A Foodie’s Guide to London, Summer 2017

Welcome to the 2017* summer edition of my “Foodie’s Guide to London” highlighting the city’s eclectic mix of epicurean essentials – from new favourites to old classics, hidden gems and unmissable treats. I just hope that it holds as much appeal for all those visiting London in the coming months, as it does for Londoners alike!

UPDATE: Find the latest edition of a Foodie’s Guide to London, Summer 2018, here.

So what’s new, London?

A lot actually.

Topping the list of buzz-worthy openings, is Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s new restaurant at The Connaught. It’s vibrant yet laid back, bringing a breath of fresh air to Mayfair along with black-truffle pizzas and dramatically-fun desserts. Full review, here.

Over in the City, a 252-room luxury hotel, The Ned, has done a Bank Job on the former Midland Bank HQ in the City of London. This gargantuan space also boasts a private members’ club (affording access to an achingly-cool rooftop pool) and eight (or nine) in-house restaurants which include a Jewish-style New York delicatessen, an outpost of Cecconi’s and Kaia – where you can pursue a passion for poke (full review, here).

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Rediscovering a passion for poke last night at Kaia @TheNedLondon 🌈 It was a bit of a toss-up initially, choosing between the eight restaurants housed within the lobby of this grand new opening in the City… but we definitely did well by dining at this contemporary Asian-Pacific restaurant! The cocktails were cracking (matcha sour anyone?), poke bowls were simply the best I've had yet (hearty, vibrant & oh-so-stunning!) and dessert was a wonderfully offbeat affair involving grilled & marinated pineapple (with miso caramel) and mochi ice cream. Any recommendations on which of the other seven restaurants to try next time? #EatTheRainbow #TheNedLondon #TopLondonRestaurants #FoodieLife #TheFoodieDiariesLondon

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The dynamic Waney brothers (behind Zuma, Roka, La Petit Maison and The Arts Club) have opened Meraki – a Greek-chic restaurant in the heart of Fitzrovia; while the folks who brought us the wildly-popular Bao, are transporting diners back in time to 1930’s Taipei (or a cinematic reinterpretation of it anyways) at Xu.

Other sure-footed new eateries to visit include Il Pampero in Belgravia for old-world Italian charm (and a formidable Roman-style Cacio e Pepe); and the Cheese Bar in Camden, which dials up the lactose by a few decadent notches. Expect anything and everything from grilled cheese toasties and poutine, to a Mexican-inspired take on fondue and even a blue-cheese ice cream sundae!

And finally, for (Indian) home-food that’s not really-home cooked, head to Jamavar – the debonair Mayfair-based restaurant from the Leela Group, which has won over even the most jaded palates of London critics.

For more new openings, have a read of my rolling round-up here.

“It’s more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long difficult words, but rather easy short words like,

‘what about brunch?'”

– Winnie the Pooh

Okay I might have misquoted the world’s most friendly bear, who was inquiring about lunch rather than brunch. But had he lived in the London of today, I’m sure he would have rephrased it too, what with most weekends now dedicated to this highly-anticipated meal!

My top picks haven’t changed all that much over the years, with Christopher’s Covent Garden still holding top spot for its epic French toast (neatly balanced by the healthier superfoods menu).

Other favourites include *those* ricotta hotcakes at Granger & Co, Notting Hill (there’s also a new outpost in Knightsbridge!); stacks on stacks of buttermilk pancakes in the cosy cobbled courtyard of Chiltern Firehouse; and the freshly-baked banana bread (available only on persistent request) at the rather grand 34 in Mayfair.

But, what about lunch (and later in the day)?

Of course if you’re here on a holiday, chances are that a good part of your day will be spent pounding the pavements of the bustling high streets.

Refuel over elegant cocktails and (East Coast) club-like fare at Ralph Lauren’s handsome cafe on Regent Street, or over tea and scones at Thomas’ at Burberry nearby.

The Corner Restaurant at Selfridges is perfect for a light mid-shopping lunch-break (ballasted with a flute of Skinny Champagne), while the all-truffle menu at Tartufi and Friends epitomises the unapologetic extravagance so beloved of Harrods.

Truth be told, you can eat-till-you-drop at both iconic department stores and make yet another thrilling discovery on your next visit, as I did recently with the Blondies Kitchen pop-up at Selfridges, and the Pan-Asian restaurant, Chai Wu at Harrods… (by the way, if Harrods is your happy-place too, you might quite like this guide to eating your way across its hallowed halls!).

Wandering off the beaten path, mosey on over to the charmingly-quiet Motcomb Street, hidden away from the bustle of Knightsbridge. Ottolenghi’s tiny cafe is always an inviting choice for the its vibrant smattering of salads and summer-friendly dishes (inevitably followed by a chocolate and tahini cupcake). Although there’s bound to be bit of a toss-up with the Fine Cheese Company next door, which is well worth a visit for their soufflés alone (each easily the size of your head)!

