Colbert (pictured) is the latest Corbin and King opening, and as with their other ventures it is a considerable commercial success. Sited on Sloane Square, the old Oriel site has been redeveloped as a traditional French bistro, all red banquettes and classic bistro dishes: think fish soup, snails, cassoulet etc. I tried one dinner and one lunch here, and the service, initially distinctly ragged, had improved significantly by the time of my second visit. The food was generally quite good, and although as ever at such places the bill can quickly mount up, the wine list here was not excessively marked up, especially given the prime location.
Seven Park Place is now home to chef William Drabble. Here he produces his carefully crafted classical dishes, a change of scene after his long stint at the now defunct Aubergine. The tiny dining room in this boutique hotel may not be to everyone’s taste though I quite like the cosy nature of the room. The cooking was, as on my previous visit, very capable, and the restaurant deserves its Michelin star in my view. Service was particularly good, with some very experienced and capable front of house staff.
It has been some years since I last went to Timo, now under independent ownership but still serving Italian food. For a neighbourhood restaurant the service was exceedingly slick, the staff friendly and capable. The cooking was good, the best dishes such as a pasta with wild boar ragout having excellent flavour, and desserts were excellent.
A couple of regular haunts of mine continue to reliably produce the goods. Royal China in Queensway is a bit of a barn, and service could rarely be described as cuddly, but the cooking is extremely consistent. Dishes such as steamed sea bass are never over-cooked and never under-cooked, and I wish that could be said of all professional kitchens in London.
I am also lucky to have some of the best pizza in London within a short walk of my house. Franco Manca, along with Santa Maria and its sister Sacro Cuore, have raised the standard of the commonplace pizza to a higher level. For years Londoners have been accustomed to the pre-bought bases and cheap ingredients of the high street chains, or have seen ill-considered attempts to create bizarre topping combinations in the hope that this will distract diners from a mediocre product (Union Jacks is just the latest in a long line). Franco Manca, which started in Brixton Market and has now added a Northcote Road branch as well as its Chiswick outlet, produces proper Naples-style pizza with high quality toppings, something that may not seem too much to hope for but yet is streets ahead of what passes for pizza in most high streets.