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flashboy
Member since Mar 2007
The Glasshouse Stores
London | Pubs
One of Sam Smith's best
4
One of no fewer than three Sam Smiths pubs along Brewer Street (along with The White Horse and The Duke of Argyll), and probably the pick of the bunch. Seen from the front, with small windows and a tight entrance, it looks like it's tiny, which might put off passing visitors - but it opens up, Tardis-like, once you get past the bottlenecked bar. Several more rooms, nooks and crannies, a downstairs that's nearly as big again (which serves food, at least most of the time) and a courtyard out at the back mean that you stand a good chance of a seat on even the busiest Friday night.

The rest will be familiar to lovers of the Sam Smiths formula. Lovely cheap drinks, cheerful bar staff, proper old pub decor in a pleasing range of brown tones, and a warm atmosphere. If you're one of those strange people who don't like Sam Smiths, then there's nothing here to change your mind. But then, if you don't like Sam Smiths, your mind is a baffling and quite possibly broken organ which utterly defies rational explanation.

Oh, and there's a wonky bar billiards table. Hurrah.
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New Tandoori Raj Indian Restaurant
London | Indian Restaurants
Good quality Indian restaurant
3
A good bet if you get a curry craving and you're in Holborn - the food is good quality, and there's a nice combination of Indian restaurant staples and a few more interesting speciality dishes to cater for various tastes.

We were able to get a table easily on an impromptu Friday evening drop-in, and the service was prompt and efficient. Nothing about Tandoori Raj would make it stand out especially in an area more crowded with curry options - it'd be one of the better venues on Brick Lane, but probably not the best - but its convenient location just off High Holborn makes it well worth remembering.
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Guanabara
3
A nice funky place, especially if you get there earlier in the evening when it's less crowded and more relaxed. The happy hour cocktails are good value - they're tasty, although cocktail buffs might not appreciate the quality of the mixing, which is pretty crude. Downside is that it gets rammed very quickly, and that it's yet another place where they turn up the music far too early in the evening, cutting short any conversation you were having. But still, in the early evening it's a nice place for the post-work wind-down; later on, a very decent Latin American club.
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Wolfe's Bar & Grill
1
Eating at Wolfe's, you feel a sudden surge of empathy for John Simm's character in 'Life On Mars'. Like Sam Tyler, you appear to be stuck in a strange and confusing world, ripped from vague, unpleasant memories of the tackier side of the seventies.

The decor is stunning, in the sense that it leaves you feeling slightly dizzy and nauseous; mirrors on every available surface (including the ceiling), gold plating and faux marble where they couldn't fit any mirrors. This is all tastefully set off with a display of rude seaside postcards in the gents toilet. You can imagine Gene Hunt proudly taking someone here, on the grounds that it's "classy " and "a bit posh".

But, what's wrong with a little chintzy decor if the food and service are high quality? Well, my cheeseburger was a fascinating combination of three entirely different rubbery textures; a sort of foam rubber for the bread, an almost flubber-like consistency in the cheese, and a proper, tractor-tyre vulcanized rubber in the burger itself. One of my companions, meanwhile revelled in chicken that was so undercooked, the outside was still pink, never mind the inside.

Apart from that, though, there were few complaints. Oh, except for the bit where the waitress threw gravy in my friend's lap. That was well worth the compulsory service charge.

To sum up: No. Don't.
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Soho Thai
3
Really rather decent little Thai restaurant (part of a chain, I'm told, although it didn't feel terribly chain-y), and good value for the heart of Soho.

Eating at peak time on a Saturday, we got a table immediately (although larger groups should book, as it was fairly busy). Service was always prompt, unfussy and friendly.

The food was to a good standard - not stunning, but was very solid. The starter dumplings were lovely, although a touch clingy in texture. The Thai green curry was very good, definitely on the spicier side - perhaps losing a little of the subtlety you get in the best green curries, but it was certainly tasty. My friend, however, complained that the stir fry beef was rather bland, which is a shame.

