6 Maiden Lane
This cult favourite by Russell Norman has an outlet in Covent Garden is on a cobbled street off the Piazza. With it's popularity even expanding into a cookbook I was definitely intrigued as to how an Italian tapas- style restaurant has dominated the London food scene.
First of all, the waiting time for a table was terrible, close to 45 minutes around 6pm on a weekday. With its reputation I thought the wait would be worth it. The menu is well varied with its selection of meat and seafood dishes, so ordering was quite fun and the service staff were enthusiastic about the food. I was hopeful- except whilst tasty, the dishes are best described as home-cooked. Very well then that Polpo has a lovely recipe book that does not require a lengthy queue.
While I quite like the bare and rustic, wood- iron kind of interior, Polpo's layout is far from ideal when it comes to maximising tables. So for a restaurant that is presumably food- centric rather than atmospheric, it does fall a little short especially compared to its hype and its nearby competitors.
Balthazar4-6 Russell Street
When this New Yorker first debuted in Covent Garden's Russell Street, a friend of mine booked brunch there everyday for the opening week. One of those appointments was with me and I thought it was one of the loveliest places for lunch in my area. With such a great reputation to uphold, Balthazar did not disappoint; the staff were attentive and seemed to actually enjoy their jobs, which cannot be said for most restaurants. Whilst the menu does not offer anything particularly unique, bar perhaps their Duck Shepherd's Pie, everything I have tried in my consequent trips have been great. It has to be said, whilst the presentation and quality is completely adequate, it is a brasserie one goes to for the ambience and overall experience rather than an exemplary meal.
As a side note, booking is essential unless you go everyday and eventually earn your own table ;)
15-17 Broadwick Street
This is absolutely my favourite up- market Chinese restaurant in London, and possibly of all- time. Perhaps from the selection of my photos you can see why. Although famous for perfectly steamed, juicy dim sum and flavoursome savoury dishes it is equally fantastic for drinks (alcoholic and virgin). Most of all their desserts are the best. One week I went twice and both times ordered strategically so I would have twice as much 'room for dessert'.
The decor has been the same for years (and personally I think Hakkasan is prettier) but the only thing worth complaining about is the snobby front desk. Even with one Michelin star a Chinese is a Chinese, pretences are quite absurd. Just walk ten minutes to Chinatown and you'll see what I mean!
Although some say Yauatcha is not worth its price tag (£30+ per person each time I go) as Royal China (Baker Street) serves a competitive and cheaper dim sum (approx. £15pp is enough to cover your table) I would always recommend Yauatcha. Who doesn't love beautiful cakes with popping candy and rainbow- sprinkled bubblegum macaroons?
Although not necessary, reservations are a good idea, even if it is just to avoid a dirty look from the receptionists.
Bocca Di Lupo
12 Archer Street
These photos do not do justice to Bocca. It is a lovely restaurant albeit a little cramped especially around the bar. It seems to be always packed but this is completely understandable and with a similar serving style to Polpo, I would recommend this over the aforementioned restaurant. The menu is more extensive and the quality is a lot more refined and leaves an impression. Bocca does a very good tartar, not too many capers which I find can overpower the freshness of the meat rather than bring it out. For me at least, I really get the feeling of freshness, whether it's because of the clean coolness of the restaurant or the zesty citrus being prepared for dessert, this is something that stands out in a place well known for meat. The flexibility to order small or regular sized plates means that this is the ideal place to go whether or not you're ready for a big meal, without compromising on quality.