Mangosteen (now Rosa’s Carnaby)

Update 2013: Rosa’s Carnaby Thai Cafe has replaced Mangosteen, at 23 Ganton Street

A great little restaurant off Carnaby Street in buzzing Soho, serving authentic Thai.

As I love tod mun pla (Thai fish cakes), they serve as my benchmark to measure and compare different Thai restaurants. Mangosteen’s tod mun must be one of the best in London. They’re perfectly squidgy with all the blended flavours of fish, Thai curry, lime and the crunch of green beans.

While the menu is inexpensive anyway, they offer a great value lunchtime deal comprising a main dish / curry of your choice and rice, starter portions and fruit (for around £8 – 9).

Mangosteen was a regular lunch time haunt of mine when I used to work nearby – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve eaten here over the years and I’ve never been disappointed.

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Thai
~ Address: 23 Ganton Street, Soho, London
~ Postcode: W1F 9BW
~ Nearest station: Oxford Circus
~ Website: n/a
~ Location: Mangosteen map

Mangosteen Thai on Urbanspoon


Truc Vert – rustic in Mayfair (NOW CLOSED)

Click to see latest info and photos for Truc Vert – March 2012.

Lardbutty restaurant of the week

Truc Vert (green thing) certainly does bring a taste of the country – or something green – into the city. Entering this Mayfair restaurant, you’ll walk through the mini ‘marche’ selling jars of home-made style chutneys and preserves, which contributes to the restaurant’s rustic feel, as do the wooden wine racks lining the walls.

Here, you get what you pay for: really great quality food, and it’s not overly expensive. While main courses average around £17, the prix fixe menu – if dining before 7pm – is around £22.00 for two courses or £25.50 for three.

Changed daily, you can refer to last night’s dinner menu (sample) on the website.

I’ve eaten here several times over the last few years and have thoroughly enjoyed my meal and had a good evening every time. My most recent visit was last night when a friend and I opted for the three course menu at £25.50 (and we were fortunate enough to have bought discount vouchers on Groupon in advance, for a further reduction). Between us, we had:

~ Spinach soup with blue cheese creme fraiche
~ Grilled beam fillet with fennel, dill, spring onion, tomato salad + olive salsa
~ Chargrilled Scottish sirloin steak with sauteed new potatoes, onions, sauteed spinach + mushroom cream sauce (x2)
~ Apple tartin with vanilla ice cream
~ Poached figs in red wine with pistachio ice cream

To summarise: excellent food and wine menu, service and atmosphere. Definitely one to bring your family or visitors to London to. Highly recommended.

Poached figs in red wine with pistachio ice cream

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: British / French
~ Menus: Le Truc Vert menus (breakfast, lunch, dinner, tapas, wine)
~ Address: 42 North Audley Street
~ Postcode: W1K 6ZR
~ Nearest tube station: Bond Street
~ Website: Le Truc Vert website
~ Location: Restaurant map


Truc Vert on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Sakura – Lardbutty ‘Japanese restaurant of the year 2010’

UPDATE, JANUARY 2011: Sakura has moved to swankier premises on Conduit Street. The restaurant, menu and prices have all been hiked
New website will be at
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I love this restaurant, and it amuses me to read the mixed reviews it gets on the web.

Sakura doesn’t (yet) have its own website but it is always busy and seems to have a lot of repeat customers, many Japanese.

Sakura restaurant

On arrival, you won’t be shown to a table until all of your party’s arrived. Food specials are dotted around the walls, hand-written in Japanese with rough English translations. You quickly get the feeling of being in a real Japanese enviroment where there’s a need to look out for Japanese customs and etiquette (unlike the conveyor-belt style sushi chains now found in every town).

On being seated, it may be apparent that some of the waiting staff’s English is limited. The extensive menu is in both Japanese and English, so you can get by with pointing to items while the waitress copies the kana into her order pad. This all adds to the adventure, atmosphere and experience of eating here.

Because translations are literal, the menu doesn’t necessarily make for an appealing, mouth-watering read, for example, ‘five fish in vinegar’ or Sunomono, is a very tasty Japanese speciality, of foods prepared in vinegar.


I’ve eaten here a few times now. Each time, I’ve taken a chance and just selected random dishes (mostly from the ‘Cheff’s Spechal’ page) such as sushi, spicy rolls, mixed tempura, grilled river eel, squid tentacles, fried and grilled half aubergine with sauce (caramelised) and sunomono. And there are many noodle, dumpling and soup-based dishes and a variety of main courses too, if you prefer not to share smaller plates and tasters.

Fried + grilled aubergine with sauce

Intrigued yet? Do a web search on this restaurant and look at the reviews – there are two kinds: those who seem to have a temper tantrum at being asked to wait until all the party’s arrived before being shown to a table and interpret the staff’s limited English as rudeness, and those who are prepared to go with the flow, take a gamble with the menu and appreciate delicious Japanese food. Which will you be?

