I love a rebel. Temper gallops up to the ‘cooking on charcoal’ bandwagon, then sets it on fire. Imagine smoked meat and fish served over tacos and flatbreads, with pow-pow Asian and Latin spices. It’s one of those rare, holy-shit-I’ve-not-eaten-like-this-before places. This Soho joint, from Scottish chef Neil Rankin (Smokehouse, Bad Egg) sources top-notch whole carcasses, which are grilled or smoked in slabs – a cow’s entire ribcage, a legless goat (no jokes, please) – ahead of slicing or dicing. The most straightforward dishes are those served over a ‘flatbread’ (more of a basic roti, made with rendered animal fat and puffed up on the grill) in small, affordable portions. Try the impossibly juicy pork, or the full-flavoured smoked goat. To this bread-and-meat-combo, you add up to eight exotic sprinkles and salsas (all homemade). I loved the simplicity of their ‘green sauce’: just lime juice, coriander and garlic. But it’s with the tacos where things really get interesting. They grind the corn on site (of course they do), and because these rough, rustic little discs are hand-pressed, they’re thicker than usual, so you can really taste – and feel – the corn. But the fillings, oh, the fillings. I adored the soy-cured beef. This is a twist on a yukhoe (a Korean ‘steak tartare’), which they make by stripping off the outside of a half-smoked joint of beef to expose the uncooked bit underneath (sort of like using the inside of a medium rare steak), then hand-chopping and mixing w
Venue says New breeds of cow are coming in every week – come and find out which is your favourite…
If ever proof were needed that all caffs are not equal, this Grade-II listed greasy spoon on Bethnal Green Road is it. The food may not be much more than reasonably above-average caff grub, but the atmosphere and decor are second to none. Opened in 1900, and still in the hands of the same family, Pellicci’s is an east London landmark. It has an almost opulent feel, harking back to a time when caff culture was king. Chrome-lined Vitrolite panels line the outside, and the wood-panelled interior is filled with Formica tables and art deco touches. Food is still prepared with pride every day by Mama Maria – queen of the kitchen since 1961. The kids, Anna and Nevio Junior, serve it up with a wink, a smile and as much banter as you can handle. Fry-ups are first rate, and the fish and chips, daily grills and Italian specials aren’t half bad either. Desserts, from bread pudding to Portuguese pasteis de nata, are worth a punt too. But it’s the vibrant welcome, served with a healthy helping of mickey-taking, that makes the place so special. Check out more of London's best breakfasts and brunches
It’s not easy to open a spate of brand-new restaurants and maintain high standards, but chef-patron Jason Atherton has clearly moved on from being the sorcerer’s apprentice (under Gordon Ramsay) to being the sorcerer himself. His Little Social deluxe bistro only opened in March 2013, right opposite his fine dining Pollen Street Social in Mayfair. He followed this up, weeks later, with an even more ambitious restaurant in Soho, by delegating the chef role to his buddy and long-time head chef at Pollen Street Social, Paul Hood. The ground-floor dining room has a mirrored ceiling to create the sensation of space in a low room; upstairs is a smart cocktail bar, called the Blind Pig, which also has a separate entrance. Most of the action is in the dining room, though, with a kitchen brigade who are clearly at the top of their game. Smoked duck ‘ham’, egg and chips is a dish that’s typical of Pollen Street Social’s playfulness. ‘Ham’ is cured and smoked from duck breast on the premises, served with a breadcrumbed duck egg that’s molten in the middle, but with an aroma of truffle oil. Umami – savouriness, the taste that enhances other flavours – was also plentiful in a roast cod main course that uses powdered Japanese kombu seaweed in a glaze, served with a creamy sauce of roasted cockles and just-in-season St George’s mushrooms. Presentation is a strong point of Hood’s dishes, just as they are for his mentor Atherton. A starter of ‘CLT’ – crab meat, a fan of blonde castelfranco
Still London’s most glamorous Moroccan restaurant, Momo attracts a fair smattering of beautiful people alongside couples on special dates, hen parties and business types. The soundtrack of classic Maghrebi beats and attractive young francophone waiting staff create a seductive buzz. Sexy Marrakech-style interiors, sparkling with light from intricately latticed mashrabiya-style windows and ornate metalwork lanterns, add to the allure. Tables are small and tightly packed, but somehow this rarely seems an imposition. Enjoy deliciously light, carefully crafted starters such as juicy prawns wrapped in crispy shredded kataifi pastry with a sour-sweet mango and tomato salsa, or scrumptious pan-fried scallops with a piquant salsa verde, before moving on to Moroccan classics such as lamb tagine with pears and prunes. But the main attraction has to be the near-perfect couscous: silky fine grains served with vegetables in a light cumin-scented broth, with tender, juicy chicken, plump golden raisins, chickpeas and harissa – all served separately so you can mix them as you please. Such delights coupled with a pricey wine list result in a hefty bill, so Momo needs to iron out the galling little niggles such as the shabby dark toilets and the occasionally inattentive service.
