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The Anthologist

My lawyer friend recommended we meet here after work on a Friday. Now, I must make this clear before I start, I am not a huge fan of the City vibe or the smarmy, suited men, and pushy, hard-nosed, red lipsticked  cocktail marinated women who inhabit it.

I could hear The Anthologist before I saw it, a buzz of suited chatter and the clatter of heels littering the pavement outside. We battled, literally fought a war of bag barging and drink dodging, through the plainly decorated space to get to the bar. I'm sure it would have taken far longer than the 10 minutes it did, had I not thrust my attractive blonde friend in front, ergo parting the seas as men fired lines at her from all sides. 

The menu was a try-hard-gourmet selection of cocktails including a number of 'Signature Skinny' drinks with calorie counts, priced at around the nine pounds mark, It took a fair while of screaming at the top of my voice for my friend to understand what I wanted over the top of the droning, bass-y Chelsea-club music which filled any of the canteen reminiscent space not already crammed with people.

 

After 20 minutes of waiting, during which the bar tender faffed, disappeared, faffed and disappeared I finally had my Skinny Honey Passion; a mix of Pommery Brut Champagne, passion fruit and honey water and my friend had something which strongly resembled a Sanctuary body scrub served in a jam jar.

I also had a desperate need to escape the drone of music and women who seemed to communicate only through flirting or elbowing. On the street outside I supped the cocktail, which was pleasant but not earth shatteringly good and wondered how I'd come to spend nearly £10 for the privilege of a drinking on the street like a tramp.

In conclusion, this place might well be great for a Sunday afternoon something different, or a midweek drink. But as I saw it, on a Friday post-work time, it was a heaving mess of smarm and arrogance which certainly didn’t fulfil its website promise of being ‘The perfect antidote to the city’.

I won’t be returning any time soon.

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Inamo

If you’ve ever been to Soho with a media-type or even walked along Wardour Street minding your own business, you probably know about Inamo. Because, Inamo is pan-Asian cuisine with a twist, that twist being a truly unique digital ordering system. 

Its Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Korean influenced menu with a squeeze of trendy westernisation – see the Berkshire Pork Neck with spicy chocolate sauce – really works, but its the tables, not the food, you’ll remember.
 
Even from outside, you can’t help but be enthralled by myriad colours which softly glow over each table picking them out from the otherwise dark
surroundings. 
 
Copyright Inamo
We received a warm welcome as we entered, fascinated by our surroundings. Each table was decked with a large white plate, chopsticks and vivid digital tablecloth, beamed from a high-tech projector above. We hadn’t booked but were advised that we could wait half an hour downstairs in their cocktail bar, after which a table would be available. I was surprised to find that the downstairs bar was not nearly as chic and pleasing to the eye as the restaurant, with no quirky twists or distractions to the eye and none of the uniqueness which set its parent out from the crowds.
 
After fifteen minutes we were shown upstairs to our seats, the friendly waitress demonstrated how to order food, using a finger operated trackpad set into the table to control the interactive menu projected on to it. Drinks and food were all there, sensibly structured and perfectly thought out, even down to the
wonderfully arty touch of each dish displaying digitally on your plate as you browsed its description. 
 
No detail had been missed, for, once we’;d ordered by simply clicking the item and confirming, we were able to watch the chefs working in the kitchen, call the waitress over and change the pattern and colour of our tablecloth all from the comfort of this intuitive digital system. We even passed the time waiting for our food supping our swiftly delivered Oriental Rose cocktail and beer whilst playing a game of interactive battleships, not that we’d want time to pass any quicker in this place.
 
When our dishes, Baby Crispy Prawns with Thai mango relish, Berkshire Pork Neck with confit of apple, and spicy chocolate sauce and Sake Salmon wrapped in cedar wood with ginger butter sauce, arrived, they didn’t disappoint, as good to look at as they tasted.
 
Somehow the spice in the chocolate sauce brought out the depth of the flavour in the fine cut of pork and ensured that it worked as a distinctly savoury dish. The succulent sake marinated salmon, paired excellently with its ginger butter sauce, was also delicious but I felt that the cedar wood box, which could have really lent something to the flavour, actually added nothing and served only to make the salmon difficult to get at.
 

We were too stuffed to order any other food, and besides, we’d been so busy enjoying the surroundings and playing with the interactive menu that we’d not noticed the time, we had just half an hour to order the bill (via the interactive table) and get to our last trains.

In conclusion, this is the perfect tonic to the increasing number of London eateries which indulge in style over substance;. Inamo has both delicious food and fantastically modern, dazzling surroundings. It does gimmick without a hint of tack and serves with a speedy slickness that can’t fail to impress, but go for pre-dinner drinks elsewhere. 
 
Inamo 
134-136 Wardour St
Soho
 W1F 8ZP
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Jijimi

Despite having walked past this restaurant a million times I was ignorant to its existence until, on my way to the gym one week day evening, I was jumped in front of by one of their leaflet wielding employees.

