I love food blogs for the personality behind them, and for its ever-evolving nature. However keeping up with the frequent updates can be overwhelming for new readers who simply want a summary of the best recommendations. So I wrote this page down for their benefit, mainly places I love and would revisit.
Think of this as a condensed version of all the critical moments in my discovery. No guide is ever definitive, and this one is far from it. It is alive and it will change as the landscape of food. I hope that you will find this a pleasant introduction to the world of London dining.
The Scene. May 2011
Boy it’s been a while since my last update. That last time was in August 2010, and by gosh, so much has happened since. Which is probably the entire point of any guide, in that it is and should be as dynamic whatever flavour of the seasons are. I for one, am currently going through a routine weekend craving for steak burritos.
This year, we’ve had a number of great openings, and many (if not all) of which are worth a pop. Some are on this list obviously. Lately, I’ve gone off the idea of collecting experiences that are in the Michelin guide, not to say that it’s irrelevant, but that it’s seems less relevant in eating out.
3 Michelin Star : £100 plus.
2 Michelin Star : £70 to £100
1 Michelin Star : £55 to £65
Posh restaurants, old institutions : £70 for three courses
Middle of the road, competitive : £45 for three courses
Budget restaurants : £15 to £25 for three courses
Fish and Chips £7 to £10
Gourmet Burgers £9 to £18
Chicken Rice, One plate meals £6 to £10
Sushi £3 to £8 per nigiri
McDonalds Cheeseburger 99p [Is the Big Mac Index still applicable?]
Home restaurants morphed into supper clubs and became pop-up one offs, which has established a market in its own right now. Prix fixe menus are a regular fixture in almost all restaurants, the burger has grown tremendously over the months and brewed coffee is here to stay. Heston has finally opened in London, and I no longer live in West London. I think foodblogs and dead tree critics have finally found their corners on the internet.
And I think restaurants have accepted table side snapping as the norm now. Oh mate, I remember the days when it was taboo worth accosting the diner for.
Keeping up to date
In the new world of social media, there are a number of critics and serial restaurant bloggers who write about the latest restaurants in town. Naturally, I am an avid fan of restaurant critics as I regularly follow their conquests and feel that the wealth of experience professional critics offer give a rounded viewpoint of placing and benchmarking restaurants in their respective cuisines. Equally there are a host of food blogs which provide an alternative and more personal angle on similar subjects. I believe that a saturation of view points is only a good thing as it will ultimately give the prospective diner a more complete gauge of whether a restaurant will be a good fit or otherwise. Food is subjective after all. London based sources I wholeheartedly recommend:
61 Rupert Street W1D 7PW
No phones, no reservations.
Tube: Piccadilly Circus
The third of Russell Norman’s magnus opus, and this may just be the best one yet. Moving away from the Italian baccaro theme and toward the American speakeasy, both in ambiance and in food, and the result is a convivial atmosphere and dishes like truffle egg toast, ground beef and bone marrow sliders, peanut butter and jam sandwich, as a pudding. Some Polpo-like dishes make cameo appearances too of course, but the sum of this restaurant’s parts is far more brilliant and refreshing than anything that has come before. Folks, this one is special. Filter coffee only, and lots of spirits which are worth reading into… Read more.
Made in Camden
Fusion, brunch, cafe, bar and free wifi. £20pp
Chalk Farm Road NW1 8EH
Tel : 020 7424 8495 Tube: Chalkfarm
Many dead trees have been dedicated to the launch of Ottolenghi’s new restaurant in Soho, NOPI, and while I think the food at NOPI is brilliant, I also think it’s a little expensive, and just a little too glam for everyday. But I feel that this little cafe at the Roundhouse, run by Josh Katz, deserves it’s time in the limelight. Katz had previously stinted with Yotam in his previous life, and so maybe that’s where the Medi influences can be traced back to, in his cooking. The food are tapas like, but have surprise selections such as his take on Chang’s Momofuku pork bun. I’ve been back about four times now, and I really do think it’s wonderful cooking. A real gem, especially in this part of Camden, and well worth a visit. Read more.
Cambio de Tercio
Spanish, £50pp ; 7 Course taster menu £37.
