I’ve been to London quite a few times, which means that I don’t tend to do a lot of the most touristy things. This trip, for example, I literally never walked by Big Ben or the London Eye or Tower Bridge, and I didn’t set foot in the National Gallery or London Tower or Madame Tussaud’s (the latter of which I have in fact never visited, but I digress). So when you’ve been to a city many times, what more is there to discover? Food, of course. And, in London, lots of it.
I had my first meal of the trip at Lima Floral. As luck would have it, this also turned out to be one of my favorites, so much so that I included it on a list of my favorite foods of 2016. Though the service was inattentive, the food was top notch: I loved my Pisco sour, my seared beef appetizer, my suckling pig entree, and my divine alfajores for dessert.
As I was scouring my most trusted sources for London food recs, I saw one name pop up time and again: Dishoom. Indian food is generally not my jam, but I decided to give it a try. Verdict? Some hits, some misses. I loved the Bollybellini cocktail and the calamari. My simple dessert, the Malai Kulfi (basically like caramel-flavored yogurt ice cream on a stick) was pretty good. But I wasn’t wild about my main dish, the lamb kebab – it was fine, but just not anything special.
When I learned that Frenchie had opened a branch in London, I made a reservation immediately. I had dined at Frenchie once (and Frenchie-to-Go many times) while in Paris, and I knew it would be very worth my while to see what the London branch had to offer. And my meal was, on the whole, excellent. Standouts for me were the maple bacon scones (NOM) and my starter, an arctic char with apples. I was super skeptical of the idea of fish with apples (yet ordered it anyway, because, why not), but this was on point.
While I had ogled the Harrods food halls before, I had never eaten there – until this trip. I chose the Caviar House Oyster Bar which, while pricey, was pretty good. I tried two types of oysters, a more traditional one from the Jersey coast and one with a Vietnamese-style topping. Oyster slurping aside, I felt pretty elegant hanging out at Harrods.
I had visited Nopi, one piece of famed chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s empire, about four years ago, but I figured I was due for a return trip to this delicious spot. I loved my starter, a burrata with clementines, coriander seeds, and lavender honey – I thought the coriander and clementines complemented the cheese really nicely. I also loved the Brussels sprouts with harissa, ginger, and pomegranate seeds. I almost always order Brussels sprouts when they’re available, and they almost never let me down. Nopi was no exception.
I had heard good things about Pizza East and, when I realized it was just around the corner from my hotel, I obviously moved it to the top of my list. While it wasn’t the best pizza I’ve ever eaten, it was quite good. I opted for the pizza with figs, capocollo, caramelized onions, and ricotta. Yummmmm.
Duck & Waffle is one of those places that I’ve attempted to go to multiple times on previous trips, yet, somehow, it just never seems to work out. This time around, I finally made it! In truth, I think the food is a tad overpriced (likely because the restaurant sits atop a skyscraper and comes with some pretty incredible views), but it is quite good. What could I order here except the eponymous duck & waffle? Topped with an egg, this dish is seriously tasty.
One of my many contenders for “best meal of the trip” has to be dinner at St. John Bread & Wine. Chef Fergus Henderson is a pioneer of nose-to-tail cooking, and his restaurant serves up dishes that are simple, traditional, and perfect. I had heard raves about the bone marrow (from Anthony Bourdain, among many others) and knew I had to order it. And, yep, it was perfection. Everything else I tried was wonderful, too: roasted shallots with goat curd atop toast, braised squid, and honeycomb ice cream for dessert.
At one of my London favorites, Borough Market, I finally made my way to a stand I had long neglected: Bread Ahead, purveyors of bread (duh) but also of the yummiest donuts. I tried the creme caramel and honeycomb donut and OH EM GEE. It was so good! And it comes topped with a gigantic hunk of honeycomb to boot. It’s way beyond your average donut and way worth the hype.
I went to Cambio del Tercio for a potentially strange reason: for years, I’ve read about how Rafael Nadal and his team go there every year when he’s in town for Wimbledon, and I’ve always wanted to try it out. Turns out, Rafa is quite the discerning foodie. I was a big fan of this restaurant! The only problem was, with such an extensive tapas menu, it was tough to choose. I opted for the tuna tartar with grapefruit and seaweed, the prawns a la plancha, the Iberico ham croquettes, and the poached spicy skate wing with suckling pig meatballs. Every dish was delicious, and the service at the restaurant was just fantastic – probably the best service I’ve had at any restaurant, ever. Everyone was so friendly, welcoming, and attentive.
Of course, not every restaurant is a total home run. At No. 11 Pimlico Road, my entree (the hamburger) was a dud, but the cocktails and dessert were top notch. To drink, I had a hot gin & tonic, which I found fun since I’ve never had a warm one before, and which was the exact right selection on a chilly, drizzly London day. To finish, I had the warm sticky toffee pudding. The most legendary sticky toffee pudding of my life was consumed in Dublin, but this one might just give it a run for its money. It was positively DRENCHED in toffee sauce, and who can argue with that?
My favorite single dish of the trip was at Lyle’s in Shoreditch. While my whole meal was a winner, including the duck with celeriac and blackberries for my main and the coffee meringue caramel ice cream for dessert, the starter was in a class of its own. I had the oysters with pink pearl apple granita – which was just as vibrant as it looks in the photo! I thought the sweetness of the apple granita played really well with the saltiness of the oysters, and it enhanced their freshness too. I am a HUGE fan of this dish, and I hope they have it the next time I return.
My last meal of the trip was at Clove Club and, boy, what a way to go out. Their tasting menu is excellent, with so much care and attention put into each course, fun presentation and unique ideas, and great service. Some of my favorite dishes were the scallop and truffle, the “liquid course” (a one hundred year-aged Madeira with pheasant consommé), and the lemon ice cream.
One of the things that strikes me, after gathering up all my London meals like this, is just how diverse my choices were: Indian, French, Spanish, Peruvian, Middle Eastern, and – of course! – classic British, to name a few of the cuisines I tried. London’s culinary scene is so vibrant, and I cannot wait to taste more.