The 100 best dishes in London: The list by area
From small plates to signature dishes and everything in between, take a look at our selection of the very best eats at London restaurants and street food stalls
Mon Dec 8 2014
The best dishes in central London
Let’s get a few things straight. This ‘burger’ has no bun. It has no mustard or mayo. And no salad (unless you count a garnish of frou-frou micro herbs). But its dense, meaty texture, packed with chunks of almost-sweet squid and ocean-fresh mackerel, make a pretty perfect patty. Throw in some cockles (or sometimes razor clams) and a verdant sauce of sea purslane on the side, and you’ve got yourself a plate of seafood that’s somehow both casual and luxurious at the same time. Not to mention being such a hit with diners that it hasn’t been off the menu since Arbutus first opened.
- 63-64 Frith Street, W1D 3JW
- Price: £11
The humble tortilla may seem a peculiar choice for such a swish tapas bar, particularly when alternatives include the likes of razor clams, grilled quail and giant tiger prawns. All of these are excellent, but that’s partly down to the high-quality ingredients. The tortilla, however, reveals the skill of the chefs, who will cook it right in front of you. A plump, golden cushion of perfectly seasoned omelette with a soft, oozing centre, this is Spanish peasant fare at its very best. Glam it up with chorizo or spinach if you like, but it really doesn’t need embellishment.
- 54 Frith Street, W1D 4SL
- Price: £6
Bruno Loubet is one of the most talented chefs currently working in London, and his restaurant is consistently satisfying. Among his many stand-out dishes is the beetroot ravioli with fried breadcrumbs, Grana Padano cheese and a rocket salad. The pasta of ravioli is rolled wafer-thin yet remains firm, the filling of beetroot visible through the translucent cases. This is heavily garnished with the rocket leaves, fried breadcrumbs and a well-balanced dressing. Ask for the cheese garnish to be omitted from the dish if you are a strict vegetarian.
- 86-88 Clerkenwell Road, EC1M 5RJ
- Price: £8 starter, £15 main
It may be a drink, but we just had to have bubble tea on our list. It’s all about texture with this Taiwanese concoction: a fruit- or milk-based tea is specked with chewy boba – Malteser-sized tapioca pearls – which are sucked up through a wide straw. This hybrid drinking/chewing experience is quite unusual for Westerners, which might explain why these drinks haven’t yet broken through to the mainstream in London. Our favourite bubble tea is Boba Jam’s milky matcha green tea: stuffed with lots of boba, it brings a whole new, fun dimension to slurping.
- 102 Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 5EJ
- Price: From £3.60
Most people who recommend this Soho Italian mention ‘that radish and celeriac salad’. It’s been on the menu since opening days back in 2008, and thankfully it has stayed. We love the combination of earthy radish and celeriac, pops of tangy sweetness from the pomegranate seeds, the aroma from truffle oil and the saltiness from crumbly pecorino bringing it all together. A real taste of la dolce vita.
- 12 Archer Street, W1D 7BB
- Price: £9 small, £14 large
The beef pho at Cay Tre’s Soho branch is consistently good. Pho (pronounced ‘fuh’) is a soup noodle dish, made with soup stock that’s clear in the Hanoi style – and which tastes intensely of beef marrowbone. The rice noodles are sheer; herbs decorate the surface. A side dish of saw-leaf, Asian basil, fresh chilli and beansprouts is provided to stir in: a nice authentic touch.
- 42-43 Dean Street, W1D 4PZ
- Price: £9 (take-away only)
Don’t go to ‘the Firehouse’ for the slebs (they’re all hiding in the VIP bits of the hotel, anyways), go for Nuno Mendes’ cooking. Compared to the maverick dishes he made his name with, the offerings at this Marylebone hotspot can appear rather prosaic – until you consider how Mendes makes them. Take this steak tartare: a fillet of 48-day aged Irish beef, lightly seared, then bound with an alabaster pine nut emulsion. A single Burford Brown egg yolk is removed from an immersion of olive oil, then carefully balanced on top. For ‘mixing in’, there’s a blob of house-made chipotle paste, more of the pine nut emulsion, plus finely chopped or julienned accoutrements: shallots, cornichons, radishes and parsley. On the side, there are thyme-scattered ‘country bread’ crostini plus a bottle of Firehouse ‘hot sauce’ (made with fennel, apple, garlic, tomatoes, red chillies – all smoked, then cooked down with cider vinegar). The sauce is designed to ‘evolve’ the flavour of the tartare, so try it first without, then with. In short, every mouthful is unique, and you can have your tartare exactly how you want it. Hey, you’re worth it.
