1 | Dinner at Bluebird
Chelsea's Bluebird restaurant – that art deco building you can't fail to notice on the King's Road – has reopened after a much-anticipated refurbishment.
To much excitement, diners were this week shown the steely new-look interiors (designed by Sagrada – who most recently did Mayfair's Sartoria and Arts Club), along with the brand new menu from brand new chef, Liam Smith-Laing. Having formerly worked with Marcus Wareing and Gordon Ramsay, his is a smart selection of highly shareable dishes. Though, trust me, if you order the n'duja and Fontina gnocchi (pictured), you won't want to be sharing anything – full of warm spice and melted cheese, it's ideal for these crisper autumnal evenings.
And for a tasty menu, there are various semi-healthy options – it's not all stodge and starch. The beautifully marinated lamp rump comes with bulgar wheat and merguez sausage, the grilled tuna comes with cauliflower tabbouleh – you get the idea. Starters are fresh, zingy and will disappear quickly so order several. And don't miss the aged Negroni and aged Old Fashioned mini petrol pumps, a nod to the building's history as a former garage.
This place is very buzzy, very darkened and ideal for impressing someone on a date night.
350 King's Road, London, SW3 5UU
2 | Brunch at The Manor
A Bloody Mary is but naught these days unless you can mess about with it yourself.
So it is highly appropriate of The Manor, Clapham to have added weekend brunch to their offerings along with, yep, a DIY Bloody Mary bar. But this is one trend that's actually useful – opinions can get particularly fervent on how peppery, how spicy, how Worcestershire saucy these concoctions should be so it's much simpler to take control oneself.
And once you've got said hangover cure in hand, there is a small but delightfully formed food menu that won't break the bank. Along with Italian cured meats to pick at, have a go at the crispy pig cheeks, served with a fried duck egg and a fresh tomato sauce spiked with n'duja and barlotti beans.
The poached eggs are far more interesting than normal, too, served on a potato flatbread with sharp-tasting sorrel, cultured cream (a curious umami sort of flavour that beats the old Béarnaise) and some crisps on top.
148 Clapham Manor Street, London, SW4 6BX
3 | Steak and Whisky at STK London
Single malts and superior steaks – an evening of dreams, some might say.
So it is with delight that we tell you about the pairing menu that STK has created along with Glenfiddich whisky which will run until the end of the year. This is undoubtedly a treat but it's absolutely worth it for the five sumptuous courses, specially created between head chef Barry Vera and Glenfiddich's UK brand ambassador Mark Thomson.
First, you get a cocktail containing the 15-year old and ingeniously garnished with thyme (mainly because Mark found some in his garden but, luckily, it very much works). Then you get lobster with the 12-year old, then pan fried foie gras with beer caramel and an Old Fashioned that comes in your very own hip flask.
Move onto the USDA prime beef fillet, cooked for six hours so that it barely needs a knife to cut through and melts like butter in your mouth. That comes with the rich, warming 18-year old before you ramp up to arguably the jewel in the Glenfiddich crown – the 21-year old – whose rum finish sits merrily alongside a decadent chocolate fondant.
Then you get cheese and the 26-year old. Heaven itself.
STK, ME London, 336-337 Strand, London, WC2R 1HA
4 | Meat and Cheese at Mercante
The latest addition to London's admittedly rather well-stocked cellar of Italian restaurants is Mercante, situated inside the newly renovated Sheraton Grand Park Lane hotel just over the road from Green Park.
The reason it is standing out from the crowd is the unpretentious but exceptionally sourced menu of homemade pastas and - crucially - a cold meat and cheese selection with real imagination, from Prosciutto Crudo di Parma to wild boar to some Pecorino sardo that will have you booking the next flight to Cagliari.
Head Chef Davide D'ignazio is an exciting young talent with a fresh eye for Roman cuisine and a knack for pulling together the traditions of various regions in harmony. Let him make your Friday night for you by booking immediately.
5 | A Glass of Wine at Fortnum's X Frank
Fortnum & Mason is such an institution, you often pass it by without remembering to go in.
But now you have an overwhelming reason to stop and look pointedly into the windows, and to wander round the whole store: it has teamed up with legendary British art collector Frank Cohen to exhibit a chunk of his private collection.
You will find paintings, sculptures and installations dotted around the entire place, starting with the windows themselves – you are greeted with works by Tracey Emin, Frank Auerbach, Howard Hodgkin and more, with two Lynn Chadwick iron figures peering down from above the shop's sign.
Inside, there is a cowboy waiting to greet you in menswear, and if you plump for some tea in the fourth floor salon, you'll meet Charming Baker's troupe of golden animal faces. Our tip is to head to the excellently stocked wine bar in the basement. There is a secret crypt down there, a suitably eerie space for a Jake and Dinos Chapman sculpture.
Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, London, W1A 1ER
6 | A Pitstop before Paris at the Betjeman Arms
If you're off for a jaunt to the city of love this winter - or, y'know, Doncaster - we recommend fuelling up first at the Betjeman Arms, a discreet, cosy pub at the end of the rather magnificent glass atrium that sits above St Pancras station.
A complete departure from what you'd usually expect from a pub in this context - usually a dismal chain of some kind, serving bad fish and chips - the BA has a menu of magnificently sourced and proudly British fare (our tip: the Barnsley lamb chop, Sussex charmer potato bake, courgette spaghetti and green sauce), as well as a drinks menu to get your trip off to a bang (don't be surprised to find a real ale festival taking place in the bar). The perfect pitstop then - although to be honest, we'd happily pop by even if we weren't getting on a train at all.