Dinner Tonight (Clerkenwell
I'm in town from San Francisco, and have spent some time browsing the boards, but haven't hit on the right spot for dinner tonight. (I know it's last minute.) We are going for drinks first at a friend's flat, and he's somewhere near Clerkenwell/Hoxton (I understand), so East End, right? Over time, I've collected different restaurants in a list I have on my Palm, but the concierge here was steering me to Zetter Hotel (despite my telling him I wasn't that excited about hotel dining). (He was described by the guest services person as a foodie, so maybe he's right.) I told him no Gordon Ramsey/Alain Ducasse fanciness, and I'd prefer something fun but not too posh. I don't mind a bit trendy, but as Gary Danko says in San Francisco, I'd prefer somewhere where they cook with love.
There are four of us, and I'd prefer a reservation. Places on my list (that I've gathered over time from various reviews or recommendations, though the sources are now lost to me) include the following:
St Johns (but I heard it's offal, and, well, two of the four of us are Americans) (I at least eat liver, but not beyond that) (and f.g.)
The Eagle (I've read here that the Fox is better but the concierge said, no, the Eagle) (except they don't take reservations tonight except for parties of 6 or more) (I hear the last night of the month is a busy night out?)
Bleeding Heart Tavern (though the concierge said it's fancy?)
Le Comptoir (he said it's posh, and a club too) (I prefer "fun Saturday night" not way dressy)
Smithfield at Smithfields
The Real Greek Mezedopolio
And that's what I've got. In San Francisco, I tend to go out in the Mission, SoMi, and Potrero, and in New York, I tend toward Nolita and lower East Side, if that helps at all. I guess that can be described as sort of young chefs in nice spaces, but not at all pretentious. Locally-sourced products within a 100 mile radius, a bit local rather than for tourons, that sort of thing. And if you wonder why my friends here haven't picked for us, well, my friends end up relying on me to pick restaurants. Even if I'm from out of town.
Thanks very much for your help. I'll continue to try to poke around the boards, but I've spent hours.
Have a look into this place. It's pan Mediterranean cuisine, female chef, good fresh seasonal ingredients, friendly service, hip but not overly so, the kind of place you could reasonably expect to find in NoLita or on the LES (I know Frisco much less well than NYC). Other nice features - 10% (rather than 12.5%) service charge, tap water provided as default (rare in London), wines by quartino as well as bottles (and a good selection especially of Italian wines). Small space mind so slightly cramped and may be hard to get a table at short notice.
I wouldn't bother with Zetter (aren't hotel restaurants in the Western World much of a muchness these days?) and the one time I did a lunch there was fine nothing more on the food front. From the rest of your list, I used to like Flaneur quite a lot but it's been an age since I went and it's atmosphereless so probably not great for a Friday night.
Carole Craddock at Vinoteca has to be one of my favourite cooks in London. If she has a terrine on the menu, have it.
Her "five bird" terrine is one of my favourite tastes in the city, particularly when paired with her "military" pickle which is based on an old Edwardian ( I think) recipe.
The wine list is lengthy with some excellent Spanish choices too.
The only downsides are that, apart from lunch, you can't book and the fact that they have never quite got their head around storing the iberico properly nor serving it correctly as they tend to hack at it a bit.
I am not in town much at the moment, but when I am, I like to do a little food crawl which involves
Terrine @ Vinoteca
Smoked foie @ the bar seating of Comptior Gascon
Plate of Iberico @ Moro
Pudding & a sticky@ the bar of St John
You could add in a pint at The Jerusalem Tavern too
I have only been to Moro, St John, The Eagle, The Fox, SOS ,and The Real Greek so I can't really comment fully. But I'd say The Eagle would be fun with tasty food. But get there early to get a table. SOS is perfectably acceptable bar food. Upstairs is more formal and might be harder to get into with a booking at this stage. If you're looking for a fun bar to hang out in, SOS is it. Moro is great but I am doubtful you will get a table.
I really like The Fox myself. Sent an American co-worker in town there today with her husband and they loved it. You should be able to get a table. Also, The Princess upstairs is very nice.
The Real Greek is a chain.
I would drop into St John for a drink at the least. The bar is fun and different. Great wine list. Interesting snacks. Rarebit on toast...mmmm.
If you want something different, try Bacchus on Hoxton Street. Sous vide. "Fine dining in trainers." If you're friends are picky eaters though, I would not do this.
Hope this isn't too late - cross off Flaneur if I were you - ate there the other night and was disappointed. Bleeding Heart tavern's hardly fancy - but I think it's gone off the boil a bit. Moro would be a great bet, but unless your concierge has an in, good luck with a reservation on a Friday night. St John's not just offal btw - they even serve fish (usually). Still a great place to eat. Smithfield's going to be very very busy and loud, but the food can be OK if you're careful what you pick- just don't expect the best service. Eagle would be a fun night out if it's not too packed, still serving good food. La Cigala in Lamb's Conduit St (just a little way west from clerkenwell) is a pretty good Spanish alternative. Good luck!