‘Great restaurants can’t thrive in Hampstead’: Ottolenghi reviewed

Ottolenghi is an Israeli deli co-owned by Yotam Ottolenghi, an Israeli Jew, and Sami Tamimi, a Palestinian Muslim. They met in Baker & Spice in London, where they bonded over the dream of persuading more British people to eat salad. This is an ideal story of co-existence (I have met a group of Israeli Jews and Arabs dieting for peace) and I thought the new Ottolenghi in Hampstead might be picketed by idiots shouting for peace but meaning war. (Martha Gellhorn was right about slogans. Never shout them: even ones you agree with.) It is fine in that I wish I were in the Middle East to eat the original

Dear Mary: how can I help pay for an expensive lunch without seeming rude?

Q. My husband and I (both in our eighties) recently visited a carpet shop with a view to replacing the stair carpet in our four-storey house. The salesman showed us various carpets and we discussed their relative merits. When I asked him how hard-wearing a particular carpet was, he looked at us carefully and said: ‘Well, it is not going to need to be very long-lasting is it?’ We were a bit surprised and will be taking our business elsewhere. But can you suggest how we might have been able to indicate to him politely that this particular form of words was unlikely to secure a sale? – R.H., Cheltenham

Tanya Gold

‘Vital but fraying’: Five Guys reviewed

Five Guys is a burger house from Arlington, Virginia, based on the premise that if you can serve a drink, cut a fringe, or make a hamburger, you will always make money in America. Thirty years and 1,700 restaurants later, it sits on Coventry Street off Piccadilly, soaking up the alcohol of a thousand British stomachs. If central London is a strip-lit bin alley between palaces, this is its restaurant: vital but fraying. I am here because I will not eat at McDonald’s, even when I am sad. I do not think my McDonald’s burger is all from the same cow, and this disturbs me: I can eat one cow happily,

‘Five stars, no notes’: Arlington reviewed

Arlington is named for the 1st Earl of Arlington and his street behind the Ritz Hotel. It used to be Le Caprice, which was opened in 1947 by the Italian Mario Gellati, who would not, by the new rules, get into Britain now, but this is not a column about pain. In 1981 Le Caprice was taken over by Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, and it became the most fashionable restaurant in London. Princess Diana dined here and when Jeffrey Archer was released from prison, he ate here. None ofthese dishes could be improved. Five stars, no notes After an interregnum from Richard Caring, under which Le Caprice closed in 2020

‘Can’t help but exude warmth’: Paper Moon at the OWO, reviewed

Paper Moon is the Italian restaurant inside the Old War Office on Whitehall, now a hotel called Raffles London at the OWO. It has nine restaurants and bars, because it is a Disneyland for the 1 per cent in the fraying centre of the British state, which is enraging and hilarious. I reviewed Saison in November and found it as chilly and finessed as the British state pre-crisis. OWO reminds me of a theme park I visited in Georgia, Russia, two decades ago in winter. It was a fine endeavour but pointless, the happy children had fled. You can’t have a grand hotel inside a post-Imperial bin fire. It makes

‘The interiors are happily insane’: Dear Jackie, reviewed

Dear Jackie is the restaurant in the new hotel Broadwick Soho on Broadwick Street in Soho, which is most famous, if you are an infectious diseases nerd, for being the site of the 1854 cholera outbreak and its cure. Dr John Snow isolated it to the street’s water pump, noted local brewers were immune, and proved cholera is not airborne. When children stopped dying, Soho eased into its time of moral rot. This is as spirited an attempt to re­animate the 1970s as I have found beyond musical theatre This is a changeable thing. Drama fled Soho in the 1970s, and Broadwick Soho is an attempt to put it back.

‘As good as you will find in London’: Noble Rot Mayfair, reviewed

Noble Rot, which is named for a sickness that afflicts grapes, a self-aware name for a restaurant in London, is becoming a chain. Don’t get me wrong. The Rots in Lamb’s Conduit Street and Greek Street (which replaced the Gay Hussar that died in sympathy with the intelligent left) are two of the best restaurants we have. My only complaint is that, like the Plastics in Mean Girls, they know how lovely they are and have their own promotional magazine. This food has a loving intensity to it, and it is as good as you will find in London Now they have expanded into Mayfair – but the least horrifying part,

Stephen Graham drives this terrific, relentless, one-take film: Boiling Point reviewed

Boiling Point is a single-take drama set during a busy service at a London restaurant and it has to be the most stressful film of the year. I realise it’s early days, but if a more stressful film comes along I would be most surprised. If this film were a recipe, the first instruction would read: ‘Nerves, shred.’ Followed by: ‘Put in pressure cooker and whack the temperature up.’ It is brilliantly executed but also one of those films you can find compelling and engrossing while praying for it to be over. It stars Stephen Graham, that little powerhouse of a fella, who now serves as a kitemark, surely. (Has

My wig faux pas

I listed for Catriona the reasons why I did not want to go out to dinner that evening at the posh new restaurant in the village. The Hammers were on telly that evening and we had a fire lit. Plus, I was only just back from the hospital at Marseille where another half pint of turps was tipped into the tube in my neck, which would easily do for my supper. Also I wanted to lie down. Also that day the Omicron variant, in its speed and spread across France, was doing a fair impression of Rommel. Why should I with my double-asterisked low white blood cell count take an

Dear Mary: Can I still socialise with my virus-denying friends?

Q. An old friend offered to treat me to a birthday lunch, provided I choose and book the restaurant myself. (He has always hated admin.) On booking, the restaurant asked me for a £50 deposit — this to deter no-shows — and I was told this would be refundable on our arrival. When the bill was presented my friend characteristically just handed over his card without even glancing at it. The next day, on noting that my deposit had not been refunded, I rang up this agreeable local restaurant. It turned out there had been a misunderstanding. They had not refunded my account but had instead reduced my friend’s bill

Is my phobia of upmarket restaurants misplaced?

Scotching my bright idea of a stiff gin for Dutch courage in the bar across the road, Catriona bounded straight for the door of the Colombe d’Or. My restaurant phobia was fast upon me and I followed her into the bourgeois holy of holies more slowly than a nudist climbing through a barbed wire fence. We were half an hour early and directed to the bar. Here my plea for strong spirits was again denied and I had to make do with champagne. Speechless with ecstasy — this was her birthday treat — Catriona toddled off with her flute to cast her eye over the Miros, Matisses and Chagalls in