It’s not uncommon for my friends and family to sometimes consider me their personalised version of Time Out, their on-demand source for suggestions on where to eat and drink, tailored to individual preferences.
I wouldn’t have it any other way – I absolutely love sharing my foodie finds, from the latest restaurants to old classics and hidden gems. It’s really why I started blogging in the first place.
So with Summer ’16 around the corner, I thought that it might be helpful (and also quite fun for me!) to put together a “foodie guide” to London highlighting the city’s eclectic mix of epicurean essentials, with links to my corresponding blog reviews.
I just hope it appeals as much to all those visiting in the coming summer months, as it does to Londoners alike!
It’s only fitting to start with the best of brunch, as weekends in London now equate to long, lazy and elaborate afternoons dedicated to this sacred meal.
While brunch staples such as pancakes are now ten-a-penny, the luscious ricotta hotcakes at the Aussie all-day eatery Granger & Co are a standout-affair…
… As are the melt-in-your-mouth buttermilk stacks in Chiltern Firehouse, the cosy but oh-so-glamorous celebrity haunt in Marylebone with a lovely cobbled courtyard ideal for summer months.
Other favourites are the Delaunay in Aldwych and 34 in Mayfair for their innate sense of old-world charm and rather grand brunch offerings – top temptations at the latter particularly include the truffled mac n cheese and anything doused over with the restaurant’s rich hollandaise sauce.
If 2015 was all about the bao (not that the eponymous restaurant in Soho is any less buzzworthy today), this year its all about the poke (pronounced poh-kay) – the marinated raw fish dish from Hawaii. The über-trendy Black Roe Poke Bar & Grill is a fabulously fun spot to try it out, although vegetarians be warned that options are a bit limited.
Recently named restaurant of the year by Tatler, Hoppers is an absolute must-visit for its Sri Lankan and South Indian fare served up in a warm, inviting space inspired by the roadside shacks typical of the regions. Queues are inevitable and grow in numbers each day, so I’d definitely advise going as early as possible to make sure you don’t miss out on the vibrant, flavour-packed dishes!
Other noteworthy restaurants include Barrafina, for its exquisite selection of Spanish tapas; the Palomar, for its cultural melting pot of a menu rooted in the food of modern-day Jerusalem; and the Palomar’s new sister restaurant – the Barbary, for a culinary tour of the Barbary coast toward Jerusalem… Not to mention the highly charged experience of sitting at the open-plan kitchen counter in all these restaurants!
In terms of new openings, I’d recommend Sosharu. The latest restaurant joining Jason Atherton’s “Social” family offers a modern take on traditional Japanese fare with a subtle British twist along the way. The spirited ambience in the basement bar and lounge, Seven Tales, is also quite a draw here!
And if you’re keen on Japanese cuisine, my previous guide breaks down the plethora of options in London quite nicely from fine dining restaurants such as Nobu, to funky izakaya-style eateries like Kurobuta, with plenty of places in between too, to satisfy your sushi fix!
Other top picks for broader Asian cuisines feature Hakkasan Mayfair and the modern Korean restaurant Jinjuu in Soho. The Michelin-starred Kai continues to be one of the most loved Chinese restaurants in town.
And then sometimes, nothing beats a good pizza.
My go-to when these cravings hit is usually my warm, family-run Italian local, Del Fino’s, on picturesque Mount Street. But the fluffy-edged sourdough Neapolitan pizzas at Francomanca always hit the spot too! For more slices of my favourite pizzas around London you can have a read, here.
Afternoon Tea and Treats
A wise man once said that there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea. We should add that there are a few cities outside of Britain where this ceremony is pulled off better, either!
While the traditional afternoon tea served at London’s many grand hotels is always a good idea, I love that the concept has evolved over the years to take on more quirky avatars such as the incredibly creative gelato afternoon tea at Selfridges…
… Or the scrumptious Tipsy Tea at the Gin Parlour at Fogg’s Tavern, where you’ll be poured champagne or gin infused cocktails from tea pots!
Biskies (a delicious hybrid of biscuit, cookie and cake), dream cakes and an assortment of other treats served in bamboo steamers are an altogether enjoyable proposition at Cutter and Squidge too… And even if you aren’t geared for the full works, it’s nonetheless worth popping in if you find yourself in Soho, just to individually try their signature creations.
Other spots in Soho that will have all thirty-two of your sweet teeth clamouring, include the Yolkin pop-up specialising in macaron ice cream sammiches…
And Tsujiri’s cafe, which is pure heaven for matcha lovers with its o-matcha cappuccinos (ceremoniously brewed in a tea bowl with a chasen) and matcha soft serve sundaes which arrive layered with toasted brown rice puffs, red bean paste, chestnuts and shiratama (a type of mochi)!
But if coffee is more your cup of tea, then you’ll be happy to know that I’ve spilled the beans on my favourite cafes in central London too, from where to find the best flat white to the spots ideal for whiling away a lazy afternoon!
And finally, a few tips to help whet your whistle…
There’s no beating the heady experience of sipping champagne cocktails which arrive in a golden cage fifty-two floors above London, at GŎNG at Shangri La Hotel in the Shard.
The hedonistic bar at Sexy Fish in Berkley Square is an equally glamorous drinking destination…
While right around the corner, the residence of the eccentric British adventurer Phileas Foggs Esq., is a more quirky choice for an evening out, as is Wicked Uncle Seymour’s Zetter Townhouse in Marylebone.
I’m also partial to the timeless hotel bars dotted around London, especially the Coburg Bar at the Connaught, which has me back time and time again for its charming ambience, excellent service and formidable French Martinis!
But of course, one of the real perks of summer in London, is wining and dining al fresco… and luckily for us, wine-aficionado Shakira, only felt it in her civic duty to let us in on her favourite five spots for drinking wine in the sun!
I’ll continue updating this post as and when, I try the new restaurants slated to open in the next couple of months…
In the meanwhile, which are your top picks for eating and drinking around London?