- 1 Chiltern St, W1U 7PA
- Price: £16, large starter
Of all the balls we’ve bitten this year, these are the best. Created by executive chef Vivek Singh at his latest Indian restaurant, they show off his trademark style: fusing Indian spices with European presentation. Five tiny balls are lined up on an elegant slate, each one perched on a smear of fragrant home-made chutney. Of the collection, the delicate crab cake, potato bondas (a kind of Indian potato croquette), and tiny spiced scotch quail’s eggs are the winners.
- 5 Kingly Street, W1B 5PF
- Price: £3.80 each, £9 for a selection
Comptoir Gascon, a French bistro, traiteur and pâtisserie, is an accessible offshoot of the phenomenally successful fine-dining restaurant Club Gascon opposite Smithfield Market. Appropriately for a restaurant specialising in the food of south-west France, the french fries are cooked in duck fat. But careful choice of fat is not the only bit of Gallic polish the kitchen adds to these chips magnifiques. The tatties are hand-cut 8-10cm long and 1cm square (un petit peu thicker than better-known french fries). The final flourish is fleur de sel salt and piment d’Espelette pepper.
- 68 Charterhouse Street, EC1M 6HJ
- Price: £3.50
On a second visit you may not see any of the same dishes from the first, but the ajo blanco is usually a mainstay at this congenial Soho tapas bar. One of the many tiny but thrilling dishes, the Andalucian white soup is made from almonds with a hint of garlic (ajo). The portion size is barely enough to fill an egg-cup, but the flavours transported us right back to Seville. Sup it with a glass of bone-dry sherry.
- 26 D'Arblay Street, W1F 8EP
- Price: £4.10
Dean Street Townhouse is one of those Soho restaurants that attract self-important media types, all flash watches and loud voices. But the menu grounds most people, as it’s old-fashioned and British – in the best sense. One signature dish is particularly brave, having been traduced to a mockery by generations of school caterers… yes, mince and tatties. The version here is piquant, properly browned, full-flavoured, wonderful in texture, and tastes of… childhood. If you ever want to show someone what everyday food in Britain was like in decades past, yet leave them with a favourable impression, order this dish.
- 69-71 Dean Street, W1D 3SE
- Price: £13.50
Life is full of difficult dilemmas, such as: which is The Delaunay’s best dish? Torn between the excellent sachertorte and the perfect wiener schnitzel, we had to choose the latter. Wiener schnitzel is boneless veal beaten to a thin layer with a mallet, breadcrumbed and fried. It appeared in every mid-20th-century cookbook, then fell out of fashion. But it’s back, one of many Mitteleuropäisch dishes revived by the wonderful Delaunay - a dish that would put a smile on even Sigmund Freud’s stern face.
- 55 Aldwych, WC2B 4BB
- Price: £21
Sushi of Shiori does a strikingly similar version, but it’s not as tender nor as explosive as the one at Japanese restaurant Dinings. A lightly blowtorched piece of fatty beef lies on perfect rice, which is then topped with salty-sharp cubes of ponzu (citrus) jelly that melt on the tongue. Overarching this luxurious mouthful is the dab of truffle ‘salsa’ – insanely good and worth every penny.
- 22 Harcourt Street, W1H 4HH
- Price: £8.65
The signature dish at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, and no doubt one that will join the likes of ‘snail porridge’ and ‘bacon and egg ice cream’ when summing up the zany chef’s creations. But lord, is it good. A beautiful orb with an exterior of thin, sharp mandarin jelly encases some of the lightest, creamiest chicken liver parfait known to man – a triumph of flavour, texture and vision that fills us with childish glee.
- Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, SW1X 7LA
- Price: £17.50
Salad isn’t something we usually get excited about. Too often, it’s merely a derisory nod to calorie-counters. But every so often, a salad comes along that deserves attention. Such is the baby gem assembly at this upmarket Spanish venue: tiny, bitter-centred baby gems layered with a sharp shallot and sherry vinegar dressing; soft, subtle anchovies; and crispy pancetta. If the prices are a little out of your league, here’s a tip: sit up at the bar (where you get a great view into the kitchen) on any Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday lunchtime, and you’ll get 50% off your food bill. That’s the kind of maths we like.
- 33 Charlotte Street, entrance on Rathbone Street, W1T 1RR
- Price: £6.80
The Galvin brothers have made a name for themselves by giving bistro cooking a relaxed sense of luxury. Their signature tarte tatin is a case in point. This is no flouncy ‘haute’-style individual (read: tiny) tart. Instead you’re served a huge rustic slice, piled with caramelised chunks of apple. These sit on a base of buttery puff pastry: rich, decadent, and sweet with syrup. A dollop of chilled crème fraîche cuts through it all beautifully.
- 66 Baker Street, W1U 7DJ
- Price: £8.50
In spite of its proximity to Piccadilly Circus, Gelupo is anything but a tourist trap. No, this gelateria – the younger sibling of hip Italian restaurant Bocca di Lupo, just opposite – prides itself on doing things differently. Sure, there are one or two predictable offerings (hazelnut, say), but most of the creations – from pine nut and fennel gelato to clementine sorbet – will blow your mind. And none more so than the blood orange granita, a dark, deeply intense ice experience made using only fresh fruit and cane sugar. Outstanding.
- 7 Archer Street, W1D 7AU
- Price: From £3
At middle class supper parties across the capital, guests will press you into hearing about their favourite hummous recipe or how to get your quinoa just right, but ask them about sausages and they may just recoil with horror. But these people need to get out more, and try the ones at Herman ze German. Everything a sausage should be: fat, juicy, and made with the highest quality ingredients, they’re imported from a German butcher (called Fritz, wouldn’t you know). Choose from chilli beef (made with pork, beef and chilli), classic bratwurst (made with pork and veal), or our favourite – the bockwurst – made with smoked pork. With a delicate flavour, a springy middle and plenty of ‘knack’ when you bite into it, it needs nothing more than ketchup and mustard, though the optional toppings of crispy onions, sauerkraut and curry sauce are jolly nice, too.
- 43 Charlotte Street, W1T 1RS
- Price: £4.45
Given that Mark Hix’s name has become synonymous with British cooking, it may seem odd to highlight, of all things, his interpretation of a German dish (‘Himmel und Erde’). But this mainstay of Hix’s smart Soho restaurant showcases everything that is great about his cooking: ’heaven’ is a soft, gently spiced black pudding, while ‘earth’ combines mashed potato with faintly sweet apple and a hint of onion. It’s thoughtful, yet simple: Hix at his best.
- 66 - 70 Brewer Street Soho, W1F 9UP
- Price: £9.95
It may seem a bit of a cheat to include a dish as simple as houmous on our list. But while the one served at hip chickpea fanatics Hummus Bros may be simple, it’s anything but dull. Creamy and smooth, it’s spread out into plain white bowls before being finished with a slick of intense tahini (sesame paste), a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkling of smoked paprika. There’s a choice of toppings, with plenty of vegetarian options (or chunky beef if you prefer). For extra zing, help yourself to the fresh garlic or lemon juice dotted around the communal tables in tiny plastic cups.
- 88 Wardour St, W1F 0TH
- Price: From £3.50
We like Jerk City for its home-style Caribbean dishes, many of which are Trinidadian and influenced by the island’s Asian population. The mutton roti is a case in point. Jerk City’s floury, flaky roti is a thick and heavy flatbread, the curried mutton spicy, the portions large. Service can be haphazard, so avoid the lunchtime rush unless you’re happy to lime with the crowd at the smattering of brown wooden tables – or join the many who just pop in for a takeaway.
