Saturday, January 24, 2004

Little Bay

Little Bay, 171 Farringdon Road, London EC1

This little restaurant is a true find. Situated close to the Exmouth Market area, it offeres incredibly good value and excellent.

The décor is simple and the basement not to be recommended due to the loud echo effect, but if you are looking for beautifully prepared fresh ingredients with a good wine list to boot, this is the place for you.

I can recommend the chips which are cooked in duck fat in true south of France style.

There are branches in Battersea and Kildurn/Belsize Park too!

3 Monkeys

3 Monkeys
Herne Hill

Suzanne and I got a last-minute cheap deal to eat at this relatively new south London Indian restaurant, so we were looking forward to a posh Indian dinner on the cheap when we visited Three Monkeys.

This is one of a breed of modern Indian restaurants which are rapidly replacing every Mughal-arched, flock-wallpapered old place in the city (much to my relief). The place is split-level with a modern bar downstairs. Upstairs everything is light and bright, with some beautiful Indian art on the walls.

Being mid-week we were one of about four tables occupied so it did feel a bit quiet, added to which we were very chilly for the whole evening. The waitress was pleasant enough but on occasion a little slow to respond – no problem for us as we were gossiping madly but another time this would have wound me up.

As for the food, there are lots on the menu which were new to me. One of their specialities is Handi cuisine from the central plateau of India, slow cooked in an earthen pot. We stuck to fairly standard dishes, our man courses being one chicken and one lamb. Our first impression was that the quantity of meat in each dish was woefully small. This was partly made up by the quality of the meat and the delicate taste of the sauce. Added to which, the side dishes and rice we were served were beautiful.

Having said all that, we could not manage a dessert, settling for a coffee and a masala tea instead. However when the bill came it was almost £50 for two, and that was only included two glasses of wine. All in all, we felt that it was not good value for money – and this was on a special deal! I would not be tempted back here if I had to pay full price, and I could think of many more places service equally good food for less elsewhere in London.

All in all, a pleasant enough experience but not really worth the trip or the money.

covent garden part 2

Box Bar, 32-34 Monmouth Garden, Covent Garden

This is a well-established gay haunt just off Seven Dials in the heart of Covent Garden. We visited mid-afternoon on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and the crowd was already spilled out on the pavement. The atmosphere outside was friendly, and the fashion was high.
I guess that the atmosphere inside would be cosier inside at night, but the bar staff were efficient and the choice of drinks was good. Only downfall was that the queue for the unisex toilets was quite lengthy, and it would have been a real pain in the ass except for that it was a fun crowd in the queue!
I am told that the fact that two blokes go into the loo at one time is more to do with recreational drugs than lifestyle, but whatever... I just don't like waiting!

Dial Restaurant & Bar, 20 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden

This was a pretty cool restaurant just beside the Box Bar. We sat at a posh bar and drank cocktails - my new favourite is an espresso martini which is a regular martini mixed with one shot of espresso. Delish!
The crowd was well-dressed and cool, and the bar staff professional and knowledgable. Would love to come back again for an evening drink or even dinner in the restaurant next door. Good music too, and amazing toilets!!

Bunker, 41 Earlham Street, Covent Garden

This is a micro-brewery with the brewing equipment prominently displayed. We spent a pleasant evening in here before, but on the Sunday night we visited it was kind of empty and they had stopped serving food. There was no atmosphere and the music was too loud. Or are we getting old?...

Cafe Pacifico, 5 Langley Street, Covent Garden

This long-established Mexican restaurant is lively and cheerful, and the food is good. Music is Mexican of course, but entertaining. The best part is the cocktails which are generous and yummy!!!

covent garden part 1

Sugar Reef, 42-44 Great Windmill Street, London W1V 7PA
The downstairs cocktail bar at Sugar Reef is popular amongst the after-owkr crowd for its happy hour until 7pm. With champagne cocktails at less than £4 and wine at £8 a bottle, it’s not a bad place to start the evening.
The upstairs restaurant looks modern and trendy, and their new “Dynamic Dining” policy is definitely worth looking into. The earlier in the week you eat, the cheaper your food! Mains start off at £6 on a Monday, rising to £12 on a Saturday.
Crowd was hard to measure as it was all after-work. Music was so low you couldn’t hear it and all the seats were taken by pre-booked parties. But for a couple of quick cocktails to start the evening off you could do worse.

