Zuma, Raphael Street, SW7


Japanese Izakaya style restaurants are quickly becoming one of our favourites. They offer a different and modern way to eat great Japanese food in a stylish establishment. Currently Dinings in Marylebone is the best we’ve tasted however Zuma is the more affluent older brother looking to make it’s mark and it definitely leaves you wanting more.

We will add this in now that Zuma is high end, so expect a large bill but food and drinks that fit the price. Upon entering the restaurant you’re greeted by friendly doormen which leads you to the front of house. The ladies here were excellent and quickly took our coats/bags and led us to our pre-booked table. We were housed in the bar area rather than the restaurant but the atmosphere is just as good here. Zuma has a modern decor and great music playing in the background. The best way to describe it is chilled out house music but just loud enough so that you don’t need to shout. There’s a large bar where many members of the public hang out at before they eat or just to have a drink. Next to the bar is a large kitchen counter where you can sit (not on stools for once) and watch the meticulous chefs at work. We ordered some house cocktails and perused the menu, which is one of the best around might we add. Izakaya and Tapas food make us eat differently with ordering dishes as and when rather than the usual starter-main course-dessert affair. We have to say it’s one of the best ways to eat!

We started our order with thinly sliced seabass with yuzu, truffle oil & salmon roe, stir fried soybeans with chilli, garlic & ginger, fried soft shell crab with wasabi mayonnaise and steamed spinach with sesame sauce. The seabass was fantastically thin and the truffle oil made it outstanding. The edamame were al dente, just spicy enough and wonderfully moreish. The soft shell crab could be one of the best we’ve had and it’s probably down to that Wasabi mayonnaise! Finally the steamed spinach (which comes cold) is something we always order here as it just works. The wilted spinach leaves with sesame are a great marriage of flavours.

Next up we ordered Chicken Wings with Sake, Sea Salt & Lime, Beef Skewers with Soy, Garlic, Ginger & Ancho Chilli, Black Cod wrapped in a Hoba Leaf, and Duck Breast spiced with Ginger, Chilli & Sake. We shall start with the star of the show: The Black Cod served at Zuma is probably the best in London. It’s difficult to choose between here and Nozomi down the road but I think this one just takes it. It’s cooked to perfection and the hoba leaf adds a depth of flavour we haven’t had elsewhere. The chicken wings were lovely and the sake adds a hint of something you don’t normally taste. The beef skewers arrive cooked pink and were deliciously succulent. Finally the duck breast which also had an element of sake and we really enjoyed it; the ginger-chilli kick added a great dimension.

To finish there’s one thing to have at Zuma and that’s the off menu Chocloate Fondant with Vanilla, Praline & Caramel ice cream. It arrives with the words ‘Zuma’ plastered on the top of it and you can tell this is opulent. Opening up the fondant and chocolate oozes everywhere. Couple it with the ice cream and it’s one of the best desserts around. We’re glad it’s off the menu so that technically they should never run out!

Zuma is Japanese Izakaya done well. With mainstays such as Nobu holding their own in this small pond, it’s good to see another restaurant being successful. The music is good, the people are beautiful and the food is excellent. Zuma is a place you’d always go to if you could as the food is fresh and mostly healthy, just clear your credit cards first!

5 Raphael Street, Knightsbridge, SW7 1DL

Gymkhana, Albermarle Street, W1S

Kheema Naan

When it comes to Indian food we are often quite sceptical. Coming from an Asian background, we know what is good, what is bad, and what is down right awful whwn it comes to Indian cookery. Now let’s be honest, there are more bad than good places in this city and that’s a shame.

However we had very high expectations from Mayfair’s Gymkhana. A trip to Trishna (their sister restaurant) in Marylebone last year left us very happy so we couldn’t have been more excited for an Indian restaurant. Having been awarded a Michelin Star and consistently being in the top best restaurants in London; we knew it was going to be something special. We had waited a long time to visit this restaurant, and we have to say, we were not disappointed.

Reservations are very, very hard to come by and we had to book the full 2 months in advance for our table. However we have also actually been lucky enough to walk in but had to wait about 2 hours for a seat. That’s not a lot of time given that there are plenty of places nearby to have a drink or go shopping. Trust us, it’s worth it.