- 189 Wardour Street, W1F 8ZD
- Price: £8
The wibbly wobbly cauldron of deep-red spicy seafood stew (chigae) with curdled tofu (soondooboo) at this mid-priced Korean restaurant isn’t as scary as it looks. There’s a kick, yes, but it’s far from the two-chilli annotation next to its name on the menu. We’ve had this dish here dozens of times and think it’s still the best version in town: the hidden poached egg with its perfectly runny yolk is the best bit.
- 11 Rathbone Street, W1T 1NA
- Price: £9.70
Kopapa is a smart, New Zealand-style café on Seven Dials, Covent Garden. The team behind it – including top Kiwi chef Peter Gordon – also runs the Marylebone fusion cuisine beacon Providores. The kitchen excels at creating refreshing alternatives to the usual breakfasts, so if you must get eggy for brekkie, try Kopapa’s bowl of Turkish eggs, poached and served with whipped yoghurt and hot chilli butter; fabulous.
- 32-34 Monmouth Street, WC2H 9HA
- Price: £8.90
Koya’s springy wheat noodles are made on the premises every day, and have remained consistently excellent since the place opened in 2010. Our favourite dish has to be the vegan ‘walnut miso’ udon: a ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ combination of intense nuttiness, in which sweet-salty red and white misos are mixed with walnut purée. Dissolve a small spoonful of the powerful paste mixture into the soup for each mouthful. Toppings might include seasonal mushrooms or hispi cabbage. Tip: it’s even better if you add the onsen tamago (literally ‘hot-spring egg’, slow-cooked) into the mix.
- 49 Frith Street, W1D 4SG
- Price: £11.60
Head to Aussie-run café Lantana for some first-class melt-in-the-mouth friands. These moist little almond cakes, dotted with raspberries or blueberries, have become the archetypal Antipodean baked good - lamingtons, your days are numbered. But is the friand Aussie? Mais non, the French invented it. Known as the financier in France, the rectangular teacake was so-named because it resembled a bar of gold.
- 13 Charlotte Place, W1T 1SN
- Price: From £1.80
If we had to pick just one of the dishes from Claire Clark’s pâtisserie, it would be the éclairs. They are only sold as part of the afternoon tea at this five-star hotel, but the tea is a must-try experience that can overwhelm the senses. The pastries are so tiny and pretty you’d think they’d been made by elves. Should you prefer something a tad more butch, head for the salted caramel brownie.
- Corinthia Hotel, (Whitehall Place), SW1A 2BD
- Price: Afternoon tea from £45 (excluding service)
As Joey from ‘Friends’ would no doubt say, ‘Waffle: good. Chicken: gooood.’ So putting them together is clearly a no-brainer. Well that’s what ‘modern Deep Southern’ restaurants, including this smart, yet relaxed Marylebone spot think. The freshly cooked waffle is made from a soft rice batter, and topped with pecans for extra crunch. The real crunch, of course, comes from the buttermilk fried chicken – two full-flavoured dark meat pieces (a thigh and a leg), dusted in spiced southern flavours (including paprika, cayenne, and garlic salt) and deep-fried until the chicken is just cooked, and still juicy. Factor in extra butter and maple syrup and you’ll either die, or simply feel like you’ve died and gone to heaven.
- 22-24 Seymour Place, W1H 7NL
- Price: £14
Pieces of marinated lamb are skewered and fiercely grilled until the juicy fat goes nice and crisp, then judiciously sprinkled with a flurry of salt, cumin seeds and spicy dried red chilli flakes. There are also chicken wings, tofu and beef skewers at this north-eastern Chinese restaurant, but the lamb comes out on top: it’s the kind of dish you could eat piles of, soothed by an ice-cold Tsingtao beer.
- 16 Lisle Street, WC2H 7BE
- Price: £1.50 per skewer
As well as their renowned burgers, this is another US import done fiendishly well by the Meat Liquor team. Tangy, juicy pickles are coated in a crunchy batter, ready to become vehicles for an artery-clogging blue cheese dressing (one we think even blue cheese phobics will like). We preferred it when they served them sliced up into dippable medallions rather than as long unwieldy slices, but it’s still a darned good snack.