163 Old Brompton Road SW5 0LJ
Tel: 020 7244 8970
Tube: Gloucester Road
I’ve been visiting this restaurant since 2003, and glad to say that it is was going strong in 2010, and still riding the waves in 2011. Simply the finest Spanish restaurant in London, in my opinion, probably deserves at least a michelin star just for the sheer quality of food. I’ve never had a bad meal here and it comes with my highest recommendations. Read More.
Sushi of Shiori
144 Drummond Street, Off Hamstead Road, NW1 2PA
Tel: 020 7388 9962
Tube: Warren Street
I never thought such a fabulous labour of love would ever exist in London, this tiny sushi bar can only accommodate nine people, is run by a husband and wife team, but the sushi is as good as you will find in London. The chef is ex-Umu, and is a artist with the knife, who has probably decided to keep his restaurant small, so that he can wow his diners as they watch him prepare dinner. If you love sushi, or would like to be introduced to it, this is the place to go. My favourite Japanese restaurant in London… and it still is, even considering the genius of Yashin. SoS is unique because the whole dining experience is so personal. And the food is fab. Read More.
£45pp Steakhouse Maddox Street W1S 1QH
Tel: 020 7499 3776 Tube: Oxford Circus
11 Old Jewry EC2R 8DU
Tel: 020 7600 8220 Tube: Bank
As a red blooded male, I love meat sweats. I frequent Goodman on a regular basis and this is my go-to restaurant for proper steak. There are two realistic choices for London steak, Goodman and Hawksmoor. I prefer this Russian owned restaurant for the sheer choice of meat, in particular the Nebraska Prime USDA beef. NZ Wagyu, O’Sheas Irish Beef and Scotch are also on their menu. They also have their own ageing rooms on premises and the vaunted Josper Grill for extra smokiness. There are two Goodmans now, the original at Mayfair, and another one that’s only open for business on Weekdays in the City. Both are great. Read more on Mayfair and City.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA
Tel: 020 7201 3833 Tube: Knightsbridge
I think Dinner might be better than Fat Duck. I liked my visit to the FD, but therein was the problem, it felt like a restaurant which you could never revisit. The ending was just too climatic. The theatrics, fun, on the 1st visit, but it is a play I don’t want to see again. FD wasn’t for a nice dinner, it’s a show. Dinner, on the other hand, is a bloody good dinner. Ashley Palmer-Watts, Heston’s right hand man, leads the kitchen. One could argue that the approach here is anti-Fat Duck, proper three course portions, hearty and real food. The Alice in Wonderland sensations are bubbling beneath the cooking, but is kept well in check, and I feel it strikes a happy medium. I prefer feeling heavy after a meal. Dinner is much like a souped up version of Hind’s Head, the triple cooked chips are on the menu, but so is the porridge, still green and superbly delish, but made with cod cheeks instead of snails. Most of all, this is a restaurant you could revisit to eat greatly food, and genuinely have a good dinner. Could well be one the greatest restaurants ever to grace the Capital, and definitely one of my favourites. You MUST visit. More here.
British-European wine bar, egalitarian. £30pp
49 Columbia Road, E2 7RG
Tel: (020) 7729 5692
Tube: Bethnal Green
The funky East London follow-up to the all singing and all sharing Terroirs is simply fabulous. The quality of the foraging, the amount of meat on the menu, and the modestly decorated and hugely relaxing space is just brilliant. Can we call it French tapas? Or perhaps Anglo French tapas? A wine bar too? Just give this a go, it’s very good. More here.
British, £40pp ; Set Lunch £18 for 3.
130 Regent’s Park Road NW1 8XL
Tel: 020 7586 5486
Tube: Chalk Farm
I don’t understand why there is so little publicity about this charming restaurant in Primrose Hill. Bryn Williams is a brilliant chef, and six years on, his turbot dish which eventually made it to the Queen’s 80th bash, is national treasure which deserves to be savoured. I don’t know what it is about the room that has made a lasting impression, maybe it were the flower patterns on the wallpaper, or dangling lamps, or that it was mostly green, but it is one of most characteristic dining rooms in London. This little restaurant is special. Read more.
