What’s happened to fish and chips? They come wrapped in tempura batter with coriander and tomato coulis on the side, that’s what. The sparky, cockney-accented celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has laid to rest the notion that British food is pure stodge. Sure, you’ll still find sausages and mash in the country pubs, but London’s dining scene is hotter than a tamale. London’s multicultural mix has bestowed a cornucopia of flavours. Indians and Pakistanis have brought fragrant and spicy curries, Australians and New Zealanders Asian-tinged dishes from the Pacific Rim and every High Street has at least one sushi bar. That’s not to say British cuisine, in the strictest, pre-war sense of the term, is without its followers. Here are just a few of London’s most talked-about restaurants you’ll need to book ahead for.
St. John (www.stjohnrestaurant.com) has revived the tradition of offal-based dishes and classic British dishes. Vegetarians beware, you will probably leave hungry from a restaurant whose menu includes Crispy Pig’s Cheek with Dandelion and Pheasant and Trotter Pie. To be fair, St.Johns Wine Bar in Spitalfields is heavier in the veg dishes -– and lighter on the wallet too.
Gordon Ramsay (www.gordonramsay.com), that’s he of the hit TV series Hell’s Kitchen, has his namesake restaurant at Claridge’s Hotel. In a formal, art deco inspired ambiance, top-flight, signature Ramsay dishes are served. At £30, the lunchtime set menu is particularly good value.
Aqua serves ‘small plates’, a big rage in London at the moment. This mammoth establishment located in the old Dickens and Jones department store offers both Spanish tapas and Asian snacks and morsels in two dining rooms, Aqua Kyoto and Aqua Nueva.
Bocca di Luppo (www.boccadilupo.com) serves exquisite Italian regional cuisine in a modern trattoria in Soho, making it ideal for a pre-theatre supper. Here, there is strong focus on Sicilian food, with light, Mediterranean-inspired dishes such as tuna tartare with capers, orange zest and pine nuts, or you could choose a classic Venetian fritto di mare.
Tamarind Restaurant (www.tamarindrestaurant.com) is one of the best exponents of New Indian Cuisine and has a string of awards to prove it (including a Michelin star). It specializes in Tandoori cuisine, or meat, fish and bread cooked in a tandoor (a clay charcoal-fired oven) and the fragrant cuisine of Northern India. But we warned; after one visit you may never be able to eat a humble Indian takeaway again. (Photo Credit: Crystal Art).