I try some old stagers this week

Saturday, December 01st , 2012

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Ziani is one of those restaurants that is essentially off the radar as far as the food press goes, but the little Italian local in Chelsea has been going 18 years, and was still turning tables on the night of my visit. It is consciously old-fashioned, and a classic spaghetti Bolognese was the best dish I tried. However a dish of fettuccine with scallops contained overcooked shellfish, and a salad looked like something from the 1980s. This inconsistency and the tiny tables would be more forgivable if this was cheap, but it was far from that, so it feels like a simple local place yet with similar pricing to more serious Italian places in central London.

Zayna is another restaurant that has been around a while yet is virtually unknown to the Twitterati. This Pakistani restaurant is quite smartly decorated, and used better quality prawns and chicken than most Asian places in London. Vegetable side dishes were a little weaker, but naan bread was excellent, and you could certainly do much worse for a curry in the vicinity of Oxford Street than this.

In London one tends to think of areas like Shoreditch as the home to authentic Vietnamese cooking, but Da Nang Kitchen and Bar in Hammersmith was a lot better than I was expecting: char-grilled prawns and a warm spicy salad featured quite good seafood, for example. I would still like to see someone in London really make an effort and produce an ambitious Vietnamese restaurant that reflects the best that Vietnamese food can offer. Hopefully this will happen at some point.

Barrica is one of a clutch of tapas bars in the vicinity of Charlotte Street, a path trodden first by Fino. It was certainly very busy on the night of my visit, but I was actually more impressed by the wine list here than the food. The wines were carefully chosen but also very fairly marked up, especially at the higher end of the list: this encourages wine lovers to spend a bit more, and is a win-win for customer and restaurant. For the tapas itself, a patatas bravas had an unusually good aioli, but some other dishes were less successful, such as somewhat soggy croquettes and over-salty padron peppers.

The Bombay Brassserie continues to deliver very good food since its relaunch, with excellent fluffy naans and accurate spicing for its curries. It is a very large dining room, and although the main room still retains a hotel dining room feel, the conservatory (pictured) is airy and appealing. A set lunch is offered for £22, and although prices in the evening are much higher, the cooking is of a high standard.

Two further Michelin 2013 guides appeared this week: The Netherlands and Tokyo. There was no change at the three star level in the Netherlands but two stars for the bizarrely named “&samhoud places” and Aan de Poel in Amsterdam, and De Treeswijkhoeve and in Waare. The Netherlands now has 18 two star restaurants in addition to its pair of three star ones. The Tokyo Guide was also rather subdued compared to recent years. At the three star level Araki closes in January (its chef planning to move to London in 2013, subject to his getting a visa), and the wildly underperforming Hamadaya was once again demoted. However Tokyo still has 14 three star restaurants. At the two star level there were promotions for Esquisse, Ginza Okamoto, Seizan, Shinbashi Sasada, Sushi Kimura and a Chinese restaurant called Xiao Xiong Fan Dian. Tokyo still has more than three times as many two star restaurants as the Netherlands in total, and a huge 214 one star places. Despite its relative pause for breath this year Tokyo still has the largest number of starred restaurants, and stars in total, of any city in the world by some distance. With 362 total stars it easily eclipses Paris with its 114 stars, New York with its 86 stars, and London with its 68.

The list of all three star restaurants has been updated and is here.