From a Shoe-in Local Restaurant to The Ledbury

Friday, September 19th , 2014

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Giaconda Dining Rooms built up an enviable reputation as a good value restaurant serving robust, hearty dishes at a fair price, and I was very sorry to see it close in June. Its head chef has now struck out on his own in Tufnell Park, serving a similar style of food. His new restaurant (called Shoe Shop) is decidedly a local sort of place, so very local that it has dispensed with pesky modern encumbrances like reservation software, email and even a telephone. If you want a reservation then you need to wander by and make one in person. If you do then you will be rewarded with enjoyable, simple dishes at a very modest price indeed. Any London locality would be lucky have a restaurant of this standard, so I hope the denizens of Tufnell Park  appreciate how fortunate they are.

North China in Acton is notionally a restaurant serving food from Peking/Beijing, though in reality most dishes turned out to be Cantonese. What matters is that they were pretty well cooked, from grilled pork dumplings to classics like gai lan with ginger. There were no duff dishes at our meal, and the restaurant was completely full, turning away some walk-ins even on a Tuesday night. It is certainly a couple of notches above most local Chinese restaurants in London, even if not quite to the same standard as my favourite Royal China.

The Ledbury has spruced up its menu since my last visit, with lots of new dishes on the tasting menu that we sampled. As ever, the standard here was high, with a particularly good array of nibbles, and an lovely langoustine tail wrapped in shiitake mushrooms. Desserts are for me the element of the meal that does not quite live up to the standards set by the early savoury dishes, but service is always excellent here and it was a very enjoyable experience.

Kiraku is a simple Japanese restaurant in Ealing, an area with a significant Japanese population due to the local language school. It has very basic décor but turns out consistently enjoyable grilled dishes, such as excellent mackerel. At this visit I tried grilled eel on a bed of rice, and a pork katsu curry. This is a long way from the sophisticated heights of kaiseki dining, but the food here is enjoyable and very good value.