Saturday 19 December 2020

Christmas in Covent Garden, Central London


In the hours before the UK Government imposed a tier 4 lockdown on London, parts of the capital's shopping districts were buzzing.  In Covent Garden, mulled wine, fake snow and lego sculptures were the order of the day.

Saturday 12 December 2020

Maison François, Duke Street, Central London


Housed in a grand building with high-ceilings and theatrical lighting, Maison François's striking Art Deco dining room can imbue any meal with a sense of occasion. The French menu is safe and stimulating at the same time. The emphasis is on classic French dishes made with high-quality ingredients, precision and passion.  Among the starters, the rock oysters, sauce mignonette (£21 for six) and the assiette de charcuterie (£15) are both top-notch takes on traditional favourites, while the anchovies, ricotta and thyme, with grilled bread (£9.50) is a treat for the taste buds.  On a cold winter's day, the special main of green lentils with bacon and a Toulouse sausage (about £17) is hearty and enjoyable, particularly when combined with the moreish pommes Anna à la truffe (£7) and the rustic cabbage, anchoïade, breadcrumbs and chilli (£8). For fish lovers, the halibut in a mussels sauce is a tad pricey at £29, but gets rave reviews, while the hungry might opt for half a roast chicken cooked in herbs for £24. The very extensive wine list starts at about £26 a bottle and is heavily orientated towards France and its European neighbours. If you are celebrating, the Toffoli Prosecco Frizzante (£36 per bottle) is a decent option. Providing proficient, yet relaxed, service, Maison François successfully occupies the middle ground between fine dining and a fun meal out. 8/10

Sunday 6 December 2020

J Sheekey, St Martin's Court, Central London


On a chilly December evening in the Covid era, the distinguished Atlantic bar of J Sheekey is a comforting place to take refuge. A bustle of bartenders mix and serve drinks frenetically while you perch on high chairs and survey the black and white prints of celebrities that adorn the walls. In the dining room the small army of staff flow backwards and forwards shepherding eye-catching plates of seafood in all directions.  Among the starters, the chargrilled squid served with roasted chorizo, padron peppers and smoked butter (£14.50) is both nourishing and flavoursome. Even more impressive and substantial is the Atlantic Bar platter of seafood, which includes oysters, prawns, mussels, clams, ceviche, cockles and whelks. At £25 per person, it is a punchy starter, but this is fresh and scintillating seafood. Among the main courses, the Sheekey’s fish stew (£26), with garlic mayonnaise, is more prosaic, but enjoyable all the same. You should find something you like on the lengthy wine list, but at a price. If you aren't too fussy, the Terres d'Azur Sauvignon Blanc is a crisp and fairly affordable option at £36 per bottle. All-in-all, J Sheekey is a refined and rewarding place to indulge a fish fetish. (8/10)