We had a good lunch recently at L'Escargot in Greek Street. Those assembled comprised my two pals both called Oliver, Anna and Robert the Suave. Also Mohammad Zahoor, the plucky owner of the Kyiv Post. It was a quiet Monday and we sat at the back, discussing the tribulations in Ukraine, the seamless staff of L'Escargot did their quiet, noble work
As much as "social enterprise" is a buzzword these days, there are people who reject this label entirely. 'Reluctant social entrepreneur,' Iqbal Wahhab is one such person. Sitting in Roast Restaurant in Borough Market, London, enjoying a delicious macchiato and the exceptional service of their highly-rated staff, I questioned Iqbal's hesitation to embrace this categorisation of his long-standing work supporting the community.
The London restaurant scene is on fire at the moment, and without doubt one of the best places in the world for the quality of its restaurants. 2015 looks set to continue this trend if these restaurants are anything to go by. Read on for my top picks of the best new restaurants opening in London in 2015.
Some of the biggest names in US food have passed through her kitchens and she is an insistent, quietly spoken campaigner against the culture of fast food. We chatted over a lunch of warms goats cheese with roasted figs, guinea fowl and squash gratin and then the lightest floating island in a damson and creamy sauce.
Are you someone who hankers after food trends, lovingly, obsessively, happily, slavishly jumping on every bandwagon that comes along and chomping on whatever fashion dictates? Of the many trends we have seen over the last couple of years, high-end burgers and small sharing plates have surely been neck and neck at the head of the race to be uber-foodie.
A brilliant young cook called Lucy, the daughter of the cookery writer Jane Lovett, turns out amazing dinners of grilled prawns, tuna nicoise (the finest I've had; from locally caught fish, seasoned hard and given the merest charring from the grill), lamb tagine, soft slices of pork in a tuna sauce and chicken with peppers and lime.
The walls are clad in corrugated iron. There's rustic wooden panelling too. The staff wear checked shirts and have beards (which come to think of it is rather more Shoreditch than Northamptonshire). The food is also a kind of mythologised offering. I mean where else would you put 'lard on toast' on the menu?
Off I went to Manchester to see what the deal was. On King Street West, in the main shopping district of the city, you'll find San Carlo. And you'll discover an amazing story about this place too. For the man behind this business - a hugely successful restaurateur making millions from branches from Bangkok to Kuwait - used to be barber.
Umu is one of the most magnificent restaurants in London. It is a Zen-like haven, a spa for the soul, a pleasuredome for the eyes and palate. The place is so good for you. But it's a bit pricey so I think it should be free. Unlike the idea of a free Palestine, a cause which doubtless its followers feel would benefit millions, my campaign is a selfish one. I only want free Umu for me.
The man himself was behind the bar when I visited for lunch. We were the only people there for lunch and our arrival didn't exactly bring a smile to Mr Power's face. Put it this way, there are warm welcomes and there are get out of my pub before I kill you welcomes. Try it yourself and see what you get.