu tends towards Scottish influenced cuisine, but the whole arrangement steers clear of putting on red wigs & tam-o-shanters & jamming bagpipe music in your ears.
People have described the service experience as variable, although personally I couldn’t fault it. If you’re a whisky enthusiast or a complete newcomer to the drink & want to try some whiskies to see what all the fuss is about, Albannach’s an excellent place to be.
Micklegate, York, North Yorkshire YO1 6JG
You certainly wouldn't stay here under any other circumstances. Although, in its defence, the shower worked.
There's not a great deal to say - the room was a basic rectangular affair, with 2 utilitarian coat hanging nubs protruding from the wall. The end of the room featured a floor length curtain, suggesting perhaps a full-length window or maybe a small stage? Bewilderingly, about 1/6th of the curtained off section contained a window, and the rest would be useful for snowboard storage, or, like, errm, something.
The breakfast was the famously bleak Travelodge breakfast experience - the perfect start to help you appreciate the rest of your day more.
Without intending to sound like complaining - the bed was possibly modelled on early York monastic fashions, when monks used to sleep 2 to a bed and it was imperative for one to stay awake at all times: whenever one bed occupant moves it's impossible for the other to remain asleep. Equally, the hotel have gone for authentic period pillows - small cotton pucks resembling perhaps a Juicy Fruit, which you need 3 of in order to avoid permanent neck damage. Sadly, you're only issued two, so it's vital to procure extras from the front desk before they run out. Helpfully, the desk clerk offered us extra towels to roll up and sleep on in lieu.
Still - 2 stars, because it was better than the place we stayed last time.
30-33 Minories, London EC3N 1DD
(I'm reviewing this place purely on the strength of its burritos, by the way - couldn't comment on the rest of what's available, although the chicken looked nice from what we could see)
Fans of convenience and thrift will probably enjoy Padron if they work in the neighbouring area, but it's not somewhere that I'd seek out, as its burritos didn't make a lasting impression. A great sign was that rather than the usual 3 or 4 filling options, Padron offers about 8 different possibilities: the chicken & chorizo option was a breath of flavoursome fresh air. The rice they used was nicely cooked, without being crunchy or sloppy. Our table service was speedy enough, without being friendly or memorable - but definitely not bad at all. And quite keenly priced, it has to be said.
Things you might not like if you're a burrito enthusiast: it was a very sloppy burrito. Whether that's a property of the sour cream they use or some aspect of the sauce, I'm not sure. They use orange cheese which is a little on the flavourless side. And the biggie - you only pick the filling and the hotness of salsa you want. Maybe it's a stupid expectation, but established burrito protocol is that you're given a choice of options, rather than saddled with chopped iceberg, diced tomato, and lashings of sour cream.
Like I said - nowhere near the worst burrito in the world (Mexicali in Soho still holds that lofty title), but certainly makes it worth the walk down to Tortilla in Leadenhall Market.
Probably the most upsetting thing though is that the window writing enticing people in is in Comic Sans MS typeface. There's just no call for that sort of thing.
90 Lambs Conduit Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 3LZ
The piano player was over on one side of the room, standing behind his upright piano (no room for anything else in here!), and making his way between lounge standards and old songs that everyone knows - though you could scarcely hear him over the din.
I wouldn't give this place any awards for the food, that's for sure. But you get the feeling it's more designed as the Cheap & Cheerful student haunt or casual meal spot - and who complains about a starter being a plate of microscopic previously frozen prawns in sauce when it's only cost you £6.50, and you've got access to bottles of house red wine for £13.50. In Bloomsbury!
Spaghetti Carbonara is a bit like the Sweet & Sour Pork equivalent of Chinese food - it's probably not particularly authentic or subtle, but you can get it almost everywhere, and I really like it: so that's my Italian yardstick. And on this occasion it was... different. Not bad at all, but certainly not what I was expecting. But again - for £8, and accompanied by wine, good vibe, and excellent conversation, I'd go back in & have it tomorrow!
The piano player belts out a chorus of Old MacDonald's Farm from the piano, totally unnoticed by anyone. We applaud at the end: he looks up with surprise that anyone's paid any attention and smiles at us, where many others in the room stop talking to see what the fuss was about, and several suddenly realise there's a piano there. The restaurant was full when we arrived, and people are still arriving as we leave.
How have I not heard of this place before?
28 Leadenhall Market, London EC3V 1LR
To start with, the whole setup was a little incongruous (a bit like looking at Egyptian artefacts in The Louvre): semi-authentic Mexican food in a 19th Century British building.
But I suppose what's important is the actual burritos, right?
Generous portions and a good tight tortilla wrap made this seem initially promising. The touch of having tomato-flavoured rice was a good one, and helped ensure that the first mouthful of burrito was tasty. In terms of actual menu offerings - the fare at Tortilla is in line with the usual range most places have; chicken, steak, pork, and vegetarian.
