It’s a strange feeling going back to a city which used to be your home. So much had changed in London in the three years since I lived there but at the same time it felt as if everything was the same and I had never left. I tried to resist the temptation to eat at the newest restaurants which had just opened their doors and instead went back to some old favourites. Alright I may have thrown in one hot new opening…
I used to live right around the corner from Yotam Ottolenghi’s original Notting Hill cafe and I have suffered serious withdrawals now I am half a world away. On my first night in London I popped in with my friend Claire to pick up some salads for dinner and get a quick coffee. There was the usual fabulous display of visually stunning and equally tasty combinations like roasted eggplant with pomegranate and yoghurt dressing. Of course we couldn’t resist a perfectly petite blueberry cake with the coffee as well.
Details: Ottolenghi, 63 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, London W11 2AD, United Kingdom (Ph +44 20 7727 1121)
2. St John Bread and Wine
What could be more British than St John’s restaurant? For convenience I visited St John’s offspring, St John Bread and Wine for lunch with my friend Alice who works nearby. It’s the same austere dining room with simple white washed walls and no frills wooden furniture as the original restaurant. The difference is in the menu which is more small plates that you can share. Like the smoky char grilled quail (£8.90) paired with a creamy but slightly bitter celeraic salad. The best dishes were the simplest – a plate of tender and springy English asparagus topped with shavings of Coolea cheese (£8.50). But the ultimate pleasure was thick cut bread toasted and smeared with rich foie gras (£8.10). We left with a bag of freshly baked madeleines to eat on the go. It was the perfect end to a meal of top notch ingredients treated simply and respectfully.
Details: St John, 94-96 Commercial St, London, United Kingdom (Ph +44 20 7251 0848)
Kids: St John has high chairs and staff were lovely about me having a baby in tow.
Damage: Reasonable. Thanks Alice for shouting me lunch.
3. Granger & Co
Bill Granger has opened up a cafe in Notting Hill which is a great sunny brunch spot. While it might sound a little strange to travel to the other side of the world to eat at a cafe owned by an Australian, Kiwis and Aussies have the London brunch market covered. The place was absolutely packed (and my London friends tell me it always is). Every second table had a baby at it and there was a veritable obstacle course of prams and high chairs in order to get a seat. Luckily my friend Diana had already scored a table and we added to the baby count. For brunch I couldn’t go past the classic Bill’s dish of sweetcorn fritters – crunchy but popping with freshness and wserved with a ruby red roast tomato, wilted spinach and bacon (£13.50). Granger & Co is the sort of cafe which is pretty common place in Australia but feels like a breath of fresh air in London.
I had to go to at least one hot new opening so I felt I was a little up to date with London and my friend Claire kindly secured a booking at Korobuta a new Japanese restaurant in Marylebone which had just got rave reviews from Giles Coren in The Times. Korobuta has an Izakaya feel to it with a menu of small plates which are perfect with booze, there’s even a section of the menu called “junk food Japan”. The sweet potato fries (£4) probably fitted in that category but they were still delicious. We also loved the yellowtail sashimi rolled up elegantly, topped with a sliver of green chilli and resting in a sharp yuzu soy sauce. It was a great platform for some super fresh fish. The one fail was the service which was on the haphazard side (our waitress didn’t know how to open a bottle of wine – clearly raised on screw tops) but was still quite endearing.
Details: Korobuta, 17-20 Kendal Street, Marble Arch, Kendal St, London, United Kingdom (Ph +44 20 3475 4158)
Gourmet Travel Tips
I stayed at The Athenaeum Hotel in London. Full review here.
Details: The Athenaeum Hotel, 116 Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 7BJ (Ph +44 (0)20 7499 3464)
Damage: Pricey. £260 for a one night weekend stay with breakfast.