As the name suggests, the restaurant evokes a feel of the gymkhanas of old sports and leisure clubs in India tracing their heritage back to colonial times.  You will find booths with dark leather, rattan chairs and brass-edged marble tables. Fans whir lazily overhead, hanging from a dark-lacquered ceiling, while cut glass lamps and hunting trophies finish off the decor to a T.

The menu is extensive, covering all levels of hunger. Ranging from Bar Snacks/Nashta (another word for snack)/Game and Chops/Tikka and then Bread and Sabzi (vegetarian curry dishes).

We decided to pick a few from each section and enjoy them to their full potential. From the Bar Snacks and Nashta came the Kheema Naan and the Potato Chaat with Chickpeas and Tamarind. Staple dishes you find on most Indian menus, we knew that Gymkhana would take these classics to the next level. The Naan was soft, with the kheema being more paste–like so was lovely to scoop up the Chaat with. Perfectly cooked potatoes tossed in spices married with yoghurt and tamarind, a brilliant chaat. Slightly larger than we had thought but we finished it nonetheless. Along with this we opted for the Channa Bhatura. Essentially this is a chickpea curry with a fluffy, deep fried leavened bread (one of our favourite traditional breads too! This tasted just like it would if you were walking the streets of India and we couldn’t fault it at all. Excellent curry and the bhatura was fantastic (and the size of a large dinner plate).

On to the game and tikka: We went with the Paneer with Corn Chaat, Lasooni Wild Tiger Prawns & Red Pepper Chutney, Lucknowi Scallops & Kadai Courgette, Achari Stonebass (we love Indian fish), Lamb Nalli Barra with Pickled Onion, Turmeric & Ginger, and finally the Quail Sheekh Kebab & Pickled Green Chilli Chutney. Quite a lot we know but there’s good reason – more on that later. The spices in the Stonebass work so well with the light meat and the marriage of paneer and corn is one not to be messed with. The Tiger Prawns were some of the best we’ve had this year, excellent seasoning. The Scallops could probably be missed entirely here. Scallops are delicate and throwing Indian spices at them ruin what should be the taste of the sea. The Quail kebabs were good but not great unfortunately. Maybe that’s the selfish choice here as red meat kebabs are always more flavoursome. Finally the Lamb Nalli Barra – this is a lamb chop executed perfectly. The best chop we’ve ever eaten and that’s a massive accolade. We tend to judge an Indian restaurant on how well they do their chops; this is perfect.

By this time we were getting rather full, but that didn’t stop us from ordering the house speciality, the Wild Muntjac Biryani. It arrives with a domed pastry lid, which we can only assume preserves the moisture in the dish. Off it comes and the delightful aromas engulf you like nothing before. To accompany it we had to order the Daal Maharani. If a place can make daal well, we will love it forever. It was rich, deep in flavour and the lentils were still whole and had not disintegrated. A ‘side’ of Chicken Butter Masala and Bombay Potatoes rounded off the meal prior to desserts. A great butter chicken and a lovely dish of correctly spiced potatoes, we’re now officially in love with this place!

To end our meal we opted to try the chocolate samosa. It wasn’t what we had hoped unfortunately. A great concept but the executuion could have been better. The filling did not taste of chocolate at all and was rather dense. We expected oozing fondant like chocolate to come out of the hard pastry shell.

If you want a good curry, Gymkhana can’t be beaten. If you want an Indian experience, again it can’t be beaten. There’s a lot to like about this restaurant and very little to grumble about. The wait to get a reservation being a slight one but when a restaurant is this good, we can’t complain. Now serving brunch, we’ve just found a restaurant that ticks every box and then a couple more. Go hungry, and you will leave very happy.

42 Albemarle Street, London, W1S 4JH

Chiltern Firehouse, Chiltern Street, W1U


We made it. We finally made it. After opening 18 months ago, Chiltern Firehouse quickly earned the title of ‘Hardest place to get a reservation’. We were finally able to secure a brunch booking last weekend, and it was actually rather easy. We only rang a couple of days in advance (quite rare for such establishments!).

We were rather excited to walk through the dark gates and see what was awaiting us on the other side. After seeing so many photos of food, decor, the toilets (yes even the toilets are exclusive), we just could not wait to see what Chiltern Firehouse had in store for us.

