The cork pings up to the ceiling like a bullet and those of us around the table cheer. This bottle - cuvee brut - is the Italian version of champagne, a light and fruity sparkling wine that's a few notches up from prosecco. In the two days that I've been eating in and around Rimini every meal apart from breakfast starts like this.
Thus the menu at The Crown when Aldo came to cook this week reflected the dishes of his childhood. The local sparkie, tyre-man, the farmers, a smattering of music producers (they get everywhere these days) and an excitable crowd of yummy mummies ate five courses, churned out by an increasingly sweaty Zilli, working at the pass with the very gifted pub chef, Felan Hennigan.
I then remembered that the girl who served me had asked if I wanted my coffee and pastry to take away. So as she kindly poured the coffee into a cardboard cup, perhaps she also, in her mind considerately, grabbed a small child that she had hidden behind the counter and pressed its bottom onto the pain au chocolat.
Nice. Little. And independent. It's what I often crave from a meal out. There's something about the service, the attention to detail and the quality of the food that allows you to differentiate between a person who genuinely cares about their restaurant to a person who solely cares about their profit.
Zomato's breadth of coverage now exceeds all their existing London competitors with their main selling point the scanned copies of menus for every one of their listings. They've signed up several thousand members and their website is attracting hundreds of thousands of hits a month - all without having spent a penny on advertising the London arm!
On a snowy Saturday, there is possibly nowhere I would rather lunch that at The River Café in Hammersmith. Celebrating their 25th year since opening, this Michelin-starred restaurant has been the training ground for some of the finest names in the business, including Theo Randall, Sam and Sam Clark of Moro, and Jamie Oliver to name a few.
There is something so typically English about Le Manoir, but closer inspection of the menu reveals an extravagance that one would be hard pushed to find in British cuisine. Expect a lavish dinner. If six-courses is not enough, no problem, have nine. The food is rich and indulgent as one might expect. At times it is overwhelming but I still eat, my inner voice getting quieter after every mouthful.
Fake online reviews are not particularly hard to spot. When they're glowing, full of marketing speak, and from a new commenter, this should raise a flag for website owners and users. On the other hand, some hotels and restaurants have complained about malicious and unfounded reviews, some of which come from rival companies.