Venue says Check out our exclusive lunch and dinner offer on the Time Out Offers page!
Hipsters: prepare to be outraged. There’s a new kid in town, with dishes as retro as a Rubik’s Cube, but without the side of irony. That’s because it’s the latest gaff from Corbin & King, the chaps behind The Wolseley, The Delaunay, and Brasserie Zédel. Like those, it’s named in connection with classic cars (backstory: The Wolseley site was originally built as the showroom of the Wolseley Car Company). Bellanger is a nod to the Société des Automobiles Bellanger Frères, a French car manufacturer from 1912 to ’25 (fun fact: Monsieur Bellanger sold Delaunay cars). And once again, it pays homage to the golden era of all-day ‘grand cafés’. Formerly home to a popular-but-uninspiring branch of Brown’s, the site’s potential has at last been realised. The layout’s much the same (airy front section, intimate rear space, bustling middle to connect the two), but the refit by David Collins’s protégé Shayne Brady is all new. If you can call interiors straight from the Alsatian brasseries of turn-of-the-century Paris ‘new’, that is. (Bit of history: these were set up by refugees fleeing the Alsace after the region was annexed by Germany). It’s gorgeously art nouveau, all polished wood panelling, smoky mirrors and flattering golden lighting. An abundance of booths encourages group dining and café chatter. You can’t buy this kind of buzz. The food – a Venn diagram of French, German and Alsatian – is simple, yet flawless. If Angela Merkel and François Hollande embarked upon an illicit affair
Venue says Join us over the summer for our limited-edition rosé menu, showcasing some of the finest French varieties. Best enjoyed on our terrace.
London’s docklands were bustling with ‘On the Waterfront’ activity right up until the 1960s. Containerisation – the adoption of uniformly sized cargo that could be lifted easily from vessel to vessel – made London’s docks obsolete, as the bigger ships moved to the deeper waters of Essex and beyond. As the working docks moved out of the city, the new offices and corporations moved in. In 1977 a major new hotel project was built on the South Bank, but failed to come to fruition. The near-complete concrete edifice, perched right on the river’s bank, was acquired by a shipping company and became Sea Containers House. After the bankruptcy of Sea Containers Ltd in 2006, the edifice was in the doldrums for a while before eventual conversion back into a hotel. Sea Containers is now the name of the hotel’s flagship restaurant. The shipping theme is carried through the Mondrian London hotel’s lobby, bars and dining area. Model freighters from its former use are still on display in cases. There’s even the illusion of a vast copper hull along one wall, a trompe l’oeil created by designer Tom Dixon’s team which has given the hotel its makeover. A model yellow submarine is suspended over the restaurant’s bar. The hotel dining room could easily be soulless were it not for an open kitchen on one side, and views of riverside joggers and strollers on the other. The menu name-checks slightly too many trends and diverse dish styles, yet manages to render them well. A South American-style cevic
Who needs stuffy old museums? The dining room of the Gallery at Sketch is one of the most playful – and most pink – places to be enveloped by art. The walls have around 200 original prints and drawings by Turner Prize-winning David Shrigley, their cartoonish quality adding to the sense of fun. He’s even designed some of the crockery: ‘ghosts’, say the teapots, ‘forget about it’, quips the inside of your cup. You can come here for dinner, but afternoon tea is what The Gallery has become famous for, so much so that you can get it before noon (it starts, specifically, at 11.30am). Service is outstanding. Once your charming host has talked you through how it works, you’re looked after by a dedicated ‘tea master’: glam gals in slinky cocktail dresses and baseballs shoes. Who happen to really know their brews. After you’ve decided on drinks and a menu (standard, children’s or – if notice is given – a special dietary needs option), the fun begins. First, there’s the caviar man, in a panama hat and pale blazer. You get a spoonful of caviar (Russian Sturgeon, cultivated in France) alongside Egg and Soldiers: two slim, cheesy toast strips and a fake egg in a very real egg cup (the white is an exceptionally good Comté cheese mornay, the yolk is from a quail and cooked to an ultra-soft 63 degrees). There’s a similar level of creativity throughout the sandwiches and cakes. Star of the sarnies was a black bread Croque d’York, or the salmon and soured cream on rye, while a perfect pear t
