A trip to the capital always provides food for thought. Often, it also provides food for photos, food for talk, and certainly enough food to test the limits of our physical frames. Fortunately, I’m a gastronomic athlete and have trained accordingly.
London attracts culinary pioneers from across the globe and visiting restaurants around the city provides both an exciting insight into some of the innovative eats that we can look forward to and frustration about some of the sub-par grub we currently put up with. Of course, it can also make us weep into our wallet and yearn for a coffee that comes without a synopsis.
If you get a chance, these are three good’uns:
49 Frith Street, London, W1D 4SG
From the Sethi family behind Trishna and Gymkhana, Hoppers marks a change in direction away from Michelin-starred formality without compromising the quality of the food. With cool casual dining comes the inevitable queues and, as with many no bookings restaurant, there is a faint hum of ‘aren’t you lucky?’ for the blessed few who make it in. In fact, you are.
The restaurant’s signature item and namesake is a fermented rice and coconut pancake fashioned into a beautifully off-white basket. As is natural law, it’s best with an egg scorched into the spongy base. Along with the perfectly rolled dosa cones, they make an enchantingly unfamiliar vehicle for the deeply spiced curries.
Obligatory orders: The chicken heart chukka tops a strong class of starters while the egg hopper and black pork kari were made to be devoured together.
70 Wilton road, Victoria, London, SW1V 1DEv
Dumplings don’t come any better than this. Not in my experience to date anyway. The preliminary morsels at A Wong are dim and then sum. The Michelin-starred eatery has an unassuming exterior, which is easily missed among the melange around the Victoria underground. But once inside, you’ll find a dining experience to remember.
Little touches such as the exquisitely carved prawn crackers which sweep across the table in a seaweed-scattered wave, the gentle citrus foam that perches on top of the clear shrimp dumpling, the paint brushes provided to administer the hoisin sauce to your crispy duck pancakes, all culminate in a meal that feels as though it has floated effortlessly out of the ordinary. Despite the revolving door of intriguing openings in London, I feel that a return visit to sample the rest that this restaurant has to offer would be as enlightening as any venture to pastures new.
Obligatory orders: Shanghai soupy dumplings (playfully clever) and the chicken wings stuffed with prawns and black bean sauce (mind-blowingly genius).
43 Drury Lane, Covent Garden, London, WC2B 5AJ
Hands up. My sister works for the Harts Group, which owns Barrafina. However, if anything, that would make me more eager to find fault – healthy sibling rivalry and all that. Unfortunately for me, I’ve got to let her have this round (a crushing defeat). Barrafina has singlehandedly convinced me that Spanish food is worthwhile. Despite a long held aversion to tapas, I absolutely fell in amor with this place.
If at all possible, grab a sherry, pull up a pew at the bar and watch the chefs work. It will render company needless. Here, it’s all about maximising the potential of fantastic ingredients. The precision is impeccable and the flavours sensational. Even while I was tucking in to my delicate red mullet on potent tomato and basil rice, I was envious of each and every dish that was being prepared for another table. You may think that you’ve had great tapas before but you haven’t. You’re wrong. In the interest of balance, the incredibly delicious sorbets are a bit pricey. Take that, sis.
Obligatory orders: The crab bun will break your brain. You can take your pick of the rest; it doesn’t matter anymore.