There’s no flashy name, no flashy decor. Yet this small Soho newcomer punches well above its weight, delivering exceptional cooking in relaxed, buzzy surroundings. At face value, the menu – Modern Brit via the Med – seems fairly straightforward, but the results are impressive.
There’s a real charm to sitting in a railway arch on a Southwark back street, trains trundling overhead, a skip of construction detritus your view through the window (this is an‘up-and-coming’ area), while enjoying great wine and food. 40 Maltby Street is not a West End dining experience – and is all the better for it.
It’s hard not to like somewhere that makes its own jammie dodgers and bourbon biscuits: a bit of oven art for under a pound. These are on sale in the shop portion of Terence Conran’s Shoreditch gastro-palace and hotel, through which you reach the Albion, identifying en route any of the picnic-style goods you’d liked to be served to your table (at a supplement), notably the fine range of own-made biscuits, and cakes.
The Anchor & Hope has dominated Waterloo’s gastronomic scene for over a decade, and is still among its highlights. The well-known ‘no reservations’ seating policy doesn’t seem to deter punters, meaning that diners wanting to sample the robust seasonal British cooking must often wait in the pub area (separated from the restaurant by a heavy drape) until a table becomes free.
Decked out with corrugated iron walls and rustic benches, Ollie Dabbous' second venture looks about as far from a haute cuisine restaurant as you can get. But the homely menu of small plates is prepared with impressive precision and includes a decent smattering of unusual ingredients. Expect reasonable prices to boot.
Any preconceptions about tapas bars being pleasant but unmemorable places with routine menus are dispelled by this slick offshoot of Fitzrovia’s Fino. Barrafina is very much a bar, the only seating being stools around an L-shaped bar in gleaming steel, behind which chefs display their skills in grilling seafood and assembling complex salads with stunning panache.
Missing from the Begging Bowl’s colourful contemporary interior are the orchids and pictures of the Thai royal family typically on display in a neighbourhood Thai restaurant. This is less surprising once you know the owners are not Thai. Interestingly, two of Thailand’s most famous street food dishes – pad Thai and som tam (the spicy green papaya salad from the north-east) – are absent; instead there is a far more interesting selection of less usual stir-fries, salads, curries and grilled dishes.
This is a perfect spot for munching before or after hooking up in the West End. The classic Busaba dishes are consistently interesting, and well executed at all branches: smoky duck breast with tart tamarind sauce; pandan chicken; sen chan pad thai (with crab meat); green curry fried rice with chargrilled chicken.
It isn’t hard to decide what to eat at Burger & Lobster, as there are only three choices – burger, lobster or lobster roll. Which focuses your mind on the other variables, such as where abouts in the room you would like to perch. Propped up against the bar on high stools? Ensconced in one of the two tight-fit banquettes in the back, with their view of the kitchen pass?
The latest no-bookings hotspot. This ‘dive and dog bar’ – hot dogs, that is – is housed in a highly styled retro cool Kensington basement. The hostess table is a vintage pinball machine, the lighting is flatteringly set to drinking-den low, and the music is at ‘party loud’. Expect impeccable hot dogs in pillowy buns and all manner of other pimped dude-food.