Brawn, Colombia Rd, Hackney, London, UK

Dear Ed Wilson, sorry to be so slow on the uptake here, but has anyone nominated you as the new challenger for the best nose-to-tail in town yet? Having been an avid St John-er, it took me a few visits to Brawn to decide, but I've been won over, and I'll tell you why. True, no one can touch a St John doughnut with a ten foot jam-filled pole, but no one can touch Brawn's sophisticated use of all things grown in the ground with a ten foot rake; and the holistic dining experience is improved for it. 

Heirloom tomatoes sing with a vivacious flavour that surprises even me, almost as much as my surprise at how appalling that phrase looks in black and white. #foodietwat . Beetroot salad, nettle soup and wild mushroom and polenta all remind me that the pidgeon/foie gras/pork belly need not always be the only hero on my plate. Vegetarians everywhere just held a mini-celebration, but probably too early, as I won't be passing up the lamb and ox dishes on offer at Brawn any time soon. 

Menu - 9
Atmosphere - 9
Originality - 9
Service - 7
Shifting my perceptions - 9

Dinner by Heston

Dinner by Heston, Mandarin Oriental, 66 Knightsbridge, London, UK

Whenever I find myself at the Mandarin Oriental, one thing is usually on my mind, whether I can eat a whole Meat Fruit as well as three courses? It has to be creamiest foie gras and chicken liver mousse known to man, and for the unfamiliar, the only one that is displayed as an impressively real mandarin. Palmer-Watts' menu continues to deliver an excellent seasonalish selection with just a touch of history and flare. It's the crowd pleasing option as far as Heston's, or Heston sponsored endeavours go (let's ignore the 'for Waitrose' range and pretend all the UK chefs aren't selling out). 

I have to question the circumstances that have led to the achievability of getting a table without having to sell an organ to a concierge, and I think it's variety, one new dish every 6 months makes for slow change in central London. Service is comfortably formal, and wait staff are knowledgeable and patient in explaining the heritage of each dish. For me, Dinner is the 'never fail' you take out-of-London visitors to for Saturday lunch once, and again, and again. Delicious.

Menu - 9
Atmosphere - 8.5
Originality - 9
Service - 9.5
Meat Fruit - 9


Sierra Mar

Sierra Mar, Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur, California, USA

Road trips are not something we Londoner's manage too often. The driving, the inability to embrace freedom (in the form of a glass of wine whenever you feel), the need to eat unidentified animals covered in burger wrap and marked as beef... So, let me introduce the ultimate road trip stop off.

And in case the view isn't quite enough for you, how about a tasting menu of light, fresh flavour; how about the infinity pool overhanging the cliff; how about the Sonoma and Napa grapes swishing in your wine glass? For an absurdly reasonable US$45 you can dine with a hint of the sea in the background and on your plate. Highway One, I hope we meet again soon.

Tasters - 8
Scenery - 11
Originality - 7
Service - 8.5
Napa grapes - 9


Kopapa, 32-34 Monmouth St, Covent Garden, London, UK

Having grown up in the Southern Hemisphere I have a natural tendency to favour traditionalism in my Asian cuisines, but as I've experienced more and more of what Europe has to offer, fusion has become my best friend. Peter Gordon's Kopapa is a casual dining find, with inventive combinations and a relaxed, cafe-style atmosphere. The tempura dhal inari pocket with caramelised onions and plantain excels, whilst other Malaysian, Spanish and Japanese influences cover the menu. After a hard day of shopping, Kopapa is the answer to your tired feet and empty stomach.

Food - 7
Originality - 8.5
Service - 7
Contrasting Combinations - 8
Cook Books for Sale! (and now in my kitchen).... - 10


Alas, there'll be no pictures for your visual delight today. Though I gain very little enjoyment from negative reviews, when a restaurant reputation preceds itself so, and delivers so poorly it should be made known.

Starters of salt chilli squid and xiao long bao (Shanghai dumplings) were utterly disappointing. A soggy tempura batter covered squid accompanied by a gyoza shaped dumpling and an explanation of - "it's too difficult to make xiao long bao in the evening so we serve these instead".

Main dishes of duck and king crab were drastically overdone, dry, and lacked connection to the key ingredients by overpowering them. The truffle sauce covered any semblance of duck flavour, the king crab legs, pre-cut, were stringy and rubbery.

At the failed request for wine recommendations we lost all faith and decided to leave the sweets for the hundreds of other diners lining up for what I suspect was also a sub-par experience.

Hakkasan - you ultimately don't need my patronism, and I'm sure HKK will also be a resounding success, but I'll now avoid you, and any subsidiaries of your chain.


Mama Lan

Mama Lan, Brixton Market, Railton Road, Brixton, London, UK

Chilli extremism is something I've becoming practised in due to the rotation of 'loft guests' in our apartment in recent years. Mama Lan certainly has a good stab at it, and succeeds in delivering flavour over fire.... with a side serve of fire 5 minutes later. The menu is short and sweet, servings are generous, and the chicken wings must be ordered on every visit. As with all adventures to Brixton Market, take a fluffy coat, but rejoice in the fact that Mama Lan's chilli will also warm your bones.

Food - 8
Originality - 5
Atmosphere - 8
Super Squished In Seating - 5
Chilli + Drafty Passages - 10

the view from my kitchen

My Kitchen - 82 Christmas Feast Lane, East London, UK

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No wait, it is a bird, and it's a bloody big one*. Every last delicious goosey morsel went in our bellies.

* and here is a bloody big photo of it