Boulevard Brasserie, 40 Wellington Street, London WC2E 7BD
The brasserie’s downstairs wine bar is cosy if a little claustrophic with the low ceiling. Happy hour until 7.30pm offer half-price wines by the bottle - but beware – the prices are slightly inflated compared to the upstairs restaurant so you are really paying more than half-price.
Crowd was a bit odd. The blokes were congregated around the tiny bar and the girls were meeting in twos at the tables.
The upstairs restaurant was lively enough, and the food excellent. Nothing spectacular overall, but not a bad place to meet and have a chat.

Freuds Wine Bar, Basement, 198 Shaftesbury Avenue
This bar, café and gallery is hidden away in a tiny basement up the High Holborn end of Shaftesbury Avenue, is easily overlooked. Inside you will see minimalist décor – bare concrete walls displaying various artists’ work, and basic seating.
The crowd is studenty/arty. But the cocktail list is excellent and the measures big. The toilets are absymal and the music variable. Drop in here for good Mojitos and knowledgeable bar staff who know what a Long Beach Iced Tea is without asking.

Battersea Rise & Northcote Road

Babel, Northcote Road
This looked like the most lively bar on the street as we approached, with punters drinking on the street terrace and pretty much standing room only inside, but on closer inspection it was more like an All Bar One clone.
Modern fittings and décor and a reasonable soundtrack made our visit a fairly pleasant one (as did the Olympic men’s 200m sprint heats on the huge TV screens – for me and Sue anyway!) and the people at the next table even attempted a brief but friendly conversation with us! Weird, for London, we thought… Anyway, we reckoned not bad for a quick pre-dinner drink or meet-up point, but not enough style to make us come back.

Holy Drinker, Northcote Road
This little bar was a lot better. The owners describe the place as a grown-up bar for grown-up drinkers. It had a much better crowd, interesting furniture, a weird play list (Sue and I thought it was OK but Orlando was not impressed) and a great vibe.
Orlando even saw Sandy, the Scottish bloke from Big Brother 3, at the bar). We even got talking to the couple beside us (must have been the night for it!). Definitely worth a visit, we would all return.

Iniquity, Northcote Road
This was by far the coolest place we visited. They describe the place as “elegant and louche” and this was exactly what we found inside this black and red interior. My personal favourite was the huge vase of blood-red gladioli on the bar – dramatic and theatrical.
The barman was friendly and helpful, the cocktail list was excellent, the menu looked interesting (sort of tapas from around the world) and the crowd very fashionable. We liked.

B@1 Bar, Battersea Rise
This sister bar to the popular ones in Richmond and Covent Garden was heaving by the time we got there. We didn’t stay as by this time we were looking for coffees which they did not serve (none of us were drinking and there is only so much sparkling water one can drink!). In any event, the music was excellent, the crowd lively and young, and I reckon this would be a good place to start or end the evening. Definitely worth a second visit.

GDP Index - King's Road

Simply Nico
This bar, attached to the restaurant of the same name, is part of the Sloane Square Hotel. Both bar and tables were quiet for a Thursday night, and we didn’t stay long. They got the order wrong, then took ages getting the bill, then had the cheek to stop us and ask if we’d paid even though nobody had bothered coming back to get the signed receipt! We won’t be going back.

This place was great. Floor-to-ceiling drinks behind the bar, and dark décor topped with a huge chandelier. The crowd was an interesting but well-dressed mix and the music was fantastic. A definite favourite.

A couple of doors down from Mojamma, this Latino bar is staffed by cute but non-English-speaking boys (“what is dizzy water please?”). Good cocktail list and the place definitely had possibilities, but there was a gang of after-work office drinkers that lowered the tone somewhat. You know the type, two blokes sniffing around ten girls, lots of tequila, next-morning regrets. Worth a second look, maybe over the weekend. Could be a good lively spot.

Eight over Eight
Should have known this was the sister venue to Notting Hill’s E&O as soon as we walked in. The coolest crowd we saw tonight was in this place, either dining in the sophisticated restaurant at the back, or hanging out in the diner-style seating nearer the street. Excellent service, well-chosen Café-del-Mar music, and the most amazing loos – all black tiles and designer flowers. Looking forward to coming back for dinner!

the GDP Index

The Gibson Doyle Parsons Index is the record of Orlando, Mairead and Sue's attempts to find new drinking haunts in London.

All suggestions for new areas to check out most welcome!

soho and west end bars

Lab Bar
12 Old Compton Street
London W1V 5PG
020 7437 7820
We love this famous cocktail bar, run by the London Association of Bartenders. It has a sort of 70s feel, with good music and an interesting mix of clientele. Cute bartenders too, who really know their stuff. The cocktail list runs to a 20-odd page book so be warned!

