Echoes of John Lewis: Piazza at Royal Opera House reviewed

The Piazza is not a piazza – a realisation which is always irritating – but a restaurant in the eaves of the Royal Opera House, now restyled and open to those without tickets to the opera or ballet. If it were honest, Piazza would name itself Attic or Eaves, but the Garden, as idiotscall it, has long been a slave to delusions of the most boring kind. (It is no longer a garden in the wreckage of Inigo Jones’s square. I wish it were.) I would be happy to dine in a restaurant called Eaves – my favourite hotel is a hole in a wall by the Jaffa Gate in

If Blairism were a carvery: the Impeccable Pig reviewed

Labour is 30 points ahead, and in honour of this I review the Impeccable Pig in Sedgefield (Cedd’s field), a medieval market town and pit village south of Durham. It is Tony Blair’s former constituency and Camelot, but nothing lasts for ever. Blairism had pleasingly flimsy beginnings. Sedgefield had yet to choose a Labour parliamentary candidate when a young lawyer sat in a borrowed car outside the house of John Burton, head of the Trimdon Labour Club, on 11 May 1983, thinking he should drive back to London. But he got out and told Burton and his friends that if they selected him, they wouldn’t have to pretend they hated

The secrets of London by postcode: W (West)

It’s the area that unites James Bond, Rick Wakeman and both Queen Elizabeths. In the first of our series looking at the quirky history and fascinating trivia of London’s postcode areas, we explore the delights to be found in W (West) – everything from fake houses to shaky newsreaders to dukes who are women… Answer: the other Tube station whose name contains all five vowels is Mansion House.

The art of menus

There is, of course, no endeavour, no craft, no profession, no trade that neglects to ‘reflect society’. This is a commonplace. The collective narcissism of considerate builders, for instance, claims that hod carriers and brickwork reflect society. The contention of Menu Design in Europe is kindred. Graphic artists, restaurateurs, decorators and chefs have, through two centuries, expanded their capabilities according to the milieux in which they have practised. Menus are, then, not merely functional lists, they are self-advertisements, exhibitions, seductions and, occasionally, desirable objects that are apparently collectible. Indeed this book has the unmistakable feel of an obsessive’s scrapbook, a completist’s trophy. The completist in question is Taschen’s California editor

Try them while you can: London’s best pop-up restaurants

There’s something quite delicious about a deadline. The prospect that if you don’t book now you might never get to try the dish of the moment is enough to pull in queues and queues of customers. But in most cases the attraction of a pop-up eatery is not solely hype. Some of these temporary dining rooms offer the chance to sample the oeuvres of up-and-coming chefs – often those at the cutting edge of cuisine but without the resources for a permanent gig yet. Others give seasoned chefs an opportunity to test new concepts outside the constraints of an established space. Plenty of pop-ups have popped up in London this

What Soho House has got right: Electric Diner reviewed

Electric Diner is from the Soho House group, which has done terrible things to private clubs, luckless farmhouses, domestic interior design and even its own restaurants. The Ned, its City hotel with ten restaurants, is genuinely insane, like Thorpe Park for people who are scared of roller-coasters; and no restaurant for adults should sell fishfinger sandwiches, even at Babington House, a Soho House hotel which is Clown Town for grown-ups but near trees. But Electric Diner is much finer: the sort of restaurant that attacks its parent with a spade, like Oedipus. It is attached to a beautiful old cinema called the Electric – electricity was once exciting enough to

Order, order: MPs’ favourite restaurants

Westminster is often described as a village, and like most villages it has a clutch of good pubs and a decent curry house down the road. But beyond that the area isn’t overly blessed with places to eat, drink and be merry. There’s little in the way of bars (except in hotels and the Palace of Westminster itself), let alone nightclubs. The closest of those is in Embankment – Players and Heaven are favourites (though such is the paucity of choice that Michael Gove clearly felt the need to go all the way to Ibiza to bust his moves). As for restaurants, the slim choice means there is a small

