Wolseley

Why go here:

There is a book about Breakfast at The Wolseley that’s sold thousands of copies worldwide. Wolseley is a bit of a British phenomenon.

What it looks like:

Housed in the grand European Tradition Hotel, Wolseley describes itself as a cafe restaurant but it really is far removed from your standard road side cafe. As you step in, it is hard not to be amazed by the grandeur of the dining hall. The high ceilings decked with crystal chandeliers, the black-gold-creme colour scheme, the spiral, gilded stairways and the marbled flooring all add to the classy look of the venue.

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Combine this with the waiters in their bell-boy uniforms, the 24 hour bar serving more than 13 types of Champagne and handsome guards standing by the gate to welcome you in and you have the ideal celebrity breakfast joint.

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The food:

We chose to go for some of Wolseley’s specials from the famous all-day menu. We were tempted to order the Beluga caviar with blinis and cream but the price tag of more than 250 pounds seemed a bit high and we settled for the significantly better valued Chopped Liver dish and the Jonah’s Toasted Chocolate Sandwich.

The Chopped Liver was zesty and buttery and fluffy too. It was served with crackers, gherkins and a garnish of slivered chives, onions and thyme.

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The Chocolate Sandwich was unlike anything I’d ever had before. It was apparently invented by Wolseley’s chef Jonah for his son. It consisted of freshly made chocolate brioche slices that were oozing with a rich velvety chocolate sauce, all served with a dollop of creme fraiche. The sandwich was so big that my friend and I, in spite of being major chocoholics, struggled to finish it all.

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My friend also ordered a latte which came with a shot of sparkling water. Not being accustomed to drinking authentic Italian Expresso, we didn’t realise that you’re supposed to drink it before drinking the coffee and spent the entire meal what to do with it and ended up washing the spoon in it. Utter fail.

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Verdict:

Breakfast at the Wolseley feels like an indulgence. Their simple menu has dishes cooked to perfection and the stylish, decadent venue and your celeb fellow diners make breakfast more of a celebration than just a meal. For all you chocoholics out there, don’t forget to order the Jonah’s Toasted Chocolate Sandwich

La Roux at the Landau

Why go here:

This is the newest partnership of  the duo that established London’s acclaimed 2 Michelin-starred French restaurant, La Gavroche. Dine here before it becomes as hard to get a table here as the former.

What it looks like:

Housed in the famous Langham hotel & next to one of London’s best bars, the Artesian, you enter the restaurant via a corridor lined with an extensive collection of wines from around the world.

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The dining room is a circular hall with gilded timber walls, Vera Wang designed China-ware, brass chandeliers and fresh roses adorning every table, all of which leads up to making it one of the most elegant venues around in London.

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The food:

Unlike most other restaurants whose only freebie is fresh-baked bread, we started off here with complimentary blue cheese souffle which was just glorious and melted on my tongue in a fraction of a second. How I wish there was more of it.  I wanted the taste to linger in my mouth for just a bit longer.

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Thankfully, my starter arrived soon after to distract me from dreaming about the souffle. I had ordered the Roast Cornish squid which was served with a salt-cod brandade. You will be a bit surprised when you see the dish because your fried squid is served in an unusual colour- navy blue! This is due to the use of squid ink in the preparation of the batter. But beyond the unusual look, this was a simple dish albeit done perfectly. Squids were cooked well and the brandade, which is a buttery emulsion of salt cod and potato in olive oil ,was luxuriously silky.

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For mains, I had the monkfish dressed in pistachio and continuing the theme of unique colors, the dish came with a black curry and an orange saffron & pomegranate biryani. The highlight of the dish was surprisingly the black curry, which I am yet to figure out the components of. All I can tell you is that it had a mild spicy and smoky flavour which was well complimented by the sweetness of the pomegranate and the warm saffron in the biryani. The fish was fresh and crispy-skinned without being oily.

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My friend ordered the butter roasted beef sirloin which looked less exciting than my fish but was well cooked. The ox tongue potatoes on the side were particularly scrumptuous and the green garlic butter topping it all added to the taste.

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Moving onto dessert, we had to go for the Chocolate Millefeuille, the star dish featured on the website. And when it arrived, I realised how much better it looked in real life than in pictures! The chocolate glaze on top was shinier than a mirror- I swear I could see it reflecting the chandeliers on the ceiling (or maybe I was a bit tipsy at this point). The chocolate filling side were little globules of deliciousness. The maple ice cream on the side was also good although I would have preferred it to have a stronger flavour.

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We ended the meal with a final round of complimentary goodness- a platter of freshly made petit fours including blood orange jelly, berry macaroons, artisan cheeses and more.

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My only complain was with the service which seemed a bit unfocused due to there being too many waiters on rounds at the same time and all of them taking turns to serve us.

