Eat Your Way Around the World Whilst Never Leaving London.
By Emma Wallis
Out of all the restaurants in a city, 10Best narrows the options to those places that might just tickle your taste buds and afford you a new experience of London dining. We offer carefully vetted selections to let you explore London dining on your own. Here, we distill the best businesses down to a special selection of ten. These places promise a stellar experience and a taste of the city that you just can't miss.
9 The Blue Legume
In the chilled out vibe of Stoke Newington, this cafe / restaurant fits in perfectly. Two more branches have now opened up in other 'yummy mummy' territory of Islington and Crouch End. You can start your day here with bountiful smoothies, flaky croissants or eggs Benedict. Then go off for a yoga lesson or a browse of the shops, before heading back for lunch of quiche, frittata or stuffed aubergines and peppers and salads. Dinner is also good, they have a huge range of hot food, some of it with that comforting seventies vibe of whole vegetables and pulses, generous portions and bright sunny food. It brings a taste of the Mediterranean and East of that into London and local residents are all the better for it. (020 7923 1303)
8 Le Garrick
Le Garrick is a little bit of France in the heart of the theatre district and Covent Garden. It's tiny tables and cosy ambiance means it's a perfect place to warm you up in winter, or chill out outside in summer. Perhaps because of the French influence of the place, it's very romantic, but also great for catching up with friends. The menus are classic French, with delicious Soupe a'lOignon (French onion soup) steak and pommes frites all cooked to perfection. The excellent wine list means you can pop in for a simple aperitif and a salad or nibbles if you want, and then roll on through the evening with a good bottle of red and a hearty cassoulet. After 25 years, it's just been taken over, by a couple who met in the restaurant. He's French and kept coming back to Le Garrick when he was over in London, and she's been working in the restaurant for the last 10 years and is now the restaurant manager. According to their newly vamped website, the chef, Rocco has just been sent to the owner's mother in South West France to enhance his French repertoire even more, so long may the romance and the delicious cooking continue. (02072407649)
This is cheap cheerful cuisine at its best. The fresh rolls are fat, juicy and packed full of flavour, fish is good here, as is the duck and five spiced chicken. Plates arrive from the kitchen steaming hot, and fast and it's sometimes hard to hear your fellow diners above the din of the place, but that just all adds to the atmosphere and is well worth the trip to Hackney for an authentic taste of Vietnam in London. (020 7249 0877)
6 Petersham Nurseries
Petersham Nurseries is a short walk from Richmond Station. Down the high street, along the river Thames, and through a wild flower meadow, one could imagine that you're in the country, as soon as you step off the train, were it not for the planes coming in to land in nearby Heathrow airport over head. But even the planes fail to spoil the idyll which is the nurseries and cafe. A perfect mix of English eccentricity and Mediterranean taste, the nurseries offer tea and cake, and evening meals. In the summer you can attend the nurseries for supper clubs where you can eat by candlelight under the stars. The food is delicious, and some of it grown on site. Starters and deserts incorporate flower flavours in their recipes, from rose petals to orange blossom, and the mains change regularly, but sea bass, Barbary Duck and zucchini flowers battered with chickpea flower are tempting attractions. (020 8940 5230)
Rasa is a sanskrit word with several meanings, including beauty, delight, happiness and essence. The restaurants (because they're now a chain) all serve delicious South Indian food, delicately spiced with coconut, lemon, mango, cinnamon and tamarind. The Lemon and coconut rice, and freshly made idlis, appams, and Uzhunappam are a perfect accompaniment to the curries and the starters are perfect southern street food. The first Rasa was in Stoke Newington and was purely vegetarian, there are now fish and meat Rasa's too, and they're all over town, but expansion doesn't seem to have dampened the quality or the friendliness of the service. (20-7249-0344)
Tajima-tei is always busy and always delicious. The Bento boxes are great for trying a selection of what they have to offer. The spider crab rolls are to die for and everything is prepared fresh with love and care. Tucked away behind Chancery Lane Tube in leather lane, in the middle of a market and near Hatton Garden, London's jewellery district, this restaurant might seem a little un-prepossessing from the outside, but it's really worth the walk and the time to find it. The chef says he trained at famous Japanese restaurant Ryotei in Kyoto and has over 30 years experience as a professional chef. (020 7404 9665)
3 Bocca Di Lupo
Bocca di Lupo literally means 'mouth of the wolf' and on the restaurant's website their tag line is 'for when you're hungry like a wolf', but it's also an Italian expression for good luck, to which you reply 'crepi il lupo' May the wolf die! The food is good, and authentically Italian, the only quibble I had are the prices which although matching London standards and not too bad, are a lot more than you'd pay in Italy, particularly for things like 'fritti romani' that you can eat much more cheaply in any pizzeria in Rome. That said, it's worth it for a special night out in London. The rose and cucumber martini's are to die for, the fritti crisp and the meat well cooked. The wine list, broken down in to regional categories is well chosen and for the very big spenders among you, they've also got a bottle of barolo for over 2000 pounds! As Italians in London go, this is a good version of the real thing. (0207 734 2223)
2 St John - Restaurant and Bar
This wins the prize for most interesting chef proprietor and food! If you don't like offal, you might be put off, but in these times of waste not want not, and for people that do enjoy crunching their way through every imaginable part of an animal, a visit to London would be crowned by a meal here. Set in what was once a smokehouse / townhouse, in beautiful and historic Clerkenwell, the menu will definitely keep you talking long after you've hung up your napkin. St John's has often been credited with rethinking British food, it's part comfort food, part new / strange taste experience, rolled into a very successful package. Peruse for example, sausages and snails, chitterlings and dandelion greens, mutton and turnips, roast suckling pig, or pigeon and trotter pie. Before you judge, sample the kitchen's skill, and your tastes may just change for good. Other diners' already have. TUBE: Farringdon (20-7251-4090, 20-7251-0848)
Moro is the perfect example of London meets Southern Mediterranean cuisine. British chefs and owners Sam and Sam Clark sourced the flavours and recipes for their delicious restaurant by travelling through Southern Spain and North Africa in a camper van for 3 months. The result in 1997 was Moro and several cookbooks, including one about using London grown allotment vegetables and knowledge to recreate their dishes at home. Their fish is cooked equisitely, and always set off by perfect spices and sauce. Delicious pork belly and lamb melt straight off the bone and in your mouth and the wine list and knowledge of the staff is spot on. It's definitely worth the price but you need to book early to assure a table. Sidewalk seating is available during warmer months. TUBE: Farringdon or Angel (20-7833-8336)
About Emma Wallis
London gives Emma a warm fuzzy feeling every time she gets back to her home city. As a writer and broadcaster she travels extensively round Europe and the world, but is always happy to return to London town. All that travel means she knows what she looks for as a visitor to a new city: insider knowledge, tips, and the feeling that she's found something that few travellers get to experience. Emma enjoys keeping her fingers on the capital's pulse, in order to make sure that everyone enjoys her favourite city, as much as she does.
Read more about Emma Wallis here.