Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Food Stuff London

with the summer Olympics on the horizon, London’s dynamic food scene continues to evolve apace. Here are 10 restaurants that are helping to redefine the culinary landscape of the British capital, text by Daven Wu, executive summary by darmansjah

GILBERT SCOTT Named after the great English architect who designed the hotel in which it resides, the Gilbert Scott, just steps from the St.Pancras train station, is easily London’s grandest dining room. The triple-height ceiling and Belle Epoque vibe are the perfect setting for Michelin-starred chef Marcus Wareing, whose menu-suffused with quirky touches like miniature Cornish pastries alongside prawn cocktails, and Eccles cake with cheddar cheese ice cream – gives a clever nod to the culinary heritage of the towns and counties that the trains once passed through on their way to Victorian London (St.Pancras Renissance London Hotel, Euston Rd.,King’s Cross; 44-20/7278-3888; mains from US$24).

GRANGER & CO. It’s surprising that Australian chef Bill Granger has taken so long to open in London: his deconstructed mod-European fare with Asian hints seems tailor-made for the city’s cosmopolitan appetite. But here’s a tip-if you’re planning on a weekend visit, be prepared to wait more than an hour for a table. It’s best to come on a weekday, when you’ll be able to peacefully savor Granger’s famed eggs scrambled with cream and butter, sensational corn fritters, and slow-roasted pork shoulder drizzled with hoisin and served with spring onion pancakes (175 Wesbourne Grove, Notting Hill; 44-20/7229-9111; mains from US$19).

 Aussie chef Bill Granger's first London venture

NOPI Though its name is a portmanteau that references its location-north of Piccadily-there’s nothing abbreviated about the Asian Middle Eastern-influenced menu at Yotam Ottolenghi’s new brasserie. Sharing the same culinary DNA as his Ottolenghi restaurant in Islington-which is to say, dishes are served tapas-style-Nopi cocoons diners in a mélange of fresh flavors and exotic ingredients. Savoring bits of seared prawn with tomato butter or the exquisite twice-cooked baby chicken with lemon-myrtle salt, five spiced tofu, and braised eggplant it one attraction; the dizzying wall-to-wall mirrored bathroom is another (21-22 Warwick St., Soho; 44-20/7494-9584; mains from Us$14).

Pollen Street Social Jason Atherton’s new Mayfair outpost is not for the hard of hearing. When it’s full (which is almost always), the acoustics send every conversation in the handsomely austere dining room bouncing off the uncarpeted timber floor. But this is a trifling quibble as you tuck in to the robustly masculine spread of deer tartare, braised West Country ox cheek, and roasted cod served with a fragrant Catalan paella. Despite the menu’s machismo, the plating is exquisite and the service, even with the strain of a full house, remains poised and unfailingly polished (8-10 Pollen St., Oxford Circus; 44-20/7290-7600; mains from US$27).

Story Deli Just around the corner from the perpetually packed Pizza East, Story Deli is quietly making its case for rolling the best pizza in London. In a small all-white space fitted out with shabby-chic tables, mismatched chairs, and craft art, chef Lee Hollingworth creates superb Italian pies with crusts so thin that they crackle. Using purely organic ingredients and unpasteurized Parmesan, the toppings are tastily imaginative: think spicy sausages with Taleggio and roasted red peppers, or thyme-roasted mushrooms, buffalo mozzarella, mascarpone, and sweet red onions (3 Redchurch St., Shoreditch; 44-791/819-7352; pizzas from US$23).

 Burrata with coriander seeds, basil, and blood orange at Nopi

Union Jacks With very little fanfare, this spot is hitting all the right notes. Set in the courtyard of a block of new apartments in the midst of chaotic Tottenham Court Road, the open-plan restaurant dishes out updated English classics with brio. Masterminding the menu is the perennially youthful celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, which explains the gutsy tapas-style plates of Cornish crab salad, Norfolk black chicken livers, and pizzas topped with everything from roasted pig shoulders to oxtail and brisket. Desserts are sensational, not least the Eton Mess ice cream and sticky treacle tart (4 Central St. Giles Piazza, West End; 44-20/3597-7888; small plates from US$7).

The Delaunay With its low ceilings and low-key gentleman’s club vibe, The Delaunay feels at first a little like the underperforming sibling to its grander, older sister restaurant The Wolseley. But once you slip into a leather banquette and discreetly eyeball the media mavens and glamour pusses at adjoining tables (ah, there’s Victoria Beckham by the window gossiping with arch-designer David Collins!), you realize why it’s almost impossible to snag a table here without a booking. The full English breakfast service and afternoon tea of scones and cakes are de rigueur, while the insanely rich Sacher torte is London’s best (55 Aldwych, Covent Garden; 44-20/7499-8558, mains from US$23).

The Heron A karaoke room in the basement of an unremarkable ’60s-era pub is the last place you’d expect to find Thai street cooking of this caliber, but the daily crowds of Thais, other Southeast Asians, and adventurous Brits singing along to kitsch Thai pop on the TV screens don’t lie. If you can’t read Thai, deciphering the hundred-odd dishes on the menu will be a challenge, so rely on the briskly efficient bilingual staff to steer you toward the crispy catfish mango salad, smoky sausages, and mouth-numbing sea bass steamed with chili and lime (1 Norfolk Cres., Paddington; 44-20/7706-9567; dishes from US$9.50).

Downtown Mayfair With a flatteringly lighted interior by Florentine architect Michele Bonan and swaths of walnut, antique bronze, and leather, there’s nothing remotely “downtown” about the latest offering from Giuseppe Cipriani, grandson of the man who founded Harry’s Bar in London. A swanky clientele of obscenely rich oligarchs, bejeweled socialites, and hedge-fund honchos fills the warm space with an excited hum as everyone sips the fabled Cipriani Bellini and picks delicately at plates of beef carpaccio, artichoke salad,  and minced-veal cannelloni. The food is good, but the real appeal here is less about what you eat than whom you see (15 New Burlington Pl., Mayfair; 44-20/3056-1001; mains from US$32).

Young Turks In a city that prides itself on reinvention, it’s fitting that one of the hottest tables in London has no fixed address. Founded in 2010 as a collective of twentysomething chefs, the Young Turks prefer to showcase their talents in pop-up locations. They’ll be completing a wildly successful five-month stint at the Ten Bells pub in Spitalfields on April 28, having fed a feverishly adoring crowd on cod’s chitterlings, sautéed squid dressed simply with watercress and radish, Stinking Bishop cheese melted on potato and pickled shallots, game sausages, and rare heritage vegetables sourced from Surrey. Where they will be come the Olympics has yet to be announced, so keep an eye on their website (

Young Turks Isacc McHale and James Lowe with Ten Bells collaborators Daniel Willis and Johnny Smith.

No comments:

Post a Comment