Everyone has heard of The Savoy. Many London foodies will know Pollen Street Social or Little Social. You can’t ignore them, but there is a lot more to the British capital’s restaurant scene than that.
Stephanie Brookes, a food writer and presenter, a BBC London Radio contributor, opens up on some of her choices in this question-and-answer article for Blouin ArtInfo.
Her selection ranges from the small but unique Cork & Bottle to some newer local favorites such as Clerkenwell’s Luca. And – if you want to find Redemption – head for Shoreditch… Now read on.
Home is where in London?
I live in New Cross in South East London.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m looking forward to my upcoming compering roles and working on some more broadcast projects.
Which are the best restaurants right now – do list a few and say why you like them?
Pollen Street Social in Mayfair is a modern British restaurant by Chef Jason Atherton. It has a delectable menu of fresh, seasonal produce with an outstanding three-course set menu – one of the best I’ve tasted.
Kiln in Soho is the perfect place if you’re craving delicious, Thai-inspired dishes. I highly recommend the Clay pot noodles with crab. Also, try the Langoustines, Kaffir lime and sweet mint.
Luca in Clerkenwell is a new favorite with some of the most delicious, Italian-inspired dishes, and the pasta is just perfection. Try the Conchiglie with pork sausage, tomato, anchovy and mint. I definitely suggest placing an order for the Parmesan fries and Spiced lamb arancini for the table.
What place is best for a no-expense-spared/ blowout big meal?
The Savoy Grill is a true gem and one of London’s most beloved restaurants. The restaurant itself probably has the most glamorous dining room in the city. Expect wonderful service, a menu of traditional British classics and superb cocktails. It’s the perfect choice for a decadent night out.
And, at the other end of the scale, name a few places which offer good value?
Café East in Surrey Quays serves authentic Vietnamese dishes in a simple, unpretentious environment. The focus here is solely on the food. It’s always busy but it’s definitely worth the wait for a table. You can get a main dish for less than £10 and you certainly won’t leave hungry. I always order the Bun Ga Nuong, a dish of vermicelli noodles, topped with crispy chicken, herb salad, peanuts and fish sauce.
Let’s give away a few secrets. Perhaps a secret place worth discovering?
The London Particular is my local café in New Cross and one of my favorite places for a leisurely lunch. The food is fresh, seasonal, with an ever-changing menu. The house-frittata is my go-to item on the menu. The coffee is also outstanding.
Any choices for best breakfasts?
The Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell has a really relaxed, informal atmosphere – just what you want at breakfast. Their menu is always extensive so you’re going to find many dishes you’ll want to try. I recommend the sugar cured prawn omelet, smoked chili sambal, spring onion and coriander. I also order the pain au chocolat as they’re so good here.
Chapters in Blackheath does the best Eggs Benedict I’ve ever had. They place a generous mound of thinly sliced ham on a crisp muffin, then two perfectly oozy poached eggs, and then a creamy yet slightly tangy hollandaise sauce, makes this my ultimate weekend treat.
Can you pick a best new trend, a quirky new place for instance?
Yes, I’ve noticed the non-alcoholic cocktail scene has really taken off, and for some of the most inventive creations, head to Redemption bar in Shoreditch. It’s a great place to go if you don’t drink or you’re trying to cut down on the alcohol, yet you never once have to compromise on flavor. Try the Espresso Remolacha made with an espresso shot, date syrup, beetroot juice and served over ice.
And a best bar generally?
American Bar at The Savoy is a classic and truly one of the best bars in London. I always love coming here for the Green Park cocktail which is made with gin, basil, celery bitters and lemon juice. The service is always welcoming, and never stuffy.
Choose a best place for a nightcap…
The Cork and Bottle in Leicester Square is a great wine bar which I’ve been going to for years. It has a very rustic, romantic atmosphere and it’s the perfect place for a late night drink.
Best place for a first date?
The Rum Kitchen in Kingly Court just off Carnaby Street is a lively, Caribbean eatery with delicious, Jerk chicken dishes and a great selection of rum cocktails. Its easy-going atmosphere is perfect for a date - you certainly won’t have any of those first-date nerves once you’ve sampled their Zombie Cocktail!
Your pick of best hotels?
I’ve been visited the Covent Garden Hotel for years and it always has a warm, relaxed atmosphere. Brasserie Max is great for cocktails. They also serve a lovely afternoon tea.
As you may have noticed from a couple of my answers, you can tell I’m a big fan of The Savoy. It’s never lost any of its charm even after the recent renovation. I adore both the American Bar and the glamour of the Beaufort. It’s always the perfect place to spend an indulgent afternoon.
Must-visit places generally?
I have to give a mention to New Cross, where I’ve lived for years. It feels completely like home to me now and it’s my favorite spot in London. It has some of the very best pubs, artisan cafes, and restaurants – definitely worth a visit!
Just up the road from New Cross is the green expanse of Blackheath. The area has this very easy-going atmosphere with an abundance of lovely cafes and restaurants.
How would you spend a free afternoon?
A free afternoon often involves a visit to a local food market. One of my favorites is Brockley Market which is open every Saturday, and is a little wander up the road for me. I would then venture over to my favorite café, The London Particular (as mentioned) for coffee. Any good day for me always involves a wander out to forage for food in some form!
Now what about any favorite shops?
I love the food hall in Fortnum & Mason as it has the most delicious deli counter, fresh breads and pastries. It also has one of the most extensive gin collections I’ve ever seen. La Fromagerie on Moxon Street is the go-to for the best cheeses in London. Lina Stores on Brewer Street is great for fresh pasta.
Your favorite building?
I’m always fascinated by St Bride’s Church as the spire is rumored to have been the inspiration for the design of the classic, tiered wedding cake. If you look at the top of the spire it has four beautiful tiers and will instantly bring to mind a traditional, wedding cake. It’s no surprise my favorite building reminds me of food!
Let’s think about cultural stuff: name any recent play, film, book, art show you enjoyed?
“Twelfth Night” at the National Theatre starring Tamsin Greig. It was perfectly played and Tamsin had everyone in stitches.
I recently watched “La La Land” for the first time. It’s one of those films which had so much hype when it first came out, and I’ve heard so many conflicting reviews, but it was a joyous couple of hours of music, dance and pure escapism – loved it!
I’ve just started reading “Eating up Italy: Voyages on a Vespa” by Matthew Fort, which is an exploration of his food journey around Italy. It’s making me want to plan out my next culinary getaway.
Great tips, thanks for your time!
For further information, please visit Stephanie’s website at www.stephaniebrookes.com and follow @stephbrookes
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