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Jun 17, 2009 01:01 PM

Clos Maggiore

I did a search and read the few comments that were listed - specifically those by Batfink...he basically said it's in a much lower league than the big boys.

That's ok with me. We're not looking for a 400 gbp evening.

So, in that price range, how is it? It looks lovely, and the menu reads very well - how do the pictures and words differ from the reality?

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  1. I think when you consider its peak tourist location its easily one of the better spots around . The conservatory room in particular is really quite romantic and i think the food is good .

    1. the problem is a very pedestrian kitchen filled with the spirit of ho-hum.

      there is technically nothing wrong with it. but it is bland, and I can't follow how so many people are picking this place out?

      it is not that there is anything 'bad' or 'wrong' but there are usually better places in most circumstances. incidentally I have never had a bad meal here, but it has always been boring.

      maybe a better question is why are you looking here specifically? and what are you looking for in general?

      if location is your biggest concern, its very close to a number of other places too. it's a stones throw to Leicester Square and the West End, Charing Cross and the South Bank.

      everything from Le Deuxieme to Terroirs, to J Sheeky, Arbutus and Skylon off the top of my head.

      the wine list is very good, but somewhat overstated in acclaim by Wine Spectator (that is an award you pay/subscribe for)

      33 Replies
      1. re: batfink23

        Thanks for the replies.

        What I'm looking for is a restaurant for our last night in London to end on a high note. I love the look of the place. As I said, I think the menu reads beautifully, I'm sorry to hear you found the food boring. Do you mean boring in the sense you've eaten the same things over and over at other places, or boring in that it is bland and tasteless?

        For the rest of the week, keep in mind we *are* tourists...I've tried to mix up the choices with The Wolseley, Masala Zone, Rules, Arbutus, and Strada (and Bibendum for lunch one day - rest of the lunches fast and casual).

        Location is irrelevant, but keeping in on the Circle, District or Piccadilly lines would make it most convenient.

        As I said, we really can't afford one of the "big boys" - so what would you suggest for a drop dead pretty room with interesting food in the price range of Clos Maggiore (I'm off now to look at your other suggestions).

        1. re: Eujeanie

          pretty room, interesting food, in the mid price range?


          1. re: batfink23

            Min Jiang would fit the criteria, if you don't order abalone.

            1. re: limster

              dim sum is a bit low rent for a big end of trip meal isn't it?

              I like Skylon for the specific purpose here because it is THE best views in london. 2 story windows, overlooking the thames and south bank. delicious and refined modern french food, a little underpriced relative to quality, but still a special occasion glamorous atmosphere.

              1. re: batfink23

                I would probably have a few courses of duck rather than the dim sum, but I wouldn't consider dim sum low rent.

          2. re: Eujeanie

            Strada....? Do you really mean the national high street pizza chain. I have never been, am I missing something, or has Eujeanie made a duff selection here?

            Couple of other thoughts; Arbutus is good, but its sister restaurant "Wild Honey" is a nicer, more intimate room (and a shortish walk away). Masala Zone is OK for central London, another option for cheap (but good) Indian is "Chowki" near Piccadilly Circus.

            1. re: PhilD

              A "duff" selection? Without even knowing that particular British word I know I'm being insulted. Sheesh - looking at the overall big picture of where we are eating I think we have a very well-balanced week. Many of my choices are based on where we will be going to the theater that night - Strada is spitting distance of 39 Steps, so it fits perfectly in my plan. I'm so happy that many of you have unlimited deep pockets when you travel. I think we do quite well within our budget.

              I lurk on this board quite frequently, yet whenever I post I'm reminded of why I don't do it that often.

              1. re: Eujeanie

                It isn't an insult, it simply means a bad selection i.e. duff equals bad and I was asking whether I was right about my understanding of Strada. For me Strada is to Italian food what McDonalds is to US food, it is part of a £250 million turnover group of UK restaurant group that owns 270 restaurants in the UK and serves 20 million meals a year.

                Your other selections look pretty good, Strada stands out as being a very different (bad or duff) selection and it wouldn't be on many discerning diners lists (deep pockets or not).

                It is quite tricky to give selections when in one post you say "location is irrelevant" and then in the next post say "many of my choices are based on where we will be going to the theatre that night". If you had asked for a restaurant near the Criterion Theatre I would say "Terroirs" which is a 5 minute walk away in King William IV street and very good value. There are lots of others in that part of town.

                1. re: Eujeanie

                  I'd have to agree with PhilD on this one - there are many better options than Strada and Masala Zone .Chowki is a much better alternative in the West End, or Mela on Shaftsbury Ave. Please dont think we are insulting you - just trying to give you some recommendations - that's what the board is all about. As an alternative perhaps try Giaconda Dining Room on Denmark St - probably about the same price as Strada but a lot, lot better and not too far from your location.

