Eating in London (part I)

A great British journalist guides us across the town’s hi&lo tastiest restaurants

Stevie Parle’s kitchen at the Dock Kitchen, one

Stevie Parle’s kitchen at the Dock Kitchen, one of the most innovative restaurants in London. It is located above a designer shop, on Grand Union Canal ‘s old dock (photo by Marcello Dino)

What makes London the most interesting place to dine in Europe? Well, if you believe in the S.Pellegrino Worlds Top 50 Restaurant Awards, there are only two London restaurants worth eating at- Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner, which I am indifferent towards, and the Ledbury, which I think is Primus inter Pares. No, the real reason are the creative use of old locations, such as the fact that the best Middle Eastern restaurant is in a green house near Richmond Park or that the hippest destination in South London is located in a room full of architectural objects for sale in a crumbling classical mansion next to a traffic island.

Lahore, great Pakistan food

Lahore, great Pakistan food

In the Summer though, this crowd ends up in a bar and Pop Up restaurants on the top of a car park in Peckham, known locally as “London’s Bronx” one of the dreariest and crime-ridden places in South London. It is the quirky nature of the locations for many of London’s most innovative restaurants that I adore – another favourite (Dock Kitchen) is on top of a design store in a converted wharf on the Grand Union Canal, which still functions. On top of this, London has the best array of non-western food on the planet – my favourite South Asian restaurant (Lahore Restaurant) offers traditonal Pakistan/Punjabi food, including the best spicy roast lamb chops I know, at amazingly cheap prices.

Admittedly you have to endure constant Bollywood videos of scantily clad syncronised dancers but it is worth it. And there are two Vietnamese restaurants in Shoreditch and Soho called Cay Tre, along with a superb sanwich bar, which turns out near perfect examples of bánh mì, the Vietnamese version of a baguette. Chinese restaurants may not be as uniformly excellent as the best in Hong Kong, but places like Pearl Liang in the Paddington Basin, have wonderful dim sam, or small plates every lunch time.

Electric Brasserie, super-scambled eggs (foto

Electric Brasserie, super-scambled eggs (foto

When it comes to breakfast, I am spoilt for choice in Notting Hill, where I either go to the Electric club which is part of the Soho House empire, or to Bill Granger’s new café on Westbourne Grove, where he serves his incomparable scrambled eggs with avocado and gravad lax to a changing array of attractive female Trusafarians and ladies who lunch. For other Asian restaurants, it is hard to beat Koya, a new noodle bar, which recently opened in Soho, although the queues for getting a seat can be tiresome. Just around the corner, a new Peruvian restaurant called Ceviche has opened, which also has a brilliant bar serving pisco cocktails.
It is almost as if London excels because the local food culture was so bereft of comment except complaints, that it has taken the innovative flair of non-British cuisine to make London wake up.

1. to be continued 


Dal Mondo

Reviews, recommendations and trends from the four corners of the planet, signed by all the authors of Identità Golose