Unfortunately the chicken I had was fairly dry & stringy - they'd opted for shredded chicken, which is harder to keep moist than grilled chunks. I wasn't watching the sauce distribution at the time, but it turned out that all of my spicy sauce ended up down one end of the burrito, meaning that I finished by chowing into a hot salty pocket. And nobody wants that as a finishing gambit.
Tortilla's not bad - just a little more attention to detail, and it could have been actively good. Still, it's the best thing in the area I've found so far.
Sheene Road, Bristol BS3 4EG
It's been so long since I've been to one - I'd forgotten the level of artistry that the place embodies. The photographs of the food on the menus match the presented product only under the most exact lighting conditions and camera angles, and one can only wonder what the minimum concentration of actual potato particles are legally required in order to sell fries.
The beauty of a trip to McDonald's is no only with the food-based entertainment though - it's their unique take on what constitutes customer service. Having been delivered a Chicken Legend with bacon & salsa with no bacon in it I returned it to the counter and informed them of the mistake. The youth in charge snatched the sandwich away from the server and opened it up in front of me, flipping through the layers with his fingers like a rolodex, and then having established that I wasn't causing trouble, sent the sandwich out the back and ensured me that I'd get one with bacon. It wasn't abundantly clear to me whether I'd been issued with a new sandwich, or had bacon inserted in the one the chap had fingered his way through. Optimistically, I convinced myself it was the former as the limp squares of iceberg looked as if they were arranged differently to the one I'd previously inspected. The customer is always wrong, I imagine. To their credit, the server did apologise to me, and assured me that the crew there had been working very hard all day - serving not only the neverending queue of people at the till, but also the ceaseless stream of people demanding to have food delivered through their car windows outside. No wonder the manager was so grumpy, poor thing. It was probably getting on toward time for his nap.
I also enjoyed the spectacle of two barely-literate people trying to communicate in different thick regional accents (and failing), and resorting to a series of grunting and pointing at the pictures above the counter - so not just a promotional concern, but also a vital tool for understanding.
One couldn't complain about the view from the front window - it's a great place to watch the world go by. I couldn't quite get a handle on what music was playing to the dine-in customers, as a near constant array of beeps and sirens emanated from the kitchen: at one point leading us to wonder whether the restaurant was being attacked buy spacecraft and had had its defensive forceshields knocked out.
An absolutely unforgettable meal.
5 Lloyds Avenue, London EC3N 3AE
It's brilliant - you conceive a chain of places that sell bland staple topped with overly-flavoured toppings, then rub a bit of health-based marketing on it to make it seem more worthy and take your mind off the fact that it's expensive middle-of-the-road slurry.
For example, in the 3 visits I've made to this place I've tried their breakfast quinoa mango pot thing (which is essentially an underdelivering posh rice pudding), superfood yogurt pot (unpleasant yogurt topped with a bunch of stuff you'd never put near yogurt in a million years), and red chicken curry (box of rice topped with vivdly coloured and very strongly flavoured shredded chicken sauce, cosied up to by some beans or vegetables or some such nonsense).
The common theme in everything I've seen come out of the building is that it's not so much "food", as "nutrition packs" - like you might feed to an astronaut, or prisoner.
But the glorious thing is they don't even try to pretend that it's anything other than nutrient paste - the place is called Pod!
Seriously though - Pod consistently over-promises and under-delivers, and tries to bamboozle you into eating there on the premise that it's somehow healthy, but doesn't go to the trouble of being enjoyable and certainly gives being cheap a wide berth.
Their coffee's among the worst chain coffee I've ever tried (worse even than Costa) and makes one wonder whether they've only provided it as a cynical money-making add-on because they know that office workers will grab a coffee out of habit/convention without putting too much thought into what's in their cups.
24 Liverpool Street, London EC2M 7PD
I ordered the standard benchmark grilled chicken burrito (brown rice, black beans), added some smoky salsa and watched with hope as the girl executed a great wrapping technique - firm but not over tight, and oriented the correct way so that you don't get all the meat up one end. It seemed odd that they didn't have any paper or plastic bags, so in a bin-depleted environment like The City you're snookered into walking around with a potentially messy food and no way of catching the bits. Odd.
As I turned to enjoy my ambulatory Mexican morsel I spied on their menu that they had 3 "bbq" style meats as well as the more standard fare: the lady was more than happy to give me a sample fork of the brisket, which was nice of her.
My conclusion is therefore that though Freebird have good will in abundance, sadly their burrito just isn't up to it. The brisket tasted like it was low-grade meat masqueraded in an overly sweet sauce. And, sadly, the grilled chicken tasted a lot like something I'd expect to be on top of a bowl of spaghetti. Not "bad" per se, but not really appropriate.
Bear in mind that I'm comparing this to the burritos I'm more used to - the likes of Benito's Hat, Chipotle, Daddy Donkey, et al. They may actually not be objectively "bad", but they're not what I'm looking for.
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