We arrived promptly for our reservation and were met by two doorman, or ‘gate’-men rather, who guided us through the terrace and into the main restaurant. We were greeted by the lovely hostess who gave us the option of a table or the Chef’s Counter. To the Counter we ran. We always choose this option if it is ever presented to us. To see the inside workings of a kitchen is nothing more than spectacular.

Once seated we decided upon Champagne spritzers. Strawberry & Basil and Berries & mint. Both were extremely refreshing. One slight gripe would be that they were served in tumblers and not flutes. If serving champagne, flutes are always preferred!  Our extremely friendly waiter went through the lunch/brunch menu with us and gave us his tips and favourite choices and the chef’s specials too. We of course ordered the Crab Donuts and Bacon Cornbread, followed by the Watermelon and Ricotta Salad and Eggs Florentine and Royale.

The Cornbread arrived first. A small wooden plank holding two freshly baked sticks served with the most amazing maple butter topped with a chipotle sprinkle. The cornbread was delicious. Light and fluffy with a kick in flavour. The bacon was a fragrant addition rather than pieces, which didn’t bother us, but may cause some concern to other expecting larger chunks.

This was followed the Crab Donuts and Watermelon Salad. First the donuts. Now we have read mixed reviews of these little morsels so we tried to reserve judgement until we had tried them for ourselves. What you get are chewy, fluffy pastry balls sliced open and filled with mildly zingy crab meat. With the pastry being slightly on the sweet side, it did prove slightly odd but we have to admit we are definitely Pro Donut. Our waiter informed us the Bradley Cooper has them for breakfast with his morning latte! The Salad was exquisite. Light ricotta with fresh tomatoes and juicy watermelon. A gorgeous summer time salad if there ever was one. We saw the chef preparing this and you can see the love and detail going into each dish. We would go back for that alone.

Next up came our eggs. The Florentine consisted of a cheesy muffin, topped with tomato, spinach and two perfectly formed poached eggs and hollandaise. The muffin was delicious. It wasn’t doughy and was able to hold the weight of the mammoth toppings. Now the poached egg test is of course whether or not they have a runny centre, and these definitely did. The royale versions come with Brioche and Salmon. Again the brioche was excellent. It is obvious that the baked breads are given as much love and attention as any other part of the menu. We like this a lot.

To end, our waiter convinced us to try the Key Lime Pie, his favourite dessert and, his words, would make us want to come back again the next day.

He wasn’t wrong. Undoubtedly we have a very sweet tooth at London’s Dinest and when the Pie came we were in awe. A rye biscuit flaky base (the THINNEST we have ever seen) filled with a gorgeous Lime curd and Mascaporne cream and then topped with Meringue shards. Every mouthful was a little party on the tongue. We are so glad our waiter twisted our arm.


Yes Chiltern Firehouse is difficult to get into. Yes it is frequented by the likes of Bradley Cooper and Liv Tyler. But it still has time for us civilians. Not once did we feel out of place or looked down upon. Everyone did all they could to make sure you enjoyed your time there. No wonder the reservation books are constantly full, not only because of the food, but with staff like theirs, you will never want to leave.

Chiltern Firehouse

1 Chiltern Street, Marylebone, London, W1U 7PA

Bao, Lexington Street, W1F


When we read about Bao coming to Soho many months back, we were ecstatic! Sometimes, just sometimes, a restaurant lives up to expectations. We knew that Bao would be one such place. This tiny, no-frills Taiwanese steamed-bun and small-plate venture is just genius.

As many new openings these days, it operates a no reservations policy, which does make sense as it has a fast food feel to it and the turn around is rather quick. We only had to wait a mere 20 minutes for a spot, this did not bother us one bit. It may prove difficult to find a 20 minute wait nowadays seeing as the hype has increased! However do try and go at non-peak times to save waiting too long.

The space is small and has one main U-shaped bar with high stools as well as smaller tables towards the back. We sat at the bar and where we are able to enjoy conversing with the staff.

The menu is presented in a tick-list form, great concept in our mind, especially for street food like this. Although we wanted to try EVERYTHING we controlled ourselves and stuck to a couple of the small plates and saved room for the bao.

We settled on the Aubergine with Wonton crisps and the Fried chicken with a fiery sauce. The Aubergine is more like a spread or dip for the crisps, similar to that of baba ganoush but with larger diced aubergine. It was spicy, boy it was spicy. But with the crisps was a great combination. Onto the Chicken. We were amazed at how the coating was both crisp and crumbly and the chicken was truly some of the moistest we have had.

