Want to know whether a bar, restaurant or club is suitable for that girly chat or romantic meal, check our reviews below. Each review has a talk or a dance rating rating out of 5. 


Jones and Sons, 23-27 Arcola Street, London, E8 2DJ 

Tucked away in a side street in Dalston stumbling distance from my house, I was overjoyed when I read that they were looking for the ‘discerning Dalston diner’. I’m not a hipster I just want decent food, cocktails and space and don’t mind paying for it.   Formerly in the old Arcola theatre building; now a contemporary warehouse with an open kitchen and spacious tables, it felt a step up from the Dalston competition. It was a grown up restaurant in a sea of cheap eateries.   The menu is modern European with lots of fish dishes but also dishes from the grill.

Diver scallops

The cocktails were interesting, my ‘Rosemary’s baby’ inclusive of blood spatter was fun but erred on the side of style over substance.  The more traditional cocktails went down well as did the wine list which was reasonably priced. The menu had starters ranging around the £7/8 with hand dived scallops at only £8.50 which were delicious. The main courses were also reasonably priced (around £14), if you didn’t have lobster (£23.50) which I did. Everyone agreed the food was excellent, great sauces and good accompaniments.  We preferred my French fries to the triple cooked chips, where the portion was on the small side. However the surprise star was the macaroni cheese which fed us all and was creamy and delicious.

Finally from the great food to the atmosphere, which was the reason I booked here. The age group was definitely older than the rest of Dalston’s hipster hangouts, which meant there was less large groups and more couples and groups of 4’s. It was still buzzy with some good background music that wasn’t deafening.  Service was top notch throughout the meal with good attention to detail, but also very friendly.  They do brunch too so really looking forward to trying that. I’m hoping for it to become a regular.

Talk rating: 4/5

Jones & Sons on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

The Holly Bush, 22 Holly Mt London NW3 6SG

Go back 50 years and all pubs in London probably looked like this well all pubs in smart parts in London anyway. A fullers pub, which is not necessarily a good sign awaited. I had done a quick search on my phone and this was top of the reviews, so I headed down there with my sister. The menu was quite short and had quite a wintery feel. Pub favourites like steak and ale pie sat alongside textures of heirloom tomatoes. Feeling a little adventurous I went for the tomatoes with barley rice, my sister went for the steak. It was not my typical pick from a menu, but it was a welcome change from the carb/meat filled offerings.

textures of heirloom tomatoes

I was pleasantly surprised by the very usual combination of tomatoes, avocado and basil. There was every type of tomato the tiny red variety, green and purple ones. It was a very accomplished dish that left me not feeling too envious of my sister’s steak. She did share some and it was perfectly cooked.We didn't opt for a dessert but intead went for the petit fours, much more delicate than a full dessert and something for everyone; macroon, meringue, fudge, cartucci and truffle. All had a hint of aniseed, which is not usually to be my liking but was subtle enough not to dominate.

Holly Bush petit fours

The staff were plentiful and efficient the clientele were a mixture of posh locals, tourists or possible American locals and us a bit of an oddity.  It was what you expect from Hampstead, but at its relaxed best.

Holly Bush on Urbanspoon

Oui Madame, 182 Stoke Newington Rd, London, N16 7UY

A French bistro is a very welcome addition to the Stokie scene. Stokie/Dalston are so plentiful of cheap eats; curry, Turkish and in the last year or so a proliferation of Mexicans, but no real gastronomic delights. I live only 2 doors away from this restaurant so although excited slightly concerned that it would bring an unwelcome crowd.

Cheese and Meat Platter

It has been nearly a year since they opened and any fears have so far been unfounded. So on to the food. They have quite a simple formula, a 3 course set menu at £23 with the occasional supplement; they also have side or sharing plates. This makes sense for the kitchen and also allows them to prepare a menu dependent on fresh ingredients (they don’t write the menu until around 4pm).  The 3 courses usually start with a vegetarian soup or gazepecho and a side crouton. There are 3/4 mains; one vegetarian, one white and one red meat and then 2 desserts. From what I have seen and eaten, all courses are very well cooked and decent portions. On my first visit we wanted to try everything and so had sharing plates and then followed with the 3 course menu – way too much - you’ve been warned). The side/sharing plates for me are more inventive and far more interesting way to eat, but that may say more about me than their food. I have had the king prawns in black squid ink sauce, octopus foccacia, mixed charcuterie, tomato and mozzarella salad, fois gras terrine, all the dishes used great ingredients and showcased them to their best.


