Bockwurst at Herman ze German
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.
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The Spaniard (ceviche) at Señor Ceviche
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).
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The Lord Rupert at the Bell & Brisket, Kerb
Taller than they are wide, the sarnies from street food maestros Bell & Brisket get their filling-to-bread ratio spot on. Not that the bread (either a fresh bagel from the Brick Lane Bakery, or a couple of slices of deliciously dark rye bread, for an extra £1) is in any way sub-par: it’s just that the fillings are what we came for. We like the signature ‘Lord Rupert’ best: designed as a British take on a classic Reuben, it comes stuffed with layers of succulent hand-brined salt beef, their house pickled red cabbage, fresh dill pickles, a blob of mustard and a slice of cheddar, which they blow-torch so it goes all gooey. A word of warning, though: you may have to unlock your jaw like a snake swallowing an egg to get your chops around the thing. But it’ll be totally worth it.
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Toasted fermented corn brioche with burnt leeks and slow-poached duck egg at Grain Store
No matter what its reputation, or the fact it has ‘grain’ in the title (that’s actually because the beautifully done-up old warehouse it’s in once stored the stuff), the Grain Store is not a vegetarian restaurant. Instead, it’s a restaurant that shows respect to veg, putting it first in its dishes (before adding meat or fish). But the few truly vegetarian options – like this terrific just-toasted fermented corn brioche topped with braised ‘burnt’ leeks, a wobbly, slow-poached duck egg and a drizzle of lovage oil – are so good, all the card-carrying carnivores at the table will be fighting over them.
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BBQ-spiced crispy pigs’ ears at Duck & Waffle
£5, snack bag
These are more a snack than a dish, but oh, what a snack they are. Arriving in a little brown paper bag (and, as Fraulein Maria taught us – ALL of our favourite things come in brown paper packages), complete with a little red wax seal, what you get is a tumble of long, deep-fried piggy strips, with a warmly spiced barbecue flavour and plenty of crunch. Think pork scratchings, only much, much better. The fact that you can munch on them at any time of day or night, all the while gazing out at the breathtaking skyline views, is a big bonus.
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Toasted cheese sandwich at Kappacasein, Borough Market
In the world of cheese, the folks at Kappacasein are over-achievers. They’re the kind who, if they posted all their achievements on Facebook, would make you feel a little bit sick. Not content with making his own cheese, owner Bill Oglethorpe went on to develop a new creation: Ogleshield, a sweet, nutty, alpine little number with brilliant powers of melting, that’s incorporated in cheese toasties across town. But for the Godfather of them all, you’ll need to join the queue at his Borough Market stall, where the celebrated Kappacasein cheese toastie is made with eight parts Montgomery cheddar, one part Ogleshield and one part Comté, on a base of Poilâne sourdough, with sliced leeks, minced onions and crushed garlic for extra oomph. Just prepare to lie down afterwards.
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Beetroot borani with feta, dill and walnuts at Morito
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.
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Steak tartare at Chiltern Firehouse
£16, large starter
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.
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The ‘Seven Samurai’ lobster roll at Smack Deli
£7.50 take-away, £9 eat in
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.
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Quail brunch with 'cereal', 'egg', 'tea' & 'toast' at Pollen Street Social
Jason Atherton is known for his witty reconstructions of familiar dishes – like his famed BLT, which transformed the everyday sandwich into an elegant martini glass of jelly, mousse and purées. The ‘quail brunch’, meanwhile, is an homage to that meaty and satisfying meal you look for between breakfast and lunch. There’s a bowl of ‘cereal’ (wheat and barley, cooked into a savoury risotto with wild mushrooms), a slice of ‘toast’ (brioche, topped with a rich quail terrine), and even a cup of ‘tea’ (quail stock and lapsang souchong, poured from a teapot at the table). And that’s before they even open the large wooden box that’s sitting next to you, which – presto – reveals two pieces of pine-smoked quail (confit leg, and breast), which are gently placed on top of your risotto. It’s culinary theatre of the best kind, and guess what – it’s delicious, too.