- 74 Welbeck Street, W1G 0BA
- Price: £3.50
The menu at this dinky little off-shoot of Exmouth Market’s acclaimed Moro changes all the time, so there’s no guarantee of this dish being on the menu (though for the sweet-toothed, the Malaga rum and raisin ice cream is often around, and always delicious). But they do bright, bold things with the kinds of vegetables six year-old you told your mother you’d never eat: chickpeas (fried, with red onion, coriander and tahini-laced yoghurt), or beetroot, here served as the dippable Iranian housewives’ favourite, borani. The sweetness of the crushed root is offset by a splash of red wine vinegar and a daring amount of garlic (don’t plan on snogging anyone later – unless they’ve been eating it too). It’s then layered with pieces of walnuts, a sprinkling of black sesame seeds, sprigs of fresh dill and morsels of crumbly, salty feta. Grab a piece of flatbread and get dipping.
- 32 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QE
- Price: £4.50
There are some essential flavours of the Japanese kitchen that you’ll never find in Pret A Manger, and uni is one of them. These orange-yellow ovaries and roe of the sea urchin are a great treat for connoisseurs, but they’re best not attempted in budget establishments; ‘cheap sushi’ is not the way to go. Instead, try uni somewhere mid-range, such as Nizuni. The sushi here is well-made, and the uni speaks reassuringly of decent sourcing; the creamy roe tastes clean and sweet, with none of the musky, fishy odour of less-than-fresh versions.
- 22 Charlotte Street, W1T 2NB
- Price: £4.50
NOPI, from the Ottolenghi stable, offers genre-bending small plates that cross culinary as well as geographical boundaries. And there’s genius behind the flavour and texture combinations. The mozzarella-like Italian burrata needs virtually no accompaniment, but here it’s served with toasted coriander seeds and seasonal soft fruit – perhaps blood orange (pictured), Miyagama (a Japanese satstuma) or fragrant nectarine – designed to complement the creaminess of the soft cheese. The rest of the menu is even more unpredictable, assembling a diaspora of ingredients on tiny plates. Order multiple dishes, and prepare for a large bill.
- 21-22 Warwick Street, W1B 5NE
- Price: £12.90
Take a bite out of the Nordic Bakery’s signature cinnamon buns and you will understand why the Scandinavians are so obsessed with this baked treat. While there are many different versions across Scandinavia, the Nordic Bakery’s cinnamon bun follows a Finnish recipe: a nicely sticky, crusty outside hiding a light, buttery dough inside – all laced with swirls of pungent cinnamon and cardamom sugar. This decadent sweet treat is perfect with a cup of strong Finnish filter coffee.
- 14A Golden Square, W1F 9JG
- Price: £2.60
The first time we had this tapa, one of the signature creations of the Salt Yard/Dehesa/Opera Tavern group, we were a little disappointed that it wasn’t easier to divvy up for sharing. Then we saw the light – this is a dish that’s too good to share. The belly comes in three layers: tender, juicy base; fatty, full-flavoured middle; and a thick, crunchy top layer of crackling (the bit that’s tricky to cut). All this on a bed of stewed, starchy cannellini beans with just enough rosemary running through. Simple, but hugely comforting.
- 23 Catherine Street, WC2B 5JS
- Price: £9
Picture an éclair, the soft, choux pastry filled, not with plain cream, as it would be at your local branch of Greggs, but with a sweet, nutty, praline cream. Then, instead of a simple slather of chocolate on the top, imagine the whole thing wrapped up in a thin cloak of top-quality, pliable chocolate (kind of like pigs in blankets, only sweeter and much more impressive). Well, this futuristic London outpost of a Parisian bakers ain’t called the ‘patisserie of dreams’ for nothing.
- 43 Marylebone High Street, W1U 5HE
- Price: £5.90
The peripatetic Pitt Cue Co truck parked up at the South Bank in 2011, spawning a permanent site since in Soho, making it easier to try some of the best pulled pork in town. The strands of slow-cooked, sweet, smoky meat, partnered with sharp coleslaw and chilli sauce, were perhaps more evocatively tasty when eaten out of a waxed tub from a van, but the dish is still mighty fine.