London’s best tasting menus

Once the preserve of only the fanciest of fancy restaurants, the tasting menu has come into its own post-pandemic. Set menus make economic sense for cost-cutting restaurateurs and their harried staff, of course – but customers benefit too, with no nasty surprises or bust-ups when the bill arrives. And for those of us who suffer from perennial food envy, tasting menus remove the gut-wrenching anxiety of having to choose between the ‘succulent hand-glazed cod’ and the ‘succulently foraged kobe beef’ – both it is. But pairing multiple dishes with distinctive wines and then placing them in some kind of coherent order takes real skill – so who does it best? For

Among the best puddings I’ve ever eaten: Richoux reviewed

Cakeism is offering the voters everything they desire, knowing you will never give it to them because you live in a haunted mirror in which the only thing that matters is your survival. This duplicity is important to understand, because the road from Cicero to Caesar is so short it may lack potholes. Cake is less urgent, but at least cake won’t lie to you. And here is Richoux, still filled with cake, if you can afford it. It is, for many people, marvellous and theoretical cake. Richoux was a cake shop on Piccadilly – a street I can never eat in without thinking of Alexander Litvinenko sitting, doomed, in

Wiltons vs the Ritz: who wins the great grouse race?

‘Bang! Bang! …Thud.’ It’s Friday 12 August, better known to tweedy types as the Glorious Twelfth, and the inaugural grouse on the West Allenheads estate in Northumberland has met its maker. The 26°c temperature yields a slow morning, with the moorland birds reluctant to come out of the shade and the beaters and guns mopping their brows, yearning for elevenses. After the first drive, the bagged game is slung in the back of a Defender and divvied up in the gun room. And now the real challenge begins. Imagine a sort of Beaujolais Run, except instead of getting Gamay wine from France to Fleet Street, our mission is to dispatch

A great chef at his best: Lisboeta reviewed

In 2014, Nuno Mendes, a chef from Lisbon by way of Wolfgang Puck’s kitchens and his own Viajante in Bethnal Green, opened a restaurant at the Chiltern Firehouse hotel. This is a redbrick Edwardian castle in Marylebone, which used to be a fire station, but no longer is. This restaurant was skilful: both blessed and cursed. I thought it was Gatsby’s house, inhabited by people looking for something they would never find because it does not exist: self-acceptance through the incitement of jealousy, which is the emotional purpose of being rich. People went for the empty pleasure of being seen at the Chiltern Firehouse because the prime minister David Cameron,

Escaping the memory of Liz Truss: Noci reviewed

Sometimes this column has a guest reviewer: a dining companion. It was Liz Truss in late summer 2011, for the now long closed Bistro du Vin in Dean Street: a Hotel du Vin without a hotel, and so bereft. It had a bookshelf on which all the books were painted neon, and they flew out in lumps when you tugged at them. I wonder if Liz wanted political PR advice from this column, but I doubt it, because I think you can’t fake integrity, and I get my political PR advice from watching The West Wing. Let Truss be Truss. But Truss is Truss. Or rather Truss is Trusses: she

Civilisation in a sausage: River Restaurant at the Savoy reviewed

When the Tory party set itself on fire last week a restaurateur told me: ‘Don’t worry, Tanya, we’ll still be here when it’s over.’ She was wrapping a scotch egg as she said it, and it’s very true. There is a soothing continuity to restaurants: no matter what fresh hell, people need to eat. I will know civilisation has ended when I can’t get a sausage at the Savoy hotel. People always say that the Savoy has the only slip-road in Britain on which people drive on the right. That is the least interesting thing about it. It is, for instance, the only London hotel built as a dosshouse for

