FooDiva’s top restaurant and foodie picks for London and beyond – second course
Earlier this month, I drummed on about restaurant and food trends in London that Dubai should eat up. Well looks like someone’s taken note, as Peruvian restaurant, Coya will open in Dubai later this year (from the same guys who brought us Zuma and La Petite Maison). Anyhow more on that another time. For now, building on those capital recommendations, here’s a few more to take you from breakfast and lunch to afternoon tea and dinner, plus gourmet shopping, and even a foodie escape. Bon appetit!
The Wolseley – If your hotel stay doesn’t include brekkie, start your day here at this London institution and celeb haunt with Eggs Benedict, or as I did with an espresso cup of pure and hot dark chocolate fondant, not the milky version commonly found in Dubai. Reservations essential.
Daylesford – Another breakfast alternative which we only popped into for a fleeting tour, but whose bright and airy café left me wishing I’d skipped the hotel breakfast. Locations in Pimlico and Notting Hill.
Pitt Cue Co – Pork glorious pork and not much else at this no-reservations corner joint in Soho with kitsch granny curtains. The pulled pork with bone marrow mash is pure soul food.
Polpo – A Venetian bacaro round the corner from Pitt Cue Co. Italian version of a Spanish tapas bar but a little more refined. The pic above (second row, left) shows pizzette bianca, cauliflower and fontina gratin plus chickpea, spinach & ricotta meatballs – note I was dining with a pescetarian. Additional locations in Covent Garden and Smithfield.
Franco Manca – Pizzerias show no sign of abating in London, but this one’s a little bit different serving easily digestible sour dough pizza baked in a wood-fired oven. Non-central London locations – Chiswick (the one I tried), Brixton, Westfield and Northcote.
The Gun – One of the ETM Group’s ten gastropubs, The Gun sits in the Docklands on the river overlooking the rather ugly Dome. A little off-the-beaten track, but I would return for the black pudding scotch egg, and a riverside pew, weather permitting. Otherwise nab a table by the log fire.
Berkeley Hotel – Famous in the foodie world for its Pret-a-portea (that’s no typo) Fashionista afternoon tea, so popular it sells 100 covers a day. The cakes and pastries resemble the latest designer fashion collections, with the piping on some of the cookies taking two days – a miracle they remain fresh.
Athenaeum Hotel – At the time I tried and tasted the Evergreen afternoon tea last month, the Athenaeum was the holder of The Tea Guild’s Top London Afternoon Tea Award 2012, the Oscars for the tea industry – but it has since been eclipsed by The Goring Hotel. Inspired by the enchanting backdrop of a Living Wall, this high tea is a little more traditional infusing botanical, floral flavours – such as the orange blossom scones with lemon curd – in addition to the standard strawberry jam and Devonshire clotted cream. But the highlight for me, were the lightly toasted crumpets, something amiss from afternoon tea here in Dubai.
Benares – Atul Kochhar’s one Michelin star modern Indian restaurant in Mayfair. Go for pre-dinner cocktails and if you can, book the chef’s table with full view of the kitchen – simply mesmerising watching the chefs at work, Atul included. There’s a tasting menu with wine pairing, but you can still order a la carte. Worth noting, the lamb and chicken served here is halal. He’s also just launched his second cookbook dedicated to 200 curries from around the world. From Great Britain (balti and chicken tikka masala are wholeheartedly Brit inventions!) to Singapore, from Thailand to North America, and from Cambodia to the Caribbean, the recipes are cleverly indexed by ingredient and then by country. And to top it all off, he’s made the instructions simple for home cooks. Currently only available in Dubai at his restaurant Rang Mahal at the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai – or else order from Amazon.
Min Jiang – For cocktails overlooking Kensington Park followed by a Schezuan dinner. The wood-fired Beijing duck, as close as you will get to the real deal, is exceptional, as is the leftover caramelised duck neck dipped in sugar – in my book they are the new pork scratchings.
Roka – Japanese robatayaki restaurant and sister to Zuma coming soon to Dubai. Best pews are infront of the robata grill with full view of the chefs at work. Charlotte Street (across the road from hot dog and champagne joint Bubbledogs whose queue was way too long – hopefully I’ll get in next time) and Canary Wharf.
Rococo – Award-winning chocolatier Chantal Coady’s shops in Belgravia, Marylebone, Chelsea and Chester where she also runs chocolate workshops and tastings. The dark chocolate ganache with cocoa beans from her farm in Grenada combined with Valhrona is utterly divine – my fave flavours are blackcurrant and violet – mandarin – rose, lychee and raspberry – orange, mango and passion fruit – and jasmine green tea. The Belgravia shop sits opposite Yotam Ottolenghi’s deli-style cafe – well worth a look-in or eat-in.
Paxton & Whitfield – A cheesemonger which opened on Jermyn Street in 1797 with a huge focus on British cheeses. Buy their divinely decadent potted cheese – cheddar cheese rarebit or Stilton with Tawny port – and slather over warm crusty bread. La Fromagerie in Marylebone and Highbury are two other cheese havens.
Twinings Tea Shop – Did you know Twinings started off selling coffee in 1706? The founder Thomas Twining quickly moved to tea when he saw a gap in a market flooded with coffee shops. Now owned by Associated British Foods, its long and narrow store on the Strand stocks over 200 flavours of tea (as does its online shop). The affable, tenth generation Stephen Twining is the Director of Corporate Relations and brand ambassador travelling the world promoting tea. He’ll be in Dubai later this year, so more on him when he’s here.
Fortnum & Mason – The Grocer to the Queen (I reckon she orders Marmite) at Piccadilly. Go here to stock up on gourmet goodies, sourced from the British Isles only. The cookies in musical tins make great gifts.
Harrods – A tourist attraction in its own right, worth a visit for the food hall alone which has, would you believe, seven floors beneath it sustaining the operation.
Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons – an hour’s drive or so traffic-dependent from London, sits the picturesque village of Great Milton in Oxfordshire, and Le Manoir, as it’s affectionately known. This is Raymond Blanc’s intimate 32-room hotel and restaurant awarded two Michelin stars a year after opening in 1985, which it has remarkably held ever since. The nine-course French-inspired discovery menu served in the conservatory-style room changes with the seasons (click here to see our feast), and come spring and summer most of the ingredients are sourced from Raymond’s organic garden which grows over 90 vegetables and 70 herbs. Even though there’s something so endearing about roaring log fires, if you’re after freshness and purity in ingredients, it’s best to visit Le Manoir in the warmer months…well if the UK ever hots up that is. The on-site cooking school runs full day intensive courses including lunch, which we cooked ourselves of course. Oh and each guest suite has its own theme personally designed by Raymond Blanc – mine was Opium…Orient meets Arabia. Go for two nights if you can.
I tried and tasted all these restaurants and gourmet retailers over two recent trips. Here are more recommendations from an earlier London visit. For further information on all things British, check out the Visit Britain website here. On my trip last month, I stayed at the Royal Garden Hotel in London with spectacular views of Kensington Gardens.
The Raymond Blanc Cookery School Experience at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons starts from AED 9,016 based on two people sharing a superior room with breakfast, a nine-course dinner, a day’s cooking class, recipes and personalised apron.
Or if you have any other foodie suggestions, feel free to drop in with a comment.
Disclosure; FooDiva was a guest of Visit Britain on a ‘Food is Great’ press trip. I may have been plied with copious amounts of food and drink, but rest assured the views expressed here are, as always, mine alone.