The leaflet described Jijimi as a fine Korean restaurant specialising in Bibimbab, a traditional dish comprising warm white rice topped with sauteed and seasoned vegetables (Namual) and chilli paste.

So it was, that on my way back to the station following a particularly lax gym session, I found myself peering a steamed up glass shop front at their MS Office- produced menu which, strangely, did not feature any barbecue dishes.

I had been looking for no more than 30 seconds when a friendly faced gentleman appeared “Korean, tasty food.” he said smiling. “Better than chinese, tastier and healthier too than Thai”. I looked inside, the restaurant was a third full, but its plainness made it unpretentiously welcoming for a quick bite to eat. I was sold and the gentleman showed me to one of the plain pale wood tables featuring a built in barbecue plate.

I was served promptly and ordered a glass of water, as the restaurant Isn’t licensed for alcohol sale, and tempura vegetables to start. Unfortunately, all of the barbecue dishes were red meat which I don’t eat but, on the plus side, when I explained my allergies to the personable waiter he quickly offered to have the chef make a variation on any menu item specifically to accommodate me. 

While I waited the short time for my tempura to arrive I hadn’t much to occupy my gaze as the restaurant is very plainly decorated with while walls and no artwork.Instead I was entertained by a nearby table of men taking advantage of the free corkage and bring your own alcohol policy by indulging in several beers.

When it arrived, my tempura was fresh and tasty, although more like fish and chip shop batter than my previous experience of tempura. I also realised I had omitted to ask the waiter for no peppers- yet another of my allergies- so I did have to leave some.

When my main course, a variation on the menu’s chicken in soy with mushroom and onions, arrived I was surprised to see it was not accompanied by rice, given that the waiter had not prompted me to order something to go with it. Despite this I was endeared when the waiter, noticing I hadn’t eaten all of my tempura, told me he would give me the rice for free. All went down fine but I can say little more for it than that.

The most endearing thing about Jijiimi is how hard they are misguidedly trying on the marketing front. As I left, I was hurriedly handed a promotional pen and asked for my email address on requesting a business card, I was given a pack of mini promotional sticky notes (!). They later followed this up with an email written in broken English and promising a discount on my next visit.

In conclusion, it certainly isn’t a celebration of culinary skill, but with a bill coming to £17, I suppose for the area it was reasonable. I’d go back, but only if they expanded their BBQ menu, otherwise, I’d rather just pay a little extra and go to Bincho (Old Compton Street) for some Japanese.

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Peggy Porschen Cakes

I decided to walk to cake maker extraordinaire Peggy Porschen’s parlour during my lunch break.

Famed for luxurious wedding and cupcakes which are almost too beautiful to eat, Peggy Porschen opened her first (and only) shop last year meaning that people like me can now share in the delights previously enjoyed by the likes of Stella Mccartney and Anthony Hopkins.

The so-chic-its-painful cake shop in Belgravia, tempts with a colour scheme of brown, pink and glossy glass, showing off to perfection its treasure trove of treats.

This being my first visit, I checked the website in the office before leaving. 

When I arrived I was disappointed (and distinctly annoyed) to find a sign on the window detailing that they were closed for the day on 5th September – I think it was for staff training but I may be wrong.

I wondered why they had not bothered to post this on their website, the obvious place to inform and update prospective new customers, particularly as they had clearly known in advance that they would be shut.

I wasted my lunch break and came back unimpressed and a little sad to have missed out on what I had hoped would be a real sweet treat.

 

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Baltic Restaurant and Bar

Sometimes, you just want to feel you are away from the rat-race. To forget the crush of the tube commute, unwillingly sardined against others, breathing the smell of other people’s houses, sweat and perfume baked into rained-on jackets as you attempt to keep your limbs the right side of the train doors.

Baltic is the perfect antidote to this nightmare. As you pass through the, distinctly average, small entrance into a long and dimly lit bar, you are enveloped with a golden warmth.

The décor is simple but well thought out, candles flicker in corners where the clientèle sup drinks contently and feast on the complimentary popcorn while staff serve their extensive menu of flavoured vodkas with a slickness that can’t fail to impress.

The first time I visited, however, I was dining. The contrast of the bar and restaurant was striking. From the moodily lit and cozy bar I found myself in a bright, light and airy dining room with exposed wooden beams and more than a little churchiness to its soaring ceiling. Seated with my back to the wall, I looked out at my fellow diners and bathed in the sunshine streaming through the skylights.

Quickly I was offered a selection of fresh bread by a smartly dressed, polite and smiley gentleman. But, where was my side plate? Perhaps one isn’t traditional in Eastern and Central Europe, the lands which have inspired Baltic, or perhaps they just forgot mine, but either way, it seemed a bit odd.