We already knew which bao we were going to have. The classic, confit pork and vegetarian daikon. Each was excellent. The confit pork was a new one for us and we have to say it was our favourite. Sweet and Sour pork belly with crispy shallots nestled in the bao bun, it just oozed with flavour. Our mouths are still salivating. Nothing beats the classic; 4 hour braised pork belly topped with preserved vegetables and peanut shavings, what more can you ask for? The veg bao was also tasty, but lacked depth of flavour and was rather dry, due to no sauce.

Desserts aren’t key here but that didn’t stop us from trying the the Horlicks ice-cream. It comes with a deep-fried bun and was slightly fiddly to share. We ended up taking the buns off and spreading the ice cream on it instead. Didn’t bother us though!

We would easily queue for bao again and are happy that they now have a permanent address!

53 Lexington Street, Soho, W1F 9AS

Tredwell’s, Upper St Martin’s Lane, WC2


Marcus Wareing’s latest offering has been described as his more ‘accessible’ and ‘affordable’ eating establishment. We believe this translates as, giving people a chance to sample Wareing inspired food without breaking the bank at the likes of Marcus at The Berkeley or The Gilbert Scott at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. Unfortunately for us, Mr Wareing isn’t actually the one behind the Pass at this venture but this didn’t stop us from visiting!

We arrived and were immediately warmly greeted by the Maître D who escorted us downstairs where we were met with a large sharing table that could happily seat 16 people. We were sat to one end of it close enough to the kitchen to see the delights that were making their way out to the restaurant.

The menu has since changed from the time that we went so the little snacks that we started with are no longer on the menu (poor decision in our opinion as we loved them). We had the most delicious Courgette Fritters we have ever tasted (please bring them back onto the menu!), Pork Sliders and Chorizo Jam with Charred bread. To follow we had the Harissa glazed aubergine with peanuts, coriander & chilli and Chicken Liver Mousse with Bacon Jam and Toast, both of which were delicious. The aubergine was crisp and worked impressively well with the peanuts. The chilli kick added another dimension as the aubergine was mild in flavour. The mousse took away the dense feel of a pâté and was so light and delicious that we wished there was more bread!

For mains we had the Gnocchi with cauliflower, sprouts, hazelnuts & Berkswell cheese. Again these aren’t ingredients that you would normally pair together but we were very happy with the result! As well as this we ordered the Slow Cooked Beef Short Rib which was accompanied by some seasonal vegetables on the side. This was melt in your mouth stuff and if we weren’t saving room for dessert, this would have been ordered again!

We made sure there was room for dessert as there were a few of the puddings that were calling out to us. One in particular being The virtuous chocolate brownie with coconut yoghurt made with no wheat, dairy, eggs or refined sugar. It was incredible! It was a dense cake with a dark bitter chocolate taste but we couldn’t believe that it was so ‘healthy’.

We loved our meal here and have to say the staff made it even better. We sat with them whilst they were clearing up and they even presented us with small Petit fours as a thank you for being great patrons! We will definitely be back, even just to say hi to the waiters!


4a Upper St Martin’s Ln, London WC2H 9NY

Cafe Murano, Tavistock Street, WC2


The latest outpost of Angela Hartnett’s growing empire is the new Café Murano on Tavistock Street in Covent Garden. This little sister of her flagship Murano restaurant in Mayfair and sibling of Café Murano on St James’s Street.

Upon entering the dimly lit restaurant we were greeted warmly by the Maître D who led us to our table, a lovely leather booth to the rear of the dining room. Decor here is simple and elegant. Dark oak and soft lighting make it feel extremely special and is the sort of place that you can spend hours with good company over lovely food and wine.

The service, albeit a little slow at times, was excellent. The staff are friendly, sharing stories and giving their recommendations making you feel that that they really want you to enjoy your evening.

We settled on a bottle of Cabernet and also sampled their special cocktail of the day; a twist on the Aperol Spritz, it was mixed with apricots to give it a slightly sweeter taste.