                  1. re: pj26

                    Ok, I'll look up your recommendations for alternate Italian and Indian for those nights. Thanks.

                    1. re: Eujeanie

                      I think the way to look at it, is not that you need an alternate italian for example. Strada is perfectly fine and decent for a chain, it does what it says on the tin - as the local expression goes.

                      I'd say though, that going to Strada is just for when you need to eat, refueling as it were - rather than "restaurant-y" type plans. if your plan is just to eat quick and cheap because it suits your schedule then go for it.

                      if you had higher hopes and ambitions I might look farther afield, but sometimes you need to save your pennies and just doing some eating too. and Strada is fine for that, I quite enjoy it every now and then I have to say.

                      1. re: batfink23

                        If I was asking for recommendations in NYC and had "Olive Garden" on my list I would hope that board members put the restaurant into perspective and would suggest some local alternatives.

                        I take your point that Strada and Pizza Express are OK for re-fuelling if there isn't anything better in the vicinity. I could see this being the case in a provincal city but in central London?

                        1. re: PhilD

                          depends what you want?

                          there is a no-hassle factor here that might well appeal.

                      2. re: Eujeanie

                        If you're looking for an inexpensive, Italian option, I'd go for Pizza Express over Strada. While Strada has a better pizza base, I find their toppings lacking in flavour compared to Pizza Express.

                        Pizza Express frequently runs good specials too - 2 for 1 or £10 deals which are good value. Do a search for "pizza express offers" and print out the voucher and take it with you.


                        1. re: nanette

                          I was thinking of recommending Pizza Express. the product is excellent, the only thing would be is if Eugenie is looking for Pizza or not. Strada has a wider menu choice.

                          1. re: batfink23

                            if it's pizza you want why not go to Italian Graffitti or to the Soho pizzarea - neither are chains and both do good pizzas at cheap prices. Terroirs and Sheekys are definately good calls. Dim sum - got to Yauatcha for a good vibe, it sint too £££ but still feels like a destination. I'm not a fan of Clos either, sorry.

                              1. re: batfink23

                                Because there is so much better to be had for the same money. And we are all constantly trying to disprove the misguided believe that Britian is rubbish for food and yet when tourists ask for recommendations we send them to a chain?

                                1. re: pj26

                                  ok. shall we address the simple fact that this just true. certainly not as an absolute rule of thumb.

                                  it suits people to believe that their local pizza joint is better than Pizza Express etc. or that their pub does a better burger (straight from brakes probably) than GBK or Byron... because it makes them feel more connected and smarter than the masses.

                                  it is emotionally satisfying to believe chains bad, small good - but in a lot of cases it just isn't true. particularly in britain some of these chains grew out of small places because they were *so* much better than their competition.

                                  I know a number of very high end chef's who dine at Pizza Express with their families all the time. the quality is good. I know people who like Cafe Rouge - I don't, but that's the way it goes. I love nandos, for what it is. you can get a good sandwich in pret too.

                                  hell one day I'd like someone to tell me what the ideal size for a restaurant group is? what is the tipping point for becoming rubbish? 2 sites, 3? 15?

                                  there are good chains and bad, of course. the key variable isn't necessarily the chain part.

                                  and why assume that someone wants to "dine" everynight, sometimes you need to "eat" as well.

                                  back on topic, if eugeanie wants somewhere quick and easy, then Strada isn't a bad choice. if they want something more ambitious, I am sure that can be suggested too.

                                  1. re: batfink23

                                    I don't think the number of outlets is as important as quality control. A chain place is fine as long as the food is the same in each one. I've gotten the feeling that places are more consistent here in the UK than in the States and of higher quality, too.

                                    1. re: zuriga1

                                      no question.

                                      my point is more about how arbitrary this concept of what a chain is or isn't. or when it goes from good to bad.

                                      1. re: batfink23

                                        It certainly is arbitrary - that's for sure. I guess I'd say anything over 2 constitutes a 'chain,' but I'm sure others would disagree. There are lots of 'local' chains in the U.S. and then there are huge nationwide ones.

                                        There's really quiite a difference there as opposed to over here. I still find it funny how every town in the UK has exactly the same shops and prices, too.

                                    2. re: batfink23

                                      I ate at Pizza Express on Sunday, it was OK, reasonable food, and next door to Cardiff''s Millenium Centre (I was going to a concert). Given the other choices in the surrounding area it was the best of a poor selection, and after doing some research on Cardiff (this board and others) I came to the conclusion there are few alternatives.