Pub food, Disney-style: the George reviewed

The George, Fitzrovia, was Saki’s local, and a pub for men talking about cars when Great Portland Street was called Motor Row. I imagine them sucking down gin and weeping for early Jaguars; a ghostly Max de Winter rising to leave for Manderley; Mr Rolls and Mr Royce squabbling over ale. Felix Mendelssohn and Dylan Thomas came here too. Nowadays they would be called local creatives by marketing literature, so I suspect they are pleased to be dead. Many pubs have failed, which is an incremental tragedy, though it’s pleasing for women seeking men who are not always drunk. It’s true that if you want to see a fantastical neo-Tudor

Where to take Jubilee tea: Fortnum & Mason reviewed

I went to a garden party at Buckingham Palace once. It is coloured in my memory like childhood. There are good Canalettos and fitted carpets inside because that is self-confidence. In the garden the Queen stood with diplomats, safe from confessions, tears and requests for football tickets. (People do this. They write to her for FA Cup Final tickets. They think she is a witch.) She looks like a benevolent sweet from afar, but I am fond of the Queen of my ideation since she replied to my son’s birthday greeting with a very civil letter which he lost. I am no monarchist – competition, I suppose, though the Jews

I’m being priced out of eating out

I used to be able to afford to go to restaurants. Yes, it was a treat, but it was just about doable, and though it was never a pleasure to be presented with the bill, it didn’t leave you reeling from shock and buyer’s remorse. The schnitzel in my favourite London restaurant has gone up from £12 to £20 for the small one and from £22 to £33 for the normal-sized one. Meanwhile, restaurants and pubs all over Britain no longer offer a mere hamburger. It has to be called a ‘short rib and flank burger, smoked Applewood Cheddar, shallot marmalade, garlic aioli and skin-on fries’ to justify its £17.50

Where to eat on the Elizabeth Line

Finally, after more than three years of delays and a couple of ripped up budgets, the Elizabeth Line is set to open this month. This new purple squiggle on the TfL map will mean we can zip from Paddington to Canary Wharf in just 17 minutes (half the current time) and, when the next sections open in autumn, from Tottenham Court Road to Ealing Broadway in just 13 (down from 28). These super-fast connections will open up a whole new world of dining opportunities and put underappreciated restaurants in far-flung locations on the proverbial map. These are the five places you need to discover. Allegra Nearest station: Stratford With its

Food and friendliness: Britain’s most welcoming restaurants

I went to a well-known Michelin-starred restaurant a few weeks ago and I hated every minute. The food was remarkable, of course, with every dish a picture and each morsel technically perfect. But the restaurant itself was ghastly and sterile. Fellow diners stared glassy-eyed at their plates, terrified of raising their voices. The prices were eye-watering and the staff arrogant and complacent. They seemed to hate us all. Two days later, I found myself in a much humbler establishment. The fare was first rate and the atmosphere jolly and bustling, but it was the warmth of the welcome that really struck me. It’s easy to find fine food; it’s less easy to find places

Tanya Gold

The perfect restaurant for the Labour party: Arcade reviewed

I should know better than to visit restaurants assembled as if from disparate bricks, like thrift-shop Duplo: but the ever-credulous person sees the world anew each day. I thought Arcade, a glass restaurant on New Oxford Street, which somehow manages to be worse than old Oxford Street, might have some of the drama of the arcade of my dreams. I thought it might be eerie, even arcane. Names are important. This one lied. It is new, of course. This piece of the city, once Gin Lane, seems guiltier than most parts of London – it gives even Mitre Square a race in spectral squalor – and so is constantly building,

The Harrods disadvantage: Em Sherif reviewed

I am never bored with Harrods, only disgusted, and it is disgust of the most animated and exciting kind. It is Nabokov’s fish-tank of a department store, but with lampshades, not hebephilia. Its wares have surpassed its beginnings, which were haberdashery. Charles Harrod’s first shop was at 228 Borough High Street when George IV, who would love Harrods, was king. His second was at Stepney. Harrod came west for the Great Exhibition of 1851 and now we have this: the most crazed example of a crazed aesthetic, which is imperial Edwardian. Or Disney pinnacles the colour of blood. Harrods used to have a boutique in which almost-normal children could be