So, not a world beater, but for generally good Thai food in Central London, at nice prices (under £20 each for two courses and drinks) with quick and efficient service, you could do a lot worse.
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The Grapes
London | Pub Restaurants
The Grapes
4
Lovely riverside pub, with a really friendly atmosphere from both the regulars and the staff. The deck overlooking the river's especially nice, but the whole place has a warm charm to it. Perfect place to plant yourself with a friend or two, be it a cold winter evening or a long summer day.

I'm also reliably informed that they do the best pint of prawns in London, although I'm not able to personally verify this...

As it's not the biggest place, it can get fairly crowded - especially the bottleneck by the bar between the front and back rooms - but sharp eyes can normally guarantee you a table at most times.

Also, it's very dog friendly - there's almost always at least one dog in there - which is probably good if you like dogs.
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The Ten Bells
3
Quite how the Ten Bells manages to be such a nice place is slightly mysterious - because it's got all the markers of a typical Shoreditch muppet-hole. The shabby interior, the crap flea market sofas with throngs of elegantly tatty hipsters dangling off them, the trendy music, and ironic t-shirts as far as the eye can see.

But actually, it's got a really nice atmosphere. Not too posey, relaxed and generally quiet (it noises up on weekend nights, though) with a beer selection that probably won't charm an ale enthusiast, but that's got enough pleasing variation from the bog-standard to cheer you up on a hot day.

Also going for it is the fact that it's just over the road from Spitalfields (it's also a stopping-off point for Jack The Ripper tours, by the way). And the bar staff are quite nice to look at.

No, it's not the greatest place in the world, and yes, it would be nice if they got new chairs and fixed up the stairs to the toilets. But actually, for a pleasant little boozer to meet friends in (ironic t-shirts or not) it's one of the nicer places in the area.
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Archangel
2
What used to be Bar Cuba is now Archangel, and is trying to be a high-class cocktail lounge/restaurant. The redesign is decent - they've clearly splashed a bit of cash to get it looking swanky - but doesn't really work with the space, which suits something more intimate. The end result seems pretty soulless.

The other huge downside to this place is the quality of service. In there the other day, with the place virtually empty (there were about four other people) it still took us 20 minutes to get served a round of drinks that involved making two mojitos and opening a few bottles of beer. 20 minutes. No exaggeration. When it gets busier (not that it ever seems to attract that many people) it must be nightmarish.

Plus side: the drinks are mostly decent value if you're on a 2-for-1 deal. The mojitos were at least good and fresh tasting. But really, with service that bad and little ambience to improve things, why would you bother?
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Garlic & Shots Ltd
London | Speciality Restaurants
Garlic & Shots
4
Great, fairly unique place that's got character to spare. Upstairs, a relaxed, fairly bohemian Swedish bar/restaurant, with good beer, a huge range of shots, and tasty tasty food that all contains large amounts of garlic. Downstairs, a goth metal cavern with a staggering range of vodka. Also, at the rear, what initially looks to be a back room turns out not to have a roof, and as such is more technically a garden.

With a great atmosphere, incredibly friendly staff (for the best effect, it helps to have a Swedish speaker in your group, but it's hardly essential) and a fun crowd, it stands out in an increasingly homogeneous Soho. Not for everyone, but people after somewhere a little different will warm to its charms.
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The Auld Shillelagh
London | Pubs
Auld Shillelagh
4
One of Stokey's finer pubs, it's a proper Irish bar, not one of your Authentic Oirish Theme Pub travesties.

Up sides include an often great atmosphere with a friendly crowd. Down sides include the fact that the entrance and bar are in what might be described as a rather narrow space - it's sometimes nigh on impossible to move. But it opens up further back, proving surprisingly spacious.

They also have live music - it's worth recording that I once heard a storming ceilidh band version of Deee-Lite's 'Groove Is In The Heart' here as closing time came and went, which frankly you're unlikely to get in an O'Neills.
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