Raymond Blanc is not just one of the world’s great chefs whose gourmet restaurant and luxury hotel, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons just outside Oxford, attracts the world’s high flyers who appreciate the good things in life; he is also an astute businessman. So the expansion of his chain of Brasserie Blancs is good news all around. After the opening of Brasserie Blanc in Threadneedle Street, by the Tower of London and at St. Paul’s, comes the even more welcome opening of Opera Terrace Brasserie Blanc in Covent Garden. Opposite the Royal Opera House, there’s a wonderful terrace and a long glass roofed dining room. Expect all the classics done well, from snails in garlic herb butter to slow-cooked pork belly. Brasserie: Daily noon-11 p.m.; Bar: Sun.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-midnight. Opera Terrace Brasserie Blanc, 35 The Market, London WC2, 020-7379 0666.
La Bodega Cafe & Taqueria, the little sister of La Bodega Negra restaurant, is just as packed, and just as trendy. And it's open all day. The 60-seat café buzzes, helped along by an expanded Mexican menu and the every-present tequilas. It's fun, good value and very chic. Open daily 11:30 a.m.- 1 a.m. La Bodega Cafe & Taqueria, 16 Moor St., London W1, 020-7758 4100.
It's always good when a cuisine that is underrepresented in London puts in an appearance. Now taking its turn is Mexican cuisine with La Bodega Negra café and taqueria. Pan-Asian specialist Will Ricker of E&O and Eight Over Eight fame has joined up with New York restaurateur and nightclub owner Serge Becker to open the two very trendy Mexican eateries. The main restaurant is in a basement, serving the classics like sesame tostadas with guacamole, octopus and tacos as well as spit-roasted chicken and mixed seafood and rice. Don't miss the full tequila menu as well as bespoke margaritas with different herbed flavours. Mon.-Sat. 6 p.m.- 1 a.m., Sun. 6 p.m.-11:30 p.m. La Bodega Negra, 9 Old Compton St., London W1, 020-7758 4100.
Aubaine made quite an impact when it opened several years ago in Brompton Cross, then opened a second branch in Heddon Street. After that it went to Kensington and into Selfridges. Now it's moved even more upmarket in posh Mayfair. The chic, all-day very French brasserie is full of delightful touches like baskets of bread, old wooden furniture and pretty decorations. Great for breakfast and all through the day. Mon.-Sat. 8 a.m.-10:30 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Aubaine, 31 Dover St., London W1, 020-7368 0955.
South Indian restaurant Quilon at 51 Buckingham Gate, Taj Suites and Residences recently re-opened after a three-month renovation. The new design features a candle wall with tea lights, fabrics from India, and thousands of hand printed ceramic tiles. There's also the new Q Bar area serving cocktails like the Qojito, and a new 16-person private dining room with its own kitchen and entrance. Quilon, 51 Buckingham Gate, London SW1, 020-7821 1899.
Sailor Jerry UK has opened Hotel Street, which is named after the Honolulu district where the company's namesake Norman "Sailor Jerry" Collins made his name in tattooing. During the day, the SoHo venue exhibits art and sells Sailor Jerry clothing and accessories, while in the evening it hosts live music and serves up cocktails made with Sailor Jerry spiced rum, including mules, daiquiris and vanilla mojitos. Hotel Street, 120-125 Charing Cross Rd., London WC2H 0JR, http://sailorjerry.com/uk.
Two Years Old at Brasserie Joël
French restaurant Brasserie Joël at the very good value Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London hotel has now been open for two years. It may not be as long as Quaglino's, but they are quite rightly celebrating this first landmark with a set menu. Until June 30, you get a glass of Veuve Clicquot Champagne on arrival, then two courses for £22 and three for £25. Don't miss the roast fillet of duck with polenta, poached pear, truffle and cider sauce. Brasserie Joel, Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London, 200 Westminster Bridge Rd., London SE1, 020-7620 7272.
Quaglino's Goes Royal
St. James's Quaglino's has been around a long time. Sixty years ago, the restaurant celebrated the Queen's coronation with a special commemorative menu. Sixty years on, it's celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee with another special commemorative menu. It's not the same, but there are similarities. You get foie gras terrine and port jelly, Dover sole, and strawberries with gingerbread and liqueur biscuit. From May 28 to June 30, the £65 five-course menu will also include a complimentary chocolate gift from Royal Warrant holder Charbonnel et Walker. Some of the dishes will be available on the à la carte menu as well. On Monday June 4, there's an extra complimentary Best of British cocktail at lunchtime. Quaglino's, 16 Bury St., London SW1, 020-7930 6767.
Masterclasses in the Kitchen at The Ritz LondonChef Shuffle
The Ritz London hosts a series of Masterclasses in which executive chef John Williams shares his passion for food and his knowledge of culinary techniques. Classes include "Best of British in Spring" on May 16; "Fish and Shellfish" on July 12; and "Chocolate and Macaroons" on September 26. The cost is £250 per person for each class, which includes a Champagne reception in The Rivoli Bar, Chef's Masterclass in The Ritz Kitchen, and a four-course dinner in The Wimborne Room accompanied by wines. Space is limited. Reservations are required. For more information, please call +44 (0)20 7300 2233. The Ritz London, 150 Piccadilly, London W1J 9BR, 020-7493 8181.
The ladies who lunch discreetly at Launceston Place will experience a new menu from the also-new head chef, Timothy Allen from Whatley Manor. From Tuesday to Saturday, dine off the likes of tartare of smoked haddock with pickled cucumber, horseradish and iced cauliflower; fricassée of new season lamb; and Valrhona chocolate soufflé with a dark chocolate sorbet. Two courses at £19 and three for £23. Launceston Place, 1A Launceston Pl., London W8, 020-7937 6912.
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