£12pp British 73 Marylebone Lane W1U 2PN
Tel: 020 7486 3644 Tube: Bond Street
I went to Geales once for their highly produced beer battered haddock, good, but a tad too expensive. Fish and chips are suppose to be cheap. I am indebted to Helen for introducing this Marylebone favourite. Fish are fresh catch delivered from Grimsby, daily. Chips are a little soggy and the mushy peas are forgettable, but the battered cod is just what the doctor ordered for Friday lunch. Read more.
27 Walham Grove, London SW6 1QR
Tel: 020 7386 1847
Tube: Fulham Broadway
I am including this recent Michelin crowned superpub by default, because I think it represents an important milestone in the London restaurant scene, and for British cuisine in general. The menu is respectably affordable, and the venison scotch eggs are probably the best you can find, this side of Fulham. I don’t think it deserves a Michelin star to be quite honest, however, the food is honest, and honestly fantastic. Read more.
Great Queen Street
32 Great Queen Street Covent Garden, WC2B 5AA
Tel : 020 7242 0622
Tube : Covent Garden
I love this place, it is perhaps the epitome of a ‘gastropub’, the menu rotates on a daily basis, there is an emphasis on British produce, recipes are reticent, but cooking is superbly refined and well executed. Brown crabs are used on toast, and the minute steak is the perfect alternative to a Sunday roast. I just love the unpolished wooden floors, and Burgundy walls. Read more.
Well Travelled Portuguese, £25 for 3, £60 for 6, £85 for 12. *
Patriot Square E2 9NF
Tel: 020 7871 0461
Tube: Bethnal Green
I seriously think that Nuno Mendes; foraged-from-around-the-world cuisine is groundbreaking, a game changer and a wonderful addition to London scene. If he keeps up his mad genius, I think he can rival Noma’s status. I believe he represents the next generation of superb breakthrough gastronomy. There is something very special brewing in Bethnal Green. I have been watching his development very closely, and on return visits, the zen kitchen is getting better at their method of minimalistic cooking, and perfecting their myriad of creative dishes inspired by world cuisines. And they even managed a star this year. Read more.
Italian, £75pp *
10 Blenheim St W1S 1LJ
Tel: (020) 7495 1509
Tube: Bond Street
Semplice produces simply fabulous Italian cooking. The restaurant belongs to a legacy of an previous time, when Italian fine dining was the fashionable, as opposed to the younger, sleeker and ultimately cheaper Italian cucinas which have sprung in the last couple of years. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t overlook this gem, their Milanese risotto with saffron and bone marrow is a thing of heavenly beauty and the twist on the good ol’ tiramisu with coffee, is fun. Read more.
French, £80pp *
21 Romilly Street W1D 5AF
Tel: 020 7494 3111
Underground : Leicester Square
Alexis Gauthier spent a decade establishing Roussillon’s reputation as one of the finest French restaurants in London, and this dude has loyal followers. His current venture, the eponymous Gauthier is his brainchild and his labour of love. His dream restaurant, and perhaps a dream to many as well. I love it, from the ring the door bell to enter, to the cramped townhouse setting (in Soho), it is just a nice restaurant to eat in. While I thought his signature truffle risotto, and his take on the Louis XV were both formidable, those who’ve actually been to Monaco, say that the former Duccasse protege has yet to reach the dizzy standards set by his mentor. The food is surprisingly affordable (well, relatively anyway) at £68 for their full taster and just £35 for a three course meal. It’s been open for just a year, and already it’s got a star. I like this restaurant very much, and you will be reading about a return visit in 2011, in the coming weeks. Read more.
British £150pp. ***
High Street, Bray SL6 2AQ
Tel: +44 (0) 1628 580 333
Heston Blumenthal’s temple of fantastico in Bray is still hitting the spot. Nothing is orthodox about this three michelin starred restaurant, and for £150, you get theatre, tricks, Kiefer Sutherland lookalike restaurant manager and amazing snail porridge. If you are going to blow your load, you may as well skip the stuffy old-fashioned French institutions and don you favourite jacket to the most progressive restaurant in Britain. Read more.
