If we had to pick our favourite thing about London, it would be the epic eateries. It would have to be. London is foodie-heaven. It’s knowing you have a smorgasbord of hearty dining experiences a short tube ride away, the kind that will make your senses smile from the moment you walk in and shuffle your chair closer to the table to that last bite of “oh my god, I love the grub at this place”. The problem is trying to decide on any one dining spot because there are so many locations worth writing home about.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a Monday evening and you just can’t be bothered to go home and cook or you’re going on a second date this weekend, the decision can be really, pretty difficult - and that’s without factoring in your belly-rumbling hunger, medically-prescribed FOMO and anxiety of getting your choice wrong. Ladies and gentlemen, the struggle of picking somewhere to eat in London is real. In fact, with so many mouth-watering options on almost every street in every borough, It’s like trying to battle uphill on a unicycle with a flat tyre and rusty chain.
But that’s why we’re writing this blog post - to take you on a food trail through the savoury-smelling streets of London so that you don’t die from indecision-induced starvation. Actually, this list is so full of amazing, on-point, flavour-of-the-moment-spots, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to bookmark this page and refer to it the next time you’re involved in a group-decision, landed a dinner-date or you’re struck by a bout of office-jaded laziness.
If you know anything about Xavier Rousset, you’re probably wondering whether this chap is actually a reincarnation of King Midas because, seriously, everything this dude touches turns to edible gold. On paper, it’s just another London gaff that does Mediterranean cuisine, but there’s something extra about it. Yeah, it’s great food and fine wine, but there’s this informal n’ relaxed atmosphere that’s super-appealing. Okay, we take that back. It’s the 300-bottle strong list of epic wines that accompany the Italian-influenced menu of small or large dishes that has made it so popular amongst the experience-centric foodies kicking about town. But the subtle classiness and electric energy doesn’t hurt. And if you can’t make it to Marylebone as often as you like, you can do just as well at the City’s Cabotte or Mayfair’s Comptoir (which Rosset also owns).
You know a place is good when they don’t need to take reservations, which is Padella. They’re popular enough to save themselves that hassle. But while some might think this is a bit of a pain in the you-know-where, it kind of adds to the atmosphere of this pasta palace. And that’s exactly what this eatery is: it’s a temple that worships the Pasta Gods. Each day they roll, stretch, cut and make their own pasta dough in such a way that you’ll wonder why you aren’t dedicating more meals per day to this happy food. But here’s the best part: their menu is small. We’re talking five antipasti options, half a dozen pasta dishes, and just a couple of puddings, which is not just good news for indecisive diners, it’s good news for those who love a serious amount of flavour because these dishes are packed with them.
Neal’s Yard has become an iconic pocket of London for foodies of every kind, but its The Barbary that’s really stolen their hearts (and tongues). It’s storytelling through food, the menu taking its inspiration from the Barbary Coast where Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, Libyan, Israeli and Mediterranean flavours have amalgamated since the 16th Century. It’s the Med meets the Middle East. And because of the counter seating, it’s the perfect place to pop into as a twosome - whether that be a date or a catch-up with your bestie - sharing a selection of delicious dips, marinated meats and veggies so tasty you might consider becoming a full-time one. Oh, and then there’s the buttered naan. It’s no wonder Time Out plonked this eatery at the top of their restaurant rankings.
Before you yawn, roll your eyeballs and mutter the words, “yay, another Thai restaurant”, you need to check yourself because this isn’t just another Thai restaurant - it’s the regional Thai food your taste buds have been begging to meet since you were born, and that’s because the head chef’s journey to this spot was as determined, unorthodox and heartfelt as any. It started with a six-month pilgrimage to Bo.Lan - one of Bangkok’s most worshipped food joints - where Andy Oliver learned to cook authentically, getting the most out of every flavour and spice and, even then, he didn’t jump straight into Som Saa. He had to take a detour through single-grills-ville, Mount. Restaurant-Residency and then, using his newly-formed army of food-disciples, he crowdfunded his way to £700,000 and opened up this place on Commercial Street. Yeah, it feels kinda rustic, but that only plays into the hands of the food because the menu here shines brighter than the North Star from a countryside viewpoint.
