Luke Blackall: It's the return of wood panelling, but wood panelling with a sense of fun

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The Independent Online

I had been planning to eat healthily. You see, I am getting married in two weeks and while I am not concerned that I'll block the aisle with my girth, I also think it's a good day to try to look one's best.

But this week invitations have conspired against me. The first was a reopening dinner for The Electric. For a Notting Hill institution such as this, any change could easily be frowned upon by its regulars. But as fire hit it a few months ago, they didn't have much choice. As it turns out it is one of the few occasions where a total refit, pictured, has been a total success and the fire seems to have made the kitchen even better.

The group who own it are known for having some of the most stylish venues in London, with numerous others following their lead when it comes to choosing interiors. On this basis, London had better be bracing itself for a spate of new old-looking places, with a wood panelling look that gentlemen's clubs would have, if gentlemen's clubs had a sense of fun.

Things were much shinier at the brand new STK in the brand new ME hotel the following night. With its low lighting, cream banquettes and a soundtrack that veers from Wham! to Motown, this is a restaurant for those who those who like their steak with a side of party.

The concept, we were told, was one important from its US roots: to appeal to women who might have been put off by the stuffy old steakhouse image. It's other import, female-friendly portions, have also come in for criticism, particularly among my colleagues.

While it might have found a pro-women niche in its native US, the issue isn't quite the same this side of the pond, where the likes of Gaucho or other smart capital steakhouses like 34 or The Cut don't have any sort of misogynistic reputation.

But in the end, the arguments about its image were largely forgotten at our table, because the steaks and truffle chips were excellent and I could eat my starter of little Wagyu beef burgers (yes, I had two beef courses) every day.

Well, I couldn't really, because I have a wedding that I should be staying (getting) in shape for…