Pages Bar
75 Page Street
London SW1P 4LT
020 7834 6791
WARNING - this is a sci-fi hangout, but a lot of fun on weekend nights when they have Star Trek evenings complete with episodes of the various series on the big screen, occasional PAs by obscure stars or producers, auctions and of course, Klingon Blood Wine on sale at the bar! Most of the clientele is dressed either in full Federation uniform or morphed into Bajorans, Romulans, Vulcans or other species which require little stage makeup. Be afraid, be very afraid!

notting hill

Ion Bar
161-165 Ladbroke Grove
020 8960 1702
Excellent live music and DJs in the downstairs bar, and a groovy vibe upstairs with great food. The maitre d' looks like Uma Thurman from Pulp Fiction.

Osteria Basilico
29 Kensington Park Road
020 7727 9372
Cosy Italian trattoria with food to die for.

Casa Frattini
104a Chepstow Road
020 7221 1821
Another tiny, crowded Italian with a small but wonderful menu of delights.

Black & Blue
105 Gloucester Road
020 7244 7666
The only place to go for a steak in Notting Hill

north by north west

Hummingbird, 84 Stroud Green Road, London N4 3CV 020 7263 9690
Hummingbird is a small but perfectly formed Caribbean restaurant on the legendary Stroud Green Road. Family-run, this place offers genuine Carribean food from most of the islands, beautifully presented and washed down with excellent run punch. The menu has lots for vegeterians as well as meat-eaters.

La Porchetta Pizzeria, 141 Upper Street, London N1 1QY 020 7288 2488
This is my absolute favourite pizza place in London. Huge delicious thin-crust pizzas, ridiculously low prices, extremely young cute Italian waiters, lashings of house wine by the jug. Be prepared to queue!

Raj Bangladeshi, 146 High Street, Harlesden NW10 4SP 020 8965 6036
This used to be our local Indian takeaway, and what a place. Recently refurbished to a trendy urban feel, it used to be red velvet and Mughal arches all the way. In any event the food never let this place down. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

BeBes, 3 Chignell Place, West Ealing W13 0TJ 020 8840 8322
Bebes serves genuine Caribbean food in a cosy restaurant with gold graffiti on the walls left by grateful customers. The cocktail list is small but majors on rum-based concoctions - I recommend you start here! The curried goat is my favourite, with more than a hint of coconut in the taste. They even have real flying fish from Barbados!

The Spaniard’s Inn, Spaniard’s Road, London NW3 7JJ 020 8731 6571
This lovely pub is very close to the High Gate of Hampstead Heath, and a great place to chill out on a late summer afternoon in the huge garden. Indoors are lots of little rooms to get lost in, ideal for winter evenings. The food is good, lots of Greek and Meditteraneam dishes with a legendary paella served only on Saturdays.

Lemonia, 89 Regent's Park Road, London NW1 8UY 020 7586 7454
This lovely Greek restaurant has a lovely feel about it, with genuine Greek waiters serving you with a twinkle in their eyes. The restaurant is clustered around a covered courtyard, which is a great place to catch a bit of sunlight in winter without dying of cold. In summer the big windows at the front open right up so it feels lovely and breezy. Oh, and the food is sublime too. Don't do what we always do and order too much food!!!

city & south bank restaurants

1 Bank End, London SE1 9BU
020 7940 8333
Dedicated to all things wine, and a great restaurant with an excellent choice of wines by the glass, even by London standards.

Cafe Spice Namaste
16 Prescott Street, London E1 8AZ
020 7488 9242
Cyrus Todiwala's iconic Indian restaurant, specialising in Parsi dishes.

Taja Curry Hut
199a Whitechapel Road, London E1 1DE
020 7375 0657
A former public toilet (I kid you not) they now serve up wonderful curries and other Indian delights. A favourite lunchtime haunt of mine.

Oxo Tower Brasserie
Oxo Tower Wharf, Barge House Street, SE1 9
020 7803 3888
Still one of my favourite bars from which to gaze over the London skyline. And the food's not bad either.

33 The Cut, London SE1 8LF
020 7928 1444
Excellent Turkish meze.

Meson don Felipe
53 The Cut, London SE1 8LF
020 7928 3237
Simply the best genuine tapas bar in London. A bit pricey but not as much as a flight to Barcelona.