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: Japanese
~ Postcode: W1S 1YF
~ Nearest tube stations: Oxford Circus, Bond Street
~ Website: n/a
~ Location: Sakura map

Sakura on Urbanspoon

Ciro’s Pomodoro

Chicken teriyaki at Ciro’s Pomodoro

Ciro’s Pomodoro was recommended to me some time last year, and I finally gave it a whirl last night. It’s an intimate, basement restaurant – small and cosy – and well air-conditioned (very pleasing given the current heat-wave).

According to the website, Ciro’s supposedly attracts celebrities. On the menu, a star is named next to each each pizza listing (whoever’s favourite pizza that is). And there’s a vast selection – after all, that’s their speciality.

Most of our party opted for pizza: they’re thin-crust and ten inches in diameter with prices going up to £15.95. While the pizzas didn’t disappoint, the prices are a bit steep.

The walls are packed with photos of customers and famous people who’ve visited, and there’s live music too – all adding to the homely feel. Last night’s band did covers of music by The Police and Sade (remember her deep, velvet voice) but in a Jimmy-Somerville-high-pitched style. Hmmm.

Ciro’s is a very pleasant restaurant: the food, atmosphere and entertainment are all good, but it’s not in the same league as the excellent Donna Margherita .

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3 / 5
~ Type: Italian
~ Postcode: SW3
~ Nearest station: Knightsbridge
~ Website: Ciro’s Pomodoro London
~ Location: Ciro’s Pomodoro London

Umai Factory at Japan Centre


Since the Japan Centre’s recent move from Piccadilly to bigger premises on Lower Regent Street, delicatessen food (sushi, sashimi, rolls + hot snacks) is made by Umai Factory (a Japan Centre Group company).

It’s rammed every lunch time, unsurprisingly, as the sushi is wonderful and great value too. For example, it’s £2.50 for a three-pack of tuna nigiri and £1.50 for a four-pack of kakiage rolls. And, if you spend £4 or more, you get a free miso soup (normally £1.50).

I regularly get lunch from here, and while the sushi is extremely good, I preferred it at the old Japan Centre deli (on Piccadilly) when supplied by Yoshino.

tuna nigiri + kakiage

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: Japanese, sushi
~ Postcode: SW1Y 4PH
~ Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square
~ Website: Umai Factory at Japan Centre
~ Menus: sample sushi + sashimi menu
~ Location: Japan Centre map

Khan-a-Punjab – CLOSED

Lardbutty restaurant of the week: Khan-a-Punjab
Sabzee sizzler (vegetable platter) + matar paneer (cheesey peas)

This amazing restaurant opened five months ago, and – along with Santa Maria del Sur – puts Queenstown Road in competition with neighbouring Lavender Hill, when it comes to fine dining.

Specialising in low-fat, colour-free Indian cuisine made from carefully sourced ingredients, Khan-a-Punjab has an interestingly varied menu with some Punjabi specialities, and is very reasonably priced for such quality.

The sabzee sizzler starter is a tandoor-roasted vegetable platter of courgettes, aubergines, potatoes, tomatoes and onions. It certainly does sizzle and is great for sharing. Matar paneer – one of my favourite Indian dishes – serves as my benchmark between different restaurants and passed the test with flying colours here. Delicious.

Spoilt for choice from these chicken specials, I asked the Sultan which dish he’d choose if he was going on his break right then. On his say-so, I opted for the galina sha coo tee (“the most complex of all curries from Goa” comprising over twelve spices) and wasn’t disappointed.

And next time, I’ll be trying the ‘Foot path hotel curry’ (Delhi style rogan josh dish of diced and minced lamb cooked with exotic crushed reshampatti chillies, tomatoes and herbs). Roll on next time.

Fine, quality food – paneer tawa masala, pilau rice (with cardamom pods, cinnamon cloves, saffron + caramelised fried onion), puri + galina sha coo tee

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: Indian
~ Website, menus, book online: Khan-a-Punjab website
~ Postcode: SW8 3RE
~ Nearest stations: Queenstown Road (mainline) Clapham Commom (tube)
~ Location: Khan-a-Punjab map


Maghreb – Lardbutty restaurant of the week

On a street packed with diverse eating and drinking places (Upper Street, Islington), Maghreb can certainly hold its own. Interestingly lit with a series of low-hanging lights along the restaurant, and decorated in warm reds with Moroccan nic-nacs, Maghreb has a comfortable, homely feel.

Service is spot on and there’s an extensive menu of Moroccan specialities and loads of tagines. The goat cheese pastillas covered in cinnamon are excellent.

Goat cheese pastilla

Chicken + vegetable tagine

Well worth a visit.

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3 / 5
~ Type: Moroccan
~ Menus: Maghreb menus
~ Postcode: N1 1RQ
~ Nearest tube stations: Highbury + Islington; Angel
~ Website: Maghreb website
~ Location: Maghreb map