First Taste:
The Giaconda Dining Room

Paul Merrony’s honest bistro cooking is a welcome change from London’s prolific tourist-trap restaurants.
The Giaconda Dining Room

Australian chef Paul Merrony first made a name for himself in Sydney for great cooking at a fair prices. In 2007 he moved to London, and he opened this tiny bistro at the northernmost edge of Covent Garden this summer. As this area is normally renowned for its tourist-trap and chain restaurants, Merrony’s honest bistro cooking makes a refreshing change.

A satisfying bowl of creamy shellfish bisque bobbing with tasty morsels will set you back only £5 ($9). Grilled pork chop with risotto Milanese and a green salad is only £11.50 ($20). Our chop was a generous, juicy hunk of meat, cooked medium, but the risotto didn’t play second fiddle: It was rich and dense enough to stand your fork up in.

It’s the Aussie-accented dishes that make Giaconda really stand out. We were bowled over by the dessert of Eton mess, a summery English confection of stiff meringues broken and stirred into beaten cream, with ripples of strawberry coulis; but Merrony’s version closely resembles the antipodean pavlova, the signature Aussie touch being the topping of a poached peach.

The Giaconda Dining Room is only open from Monday through Friday, as it currently has a staff of three—including Tracey, Merrony’s wife, who often waitresses. The wine list tempts with many appealing producers and styles sold by the glass or small carafe, but even so, you’re unlikely to spend more than £40 ($70) a head. And in a city where it costs £4 ($7) to make one short journey on the subway and cabs cost around £1 ($2) per minute, ways of keeping the costs in check are always welcome.

The Giaconda Dining Room 9 Denmark St., London (+44 20-7240-3334;

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