I managed to get down to London a couple of times in 2018. I got the chance to catch up with friends and go to some great new restaurants, and revisit a couple of old favourites. Usually I was too busy chatting with my mates to grade anything but suffice to say they were all good! You’ll find my map here. So, in no particular order…
The Providores (Intermediate A), 109 Marylebone High St, Marylebone, www.theprovidores.co.uk
My friend Dale from New Zealand and a London native of many years brought me to this great Kiwi restaurant to try the Turkish eggs; a glorious fusion of poached eggs, Greek yoghurt, garlic, butter, chilli, olive oil, and dill. They have since become my favourite breakfast treat and I make them all the time. Recipe here.
The Chorizo Corquettes with goats curd, basil and pesto are pretty damn fine too and the Pimientos de Padron are always a winner. I need to try their evening tapas menu.
The Palomar (Intermediate A), 34 Rupert St, West End, thepalomar.co.uk
After the Providores, Dale and I carried on at this Israeli small plates restaurant. They play house music quite loudly which sounds like a bad idea but it actually creates a fun, up-beat atmosphere. The seating set up reminds me of a classic Spanish tapas bar with a row of fixed stools at an L-shaped bar and a queueing system where people are served wine and nibbles while they are waiting for seats to become free. Fortunately there was no queue when we went.
The Beetroot, Pomegranite and Goats’ Cheese was a great choice here. This experience helped me decide that I needed to go to Israel to experience the food (see coming post). So glad I did, the Palomar’s sister restaurant Machneyuda in Jerusalem is fantastic.
Nearest decent pub: The French House, 49 Dean St, West End, www.frenchhousesoho.com
Smoking Goat (Intermediate A), 64 Shoreditch High St, Shoreditch, www.smokinggoatbar.com
This Shoreditch hipster joint was THE buzz restaurant in London in 2018. My buddy Duncan and I can totally recommend their signature dish Barbecue Goat Shoulder Massaman Curry and the Het Yai Fried Chicken with Sriracha ain’t bad either. Funny, idiosyncratic service, would definitely go again.
Nearest good pub: The Water Poet, 9-11 Folgate St, Spitalfields
Kiln (Intermediate B+), 58 Brewer St, West End, www.kilnsoho.com
Kiln in Soho is the sister restaurant of Smoking Goat. I went with Dave, an old friend from home who decamped to London many years before.
We enjoyed the Clay Pot Baked Glass Noodles, Tamworth Belly & Brown Crab Meat, the Burmese Wild Ginger & Beef Neck Curry (not pictured), Slow Grilled Chicken & Soy and Grilled John Dory, all of which were really good. Kiln has deservedly won numerous awards and accolodes. Dave rated his experiences here over those at Smoking Goat but it’s still very good.
Nearest decent pub: The Sun & 13 Cantons, 21 Great Pulteney St, West End, www.sunand13cantons.co.uk
Dishoom King’s Cross (Intermediate A), 5 Stable St, Kings Cross AND 12 Upper St Martin’s Ln, West End, www.dishoom.com
Dishoom takes its inspiration from the Mumbai food scene (see my posts on Parsi food and street food) which was very much in vogue at the time. They’ve been very successful and they now have five locations in London and three more in Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh. Despite trying on numerous occasions, I have yet to try their legendary naan bacon roll which is only served before midday. Last time I missed it by five minutes, gutted.
However, there’s plenty of other good stuff. At their Kings Cross branch I tried the Nalli Nihari; stewed lamb shank served with a sesame and onion seed naan. I had the optional add on of Bheja, lambs brain, which was fine but didn’t add as much to the flavour as I’d hoped. Still a very good curry though.
A few months later my old buddy Courtney flew on her way home to the US so I took her and a couple of her friends to the Covent Garden branch for lunch. I hadn’t seen her for 25 years so I don’t remember much about the food except that it was fine!
By the looks of it I think we had the Murgh Malai; chicken thighs marinated overnight in garlic, ginger, coriander stems and a little cream, then grilled. Also the Bedmi Puris with a potato, chickpea and paneer curry served with a swirl of yogurt.
Needoo Grill (Intermediate A), 87 New Rd, Whitechapel, www.needoogrill.co.uk
Staying on the curry tip, I’m happy to report that my old favourite Needo’s (Auntie’s) is still on form. I went with my brother Dan and our friends Katie and Pippa. Not sure what Pippa is getting stuck into here but I remember her saying it was good!
Tayyabs (Intermediate A), 83-89 Fieldgate St, Whitechapel, www.tayyabs.co.uk
Just around the corner from Needo’s, Tayyabs is generally considered to be the best curry house in Whitechapel which is why it has very long queues in the evening, hence my preference for Needo’s. However, lunch time is a different story and while it was still busy, I got seated straight away. Can’t remember what this lamb dish was but along with the channa dahl and the naan, it was definitely top notch (A). An institution that’s still on form after all these years.
See my Whitechapel post for more on these curry houses. Both are byob so you should stock up on beers on Whitechapel Road first.
Nearest decent pub in a pub widerness: LHT Urban Bar, 176 Whitechapel Road, Whitechapel
Saravanah Bhavan (Elementary B), 300 High St N, Manor Park, www.saravanabhavan.com
I found myself working way out east one day (East Ham/Barking) so I took the opportunity to visit this local branch of my favourite thali and dosa chain in India (see this Delhi post). It’s not quite as good as the flagship branch I had on my doorstep in Delhi but hey, where else in London are you going to get an all-you-can-eat vegetarian thali for just £7.45!
Bone Daddies Bond Street (Intermediate A), 46-48 James St, Marylebone, www.bonedaddies.com
Another on-trend restaurant, now with half a dozen branches and queues outside each one, and deservedly so. I lived in Japan for a while so I know my ramen and Bone Daddies is the real deal. They specialise in Tonkotsu ramen, my favourite variety, made with a pork bone broth and served with slices of chashu pork, spring onion, nori, bamboo and a slightly soft boiled egg. I came with Dale and my brother again and they both agreed it was excellent.
Mien Tay (Intermediate), 180 Lavender Hill, Battersea, www.mientay.co.uk
My friend Nicky and I live at other ends of the country so when we found ourselves relatively near each other for work, we met in the nearest decent restaurant halfway, which happened to be this Vietnamese recommended by Where Chefs Eat. It didn’t disappoint. Looks like we had some Fresh Rolls with Chicken and Pork, some Stir Fried Noodles and maybe some Crispy Seaweed, and a nice bottle of white from the Languedoc.
Nearest good pub:The Four Thieves, 51 Lavender Gardens, fourthieves.pub
Caffè Tropea (Elementary A). Russell Square, Bloomsbury, www.caffetropea.co.uk
I stumbled across Caffè Tropea on one of my architecture walks (the stunning Principal Hotel is just opposite) and liked it so much that I came back for breakfast the next day. Run by an Italian family (presumably from my favourite Calabrian town, post here) which means the food and coffee are guaranteed to be pretty good. I can recommend the Eggs Royale; poached eggs and salmon on an English muffin topped with Hollandaise sauce.
Writing this in 2020 as self-imposed Corona quarantine begins, 2018 seems a lifetime away. I’ve got everything crossed for all these great businesses to make it through to the other side.