Apart from the dinner at Heston’s Dinner our week back in London was food and London affirming in the extreme. Whilst I’ve been back to London pretty much every six to nine months since leaving around three years ago, all of a sudden it has just gone… gangbusters.
My impression is that London’s food scene at the moment is without parallel. I don’t know whether it is the hangover from the Olympics or the fact that the City of London remains the choice for Chinese, Russians and Middle Eastern citizens to flee their domestic regimes and throw cash around but it is simply working. The next two posts are going to be about the stand out stars of the trip – Roganic and the Sportsman – as they deserve something in a bit more in detail. This post is for the rest, the morass of excellence that is just floating around London at the moment.
The Classics – a fry up and cream tea
Now there are two dishes that if you visited London and didn’t try there you have simply failed. And they are polar and price opposites. We are talking a working man’s fry up and a hoity toity cream tea.
With a fry up I think there is only one really sensible choice and it is the Regency Cafe in Pimlico. There a couple of reasons for this. The main one is the food. It is hard to find a better unreconstructed fry up in London. The other is the decor, clientele and the guy who runs it (the “voice”) are just pitch perfect vintage but yet still used London. Above all things, if you only had time to eat in one place in London, it has to be this.
With a cream tea there are more options. Well, quite a lot really. I’ve always been a big fan of Palm Court at the Langham. This time we went to the Ritz which I have never managed to get into before despite having worked just down the street for two years as I am normally too scruffy. I would have to say the scones and sandwiches are not quite at the standard of Palm Court but the overall, over opulent, experience just about pips it.
Regardless, if you don’t have clotted cream when in London you are a fool.
The New London
A fry up and cream tea are old England and you can’t visit London without trying them but London is also developing a pared down, more casual style of eating, influenced by Nordic cuisine.
A group of chefs known as the Young Turks have been leading this and they are easiest found at Upstairs at the 10 Bells. A pop up meal I had at Elliot’s in Victoria Park before leaving London by them was one of the best I have had in a long time and Upstairs continues this theme. Fun, relatively elemental food, with an emphasis on the underlying ingredients.
And one of the key things about this new London food is that it is a really, well, cheap. A multi-course meal at Upstairs with alcohol is going to run under GBP 50.00 which is pretty amazing given the quality of the food and that you are eating it in… London.
Americana Gets Good
London has always been a pretty desperate place when it came to Americana food but around three to four years ago restaurants like Hawksmoor and Goodman and mini-chains like Byron burgers started to change this.
Finally, amazingly, you could get a halfway edible burger. The most prominent of this wave of Americana was, however, a place called the Meatwagon. Twitter nearly ate itself over its food truck origins and the pop up it then did in a pub called MeatEasy. The thing was… the burger I had way back then down in Peckham from a food truck was just ok.
The great thing is that it has now come of age. It is in a restaurant – MeatLiquor – and it is good, repeatedly good. Not worth hours of queuing for but a quality burger. And Hawksmoor has expanded so you can get serious stage in three venues. But it is Goodman with their Burger & Lobster which really impressed me. Three choices only on the menu: half lobster, lobster roll and burger. All GBP 20. All fantastic. And the cocktails. Wow. New York be damned.
One Pub to Rule Them All
Just as you have to eat a fry up and have cream tea there is one other must in London: a pub lunch. I got introduced to the Bull & Last on my last trip to London but went camera less and left drunk and compliment exhausted. It was perfect. Great hunks of courses. Good ales. Sassy knowledgeable service.
A revisit this time confirmed all that and more. Order a main of lamb and start ladling on the drinks and you will leave a happy person.
And All The Places I Didn’t Visit
The incredible thing about this visit to London was it wasn’t just the above. We went to a host of other in favour, classic and worthy places. Coffee was drunk up, down and around town. All of it simply sung. However there are three places we didn’t get to go which I really really wish I had.
This is because I know they would have been good. Without even eating in them. So if you get a chance please go and tell me how good they were and make me jealous and excited to go back to London for the next revisit. They are:
- Duck & Waffle