- 1 Newburgh Street, W1F 7RB
- Price: £11.50 (includes sides)
Meatballs are rarely sexy, and never pretty. But they can be very, very good. These versions, which first appeared at the ultra-trendy original Soho branch, sparked a meatball-loving trend across the capital. They are surprisingly light, and the hit of fennel is a revelation. Once you’ve had three, and mopped up the smooth tomato sauce they arrive smothered in, you’ll feel deeply comforted. If waiting for a table isn’t your thing, go at lunchtime instead – you can book until 3pm.
- 6 Maiden Lane, WC2E 7NA
- Price: Three for £6
Kiwi-born chef Peter Gordon became the king of fusion while still at the Sugar Club, and arguably he remains London’s master of pick’n’mix cooking. Laksa – the spicy noodle soup from the Malaysian peninsula – has long been used by Gordon as a starting point in his creations. But what you won’t find in Penang or Singapore is a dish like smoked coconut and tamarind (assam) laksa with a fish dumpling, Japanese soba (buckwheat) noodles, soft-boiled quail’s egg, crispy shallots and coriander. That’s a lot of action on the taste buds, but curiously, it works.
- 109 Marylebone High Street, W1U 4RX
- Price: £11.80
Roka still impresses with its mastery of the Japanese-style robata grill, which dominates the capacious dining room, and unsurprisingly, grills are highlights of the menu. Order the inch-thick scallops, peppery and sweet from the mix of shiso cress, a slick of soy and a dollop of wasabi cream; or the satisfyingly crisp and umami-packed chicken wings with sea salt and lime. The rest of the menu features the likes of yellowtail sashimi with truffle yuzu dressing, and ‘Roka dishes’ of creamy, risotto-like rice hotpots and black cod dumplings.
- 37 Charlotte Street, W1T 1RR
- Price: £13.90
Roti Chai is a hip canteen that celebrates the street food of India from its many regions. Aloo tikki chaat, a Punjabi classic, combines homely potato cakes with a warming chickpea curry (chaat), plus yoghurt, mint, onion and a zingy tamarind chutney. Pair it with some of the excellent breads or rice and transport yourself direct to India.
- 3 Portman Mews South, W1H 6HS
- Price: £5.80
Salt Yard’s frilly-edged courgette flowers are jammed with monte enebro (a salty goat’s cheese with blue cheese notes) before they’re tempura-battered, deep-fried, and drizzled with delicately scented lavender honey. In 2014, versions of this dish are widely available elsewhere, but we still think that the one at Salt Yard (and its younger, sexier siblings Dehesa and Opera Tavern), with its perfect balance of creamy and crispy, sweet and salt, is worth seeking out.
- 54 Goodge Street, W1T 4NA
- Price: £4.50
A well-made ceviche is a thing of beauty, so why gild the lily, you might ask. Because sometimes – just sometimes – a remixed cover version can rock your world enough to forget entirely about the original. At this fun-loving ceviche specialist (a pop-up gone perm, once called Don Ceviche), they do a classic option (Limona Classico, where chunks of sea bream, diced sweet potato, slivers of red onion and coriander all come steeped in a ‘tiger’s milk’ citrus-chilli marinade), plus several variants, including our favourite, ‘The Spaniard’. Here, the zingy base marinade comes laced with tomato, giving it a softer, more mellow edge, while the addition of crispy pieces of spicy chorizo and juicy, just-cooked prawns tips it into being properly ‘bacán’ (awesome).
- 1st Floor, Kingly Court, W1B 5PW
- Price: £9
Don’t talk smack. Don’t take smack. And don’t smack your kids. But DO trot on over to this new fast-food joint (from the people behind Burger & Lobster), for the incredible and incredibly good value lobster rolls. Our favourites are the Happy Ending (stop sniggering at the back), with its south-east Asian flavours and fresh coriander, and the exceptional Seven Samurai. Picture a lightly toasted brioche generously filled with sweet, succulent lobster meat, the crunch of Japanese cabbage, a lick of Japanese mayo, some finely sliced spring onion and a final sprinkling of shichimi (‘seven spice’). A seriously moreish, unashamedly decadent sandwich.