To begin, we ordered a couple of Cicheti; Broad bean & Rosemary Arancini, Courgettes with hazelnuts, & mint lemon and Antipasti of Portland Crab with scorched Onions & apple and Agnolotti filled with guinea fowl & apricots. The arancini are some of the best we have sampled. Small in size but filled with flavour. The courgette salad was simple but again the flavour combination was on point, especially for summer evenings. The Agnolotti was excellent too, the meat wasn’t too over-powering and was wrapped in a light pasta that made you want to have piece after piece after piece.

To follow we had Farfelle with peas & girolles, Gnocchi in a robiolo, rosemary & black olive sauce, Roasted stone bass with tomato & fennel stew and Roasted pigeon with Castle Franco, mustard & yoghurt. We loved both the pasta dishes. The gnocchi and olive combination is something new to us, but it works. The earthy flavour of the olives complimented the light cheese sauce and the pillow-y potato gnocchi was fresh and soft to bite. The farfelle was again something that we would have over and over again and is ideal for the summer months. A light butter sauce brought the pasta and vegetables together and showcased the dishes key ingredients.

We very rarely see Stone bass on a menu but when we do we jump to the chance to order it. It was exactly how we like it; flaky with a crispy skin the melted on the tongue. The accompanying stew was also deep in flavour which worked with the lightness of the fish. The pigeon was cooked nicely, still pink and slightly bloody with a charred skin. We have read that others didn’t like the yoghurt but we thought it was a great addition to the plate. With the charred taste of the bird, it actually was a light refreshing taste.

For dessert, we had to order the famous Muscovado Tart. The thinnest pastry bottom we have seen in a while with a sweet, wobbly, top. The perfect dessert to finish off a wonderful evening. We cannot wait to visit the other siblings in the Murano family after now experiencing the delectable dishes at this branch.

Cafe Murano

36 Tavistock Street, London, WC2 7PB

José Pizzaro, Broadgate Circle, EC2M


It isn’t often that we get this excited about a new restaurant opening, but from the moment we read of José’s new venture many weeks ago, we could not wait to be among the many who would sample his dishes from the moment the doors opened.

This is Pizarro’s third offering and the first of his to be in a part of the city that we wouldn’t have expected. Nestled amongst other great names like Franco Manca and Yautacha, the restaurant takes pride of place in the newly renovated Broadgate Circle, just behind Liverpool St Station.

One great thing about this place is that you can reserve a table, something that is a rareity and with being in the city, we feel, a necessity. We arrived early and our table was ready. The dining room is small with the focal point being the long bar with stools so you can see the chefs at work. But when there is more than 4 of you, a table is a must. We were kindly told we had the table for 2 hours and were then given time to look over the menu.

We had already done ample research on what to order so we right ahead and picked a portion of the Prawn Fritters with Saffron Aoili, the Croquetas ‘Caseras’ (House croquettes, which change daily – We had White Crab) and Pan con Tomate. Unfortunately they did not have any Padron Peppers which we were disappointed about.

The Prawn Fritters, WOW. Hand-minced coarsely, these were succulent, on point with flavour and just sublime. Next the White Crab Croquetas. Again how Croquetas should be, crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside. We loved every bite. The fresh bread with tomatoes. garlic and olive oil was refreshing and light compared to the deep flavours of the the previous two dishes.

We moved onto choose a few small plates: Sautéed heritage root vegetables with Monte Enebro cheese and black olive dressing, Ibérico pork meatballs in tomato & orange sauce, Asparagus grilled on the plancha with fried duck egg & Romanesco sauce and a side salad. All three dishes were equally delicious for different reasons, the Asparagus was tender with the sauce adding a hint of heat, the meatballs crumbled in the delicious rich sauce and the Roasted root vegetables were firm, with their sweetness cleverly balanced by the acidic cheese and black olive dressing.

We knew we had to save room for dessert has we had seen several pictures of a certain one in particular that we just had to try. Chocolate with olive oil & salt, with toast. This took us back to when were were kids and we would eat Nutella sandwiches in the park. A clever adult version with dark bitter chocolate cut with the sea salt was just amazing. To accompany it we sampled the Almond cake, pistachio ice cream, which was a refreshing counter part to the chocolate.

We are so glad that we were able to visit this Spanish haven before the city masses begin to flood it. We cannot wait to go again, to sample more dishes, or just to sit and watch the kitchen at work whilst sampling some wine, ham and cheese, the true Spanish way.

José Pizzaro 

36 Broadgate Circle, London, EC2M 1QS