Veal Chop at Zucca


Blimey, that’s some slab of meat” is inevitably the first thought you’ll have on seeing this dish. It’s certainly what I felt, on being presented with a huge hunk of veal – about as far from a thin, elegant schnitzel as you can get. That’s not to say it isn’t an appealing offering itself, just that it’s one that’s significantly more intimidating!

“I’m not sure this shows off everything Zucca’s talented chefs can do”

On a bed of spinach and lemon, the accompaniment isn’t there to vie for affection with the main – and is never going to stand up to this wall of griddle-charred meat. I’ll admit, this is a more pure carnivorous event than I’d usually opt for, ordering from the menu at will, and, if I’m honest, I’d have been fine with half the meat and twice the veg. That said, it was genuinely delicious, with a depth of flavour, and pure, juicy animality that can often be lost in the subtlety of veal. A guilty feeling crosses my mind that this is pretty different from the image of miserable, vulnerable, poorly-treated cow-babies that does tend to make me feel a pang of regret (or at least naughtiness) on the rare occasions when I eat veal.

I’ve been to Zucca before, but not had the veal chop, and that means I’ve seen just how brilliant their high-class (high-price!) cooking can be. I’m not certain that this dish would have conveyed that to me, and only so-so desserts left me wishing that I’d ordered one of the mouth-wateringly-described starters. I’ll come back, and I’ll order more adventurously (given the freedom to do so). This is a meat-lover’s delight – but for a connoisseur of flavour and variety, I’m not sure this shows off everything Zucca’s talented chefs can do.

Poached rhubarb with coconut bread at Caravan


Can there be anything more disappointing than going to a restaurant that you’ve long wanted to visit, or where you’ve had a great meal before, drooling over the menu, only to find what you’ve ordered turns out to be, or at least looks, far less exciting than what everyone else is eating? Clearly the answer to this question is ‘yes’, but you get the gist.

“Decidedly flat and, frankly, a bit bland.”

I’d long been looking forward to brunch at Caravan. Rachael had been before, and had a delicious cornbread dish, so was eager to explore the menu further. But Time Out’s recommended dish – in fact in the top ten subset of their hundred best dishes – of poached rhubarb and lemon curd on coconut bread was decidedly flat and, frankly, a bit bland.

Rather than glorious sardines on toast or perfect poached eggs nestled on glistening shakshuka, we had a thick slices of dry coconut bread (think the consistency of corner-shop cherry cake), with barely citrussy lemon curd and a slightly meagre quantity of admittedly pleasant rhubarb. Flavours that should have complemented each other were instead barely present. Certainly nothing to write home about.

Will I be back? The other menu offerings probably will tempt me. But I won’t be rushing back as quickly as I’d expected to before I’d been there, which isn’t exactly a great testament to a really disappointing dish.

Wiener schnitzel at The Delauney


The Delauney is fancy. Wood panelling, silver-rimmed plates, doormen and maître D’s create a dining experience that’s a cut above, and knows it. As soon as you walk into the place you notice two things: the history of feeding the top of society, and the cakes – rich, glorious-looking gateaux which sit, invitingly on a table in their own antechamber before the dining room.

“So big, in fact, that it needed oval plates so it fitted in a sensible place-setting”

We’re here to try the Wiener schnitzel, one of Time Out’s top 100 dishes, and at £19.50 for just the slab of meat, no sides included, we’re hoping it will be a cut above too. I must admit, I was slightly worried that this restaurant might be stuck in the century before last, with over-creamy, finickety, stale-French-inspired cooking. I was wrong, at least on the evidence of the relatively straightforward dish we ordered with sides of spinach and pickled cucumber salad.

First things first: the schnitzel was enormous. So big, in fact, that it needed oval plates so it fitted in a sensible place-setting. Oh, and so the slab of meat didn’t look too lonely on a round plate unaccompanied by anything but light juices and half a lemon. Of course, it wasn’t such a vast load of veal what with being hammered to a thin slice before being crumbed and fried to a perfect golden brown.

If I’m honest, this was perfect meat-heaven to my taste, with effortless succulence and a subtle, fresh, almost poultry flavour offset by the crunch of the crisped breadcrumbs and the sharp acidity of the lemon. Neither of the sides was much to write home about, but nor were they supposed to be vying for centre stage.

I should stress that there were substantially more economical options on the menu, particularly for those interested in more than a single course. I’ll have to come back – if only for a slice of those glorious cakes!

Classic beef pho at Cay Tre


A big bowl of south-east Asian noodles is always warming and comforting, especially when you’re drenched in a sudden October shower. This bowl had the right mix of aromatic, sweet, and, with the addition of the red chilli served with other herbs on the side, heat. Hand-made noodles were a cut above the standard packet fare.

“I’d happily have a party at Cay Tre, with tastier food than, say, Wagamama. But would I rush back for this pho? Unclear.”

The star of the show was the beef. Some slices of grilled beef and some melting brisket were both spot on, and took on the fresh crispness of the broth while still being warm and luxurious.

I wasn’t terrible enamoured with the decision to serve a (huge) pile of herbs and beansprouts on the side. Perhaps I’m being a philistine (and, yes, I know many places serve pho in this way), but getting you to flavour your own stock seemed to shirk the responsibility of creating a delicious dish. This isn’t Koya with its amazing walnut miso concoction. Perhaps I should have just dumped my whole plate of herbs into the bowl, but anything else amounts to Mongolian hotpot, where the only one to blame if you don’t like the mix is yourself. This was only emphasized by one companion who fished out the onion, which had been served in the bowl.

The other downer was that I tried someone else’s spicy-garlicky pho, and thought that broth was really spectacular. In the end, I’d happily have a party at Cay Tre, with tastier food than, say, Wagamama. But would I rush back for this pho? Unclear.

71/100 top dishes on London