- 26-28 Binney Street, W1K 5BN
- Price: £7.50 take-away, £9 eat in
In ‘Nose To Tail Eating’, St John’s cookbook, chef-proprietor Fergus Henderson suggests you ask your butcher to hold back a calf’s leg for you if you’re in the mood for bone marrow. We think it’s better to let someone else do the legwork, and head for the dining room of St John instead. Here, against a cool, clinical backdrop, you’ll be served up the just-roasted marrow, still in the bone, and invited to scoop out the translucent contents, spread it on grilled toast and season it to taste. The relish-like parsley, capers and shallot salad cutting through the intensely meaty richness will refresh you enough to allow seconds. And thirds.
- 26 St John Street, EC1M 4AY
- Price: £7.50
We’re not saying Terroirs makes the very best charcuterie in London; we reckon Bar Boulud would see off any competition in that regard. Nevertheless, if you eat at this delightful wine bar, do make sure you try the cooked meats. The pistachio and pork terrine in particular is first-class: unctuous and flavour-packed, with appealing textures. The tapas-style bar snacks (Marcona almonds, cheeses) and plats du jour are also appealing.
- 5 William IV Street, WC2N 4DW
- Price: £12.75
Read it on the menu, and this starter at elegant Marylebone high-flyer Texture may seem a gimmick. When the dish arrives, gloriously adorned with an intact pigeon leg (claw and all), it may even shock. But the substance more than matches the style: this is an intelligently composed, superbly executed creation. Fat little slabs of ruby-middled pigeon flesh meet with an intense red wine jus. Charred pieces of corn and a delicate sweetcorn purée offset the subtle gaminess of the bird. And a few pieces of ‘bacon’ popcorn (flavoured with bacon powder) round it off. Taste? Sublime. Texture? You betcha.
- 34 Portman Street, W1H 7BY
- Price: £16.90
Sometimes, only proper grab-and-go food will do. But if we have to look another egg and cress sandwich in the face, we may just implode. What we want is comfort and spice, at a decent price. Oh, and we don’t want to wait. Well then, it’s off to Wahacito we go. This take-away counter (right next door to the Charlotte Street restaurant) will build you a burrito while you wait. They’re all good, but our favourite is the one with the terrific slow-cooked Wahaca pork pibil in the middle. Add this to fluffy rice, homely beans and service with a smile, and you can just about forget your cares for a few moments.
- 19-23 Charlotte Street, W1T 1RL
- Price: £6 (take-away)
Few dishes evoke a notion of Empire as much as this one, brought to the UK by colonials returning from Raj-era India. In Queen Victoria’s time kedgeree would be served in the morning, so it follows that you should enjoy it in the grand, clattering dining room of The Wolseley, arguably the capital’s ultimate breakfast venue. As it happens, this version, a heap of creamy curried rice punctuated by generous chunks of smoked mackerel and topped with a runny-middled poached egg, is so rich, so buttery, that it would do very nicely for brunch or even an early supper. Just as well the restaurant is open all day.
- 160 Piccadilly, W1J 9EB
- Price: £12
A staple at modish Lebanese café Yalla Yalla, the pan-fried chicken livers (sawda djej) isn’t going to scoop first prize at any beauty pageant. But if you’re looking for big, bold flavours, give it a whirl. Glistening pomegranate seeds add glamour to an otherwise brown mass, but in a single mouthful you’ll get the lingering hit of chopped sautéd liver and mellow garlic, ahead of the faintly sweet aftertaste of the fruit molasses. Best eaten with warm flatbreads and the fresh and feisty house tabouleh.
- 1 Green's Court, W1F 0HA
- Price: £4.75 (wrap)/ £10.50 (main)
The Yauatcha head chef, Tong Chee Hwee, is highly innovative, as demonstrated in dishes such as the venison puffs. Egg-glazed and garnished with sesame seeds, they look like char siu puffs (with a crumbly, samosa-shaped layered pastry on the outside), but bite into them and you get a very different intense but sweet flavour. Life-affirmingly good.
- 15 Broadwick Street, W1F 0DL
- Price: £5