Tomato Salad

I have seen that there have been some complaints about service, the 3 times I have been there I have not had any issue at all. It is a family business and therefore the waiting staff seem to care immensely and yes occasionally the odd glass of wine goes a miss but on the whole they are really on the ball.  This is not a Michelin star restaurant and just a bistro so relaxed service is what you should expect.

The wine is not cheap and the house wine is served as half carafe which was to us a bit misleading, as a bottle would have been cheaper. However the wine whether carafe or bottled was very drinkable and much better than the usual house you get in Dalston so the price reflected that.

The most important part for me is the atmosphere of the place, there is a hip, trendsetter feel from the décor to the clientele. On a Tuesday night do not be surprised to see a 23 year old in leather hot pants. This usually sends shivers down my spine and yes I was the oldest person in there on a Saturday night (mid 30’s), but the food staff and general ambiance make up for it. 

Talk Rating: 4/5

Oui Madame on Urbanspoon

St John’s Bread and wine, 94-96 Commercial St, London E1 6LZ

This was my second visit here but first time on a weekday and very early 6.00pm. We had tried to get into Hawksmoor’s bar (50% off deal), but it was already busy.  At 6 we were the first ones there, but we needn’t have worried the place was packed by the time we left.  I love the concept of English tapas, I prefer lots of different dishes rather than a starter and main and with the seasonal nature of the menu means there are usually things you haven’t tried.  The sourdough bread made on the premises was brought over and we devoured it.  It was great with the crab we started with, a staple at this and the Smithfield restaurant. It is always amazing tasty, especially with their own take on the aioli, if a little bit fiddly but the meat is worth it. After the healthy crab came the most indulgent and naughty dish of crispy pork skin.

Crispy pork skin

It is probably the most moreish and delicious dish I have ever eaten, but you could only do it once a year for fear of a heart attack. The third dish was the artichoke heart with hollandaise, I used to eat this in the 80’s and I love the theatre and patience of eating each leaf until you get to the centre.  The fourth dish was cuttle fish, they really do cook it very well so soft no chewiness at all.  My favourite dish last time was their razor clams. Service was pretty prompt; their house named wine was not cheap but very tasty.  The only downside is the acoustics, there is no music, but when the place is full it is hard to hear anyone more than a foot away. Nothing they can do to rectify it but stops me coming here with large groups, which is a shame as it is so great to share all the dishes.

Talk Rating: 3/5

St John Bread & Wine on Urbanspoon Square Meal

New York Trip - May Trip 5&6, 2013

Pouring Ribbons, 225 Ave B between 13th and 14th Sts – small bar above a subway in the east village. I went here for a cocktail class that didn’t really happen (long story), however the cocktails I drank, of which there were many, were excellent. Huge ice cubes with the Old fashioned that I now copy at home too. I would return if in the area.  The noise level was quite high, but people rather than music.

Talk rating: 3.5/5

Fish , 280 Bleecker St (between Jones St & Commerce St), New York, NY 10014
As the name suggest this place specialises on seafood.  We were drawn in by the sign with all you can eat blue shell crabs, but when we got there, they’d all gone. So we opted for oysters to start and then went for scallops. Quiet atmosphere good for dates.

Talk Rating: 4/5

Fish on Urbanspoon

Good restaurant, 89 Greenwich Ave, New York, NY 10014
On the final day just had time for a burger, after being recommended a restaurant  that did good burgers to find the place did no burgers we just had to find somewhere close.  We sat outside this smart restaurant that was pretty quiet for a lunchtime.  The burger came fully loaded with bacon, cheese and salad. It had a ciabatta bun which can be hard and chewy to eat. Although this was the case the actual burger was supremely rare and very juicy so the ciabatta soaked it up.

Burger at Good Restauarnt
Talk Rating: 5/5 (maybe different in the evening)

Good on Urbanspoon