French £75. **
6-10 Bruton Street, Mayfair W1J 6PU
Tel: 44 (0) 20 7495 7100 Tube: Green Park
Philip Howard holds two Michelin stars at the Square. I find that his French cooking not only has a certain air of flair, but that the concepts are innovative. I am a proponent of balanced flavours and good old fashioned ‘signature’ flavours, and I feel that this is the driving philosophy behind the technical accuracy of Howard’s cuisine. Expensive of course, I have heard that their set menu is laughable, but I tried their a la carte and it was eye opening to say the least. He has had a hand in newer establishments including Kitchen W8 and the Ledbury.Read more.
French £75. **
27 Ledbury Road W11 2AQ
Tel: 020 7792 9090 Tube: Notting Hill Gate
Brett Graham must surely be the hottest chef in town right now. I went in 2009, when they were still a rising two star as opposed to the full two star status it currently holds. Brett loves his game, but you needn’t worry about overly livery flavours as his food is also a masterclass of umami, just like his mentor Phil Howard. Rarely do I remember individual dishes, though I remember his salt crusted ash celeriac – cooked wholly in a salt crust with ash and then served sliced with truffle mayonnaise and a kromeski of middle white pork. Signature stuff. His other restaurant is the Michelin Starred Harwood Arms.Read more.
British £40. *
26 St John Street EC1M 4AY
Tel: 020 7251 0848 Tube: Farringdon
The original purveyor of Nose to Tail cooking, Fergus Henderson’s food is as stark as the restaurant’s decor. Offal, game and lesser known cuts are the order of the day and the menu is more of an exploration of the limits of what should be eaten, though equally there are some stunningly rustic dishes as well. At times, the bare-bones outfit might be just a tad too reticent, however its simplicity is also its greatest attraction. Roast bone marrow and their mandelines amongst their most popular dishes. For a michelin restaurant, infinitely affordable. Read more.
1A Argyll Road, off High St Ken W8 7DB
Underground : High Street Kensington
This is an awesome sushi bar. Small, but awesome. Awesome showmanship. Awesome quality of produce. Awesome sake tasters. Awesome service. Awesome water. Awesome fushion of raw fish, rice and a flurry of modernist garnishing. And an awesome bottomline too, if you are not too careful. Truly cutting edge sushi has arrived in London. Read more.
100 Redriff Road
Surrey Quays Leisure Park SE16 7LH
Telephone: 020 7252 1212
Underground : Surrey Quays
The best rare beef pho in London. The best tri-colour sweet drink in London. And the best Banh Cuan, stuffed steam rice noodle in London. If you are a fan of Vietnamese cuisine, you got to try this place. It’s abit secluded, but it is worth the trek. Read more.
332 King Street, Hammersmith, W6 0RR.
Tel: 020 8748 0002
Tube: Stamford Brook
It is a toss up between Tosa and Bincho. Both are yakitori restaurants, both cook skewered meat and veg over charcoal, and both produce stonkingly excellent charred and juicy products. The chicken skin and chicken oysters are better at Bincho, but for everything else, Tosa comes up tops. Plus it is slightly cheaper too. if you’ve never tried yakitori, this is a good place to start. Read more.
395 Edgware Road, Cricklewood
Tel: 020 8450 0422
Bus : From Kilburn Underground, take the No. 32 or anything to Cricklewood till you see the Pagoda.
I’m a traditional kind of folk. Dim sum means family, huge banquet restaurant and waking up just abit earlier on Sundays. It can be argued that there are better places to eat dim sum that to bus all the way out to Cricklewood, but you just cannot beat the Wing Yip ambiance. The dim sum ambiance. Read more.
£12pp Japanese, Udon-ya.
49 Frith St W1D 4SG
Tel : 020 7434 4463
Tube : Leicester Square
What do you mean you haven’t had a chance to slurp these sticky lovelies yet? Superbly rubbery, hand-made udon, based conveniently in the heart of Soho. ’nuff said really. Drink with the ultra expensive Echigo beer made from Koshihikari rice. Read more.