I started with Leniwe, described as Cheese and Potato dumplings with Saut mushrooms. When the generously portioned dish arrived I was surprised to see that rather than round as I’d expected, the dumplings were stretched and thin. The flavours were simple and comforting and perfectly complimented by my sweet plum vodka which was served warm. I couldn’t help but mentally pencil in another visit during the winter months. 

My plate was cleared and my main of Paprika Marinated Coqeulet with Chicory and Apple Salad, Walnuts and Garlic Sauce presented. I was looking forward to such an intriguing dish, not least because the friendly staff has assured me, with absolutely no hassle, that it would be entirely onion and tomato free meaning I wouldn’t have an allergic reaction to it. 

It didn’t disappoint. Delicious, hearty and, with its sprinkling of pomegranate seeds to redeem it, well presented, this was a welcome change from the usual Southwark fare. 

Looking at the menu which included delights like Makowiec, a poppyseed and honey cake with crème fraiche and fruit compote, I desperately wished I had room for a desert, but the large portions had defeated me. Instead I settled for another Sweet Plum Vodka and asked for the bill. 

I left with a smile on my face, and change in my pocket, pleased with the service and food and somehow calmed by the airy lightness of the architecture. 

Only two things relating to Baltic were less than perfect:

1. I only realised when I got home that I could have used my Taste card to receive 50% off #soannoying

2. The website which annoyingly takes you to a holding page and forces you to click ‘access main site’ to see anything useful #makesnosense

Overall though, Baltic is special. Its small, shrouded and inconspicuous entrance leading through an atmospheric bar to a bright haven is like being tunnelled out of the hubbub and bustle of commuter-ville and into a magical cloud where rather than other peoples newspapers, faces, backpacks and musty coats, the only thing you will feel on your skin is the glorious light pouring through the windows.

Highly recommended.

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Veeraswamy

Before 1926, Indian restaurants were aimed at Indian people. But when Edward Palmer opened Veeraswamy in Piccadilly that year, he revolutionised London’s dining scene, making it fashionable for everyone to eat Indian.

I don’t often eat Indian food, due to my allergies, but somehow a dire week at work led me to this narrow doorway just off Regent Street, seeking both culinary satiation and escape. Before me, stood a man in glorious technicolour, a turquoise embroidered gown reflecting in the glow of his gold silk turban. Above him a rainbow of lanterns twinkled in the perfect antidote to the grey outside as I requested a table for one.

As I asked he gestured to his right. I followed his gaze and instantly my immersion in this magical world was broken as there sat a smartly dressed, yet distinctly un-embroidered young lady who, after a few words into a telephone, directed me down a short, narrow corridor to the lift. Inside, I couldn’t quite decide if the pink lighting was more exotic cocktail bar than erotic shop but by this time I felt committed to whatever awaited me.

The doors slid open to reveal two more suited ladies who swiftly saw me to my seat on a long couch with a view of Regents Street. My overwhelming feeling, however, was that this place was conflicted. On one hand, with its polished maple tables, silverware and white tablecloths, this felt like an impersonal, stiff upper lip, prim and proper fine dining restaurant, but its slightly grubby junkshop rug and smattering of more of the multicoloured lanterns I’d seen downstairs suggested it was trying to create a certain ambience, and aesthetic which was quite the opposite.

The cocktail menu was frustratingly skinny, but I settled on a hibiscus drink which transpired to be little more than cheap fizz poured over a jar flower. Then I tackled the menu which I had anticipated being difficult for me as someone with allergies to onion and tomato, but, credit where it is due, the manager proposed a suitable solution.

The starter,  Raj Kachori which was described as regal street food, was a large pastry puff decorated with herbs and jewel-like pomegranate, surrounded by raita and filled with a creamy, spicy vegetable mixture. The crispness of the pastry, zingyness of the pomegranate and spicy cream complemented each other but the portion was far too big and left me feeling as though  I’d eaten five chicken coronation sandwiches. It did look good though.

By the end of this course I’d finished my drink but despite taking my plate not one waiter asked if I would like another until a good fifteen minutes later, something which was especially annoying given the number of waiters wandering around aimlessly or faffing over the precise position of a fork.

My main comprised a slightly strangely portioned set of two chicken breasts each stuffed with nuts and apricots. Having been convinced by the manager’s suggestion, I accompanied this with a selection of vegetables in a mustard rich sauce and traditional flaked bread. All were tasty but none impressively so.

Still a bit sickened by the size of the starter, I couldn’t eat everything, so decided to ask for a doggy bag when I got the bill. I hadn’t anticipated what a task this would be, after fifteen minutes of trying to beckon a waiter over, finally one approached, only to respond that he didn’t know if it would be possible because they were ‘very busy’. I surveyed the restaurant, noting many empty tables and wondered what their idea of quiet would be.

Fortunately, ten minutes later my packaged food was returned And the bill followed ten minutes later. The princely sum of £68. Overall I’d say this was a slightly better than average experience, where the pretty good food was overridden by their inflated prices and below par service.