London Old and New

Saturday, August 08th , 2015

celeste 5472 dining room-crop-v2.JPG

I was very fond of Apsleys at The Lanesborough, but the hotel is now under new ownership, and after a lengthy refurbishment has reopened with a different restaurant called Celeste (pictured). Eric Frechon of Epicure at The Bristol has installed one of his sous chefs here, and the dining room has been freshened up and is brighter than before. The food is classical French, and genuinely terrific langoustine ravioli demonstrated that the new kitchen team can cook. Other dishes didn’t reach this high level, though, and overall it felt like something of a work in progress. With a typically rapacious luxury hotel wine list and high food prices the bill skyrockets quickly. At £164 a head any small imperfections become grating, and it feels like they are running a restaurant still in soft opening but at full price.

Inaho is a simple neighbourhood Japanese restaurant in Bayswater.  It has been running for ages, but like many Japanese restaurants in London its menu does not specialise as most restaurants in Japan do: there is sushi, tempura, grilled dishes, tonkatsu, you name it. This wide menu must make it difficult for such a small place to be consistently good, and although an eel roll and tuna tataki were pleasant, the tonkatsu was dried out. It was a harmless enough experience, but not worth making a special a journey to visit.

Canvas changed head chef in January, with Aguilar Bel now running the kitchen. He has worked in some serious kitchens in Spain, but the cooking style here is European rather than explicitly Spanish. Good scallops with Iberico ham and asparagus worked well as a starter, and Challans duck three ways demonstrated that he knows what to do with a good quality ingredient. His fiancé, the pastry chef, can also cook well, as shown by an enjoyable dessert of Guanaja chocolate with cherry mousse. Service was good and the only notes of caution are the fairly high price point and gloomy basement dining room. 

Royal China Queensway is my “go to” Chinese restaurant in London. Sure, Hakkasan and Yauatcha are objectively better, but they are also pricier and more formal. Royal China has a noisy, cavernous room full of Chinese families, bewildered tourists and diners enjoying consistently excellent Cantonese food. The menu is vast, but dishes such as spicy hot and sour soup and steamed sea bass with black bean sauce are very reliable. I particularly like the steamed gai lan with garlic, which surely has to be one of the most delicious vegetarian dishes in London of whatever style of cuisine.