Since this is mostly a food-related blog and I live in London, I thought I should do at lease one post on some of my favourite food-related discoveries in the city. After all I have lived here 2.5 years now. But before I go into that, I should outline a few of my ‘rules’ /expectations when it comes to eating and drinking out.
There are a lot of places I have left off this list because they fall victim to my biggest gripe about eating out in London — bad service. My reasoning on this — and this is mostly only true for central London — is that a lot of them seem to cater to the one-time tourist visitor: they do not entice you to return. Food may be ok, but if service is awful I will not return somewhere.
Another point, and I’m not quite sure how to describe this, regards value. At the end of a meal out, I have to feel that it’s reasonable “value” — i.e. I don’t want to feel cheated for paying for a meal that is mediocre. I’m a student living in London and don’t eat out very often so that is important to me. This isn’t about money necessarily, since it applies even if I am not the one paying. Basically, I have to feel it’s worth it. Unfortunately, it’s happened too many times when I feel it’s not, and none of those places made my list (Dishoom, Polpo , I’m looking at you).
This city is FULL of restaurants, cafes, pubs, bars, food stalls — so full that choice often becomes overwhelming. So, this is a mere drop in the ocean. Perhaps I’ll post an updated version someday in the future.
♠ Yalla Yalla: Excellent food (Middle Eastern/Lebanese), and good atmosphere.
♠ INDIAN: I love a good curry! :) Our local is Kiplings, but for other parts of the city, we’ve tried and liked Raj’s Tandoori, Berwick Street, Soho (discovered completely by accident way back in September 2012 during our first week in London!); Sitar on the Strand; and to splurge you simply can’t go wrong with Cinnamon Club.
♠ Fernandez and Wells: One branch of this Spanish cafe-bar was a mere 30-second walk from my department at the university where I did the first year of my PhD. Good coffee, wine, and nibbles, and altogether maybe not always exciting, but dependable.
♠ Gordon’s Wine Bar: Stuffy, dank, and you can usually never find a table (becoming too touristy?), but it’s a very unique experience and I think a must-do.
♠ Our favourite locals: The Angel Inn, The Flask, & the Bull (Wing Wednesdays – £5 for 1/2 lb of wings – is heavenly).
♠ High Tea of Highgate: Speaking of local, it’s small, but cozy, and the perfect place for afternoon tea and crumpets. They also sell their tea in boxes which a few people reading this will have been gifted somewhere along the way. ;)
♠ Nopi: Ottolenghi’s restaurant was a birthday treat in 2013 and still sticks in my mind as a very memorable meal. His Ottolenghi cafes are more relaxed, pricey, but very good food.
♠ Vini Italiani: I first learned about this place during a wine tasting class at West London Wine School. They are the go-to reliable sources on Italian wines, always have a good recommendation and reasonably priced wines by the glass too, to drink in.
♠ Ba Shan: tasty, reliable Chinese just off Shaftesbury Avenue.
♠ Experimental Cocktaill Club: Make a reservation, and look for the door on Lisle Street in Chinatown. Expensive, but worth it because it’s … an experience.
♠ COFFEE: The app London Coffee is perfect.
♠ Immediately next to the legendary Gerry’s, where you can get any drink under the sun!, on Old Compton Street in Soho is a small and unassuming Tuscan wine bar/restaurant, Tuscanic. I have popped in here a few times on my own as a retreat from Soho’s very busy streets. The wine list is good and service friendly.
♠ Leong’s Legends: Taiwanese YUM in Chinatown. Very dependable, reasonably priced, and excellent food.
♠ Granger & Co.: I almost didn’t include it on my list, because I’ve had some truly awful service there, but the food won out. I think this is one of the best breakfasts/brunches in London.
♠ Leon: Good for a quick, healthy, reasonably tasty meal that’s not Pret or Eat.
♠ London farmers’ markets always make for a tasty and interesting visit (my Saturday staple is Parliament Hill).
♠ Maltby Street market – particularly the beef burger from African Volcano, wine from Life’s a Bottle, gin from Little Bird.
♠ Our pick for the best burgers in London (which has gone through a real rage) is Honest Burgers.
♠ Best ramen (similar, newer rage): Shoryu.
♠ Quo Vadis: Elegant, simple, top-notch service — this place is definitely somewhere to take the in-laws.
♠ Hubbard & Bell at the Hoxton Holborn: I’ve only been here once (with a second trip planned), but the kale salad was the best kale I have ever had, so I think it needs to be on the list.