After work and at the weekends I like to go out for nice meals with my friends. I could say I’m a bit of a foodie, but this is doesn’t make me an expert on fine dining, it just means I love food. Simples. But what do I love more than food? Cheap food. Now that might not sound appealing, but it does when you’re talking about cheap food at usually expensive restaurants. This is where the Tastecard comes in. With this I have been able to book a table at some pretty snazzy places, eat lobster and enjoy 3 courses all for less than I would pay for two glasses of wine in London. Good times.
Anyway, here is a little review on the big 10 restaurants I have been to so far:
- Covent Garden Grill – situated behind Covent Garden market, in a nice modern little restaurant. Being a bit narrow and compact it was a tad noisy, but this was more than made up for by the food. The burgers available were great tasting, huge portions and served quick. The fresh lemonade was more like sugar water than anything, but the staff were friendly and overall I would happily recommend the place to anyone else.
- Meat Liquor in Oxford Circus is a brilliant restaurant devoted purely to meat funnily enough. You can’t book in advance for this place so no Tastecard here, but I just had to mention it because the atmosphere inside and the quality for food was just so good. You queue outside, before being allowed to queue inside, then you are allowed to drink at the bar before being shown to your seat. They served great cocktails, mostly American themed, and the staff are very friendly. The tables are all quite packed together but with the vibrant American music from the South everyone is in a good mood and its pretty normal to chat between tables! The Philly cheesesteaks are incredible, and just like how I remembered from Philadelphia last summer. I would happily go here again and again.
- West End Kitchen, Piccadilly Circus – I have been here twice now, once after a lecture at the Linnean Society and one before I saw Macbeth starring James McAvoy at Trafalgar Studios. It’s mainly pre-theatre food, so lots of it and super fast service. But the rice is already more than affordable, so with 50% with Tastecard, it was incredibly cheap for 3 brilliant courses! I’m sure I will continue to visit here.
- Koza near Lambeth North is a Turkish restaurant with a really brilliant menu, with aubergine as a definite running theme. With the parrot on the bar and authentic Turkish themed decorations and furniture it really was a lovely vibe in there. Going early in the week meant it was quite empty but this only meant the service was exceptional. Unfortunately the generous portions meant that I ended up leaving a lot of food, something I really hate to do, but I wish to definitely go back again. I feel it would be a great place for a large group!
- Tas @ EV in Southwark – when we celebrate a birthday or have a farewell meal for a member of staff we often go to this place just down the road from work, sit at a big Turkish/Moroccan themed table and enjoy a great selection of mainly vegetarian salads, quiches, falafels and breads all with a hugely generous portion of humus. It’s quite good value for money and the staff are always very friendly. I really do enjoy each visit and recommend always trying something new.
- Gow’s Restaurant at Liverpool Street has to be my favourite fish restaurant so far. It has an excellent menu choice and fantastic quality food, satisfying portions and friendly staff. The deserts were generous and filling, so I will definitely be going back here, even though the staff were quite busy and forgetful at times.
- Sophie’s, Covent Garden – a cute restaurant/café with great dessert menu, which is all I ordered at the time. Definitely recommend the cheesecake, very filling!
- Grace, Piccadilly Circus – when I had a friend visiting from Germany I decided this would be the perfect time to use my Tastecard. At first we were a bit put off by this place with there being a very busy bar, unfriendly doorman and cloakroom staff, with no obvious restaurant area entrance. Eventually being directed around all the bar people, we found where the restaurant was, but it took some time to stop a waitress from constantly running past and actually get seated. The service was extremely slow and disorganised, with requests often being forgotten, but the food itself was incredible, steak and lobster cooked and presented well and good starters too. We didn’t stick around for dessert as we couldn’t manage the wait any longer, but I can’t fault the chef. Probably won’t go back though.
- 2 bridge place, Victoria – we went here the 2nd night of my friends visit to eat before we saw Wicked at the Victoria Apollo. It was the restaurant at the bottom of a very fancy hotel and the staff were meticulous, the menu was impressive and the food was incredible. I had the best mullet I have ever had, and scallops to start, only to be topped off with a brilliant chocolate mousse for dessert. I would more than happily return here with my Tastecard, and recommend fervently. Really enjoyed myself!
- @50, Bank – the final stop on my list is the most recent Tastecard visit. I went with a friend on a Monday and we were the only visitors, this should have flagged in our heads, but we were hungry. The steak was expensive but great quality and the sides were unusual, but yummy. However it was a bit of let down as there was no atmosphere, the staff were a little forgetful, which was surprising in that we were the only customers, and then to top it off a lot of items were off the menu making it a bit of a joke, especially when it came to desert. It was a shame that such a clearly pleasant and potentially fancy place was so dead and lacking in custom, and I really didn’t appreciate the complimentary bread NOT being complimentary. You expect this in Europe, not in England. Good quality restaurants always ask if you want it, and then you can easily refuse if you know it’s an unwanted addition. By automatically providing you with it, you assume it’s free, as most restaurants that do this are. I don’t appreciate this little scam, just to add another addition to the bill. Probably won’t go back here, unless I know it’s a more vibrant evening.
Other reviews & recommendations are…
Prince regent, Herne Hill – avoid booking out this area, it’s not clean and staff are easily confused, but do good ciders and downstairs seems to be pretty normal
Imbibe Bar, Southwark – great venue for office party, expensive chips, but good BBQ outside. Fun venue and open until very late!
3 stags, Lambeth North – lovely little pub with great upstairs area for booking out. Cute little balcony overlooking Imperial War Museum. Good wine and great interesting food available including thyroid balls? Apparently a delicacy.
Soundtracks, Camden – brilliant night out, with music being predominantly from the 90’s from wil smith to saved by the bell them tune, so just classic oldies. Great night, but A LOT of drunk sleazy students around so be warned! Oh and muggers.
Macbeth @ Trafalgar Studios – fantastic. SO well done and very passionate. Lots of blood too. Long and confusing at times, with some scenes being potentially friendly/fighting I couldn’t tell. But James McAvoy was amazing. The venue was so small and intimate and I really felt involved. It was a fantastic interpretation, with some real emotion in the actors, accentuated with some excellent, costume, lighting and set design. Not personally a huge a fan of Shakespeare, but I am now.
Wicked @ Victoria Apollo – one of the best shows I have ever seen. I didn’t expect it to be such a comedy, and I truly laughed and cried throughout. It was brilliantly done, with such detail and pe-zaz that I was pretty much grinning the whole night. The lead had a fantastic voice that really got to us back in row U, but even being this far back in such a large venue was great, you could see so well! I loved it a lot and recommend it highly to anyone that hasn’t already seen it.
Alice and the 40 thieves @ The Bell, Aldgate – I saw this place because two friends starred in it. Not knowing much about theatre I wasn’t sure how I would like it, but it was fantastic. A very intimate show and so well done. It was a east end gangster theme with a murder mystery/crime thriller aspect, with some humour intertwined which made it very. The venue was only small, but packed out none the less (apparently for the majority of nights it has been this way). There was action and it was fast paced, and although it was dark at times which only entertained me more! Good work guys.
In conclusion … I love living in London.