Sep 6, 2013Unpretentious bistro in the King's Cross resto-wasteland"My take: Find this place if you’re near King’s Cross. Londoners know this area is a no-go if you have any taste whatsoever, due to the surprising lack of good food in a one-mile radius, but if you’re here, this is the decent-food beacon on Pentonville Road.
The scene: It’s a proper bistro – small, a little dark inside, with quirky bric-a-brac and funky wallpaper. It’s also no-nonsense, serving up its dishes without over the top service in an informal, less-is-more manner. The food is what you’d find at a typical Parisian bistro – if sometimes not quite the same quality, with calamari, a Norwegian salad and a pizza menu thrown in – but for some Parisians it’s a little reminder of home.
Cocktails & cuisine: French-focused, with escargot, salads and several steak options. The cocktails are nothing fancy – much easier to just go for the house wine, which is £3.50 a glass.
Prices: Reasonably priced. Mains are £7-30, starters are £6-7, desserts £5-6. Bottle of house wine is £12.50. Don’t look at anything else.
Insider Info: If he’s there, the owner Xavier will stop by, which is nice. And if you have the stomach for it, a very un-French all-you-can-eat menu is offered on Mondays for £11.95 – very reasonable if that’s your thing.
Sep 6, 2013Glam, gorgeous & rather overpriced"My take: The Roof Gardens sit perched over West London with the best view you can get without a skyscraper. The location and the settings are unparalleled in London for haute chic, and while you’re not on a ground-floor garden, close begin to seem overrated after mere minutes in Richard Branson’s elevated, extensive, creature-filled and beautiful grounds.
The Scene: Many have complained about the added service charge (myself included), the okay-cocktails and pricey wines, but nothing beats the gardens’ grounds. Or the view. You feel like a high-flyer among London’s minted and marvellous. The outfits are designer and lovely. The people aren’t really all that lovely, but you may just run in to some high-profile designers…
Cocktails & Cuisine: Standard cocktails and pricey wines on offer. Babylon is a restaurant as well, and through the summer a garden barbeque will set you back £65 and a major artery.
Prices: Overpriced. Bottles of wine will set you back £30+, cocktails are in the double digits and food isn’t cheap. Don’t come here with a tight fist – it will ruin your time.
Insider Info/When to go: Phone ahead – the first time we tried to come, we were waylaid by a private party. Reservations for Babylon are recommended, and if you don’t get complimentary nibbles with your expensive drinks ask for it – they’re worth it! Also, if you just want to visit the gardens but don’t want to have a night or day of boozery, the gardens are free and open to the public.
Sep 6, 2013Mediocre, with a good happy hour"My take: There are plenty of these bar-clubs in Central London with wicked Happy Hours and less-than-amazing everything else. Along with other central London clones inevitably clustered around the Soho-Piccadilly Circus-Leicester Square area for unsuspecting tourists and out-of-the-know Londoners, Strawberry Moons is a bar best visited when the drinks are half price and cleared as soon as the generous Happy Hour ends.
The scene: Strawberry Moons is set down a side street and not heavily advertised, but it’s easy to find with a slightly tacky logo and a Friday evening queue. Inside, there are multiple floors and plenty of nooks and crannies for getting your moves on, while the multi-coloured, light-flashing dance floor is a great space for getting your moves on.
Cocktails & Cuisine: A standard collection of glammed-up pub grub sharing platters and selection of drinks. Wines by the glass and by the bottle, plenty of pints and some snazzy cocktails.
Prices: Platters £9-16, small plates £4-6, cocktails £8-10, bottles of wine £20+
Insider info: Come early, drink lots, and get out of there when Happy Hour runs out.