London Restaurant Review Roundup (August 2014): Arabica, Lima Floral, Stax Diner, Dirty Bones & More
Despite ticking a couple of biggies off my to-eat list this month – The Dairy (very late to the party) and Gymkhana (plenty of folks still buzzing) – full justice to the London restaurant scene remains elusive. Enter the second Scav Gourmet restaurant review roundup, featuring some of the capital’s best and most talked about new eateries.
We’ll start with Scav Gourmet favourite Cheese and Biscuits, who visited Arabica Bar & Kitchen in SE1. Having lunched in and around Borough Market a fair bit over the last few years, I was already familiar with Arabica’s food thanks to its market stall and was particularly excited about this opening. In fact, I very nearly paid a visit myself. In the end, I’m sort of glad I didn’t – at least before payday. Chris found most of the food at Arabica’s restaurant proper agreeable, but found portions miserly and pricing steep:
I didn’t hate Arabica. It’s impossible to hate Lebanese food even when it’s only fairly competently made, and in the hands of the clearly very talented kitchen here it very often shines. But I wonder why, when the powers that be decided to spread a tablespoon of smoked aubergine on doll’s house tableware and charge £6 for it, nobody felt compelled to say “hang on, do you not think that just looks like an utterly ridiculous amount of food to serve to paying customers?”
Lima’s one of my favourite London restaurants, so I’ve obviously been keeping an eye on new offshoot Lima Floral. The Very Hungry Londoner got there before me though, and was pleased by the quality of its adventurous food, artful presentation, and overall value. Like the original, it’ll never be the cheapest eat in town, but Lima Floral looks like one of the few pricey places that’s worth it:
I get the impression that as Peruvian food was very new to London when the first opened, they played it slightly safe and this is meant to a be a bolder, more adventurous restaurant. All the dishes were beautifully presented, little works of art, with vibrant colours, tastes and textures on every single plate. I loved the variety and playfulness of it all. I will definitely go back.
Stax Diner claims to offer “American food at its finest”, and it looked a pretty good bet to deliver, given the owner’s background at the helm of top cake shop Bea’s of Bloomsbury. So I was surprised to find a broad consensus in the blogosphere that it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be – or, to be more specific, that its burgers weren’t up to scratch. Wrap Your Lips Around This is definitely one of the more amusing food blogs out there, and Mehreen was impressed by the chicken and waffles at Stax. But she agreed with Hamburger Me’s assessment that the patties could do with some work. I’ll probably still go at some point (the menu is one of the few in London to feature po’ boy sandwiches) but now I know where to look and what to avoid:
I’m going to say this up front. The burger needs work…The proportions seem wrong, it’s too small for the basket, and the burger patty is out of proportion with the bun – skewed to one side, exposing a swathe of bare bun bottom.
As well as stretching my credit limit at a couple of top restaurants, I also got round to writing up some recent excursions this month. Clapham’s got a fair bit to recommend it these days, not least a restaurant scene that’s leaps and bounds ahead of what’s on offer over the border in Wimbledon. One recent discovery (tight-lipped locals have known about it for years) was Tsuanmi, which serves up some of the best Japanese food I’ve had outside of zone 1 and probably the best vegetarian dish I’ve eaten all year in its agedashi tofu. Read the full Scav Gourmet Tsunami review here.
I also finally made it to Trendy Restaurant School graduate Dirty Bones this month. It’s definitely a try-hard joint with some amateur edges (the service), but the food’s really quite good if enthusiastically priced, though admittedly it is Kensington. Read the full Scav Gourmet Dirty Bones review, or check out my Wingin’ It write up instead if your primary concern is chicken bits.
Finally, the latest episode of Scav on Tour saw me down in Bath for a night, where I discovered a thriving food and drink scene at the heart of Britain’s capital of twee. Pressed for time, I did what any self-respecting tourist would and ate next to the train station, because otherwise I might have got mugged, lost, or mistaken for a student. Fortunately, there was Grillstock. It’s definitely not the best barbecue joint around, but is very competent indeed and you can read the full Scav Gourmet Grillstock review here.
That’s all for August. Next month, look out for my write ups of The Dairy and Gymkhana. And don’t forget, if you’ve reviewed a restaurant for your blog you can always email me to be considered for inclusion.
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