There are kebabs and then there are kebabs, the kind that are made by kebab-istas using only free-range meat from Devon and super-tasty sauces that are all homemade. But that’s just what’s what you get when a gorgeous couple who seriously care about good, quality, healthy foods open up a single-table-slash-takeaway joint on the cobbled streets of The Arcade. Yeah, it’s less a dinner place and more a smile-spreading lunch spot (NB: they’re only open for lunch), but it’s one hell of a lunch spot. With Parisian and Italian roots bursting through in every bite, it’s no wonder this place has become a favourite with city folk wanting a little bit of wow. Oh, and Sabs Saucy Scotch Bonnet sauce is some. thing. else. It’s on another level (which is why it’ll be coming to a supermarket near you very soon).
The Barrafina team have now opened three restaurants in London, but there’s something about going to the original, sitting elbow to elbow on those red leather stools around the marble-topped bar and watching in awe as the chefs create masterpieces in the open kitchen (as the next-in-line diners watch you in envy as plates of tapas start to arrive). It doesn’t matter which region of Spain you claim has the best grub, they do it all at Barrafina, something both Instagram-foodies and Michelin-star hander-outers have taken noticed off. There might be a queue by the time you arrive, but it’s so worth standing, shuffling and waiting for your turn on the stools because this place is mega-tasty.
This haunt has got the hard-fought-for pedigree a lot of restaurants don’t - it’s a supper club that proved so popular it became a fully-established eatery. To put that in musical terms, while so many “musicians” hope the X-Factor will hand them instant success, Pidgin did it the tough way, sleeping rough, taking gigs at whatever first-floor, smoky pub-rooms it could and built up a loyal fan base that way (#edsheeran). And it hasn’t let its new four permanent walls distort those roots either. The supper club ethos is still there for all to devour, which is why they still rock a four-course tasting menu that varies each and every week, giving you 52 excuses to make plenty of return visits. In short, the combination of supper club vibes and the ‘no choice’ menu make this place a total thrill for anyone that gets the kind of major food-envy that’s been known to ruin eating-out experiences in the past.
If you thought bistro culture was dead and buried, think again because Petit Pois has brought this culture back to the heart of Hoxton and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon. It’s a place that lives, sleeps and breaths excellent cooking, and because it’s so inspired by that classic French way of dining, it’s become the perfect place to go no matter the occasion, from a lunch with new clients to a first anniversary with your SO. It’s one of those rare places you get to walk into and go, “well, this joint’s clearly run by a merry gaggle of movers and shakers,” because what they’ve done is thought about every tiny detail, found a way to make them uber-chilled, and turned the space into this unassuming, modern and intimate venue. And then there’s the food. The delicious food. The oh-so-tasty food. It’s all French and it’s all insanely good.
The world became a better place on March 10th, 2013 when a super-ballsy baker decided to invent the Cronut, and now that modern-day Victor Frakenstein has brought his “we know no boundaries” bakery this side of the pond. The conclusion: yes, Cronuts really are as good as the hype, if not better. But it turns out this isn’t the only delicious, diet-destroying treat Ansel is awesome at - there are loads of them. The issue is, the bakery is the size of a stamp, which is why it is mainly a takeaway stop. However, there is a semi-secret garden out the back, which means you can pretend you know the owner by walking in, ordering a box of too-easy-to-munch madeleines for yourself, a Banoffee Paella for your date and then say to the baker, “do you mind if we head out back, if you know what I mean?”. It’s worth the trip, and not just because dessert dates are so on point right now.
First things first, to save yourself some embarrassment when you phone up and make a reservation, don’t pronounce this place Mmmmber. It’s Ember, and it’s one of the most subtly glamorous spaces in all of London, not to mention it’s subterranean too. From the moment you walk in, it feels regal, but not The Queen sort of regal. Prince Harry regal. It’s full of dark red leather, deep purple velvet and then shiny copper accents to make it all pop. It’s as lavish as it is hidden and as intimate as it is delicious. And it really is delicious. But here’s the real selling point: it embraces the Filipino way of dining, which means it’s all about feasting, sharing and involuntarily saying, “that’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten.” That said, the food is from all across Asia, which is what you’ll notice when you glance at the menu: braised octopus, Vietnamese goat curry and, our personal faves, their wagyu beef & foie gras burger. Holy heck, we’ve just remembered how awesome this place actually is. It’s almost unrivalled.
And there we have it - a list of the most mind-fizzing foodie-destination in London that will cater for every kind of taste bud.
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