Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Mugen (Monument)

Grade: A-

RESTAURANT REVIEW: da Scalzo (Belgravia)

I went to da Scalzo yesterday with colleagues for dinner before the opera and was more than satisfied with the quality of the food, both main and dessert, and the wine, which was a charmingly fruity 2012 red number that went down a treat.

Being an authentic Italian diner, da Scalzo has a few signature pasta and salad dishes, but is primarily a pizza place, where it boasts the usual you’d expect from Pizza Express, but all prepared with that bit more oomph than Pizza Express’ paint-by-numbers style that has resulted in them desperately offering so many 2-for the price of-1 deals just to get bums on seats. The vast majority of pizzas were around a tenner each, which is very reasonable, given that this is the same price you’d expect to pay in Pizza Express, and for a lower quality. I had the Siciliana, which had tuna, anchovies, vegetables and cheese on, and it suited my palate perfectly, especially the handsome saltiness. Perhaps the only mild foible about the food was that when we asked for food, only tomatoes and onions were laid on our plate. Whilst I like both of those, it would have been nice to have been fed some greens too. However, it would be churlish to whine too much, particularly given the high quality of the service - anything I asked for, the waiter had it to be within seconds.

For dessert, I had a tiramisu, which I find a concoction that’s very hit-and-miss. When it’s good, it’s orgasmic. When it’s bad, however, you might as well just get the Sainsbury’s one, so dull is the mesh of flavours. Fortunately, this sat in the former camp. Creamy, rich, filling and completely delicious, I wolfed mine down in four bites.

Just a couple hundred metres away from Victoria coach station, this isn’t a particularly hard place to find. Downstairs, there is a bar, so if you arrive before friends, you can settle in with a nice Peroni. Across the walls are painted sayings by the likes of Fellini, Euripides and Sophie Loren about the virtues of food, and how it enriches life. Dine here, and it’s hard to disagree with them.

Grade: A-

Yesterday's canteen lunch.

Bruschetta, wedges and peas, £3.

Monday, March 31, 2014

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Gaucho (Picadilly Circus)

Seeking to right the wrong I explained here of having not been to enough steakhouses in the capital, I popped just down the road from the last place I visited, to Gaucho, a famous Argentinian steakhouse. As with Hawksmoor, it, too, was steeped in prestige; with a man outside the restaurant, not to mention two women to take your coats at the foyer. The decor, however, can only be described as how a Londoner would picture Argentina to be like, with faux-fur draped tables and walls and wooden floor panels.

As for the steak itself, I was a little less enamoured with the filet steak I had at Gaucho than the ribeye I had at Hawksmoor. Partly that was my fault - I’d asked for it to be cooked medium, when really I should have asked for well-cooked. There was perhaps a bit too much blood for me in this one. On the plus side, there was absolutely no fat, so I demolished all 225g of it, but the price really was quite steep - £28.50 for this small quantity.

Fortunately, the starter and dessert were a lot more agreeable, if, also somewhat steep at over £9 each. For starter, I had a sort of grilled cheese concoction, and it was wonderful, made even more delicious with the spicy oil they put on all tables (bread, scones and butter come to you too). And for dessert, I sampled one of my favourite Argentinian treats: dulche de leche, as a side with a macadamia cheesecake. I am not exaggerating when I say it was one of the finest cheesecakes I’ve tasted, although, again, I have a foible with the measly size. For the cheesecake, rather than the steak itself, it’s worth visiting Gaucho.

I think the biggest stumbling point for Gaucho is that they didn’t offer a lunchtime express menu like Hawksmoor. At Hawksmoor, I had a starter, handsome helping of steak and dessert, for just over thirty quid. Here, just the steak itself was almost £30, and it was a paltry amount as well. So when it comes to picking between the time, I am firmly in the Team Hawksmoor camp.

Grade: B-