We wouldn’t be Time Out London if we didn’t pay homage to our indigenous cuisine. Here, quintessentially British dishes at the top of their class go head-to-head against classics with a more contemporary spin.
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.
When this Fulham gastropub opened in 2008, the heart of many a food pilgrim was set aflutter by the simple brilliance of its venison scotch egg, from the warm, oozing yolk to the toothsome casing of top-quality shredded venison fresh from Berkshire. The Harwood Arms is Fulham’s worst-kept secret, which makes dining tables hard to come by, but swing in for a pint and nibble at the bar.
Jason Atherton is known for his witty reconstructions of familiar dishes – like his famed BLT, which transforms the everyday sandwich into an elegant martini glass of jelly, mousse and purées. The Full English Breakfast is similar, with a slow-cooked egg as its centrepiece, atop a thick, intense tomato purée speckled with morels, croûtons and crisp shards of bacon. The only thing missing, perhaps, is an haute cuisine interpretation of baked beans.
Tuck into a great British tradition at this Hanbury Street chippy, safe in the knowledge that the fish is sustainably sourced and all the frying is overseen by Pat ‘Pop’ Newland, an East Ender with decades of trade knowledge under his belt. Poppies is civilised enough to draw in the smarter Spitalfields set (there are Meantime beers, wines and table service), but at its heart is a great no-nonsense chip shop.
£6.99, Old Spitalfields Market, 105C Commercial Street, E1 6BG
Starting life as a stall in Old Spitalfields Market back in 2001, the Square Pie Company has now grown to three London outlets. But this branch – in a swish shop unit – remains the flagship. Square Pie uses top-class ingredients and offers two sizes of square-sided pie. The fillings run from traditional (steak and Guinness) to quirky (mushroom and asparagus); all are served in funky cardboard takeaway boxes. The sumptuous mince pie comes with mashed potato and tasty, fresh mushy peas.
This smart Clapham restaurant specialises in Modern French cuisine, but also does a smashing Sunday lunch. The classy three courses for £35 centre around beautiful but gutsy roasts, the highlight being Aberdeen Angus sirloin with proper Yorkshire puddings, roast veg and fresh horseradish (grated with a flourish, table-side). Bookends might be charred mackerel with oyster mayonnaise and shrimps, or asparagus with Bayonne ham, curd and truffled egg for starters, and sticky date and toffee pudding for dessert. Service is top notch, and unexpectedly unfussy, for all the pressed linen and sparkling glassware about. Pricey, but very special.
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.