£20pp Chinese 8 Sheldon Square W2 6EZ
Tel: (0)207 289 7000 Tube: Paddington
This is my benchmark dim sum in London. Food is good across the board, prices are reasonable and the dining room is elegant. Bog standard, but in a good way and really what you want is dependable quality. Cheung fun has great consistency, it doesn’t fall apart when you pick it up; har gau and siu mai will bounce around as you bite into them and I particularly enjoyed the wasabi prawn dumplings, even if purists say that is not Chinese, it is fusion. Purists like my dad for example. As you know, a good dim sum restaurant does not make a good restaurant for dinner. Royal China comes to mind. But I have heard many good things about dinner here, I have marked out my calendar specifically to try it. Helen the World Foodie Guide highly commends it and if she likes it, it is worth a try. Read more.
£18pp Chinese 28 Chalk Farm Road NW1 8AG
Tel: 0207482222 Tube: Chalk Farm
You would have to visit on a weekend, and on lunch hour rather than for dinner. Personally, dim sum has always been Sunday breakfast for me and I think Yum Cha exudes just that kind of vibe. The food is excellent and might actually be better than Pearl Liang. Their egg tarts in particular are great, and they also serve very capable xiao long baos. The crystal dumplings – Prawn and scallop – were seeped in seafood flavours and most of the benchmark dishes including the har gau and siu mai kept me happy. Read more.
Uncle Lim’s Kitchen
£7pp Malaysian/Chinese Upper North Arcade Whitgift Center CRO 1UZ
Tel: 020 8688 8378
I’ve had alot of great Hainanese chicken rice in both Malaysia and Singapore. Being a quarter Hainanese myself, I know for a fact that ‘Bai Zhan’ Chicken – Poached White Chop Chicken – is something of a family tradition, so I am telling you now that the best Hainanese Chicken Rice I have had in London is not in London. It is in Croydon. If you have always been curious or are craving for a great example of this famous one plate meal, you must give Uncle Lim’s a try. They also do very good Malay style spicy chicken wings, sambal prawns as well as Nasi lemak. The chicken rice is a weekend only special and how I wish they would bring this family secret to London. Any restauranteurs reading this? More here.
58 Kingsland Road E2 8DP
Tel: 020 7739 6686
Wonderful things are happening on pho mile in Dalston Kingsland, in fact, most Vietnamese restaurants are so good, that little separates them. Recently, I have been visiting Viet Grill, specifically for their special £5 one plate lunch offers, the noodles are quite abit soggy, but the soup stock is vibrant and fantastic. Deserves your attention too, if you are in the area. Read more.
Prufrock at Leather Lane
Coffee, cafe… lazy, special ,£3pp.
23-25 Leather Lane EC1N 7TE
Gwilym +44 (0) 7852243470
Tube: Holborn / Chancery Lane
Coffee has landed. This is everything a modern coffee shop should be about. World champion barista Gwilym Davies has expanded from a coffee cart in a men’s clothing shop to a really brilliant space in Leather Lane. At the ground level, you have a spacious gallery like space, that features a brew bar/counter , and downstairs, Gwilym and his passionate team of knowledgable baristas teach you how to appreciate and to make brew. This is an extremely special coffee shop, it’s nice to see a permanent version of last year’s Penny University project finally come alive, and I urge all of you to pop in to savour this achievement. Read more.
184 Bermondsey Street SE1 3TQ
Tel: (020) 7378 6809
Tube: London Bridge
This lovely little restaurant represents the first of a wave of restaurants that churns out fantastic Italian inspired dishes at unbelievable prices. Some hail it as a lite version of River Cafe, but I think it might probably be better. The best grilled veal chops I’ve yet had in a London restaurant. Read more.
300-302 St Paul’s Road
Tel: 020 7226 2733
Overground: Highbury & Islington
Like Zucca, except it’s in Islington, with more organic decor (as opposed to cold gallery edginess) and food of comparably price and quality. A pioneer of the new London Italian restaurant in the 21st century. Read more.
Cafe, Lunch, easy.. £10pp (cash only)
Regent’s Canal Towpath
42 De Beauvoir Crescent N1 5SB
Tel: 020 7254 7606
Bus: 149 from Liverpool St Station to Haggerston rail.
