Bentley’s. Calle Alcalá, 105. Madrid

A new hamburguesería in the Retiro area has been well-received by local residents, and it is clear why: excellent quality beef in brioche-style buns with good combo toppings and a great atmosphere, coupled with quick and friendly service make for a positive dining experience. We tried the Trufa (truffle oil, cheddar, bacon, caramelized onion and avocado) and the Picante (jalapeño slices, cheddar and a creamy sauce) and both were winners. Only a few (9-12) fries are served on the side, as they’re trying to get you to order their famous onion rings too. There are five sizes of burger patty: 200g (€8.90), 250g (€9.90), 350g (€11.90), 500g (€14.90) and 1kg (€32) which can’t be fun to eat. Nevertheless, many have tried and made it onto the wall of fame separated into the successes and the failures.

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Taj. Calle Principe, 10. Madrid

Not to be confused with the more upmarket Taj near Banco de Espana, this is a relatively new place offering some good deals if you book online. The food is better than average, especially the mixed grill and Chicken Jalfrezi, but the Lamb Rogan Josh lacked the real heart ‘n’ soul of Moharaj’s version. Starters were a little lacklustre and the service can be a bit too officious. They’ve got the location though: right next door to O’Neills Irish pub for the post-match crowd.

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Hashe8. 170 Dalston Lane. London

Delusionaryculinary doesn’t often eat out for breakfast, but made an exception in Dalston – we all make exceptions in Dalston, don’t we? This was a charming place with a great selection of well-designed dishes. We tried the Beets n’ Sweets (£8) which was beetroot slices and sweet potato on a bed of kale with two poached eggs and hollandaise sauce, and the Hash Rarebit (£7) with double Gloucester cheese melted on top, bacon jam, homemade chutney and served with a green salad. Full and half English breakfasts are offered of course, as well as Belly Benedict, Pig Muffin and pancakes. Filter coffee is very good indeed – no cappuccinos or lattes here – and there are hair-of-the-dog Bloody Marys and other respectable brunch cocktails. Decor is simple and service is warm and friendly. Now if only they could serve a chai latte…

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Voodoo Ray’s. 95 Kingsland High St. London.

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For late night hipster pizza on a high street that has changed immensely in the last five years, Voodoo Ray’s is the place: a large selection of slices are available from between £3.30 and £4.50 which is quite steep, but this is a good quality New York style-slice. I can’t help but compare it to NYC’s Two Boots, and if you compare the prices, the London one is considerably pricier for what are ultimately simpler pizzas. An impressive selection of bottled and canned beers, cocktails and juices are available, as well as spiky chilli oils and smooth Parmesan to sprinkle on your portions. The chocolate brownie was excellent too. There are plans afoot to open up a new branch somewhere else in London, but for now their food truck is doing the rounds at festivals and events.

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On the Roof with Q. Selfridges rooftop, 400 Oxford St. London

Only accessible by express lift from the fragrance department on the ground floor, this long rooftop space is a welcome addition to the dearth of decent highrise restaurants in the area. Don’t expect a view, though: its design doesn’t allow a hint of the chaos below on Oxford street. The menu is exciting, even if portions and execution are just so-so. The peppered tuna was bland despite a dollop of wasabi avocado on each tile, but the violet artichoke bruschetta (steep at £8) was richer and more like a modern Spanish tapa. A side of spicy creamed corn was great as comfort food, and a small bag of Cornish hen wings (£5.50) was another dude food option as well as what looks like a decent hamburger (£13.50). But we weren’t so impressed by the dessert special which was a deconstructed chilli chocolate cheesecake with queso fresco which definitely didn’t add up to the sum of its parts.
Apparently this pop-up has been so successful that it could be here to stay past September; Selfridges shoppers must be aware though that there are better dining options in St Christopher’s Place just 50 metres away. So it seems that being up on a discrete rooftop has its charms, even though service is flaky and reception can be a little dishonest about how busy they really are – it’s bad form to lie about 5-7 week waiting lists when you have a quarter of the tables free by 3pm.
Saying that, I may be back to try their Q burger or pit-grilled ribs in the evening.

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Tramontana Brindisa. 152 Curtain Rd, Shoreditch. London

Location is a problem for this Spanish wine’n’tapas joint: stuck amongst the bars of Shoreditch heaving with their dolled-up suburbanites and badly-behaved Essex lads, it just about manages to keep its head above the fray. The patatas bravas is a fantastic beer-sponge, the sauce made with extra paprika, and much better than most versions I tried after years in Madrid; the tortilla was small and lacked the cake-density of the traditional classic. The wine selection is good, and service is mostly friendly. We’ll have to come by again to try their wider selection of offerings or stop by for a copa de vino anytime except Saturday night.

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Byron. 4-5 Langham Place. London

This was a popular burger joint even before the chancellor of the exchequer misguidedly tweeted a picture of one of its takeaway offerings, sparking tabloid pieces about ‘posh burgers’. There are numerous branches, and we can’t really fault the one that we went to which was a stone’s throw away from Oxford Circus. Service was quirky and friendly, the fries and patties, buns and sauces are all decent and not ludicrously priced, and my chilli burger was a real winner – sliced green chilli peppers with a chipotle mayonnaise, raising the heat to dangerous levels. They have a selection of bourbons, as well as some pricier bottled beers. Chocolate brownie for dessert was functional, hardly that special. Fairly average in general.

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