Salt Yard, Dehesa, Opera Tavern: three of London’s most enjoyable new-style tapas bars, and they’re all run by the same young company. Ember Yard is the fourth in this growing chain, and builds on the strengths of its forebears, using Italian as well as Spanish dishes and techniques as their inspiration. What sets Ember Yard apart from its siblings is an even greater emphasis on the grill. If you’ve eaten in a charcoal grill restaurant in the Basque country – or even in a Turkish grill in Dalston – Ember Yard should feel oddly familiar, especially if you’re sitting near the glowing coals. There’s a mixture of bar stools, high counters, dining tables and banquettes on the ground floor; the basement has more of the same but with even more emphasis on the list of house cocktails, and a well-chosen selection of wines by the glass, or even bigger selection by the bottle. The bar snacks are among the best in Soho. Smoked chorizo oozed flavour, and was served hot with a smooth saffron alioli. Chips are cooked in pork fat, and arrived perfectly crisp. Cheese and charcuterie platters are divided into Spanish or Italian. Every tapas flavour combination was a winner. Tender octopus was coated in a peperonata sauce, served with a green squirt of the garlic and coriander mayonnaise called mojo verde alioli. Ibérico pork ribs were grilled to melting softness, the flavours of the quince glaze and smear of celeriac purée melding into the warm fat. If we have any caveats at all about the m
Venue says Our £38 Sunday feast with seasonal menu, bottomless prosecco and live music is the only homework you need to do for Monday. Booking advised.
Turning up at a smart destination restaurant with a large suitcase is always going to be awkward. What’s more awkward is not being able to find the front door. I’m not sure who was more surprised, us or the kitchen porters, when we marched, suitcase in tow, through the kitchen door of Central, currently the hottest restaurant in Lima, Peru. Central is so discreet it doesn’t even bother with a sign. But its dishes are the opposite, with plate after plate dazzling its mixed clientele of tourists and wealthy Lima residents. There’s no such problem finding the new London outpost – its sign is clearly visible. And considering the near-impossibility of transposing chef Virgilio Martinez’s uniquely Peruvian style of cooking more than 6,000 miles, they’ve done a pretty good job. This is Martinez’s second London restaurant, following on from the success of Lima in Rathbone Place, an elaborate affair that has already bagged him a Michelin star. Lima Floral, on Covent Garden’s Floral Street, is not a copy but an extension of this gambit, and showcases more Peruvian classics. This time there’s a little less fuss, a more reasonable price tag, and a bar in the basement serving pisco cocktails. Interesting textures and depth of flavour, rather than the high-tech wizardry of Central or Lima, take centre stage here. Sea bream ceviche comes as a sublime starter, teamed with mounds of guacamole-like avocado uchucuta (salsa), speared with dried onion slices and sprinkled with toasted corn. Sea b
Venue says Weekend brunch six-course set menu £29 and bottomless £44 (two-hour table time). Not to be missed!
The neon sign outside reads ‘sex shop’; the mannequin in the entrance wears a PVC gimp suit. But the real excitement begins when you descend the stairs into the bowels of this nightclub-like restaurant. It’s so dark and loud you’ll need a moment to adjust (the light bulbs have been blacked out). By comparison, the homely Mexican cooking can feel run-of-the-mill, though effort is put into presentation. On our visit, soft flour tacos with a tender beef filling arrived beautifully arranged on a specially designed wooden board; a crunchy cheese and roasted tomato quesadilla was served ‘open’; pinto beans with a spicy chorizo kick came in a dinky glazed bowl. The real highlight was the dish least concerned with its own looks: a rich lamb shank in intensely dark juices. Seafood cazuela (a one-pot dish like a wet paella), containing clams, squid, prawns and mussels, was creamy, tangy and perfectly fine, though not especially memorable. Factor-in the small portions and two-hour table limits (though you can decamp to the bar), and you might wonder what the fuss is all about. But that would be missing the point. You come here to see and be seen, and for a thrilling atmosphere and exceptionally friendly service. A must-try. La Bodega Negra also have a cafe round the other side (entrance on Moor St).
Venue says Get 50% off food Sunday to Wednesday if you dine before 7pm. Book using the code 'Frida'.