Verdict:

This is a glamorous venue with food that parallels Michelin-starred restaurants in quality and presentation, so that the prices do seem pretty justified. This is one of London’s best contemporary French restaurants and is definitely set to impress your date, your client or your Mum.

Plum + Split Milk

Why go here:

Gourmet dining option situated in the heart of King’s Cross station.

What it looks like:

The restaurant has received an award for the Best Interior Design and it definitely succeeds in making an impression within seconds of walking in. There is a wavy, leather couch running along the length of the restaurant which is ideal for individuals and couples as well as smaller semi-arched couches for bigger groups. There are several, panelled floor-to-ceiling windows and statement chandeliers resembling hundreds of wine glasses strung together with fairy lights.

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The food:

The menu is quintessentially British and offers a mix of simple and elaborate dishes so you can either enjoy a quick-lunch if you’re waiting to get on that next train or have a long & relaxed, sophisticated dinner.

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I turned up for a quick-lunch prior to my train to Cambridge and opted for one of the Plum + Split Milk classics- the Dressed Dorset Crab and true to promise, the dish was presented to me within 10 minutes of ordering and what a beautiful presentation it was! A crab shell had been washed and dried out and was used as the serving dish.  The freshly dressed crab meat was melt-in-your-mouth and served with homemade sourdough bread and garlic aioli. This was certainly exemplary of a simple dish being executed well.

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While they didn’t have a menu for hot beverages, they readily whipped up a rich hot chocolate for me. Service was overall very good and the staff were paying a lot of attention to each guest and was fast without compromising on quality.

Verdict:

For all solo or bored travellers, make sure to give this place a visit next time you’re stuck waiting for a train in King’s Cross, instead of opting for that usual Pret sandwich. Quality British food served in lavish settings less than 100 metres from the station, makes this the perfect destination to hang out in between trains for all the foodies out there.

Oxo Tower

Why go here:

To have modern European food while enjoying one of the best rooftop views that London has to offer.

What it looks like:

The restaurant does have a bar but the focus is clearly on the dining. The tables are set in long straight lines, parallel to the all glass walls which offer killer views of the city.We could see St. Paul’s and other surrounding iconic structures from our table.

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The restaurant ceiling is laced with neon blue lights which adds to the cool and classy element of the venue, although it did render the pictures of my food all blue…

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Service was fast and efficient and the waiters ensured that our wine glasses were always topped up.

The food:

The dishes are all elaborate and well presented but prices definitely feel skewed. I ordered a starter of canelloni made with crab, sweet potato and chestnuts. The flavours were good but the delicate taste of the crab meat felt somewhat masked by the strong and earthy flavour of the sweet potato. For mains, I ordered the Turbot served with a spiced crab box, kohlrabi fondant and choi sum.

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Again, I found the Turbot, which should have been the star of the dish, to be somewhat underwhelming because it was a bit bland. On the positive side, the crab box was utterly delicious – the spices were fragrant and warm and the crab meat was very tender and sweet. The marinated crab meat had been shaped into a box and then deep-fried to produce this crispy little delight. I didn’t feel that it tied that well with the Turbot though. The dish seemed disjointed overall.

The desert was definitely my favourite course. It consisted of 8 different components, all of which were made with chocolate and all made to perfection. There was a chocolate pistachio mousse, a chocolate earl grey fondant, a balsamic and chocolate ganache and a chocolate orange tart amongst others. The price tag for this dish was the only one that felt justified.

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Verdict:

Go here for the views and if you’re willing to splash the cash to impress that special someone. Not one for the foodies unless you’re only planning on eating desserts!

Momo

Why go here:

For authentic Moroccan food at one of London’s oldest restaurants known for its ambience, cocktails and as Usher’s go-to place to eat.

What it looks like:

Momo includes the dining looking upon the traditional Moroccan open kitchen; a cafe with shisha and a cocktail bar. The whole place is kitted out with rugs, glass lamps and engraved brass vases. The seating in the restaurant comprises of low slung tables whereas the cafe has more comfy seating of cushioned mattresses. With the dim lighting, the music, the sweet smell of tagines and mint tea in the air and the intimate seating, this place is rightfully hailed as one of London’s most romantic.

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However, I did find the service to be a little lacking. They brought us the wrong dishes initially and kept interrupting our conversations during meals to check what else we’d like to order, even though we’d clarified that we weren’t intending to place any additional orders of food and drinks.

The food:

The menu is primarily Moroccan with some elements of other cuisines introduced to keep the offerings modern and interesting. But we were keen to try the traditional dishes, specially since we’d been to Morocco just a few months back and we wanted to compare how ‘traditional’ the dishes really were.

For starters, I had the Pigeon Pastilla, a pastry filled with a sweet and cinnamon flavoured mix of tender pigeon meat, almonds and marmalade. While this was quite tasty, I did find it a bit unusual since I am not used to such sweet dishes to kick off a meal.

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I enjoyed the  Fish Bourek better- a thin baked pastry filled with a mix of prawns, scallops and charmoula.

