As usual, I’ve eaten out too much this last few months (if such a thing were possible, I’m not personally sure it is – rather like there being too much cheese. Can’t get my head around it) which is why, conversely, I haven’t blogged much. Making excuses about being too busy is much easier than sitting down and judging stuff. But now I find myself in, on a Saturday evening, and blogging is more fun than cleaning, so I’m going to bite the bullet and try to post on a few places, all in London, which have made me more or less happy in the last month or so, starting with:

Wapping Food (at the Wapping Project), Wapping Hydraulic Power Station, Wapping Wall, London E1W 3SG

Just down the road (albeit quite a long road) from my office, I’m only really now beginning to appreciate the WP, which is housed in the main hall of the old Wapping Hydraulic Power Station. This is a spectacular building, with huge windows along one side and mysterious, heavy machinery ranged down the other, covered in tempting dials. I brought my dear old friend JS here because he lives in Leicester and though he lived in London for years, I knew that he wouldn’t have been (why would you, it’s in Wapping) or have seen anything like it. It’s a really brilliant place to bring people who like cool things or whom you want to impress, especially as you can now get there on the Overground. It’s astonishingly pleasantly lit for such a massive room, all sparkly bits, candles and uplighting but then it is also (actually mostly) an art gallery, so the owner, Jules, has a pretty good eye. They’ve done some amazing projects here including Richard Wilson’s Butterfly. Remember to go out of both the doors at the back of the dining hall and have a look at the exhibition space (down) and the roof (up).

We had a really superb dinner – grilled squid and fish stew to start, both very simple but really fantastic; proper taste explosion sort of stuff. We both plumped for venison, which was unctuous and wonderful and elicited ‘wow’s from both of us. I can’t help thinking that it’s a tiny bit overpriced (main course venison was £19.50, which I think is a bit steep, though I’ve looked back on the website since and venison pie, which isn’t quite the same thing, is about 17 quid which somehow I think is more reasonable). The staff are very formal, but very sweet and the presentation of the food is faultless, really pleasing. I suppose in the end that’s the point; fine dining with fine service and really bloody nice glassware, in a spot you wouldn’t expect it.

One word of warning however: it has quite an annoying website. If you want the phone number, DON’T CLICK ANYTHING. It’s at the end of the scrolling text along the bottom of the home page. Or, it’s here: 020 7680 2080. If you want to eat after about 8.30pm you’ll probably need to call and book, because all the people who live in the amazing warehouse flats looking out on to the river come home from their jobs in the City, and it’s more fun eating here than firing up the unused Neff oven which probably still has the instruction manual sitting disconsolately under the grill.


69-71 Dean Street, London W1D 3SE

Last week I went to the Dean Street Townhouse and I fear I may have tarnished my honour. Those readers who have not given up on this blog due to lax updating on my part may remember that a few months ago at Gautier I was alarmed to find myself being placed at a table next to my former boss and his wife, who is our chief film critic (which makes me technically her editor), who are genuinely delightful but I don’t want to make up a four unexpectedly, this isn’t the 1920s and we’re not playing tennis. I performed a polite hissy fit for our poor waiter and escaped to another floor for a thoroughly enjoyable dinner with SB. SB is tall, handsome, and a good ten years older than me. Last week though, in the Dean Street Townhouse, which is a very different sort of establishment, I met up with the lovely JM, who is short, handsome, and a good ten years older than me. Now as every journalist knows, two is early adoption and three is a rapidly growing trend, so I was mildly distressed to find that once again, we were seated a mere table away from my former boss and our chief film critic, thus unwittingly providing evidence of my own moral turpitude. I fear scandal threatens. One more incident such as this (and I have, I realise with some embarrassment, no shortage of suitable companions to assist my good name’s inevitable descent into squalor) and I’m going to find myself saddled with a reputation. In addition to any other reputation I may already have acquired. I shall be heavy with shame.

They’ll have to catch me first though, which will be tricky since I almost certainly won’t bother going back to the Dean Street Townhouse. Not for the food, at least.

It’s a nice enough room, classically clubby with dark wood, red leather banquettes and booths, candles and low, warm lighting – I particularly liked the pots of rosemary on the bar. The bar staff, indeed all the staff, are charming and helpful, though I object quite strongly to being addressed as ‘boys and girls’ by anyone, least of all a maitre d. The martinis are, as I had been previously advised, very good – I ordered off-menu and they didn’t hesitate – though I feel wistful for an old fashioned martini glass of the 1980s Bond sort, rather than this current fad for little absinthe-style goblets, which might well be very Left Bank but is not terribly West End. You can’t have it both ways.

Mika, the pop singer, and a ‘very successful’ (his own words, overheard) American record producer sat at the next table, which was mildly interesting once I’d finally realised that he was a famous person and not just another of those pouting little fashion boys who hang around smoking on my doorstep in London’s Trendy Dalston of a Friday night.

And you know what, the food was ok. If you went to a British boarding school and were remotely nostalgic about it, then it’s probably even pretty good. I had a steak, I now recall, having googled the menu to jog my memory. It came very rare, as I requested. The chips were rather anaemic and I ate, I think, three. My twice baked smoked haddock soufflé starter was exactly what you would expect – lightish, cheesy and fishy, with absolutely no surprises. I’m looking at the dessert menu right now and none of it is ringing any bells, so I may or may not have had one. I just can’t remember. But unusually for me, this is nothing to do with the martini, or the wine, or the three further martinis I had later at the Ivy Club (also in those weird little glasses. Where have all the martini glasses gone, that’s what I want to know. I’ll have them if they’re going cheap, I can make use of them, no problem). It’s down instead to the total lack of ambition in any of the dishes on the menu. It was just so boring. British food – fish and chips, steak, Dover sole, mutton pie – was exciting a few years ago. We were discovering it anew, thanks to the likes of Mark Hix and Fergus Henderson and getting excited about the rich produce of these small islands. But now, everyone with a gas ring’s doing it, and it’s become lazy. Comfort food is all very well, but done without even a modicum of flair at restaurant prices it becomes almost insulting. Mince and potatoes for fuck’s sake. I can do that at home. I can do it at home and it wouldn’t cost me £11.50, but I wouldn’t even bother to do it there, because it’s dull. It’s not even amusing, or ironic. It’s just mediocre and unimaginative. So buck your ideas up, Dean Street Townhouse, or it won’t just be my reputation taking a dive.