                                      We have Pizza Express, Strada et al in Bath. We also have a number of good independent (some with more than one branch) restaurants. I assume because the large number of tourists and wealth of the natives a small town like Bath is able to support them. Thus, my recommendations for Bath would not include a chain, because I know there are better options; options that deliver better food, in a similar timeframe and for much the same price.

                                      And isn't this the key to the where chains fit into the spectrum of restaurants in the UK. There are areas where the local restaurant scene knocks spots off any chain restaurant (ownership, passion, committment, local produce etc), equally there are culinary deserts where the chain restaurant is the only option, better half decent food than no food. And yes there are bad local restaurants with grumpy, surly staff, poor food, and dirty tables; but equally chains suffer these problems in some of their branches.

                                      For me the power of boards like Chowhound is to help guide me to the best option. Hopefully it will be a good local restaurant with passionate staff and great food. Sometimes, it will be a chain because the local hounds know it is the (only) best option in the circumstances.

                                      So it isn't really a question of chains good or bad. I is more of a question of whether a chain in central London is the best option for good food. It would surprise (and dissapoint) me if it was.

                                      PS - I always like to see the argument "chefs eat here, it must be good". But do chefs choose places that do great food, or do they choose them because they are open when they finish their shift? It may not be their ideal choice, but simply what is available when they are not working (or what they can afford as a high percentage of chefs are not highly paid).

                                      1. re: PhilD

                                        My guess would be that the high end chefs have kids who like to eat pizza. They probably enjoy that sort of meal more than what their parent can cook.

                                        1. re: PhilD


                                          I think that is all very reasonable but what I would point out is a couple of things:

                                          1. if you think there is a better option nearby, by all means recommend it. but just as often the cheap little hole in the wall place that someone supposedly loves for its authenticity reflects just as much on that persons economics, judgement and experience. it ain't good because its small, its only good if its good.

                                          2. chef's don't tend to take their families after shift. certainly not to those all night family chain restaurants ;o)
                                          3. yes you can find all sorts of well known chef's at 2:00am in chinatown, for the reasons you state.

                                          1. re: batfink23

                                            Ok, I've taken all the replies to heart, and have switched out Strada for Bocca di Lupo. Good choice? We really wanted an Italian after seeing the 39 Steps (near Piccadilly).

                                            I'm keeping Masala Zone even though it is a chain because we're not that familiar with Indian food, had a very bad experience once at a one-off someplace else, and therefore feel more secure with a chain.

                                            Still doesn't solve my dilemma of where to eat in lieu of Clos Maggiore. I've exhaustively looked at all the suggestions, and none tick my boxes of price, food, and atmosphere (I really, really don't like austere modern spaces, and unfortunately budget is a consideration). However, just in case we change our minds about that, I've made a reservation at Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley. Just resonated with me the way Clos Maggiore did. But I would of course prefer a not quite so pricey alternative.

                                            So, better?

                                            1. re: Eujeanie

                                              you have to remember its all your choices, you don't need to appease us. honestly, its true!

                                              Bocca di lupo is a nice choice you'll like that.

                                              Marcus Wareing is a very good restaurant, and expensive. but as an example its probably an 8/10 whereas Clos Maggiore is probably 5/10 - is there really nothing in between?

                                              put another way, if you really want to try Clos Maggiore you should just go. its your money. be good if you could report back and let us know how you found it, and if it really looks like the photos on the website.

                                              1. re: Eujeanie

                                                Good choices. Nothing wrong with Masala Zone, another good central curry option is Moti Mahal (a bit more expensive) if you want to check that out. Boca di Lupo is also a good choice.

                                                1. re: Eujeanie

                                                  What about one of the Ramsay options? Angela Harnett's Murano or maybe the Boxwood? Just other options to consider.

                                                  1. re: batfink23

                                                    Agree. On authenticity I like Jay Rayner's take which he writes about in the second chapter of his book "The man who ate the world". I tend not to rate authenticity. I simply look for the best food that meets my needs at that time. If it is authentic (what ever that really means) than all the better.

                                                    1. re: PhilD

                                                      Jay Rayner rates Pizza Express as one of the places he eats when he's paying the bill.


                                                      This column is meant to shun the high-street offerings, but as I take my kids to our local PizzaExpress it would be hypocritical of me not to include it. Are they the best pizzas in Britain? No, though both the new Romanas and the Theo Randall range are really rather good. However, it's a very reliable product, service is slick, you can still have a grown-up experience with your kids and the price is not asphyxiating for what it offers. A family of four can eat well for around £50. Does that make it a weekly experience? No. But it does present an opportunity for eating out occasionally at a price which is manageable for many. That has to be a good thing.