It is as it says on the tin, a cafe by a towpath. The food is modest, the coffee is warming, but it’s fun, and it is charming. Hard to try to capture in under 50 words, but I do recommend reading my extended blogpost and then making a visit.
Hawksmoor Seven Dials
*Not really in Seven Dials*
11 Langley St. WC2H 9JG
Tel: 020 7856 2154
Underground : Covent Garden
So here’s a tip, the next time your steak-loving pal takes you to a Hawksmoor, ask for the bar menu and go for the classic hawksmoor burger – with the chips cooked in beef dripping – AND the lobster roll. Two of the greatest things you will probably eat in London. Unless if you’re American, then those lobster rolls are no where near Luke’s. Forget the steaks. Seriously. Read more.
French, Bistro, …French. £25pp
9 Knightsbridge Green
London SW1 X7Ql
Tel : +44 (0)20 7225 2238
We don’t have many Parisian bistronomique er, bistros in town, and so one shouldn’t overlook the speciality of this particular restaurant. The plat du jours are extremely well priced at under £15, and you can end your meal with a cafe guarmand (your choice of brew plus four small schweet things), and the price includes a glass of tipples too. Chef Thierry Laborde was previously from Le Gav and his friendly bistro is a captivating addition to the circuit. Read more.
£7.25, all over.
I used to think Byron was contrived, but that was two years ago, when they only had three branches. Now, I think they produce the best burgers in town. And they have ten locations. I don’t think burgers should ever be gourmet, I think they should be accessible, affordable and simple. I eat byron hamburgers so regularly, I may as well invest in them. Read more.
£25pp British 344/342 Lanbroke Grove/Kensal Rd, London W10 5BU
Tel: 020 8962 1610
The key to Dock Kitchen is experimental food. Initially a pop-up project as part of London Design Festival, Stevie Parle and Joseph Trivelli (the former, a River Cafe chef) have now established a unmoveable version of their moveable kitchen project. In addition to special theme supper club nights, they are also open for lunch on most days serving an ever changing daily menu of brilliantly simple good food cooked to perfection. A labour of love, and I am completely a fool for small, highly bespoke personal projects of this kind. Read more.
Fernandez & Wells
Fernandez & Wells Food and Wine Bar official site
43 Lexington Street W1F 9AL
Tel: 020 7734 1546
Tube : Leicester Square
The Fernandez & Wells experience centres on providing a relaxing shrine for you to sink into a comfortable daze. There are three Fernandez & Wells café-bars all in close proximity to one another, each with a slightly different offering. The St Anne’s court branch caters for coffee lovers, the Beak St branch is mainly for cakes, while the Lexington branch has an open kitchen which offers delicious savory fare and a superb wine selection. The Lexington branch mainstays are European inspired sandwiches served with cuts of premium cured hams. Speciality items include Jamon Iberico Bellota (Iberian pigs fed on acorn and cereal diet) and legs of Jambon ‘Le Noir de Bigorre’ – a French ham from black pigs, cured for 24 months – which hang invitingly from the ceiling. F&W also serve a changing daily menu of cooked specials ranging from roast chicken to rabbit stew. Their roast pork ciabatta is splendiferous, hand carved by the waitress, stuffed with resplendently golden crackling and lashings of mayonnaise with fresh mustard seeds. There is a distinct lack of able boulangeries in London, but where quantity is wanting, quality is found in heaps at F&W. Read more.
Tapped and Packed
£cheap Coffee 26 Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia, W1T1JD
I have not written a review yet, and Tapped and Packed is brand new anyway, but if you are totally into the new coffee culture hitting the capital, then I wholeheartedly suggest giving Tapped and Packed a try. In addition to silky flat whites, they offer their brew via a number of methods including with a aeropress. Oh and their hot chocolate is absolutely divine. Made with chocolate flakes and cream, it is buttery, chocolatley but not overly sweet nor muddy. Plus, it isn’t as cramped as Flat white or a Milk Bar, expansive tables to spread yourself and your laptop, oh and free wi-fi too. Read their blog. My review is coming..
Finito for now..at least till the end of 2011.