AJPeabody’s London Restaurant List
As a hopeless over planner and part time foodie, before any trip I research restaurants for Mrs. P and myself to try. This list is extracted from my trip report, for those who only want the dining news.
I found that the internet has destroyed my previous method for London, which was basically getting a budget dining guidebook and going to the expensive places in it. So I searched lists of bests, recommendations on websites, googling Michelin Bib Gourmand, and looking at “restaurants near ...” I filtered by the food preferences of Mrs. P and myself, including aversions, allergies, desires, and avoiding tasting menus and expensive architecturally arranged small portions of funny stuff.
Here are the restaurants where we actually ate. No meal was more than 75 pounds and most were under 50.
Couscous Darna, a Moroccan restaurant with a very Moroccan décor and an almost excessively enthusiastic owner/Maitre d’. Aps were chicken Pastilla and sauteed fresh sardines in a seasoned sauce. Mains: Couscous, of course. Merguez for Mrs. P, Lamb with prunes and almonds for me, vegetables in broth for both of us, and an excellent harissa. All ingredients, including the merguez sausage and the harissa are house made. Moroccan Rose and Red wines helped wash down the copious servings, preventing us from trying the enticing desserts (cardamom ice cream!). Highly recommended. Resrve.
The Flat Iron near Covent Garden (they have several locations). It’s a single concept restaurant and it does it well. For 11 pounds you get a steak, green salad, popcorn (!), and an ice cream cone. The steak is boneless, fatless, gristle-less, tender, flavorful, and grilled to your liking. You get a superfluously sharp cleaver to cut it with. Add on the beef fat fried chips (wonderful)(one order is enough for two people), a steak sauce of your choice, and maybe a vegetable side (we liked the eggplant and tomato baked side). No reservations (stand in line or get a mobile page). Oh, and in the front window you can see them butchering a quarter cow, trimming away every non-meat component from the steaks. Recommended. Come at opening or bring a mobile phone.
We had a post-theatre meal at Brasserie Zédel. Down into the basement and suddenly you are in a massive French decor nightspot restaurant. A singer. A jazz ensemble. Energy. Friendly/proper staff. Mrs. P liked her cod with a sweet red pepper compote. I had choucroute garni (as good or better than ones I have had in Paris). They also have a nice pre-theatre menu. Next trip, maybe make this place an evening. Recommended. Reserve.
Lunch on more than one day was at more than one Tapas Brindisa, where we would share five “small” plates of neatly devised Spanish style taste treats. Loved it. They have several branches around London, with somewhat different menus and different hours. We never repeated a dish and would have been happy to try the whole menu. Highly recommended.
For fish and chips we went to Kerbisher and Malt. Impeccably fresh haddock for me, cod for Mrs. P, homemade tartar sauce, and perfect chips. The coating on the fish was greaseless, brown, thin, and crisp. The fries were brown crisp on the outside, soft inside, none of those pale limp things that we used to get in England. Highly recommended. It’s a small place, reserve if you don’t want to wait or do take away.
Hawksmoor presented a full-on Sunday Roast. We each got a large plate heaped with food. There was what was billed as a 200 gram portion of 28 day aged roast beef (rare for me, well done for Mrs. P), a big dark brown Yorkshire pudding, four chunks of roasted potatoes, a roasted shallot (large), honey baked carrots, half a roasted garlic head, a mass of greens (possibly chard), horseradish sauce, and a sauce boat of gravy. It was a visual portrait of abundance artfully arranged. All the sides were very good. We were a bit disappointed by the beef portion’s size. It included a thick edge of fat, maybe 20% of the finished product. The meat itself had some chew, interpreted as a bit tough due to less than sharp steak knives. The flavor was excellent, however disappointing the quantity. Also the Yorkshire pudding required the whole pitcher of gravy to combat its dryness. If I had to do it over again, I would order meat and sides from the a la carte menu at three times the overall price and stuffed myself. Reservations essential.
Went for a lunch to the Beijing Dumpling House, where they make the dumplings in the window. The dumplings were by far better than the ones at home. My only error was getting dumplings “in soup” rather than a separate soup to sooth my sore throat. I think there was a translation failure as the “soup” was hot water. Adding the offered vinegar and soy sauce improved the situation. If I were to return, I’d get even more dumplings and a real soup. Recommended for dumpling fans. Chinese clientele.
For late lunch, we defaulted to the universal default meal, pizza. Discovered Fratelli La Bufala on Shaftsbury Avenue. The Italian pizzaioli spinning dough in front of a real Italian pizza oven in the front window, piles of Italian flour sacks and a few gross of giant cans of Italian plum tomatoes next to the doorway convinced us to try it. A good decision, with really good Neapolitan style pizza. That means thin crust, soft not crisp, with a floppy center, top ingredients but not overloaded. I had an anchovy ‘za, Mrs. P a complicated mix including chicken and potato (listed as designed for the British market). Recommended if you want to feel like you are in Naples (potatoes excepted). We both liked it a lot.
For Indian food we went to Malabar, a family run limited hours place off Notting Hill Gate. I got tandoori lamb chops, Mrs. P tandoori chicken tikka, plus sides of raita, five lentil dal, and rice. It’s on a semi-deserted street parallel to the high street, filled only with locals. Great service, great food, highly recommended. Reserve.
Chinese (Cantonese): Gold Mine on Queensway: Duck (D-Licious), shrimp with vegs, baby bok choi with mushrooms. Rice. All very tasty. (But one urgent trip to the porcelain throne that night). Very busy local place, mostly ethnic clientele. Recommended if you love duck, for which Gold Mine is known.
Italian, a local place: La Pappardella: Aps: Fried calamari and zucchini, antipasto of roasted vegetables in olive oil. Mains: Veal with mushrooms and spinach, grilled calves liver (properly pink interior) with mashed potatoes. Really, really good, highly recommended, make a reservation (we did and jumped the waiting line to get the last table). Place was full of happy diners, talking between tables (we were included).
Take out (“Take Away” in British): Paul (French pastry, breads, sandwiches), Pret a Manger (Sandwiches and salads), and the pre-made portions at Marks and Spencer or Sainsbury to combine with Borough Market selections. And Neals Yard Creamery for very high end cheeses and butter.
When I feel more ambitious I’ll type up the list of alternate selections we did not eat at due to that day’s location or desires.
Anyone else with London restaurant experience or recommendations should feel free to add to this thread, as a restaurant round up thread for London would be a good resource.