The colourful patchwork of Neal’s Yard (off Covent Garden) presents a wonderfully-enchanting escape too. It’s here where you’ll find one of my favourite restaurants, The Barbary – the highly-charged offshoot of the iconic Palomar, dishing up a raucous assembly of flavours and textures hailing from the Barbary Coast. Seating (arranged around the open-plan kitchen) is usually in short-supply, but for the first time ever they’re accepting lunch-time bookings too!

Neal’s Yard is also home to my second-favourite pizzeria: Homeslice, which serves ’em by the slice or in a 20″ form. The first-place goes to my local family-run Italian, Del Fino’s on Mount Street, where I’m yet to eat a less-than-perfect burratina (it’s like a burrata… but creamier!).

Seeing as we’re smoothly back in the ‘hood, let’s run through the must-visits in Mayfair starting with Mount Street Deli (three words: Annabel’s chocolate cake).

Then there’s North Audley Cantine for a breezy brunch/lunch or moody dinner, although you’re really here for their crushed milk chocolate cookies (they’re simply the best that life has to offer).

And of course, the forever-pleasing Roka situated right next-door (if you’re keen on Japanese cuisine, have a glance at my more detailed guide, here).

Evergreen, fine-dining favourites

I can feel us treading back to tried-and-tested territory now, so let me pre-empt your questions.

Yes,  Hakkasan and Kai remain worthy of the nth revisit, especially as this is the closest us vegetarians are ever going to get to the real thing. Wasabi prawns and mock duck rolls anyone?

I never thought I’d be recommending Novikov too, and yet I’m quite happily eating humble pie after a few recent and exemplary dinners in their Asian restaurant. For late night dim-sum, cocktails and carousing – there’s always the Club downstairs at Park Chinois, or the Bar at China Tang at The Dorchester.

But for a truly-imaginative fine-dining experience, why not try Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental, or Jersey-based chef Shaun Rankin’s Ormer at the recently revamped Fleming’s hotel?

On-trend treats

If you – like me – are a perennial Instagrammer (or simply want to stir some envy on Snapchat), you definitely need to trail-blaze your way through the city’s thriving food collectives too, from Borough Market to Maltby Street.

Snaffle a few exploding custard buns in the newly-opened Bun House on Greek Street and brilliantly bonkers liquid nitrogen creations at Chin Chin Dessert Club nearby in Soho, before popping by Bubblewrap (queues permitting) or #atch Waffles to experience Londons’ latest obsession with these eggy treats from Hong Kong. (Have a read here, for more tips on an ice cream diet).

If you’re still sticking around in Soho after this, you owe it to yourself to try a mille crepe cake at Kova Patisserie, or at the very least a cup of hot chocolate in SAID Dal 1923 – the cosy hideout on Soho’s Broadwick Street. Don’t even think of skipping the triple melted chocolate option, it’s worth every intensely-rich sip!

Wine o’ clock

If it’s a different sort of liquid-fuelled gratification you’re after, you could whet your whistle at any one of the al fresco spots recommended by my friend – the oenophile and blogger Shakira Chanrai – ideal for drinking wine in the sun. Or if it’s raining, just head straight to Social Wine & Tapas, the raffishly-smart wine bar and restaurant from Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton, situated off St Christopher’s Place.

The home of the eccentric British adventurer Phileas Foggs Esq., is a more quirky choice for an evening out, but for really thrilling alchemy – head East to the Gibson Bar in Clerkenwell, which recently ranked no.6 in the World’s 50 Best Bars. Expect vintage vibes, cosy corners and imaginative cocktails far removed from any you’ve sipped before.

I’m also partial to the hedonistic hotel bars dotted around London. There’s something quite heady about sipping champagne cocktails which arrive in a golden cage fifty-two floors above London, at GŎNG at Shangri La Hotel in the Shard…

But it’s the Coburg at the Connaught, which has me back time and time again for its charming ambience, excellent service and formidable French Martinis!

If you’re still hungry/ thirsty for more, have a flick through a summary of all my reviews (neatly organised by cuisine & location) and/ or browse through my detailed guides to areas such as Chinatown and Seven Dials

But of course, there’s a lot more to do in London than just eat and drink!

Have a meander around the colourful streets of Notting Hill or enjoy the simple content offered by a stroll in Hyde Park.

An evening in the West End is always rewardingly-enriching (I was enthralled through every mesmerising minute of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), and if you’re keen on art, there are a number of  unmissable exhibits which are worth going out of your way to see – Hockney; Michelangelo & Sebastiano; and  Howard Hodgkin, to name but a few.

As for any shopping tips, you might find these trend-spotting insights  – from the styling team at Harrods, useful – especially if you’re looking to make a splash to your summer wardrobe… Bonnes Vacances!

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