For main, you have to try one of the tagines. They really do match the Marrakech ones on quality and taste. I definitely felt transported back to my trip and to the roof top dinners overlooking the bustling central square. The only difference was in the price tag and also in the size- the portion sizes here are much bigger. My pot was filled to the brim with chicken, lemons, olives, caramelised onions and lemon couscous.

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My friend ordered the Couscous Berber that came with a glass of Labneh Milk, which was a bit like a salty lassi. The portion size was massive, but the dish did feel a bit dry. Maybe they could have incorporated some of the yoghurt into the dish to add some moisture instead of serving it on the side as a drink.

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The cocktails here are also quite good. I tried one of Momo’s signature cocktails- the Lavender Fantasy, which was really refreshing and went well with the heat of the tagine.

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Verdict:

Must visit if you want to try authentic Moroccan food. Good place for an intimate sexy date, that transports you to Morocco in the midst of London. Worth going for shisha to the cafe post-dinner, instead of the standard drinks.

The Balcon

Why go here:

If you want to have French inspired British dishes in one of London’s most lavish settings.

What it looks like:

Part of the five star Hotel Sofitel, this restaurant is housed in a grade II listed building in central London. It’s hard for you to walk in and to not spend the first few minutes gaping in awe at the decor of this place. There are dramatic crystal chandeliers, polished wooden floors and tables to match and a stunning cocktail bar which is modelled after Coco Chanel’s apartment apparently. On your walk to the toilets, you notice more of the lavish decor. Keep your eyes open for a rosy pink hall decked with a five foot tall harp. The waiters, all in formal attires, were also very attentive and friendly.

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The food:

The French-British fusion food here really is superb in quality and taste. I had snails here for the first time and I couldn’t have started somewhere better. They came in a little red pot and reminded me of fresh, juicy scallops in texture and taste but were softer and coated in a buttery parsnip puree.

The twice baked cheese souffle was another classic they aced- the dish was melt-in-your-mouth and set in a richly flavoured lobster and creme fraiche sauce.

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For mains, I tried the lemon sole which came with a burnt butter and sage sauce and with garlicky, wilted spanish. While the fish was white and fresh, this dish didn’t stand out much in comparison to the rest of the meal but probably only because the rest had greatly exceeded my expectations whereas I have had sole fish done in a similar style at other places.

Finally onto desserts, my favourite part of the meal. The tea-flavoured creme brulee was divine and I am yet to find another to match its taste. The vanilla ice cream profiteroles drizzled with the hot chocolate and praline sauce were lip smackingly good and a total treat to the eyes.

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Verdict:

If you want to impress someone, bring them here. The grandeur of the venue and the quality of the service and most importantly, the food, is bound to win them over.

Hakkasan

Why go here:

This is London’s first Chinese restaurant to have been awarded a Michelin star and still remains one of the city’s best high-end Chinese restaurants.

What it looks like:

Hakkasan has often been described as the sexiest restaurant in London and you start feeling the seduction the moment you step into the slate-walled corridor with dim lighting that leads into the dining room which has a mysterious icy blue gleam and flickering candles all around. This is definitely a venue to be dressed up for. After all, you don’t want the restaurant to look sexier than you, right?

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The food:

I had heard mixed reviews regarding the value of money for the food here. In my opinion, the dishes are well worth every penny and I am not even including a markup for the ambience. What does tend to shoot the bill up for most people is admittedly the alcohol. I recommend ordering Sake by the tokkuri- the small flask fared me well for the entire meal and was quite reasonably priced. For starters, I ordered the crispy duck salad with peanuts which was sticky, crunchy, sweet and spicy, all at the same time! The dish is a lot more than a salad and a must try in my opinion, if you like duck.

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For mains, I had the Jasmine tea Smoked Chicken and the Morning Glory stir fry with the Singapore Vermicelli with prawns and squid. Firstly, I was pleasantly surprised by how large the portion sizes were, which might have been one of the reasons I felt that the prices were actually quite justified.

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The chicken was tender and had a beautiful smoky flavour. It also had this pale salmon-like tinge from being smoked in the Jasmine tea. The morning glory, a green vegetable which looks like french beans and tastes like spinach, was stir fried in a spicy chilli and garlic chilli sauce and went well with the vermicelli.

My only complain regarding Hakkasan would be the service times – tables are required to be given up within 2 hours so it would be helpful if the food was served promptly. But it is understandable that with the preparation and skill going into each of these dishes, they can’t match fast food service times. In any case, the service was very attentive with the waiters helping guests with their coats and even walking them to the washrooms, which do have slightly confusing signs (and yes, I did almost walk into the men’s..)

Verdict:

Sexy settings and innovative, delicious Cantonese food make this a must try. Given the time limit on the tables, I advice you to decide what you wish to get in advance to maximise the time you have left to enjoy your food.