Ups and downs in London

Saturday, May 25th , 2013

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Amico Bio (pictured) is a second branch of the Italian vegetarian restaurant, the original of which is in the City. I enjoyed the meal at the original branch despite some inconsistency in the cooking, so was rather disappointed a lunch at the Bloomsbury version.  There was a very peculiar dessert, and charmless and inattentive service, in contrast to the genuine welcome I recall at the original branch. At least it is cheap.

HKK produced another superb tasting menu this week. This restaurant really has raised the bar for Chinese food in London. Ingredient quality is very high, such as the use of Bresse Chicken in a soup, and the Peking Duck is up there with the better places in Beijing. The dim sum is particularly superb, and by the time you count the slick service this all adds up to a very fine experience indeed.

Zafferano is an old favourite, but this is the first time I have been since chef Andy Needham left. Whilst the service was as good as ever, the cooking seemed to have slipped down a notch. The owners seem uninterested in regaining their star, and have packed more tables in and compressed the dining slots. They seem to be treating Zafferano as a cash cow, trading on its considerable past reputation, having managed to close down l’Oranger and Aubergine, which is not a track record that they should be proud of. This is still very good Italian food, but I have dropped the score a point to reflect the slip in food standard.

Café Spice Namaste is a frustrating restaurant. I loved Cyrus Todiwala’s cooking when he had his original small premises, but in the much larger current building I always seem to end up with inconsistent meals. The menu is very appealing, with all kinds of interesting dishes, yet the cooking never quite fires on all cylinders.  This meal was another erratic experience, with excellent pork vindaloo yet duff tandoori salmon and sub-standard naan bread. 

The mini-chain Patara is consistently the best bet in London for Thai food. Presentation is attractive and the cooking very reliable, with dishes such as marinated sea bass in banana leaf, and stir-fried snow-peas always enjoyable. Service at the Beauchamp Place branch was rather distracted at this visit, but the cooking was as good as ever.