Hidden behind stained glass windows on bustling Dean Street, Quo Vadis is more grown up than many of the edgy institutions that populate that populate Soho these days. The tables are clothed, the walls are papered (nary an exposed brick in sight), and (hallelujah) they take reservations. It’s hardly the surprising the place has a classic feel since its been around forever in one guise or another. In fact, Karl Marx lived in the building back in the day, though hard-pressed to guess it now, what with the members-only cocktail bar upstairs and flapper-chic vibe going on in the restaurant below. Very chichi, very enjoyable, so not Marx. Not that the place is style over substance. The food – a daily-changing array of modern British dishes – is blooming marvelous and refreshingly unpretentious.
7 Park Place isn’t the kind of restaurant you’re likely to just stumble into any old how. In fact, tucked away behind Green Park in the sparse outskirts of Mayfair it’s really a bit of a hidden gem. Then again, it’s a bit fancy for your run-of-the-mill, every day, wander in kind of a place. After all, it boasts a celebrity chef (William Drabble who has curated many a famous kitchen), a Michelin star and an interior so plush it borders on French. The food, though, is distinctly British and you can be sure you’re going to be getting the best local and seasonal produce. Even better for those with allergies, or just following some fad diet, it does a rather fabulous gluten-free menu which makes it the ideal spot for treating tricky diners.
Scoffler was a guest at 7 Park Place
40 Maltby street is dominated by a bar. There’s a pretty comprehensive wine menu, but the food’s limited to a few “small bites” scrawled on a blackboard. Still, remember that old saying, quality, not quantity? Prime example. Essentially British-style tapas, everything is served with a generous portion of fresh bread and butter to sop up sources and sandwich meats. The food is seasonal, the vibe is chilled out and the place is always packed with young families and friends taking a break from the buzz of Maltby Street Market.
This charming dining room/wine bar/wine shop does the modern seasonal British thing on crack. Think a hunk bone marrow swimming in an uncontrollably delicious soup of garlic oil and snails or perfectly-cooked sweetbreads delicately arranged round smooth and creamy chicken liver pâté and interspersed with pickled onions. If you’re feeling less adventurous, simple dishes like roast beef or lamb chops are bloody good too. Sit in the bar and gorge on a selection of (generously-proportioned) “small” plates or take advantage of the opportunity to reserve one of the cosy wooden booths in the dining room and tuck into the daily-changing menu on offer. The only downside is that the place is a bit of a nightmare for big groups. They can only accommodate groups of more than 6 in the private dining room, which has a minimum spend of £500, a bit steep when the set menu’s only £30 a head.
This Chiswick local is a welcome addition to a high street littered with chains and estate agents. The team behind Charlotte’s Bistro (who also run Charlotte’s Place in Ealing) have got just about everything right here from friendly, passionate and knowledgeable staff to locally-sourced and expertly cooked British food. Plus they host a weekly Gin School every Monday (and its free!) where punters are invited to try their home-brewed gins made from seasonal British fruits – on our visit, the Mulberry flavour was a clear winner. The menu is well designed with hearty British classics elevated by a modern twist, think shortrib with panzanella, Creedy Carver duck and Cornish plaice. Just a short tube ride away from central London, this local gem is unashamedly worth a visit.
Monikers totally snuck up on us. Discreetly tucked in an old school conversion in the north-west corner of Hoxton Square, we can’t believe we’ve missed it for so long. The big windows – thrown open in the summer – let welcoming streams of light into the bar area. Kinda hard to resist. For decor they’ve run with the school theme; specials are written on a giant blackboard and the upstairs area is decked out like a proper school bus. It’s all rather fun, and more to the point we discovered it just in time to take advantage of their outdoor terrace. Great for people-watching the Hoxton hipsters, it’s only downside is that it loses sun by the evening. No probs, kick off with some early afternoon cocktails in the sun then duck inside for a well-lubricated dinner. The food is British tapas and there’s lots of seasonal goodies. There’s plenty of bar snack type stuff, perfect for nibbling on to balance out a drinking session, but there’s some more adventurous dishes thrown into the mix too. The special when we went was a sweetbread dish that we particularly enjoyed.
Scoffler was a guest at Monikers
Bonnie Gull has all the charm of a classic British beachside shack, without all the hassle involved with getting out of London on the weekend. Whitewashed walls, distressed wooden fixtures and of course the de rigeur blackboard transport you from the urban jungle to the seaside. There are some killer cocktails on offer if your imagination needs a little helping hand with that part. The cooking’s pretty simple, which lets the fresh, British and sustainable ingredients on the menu shine through. The seafood platter is a heaving delight of crustaceous goodness, while the fish and chips won’t be as kind to your waistline, but tastes just as good. If you don’t fancy heading into central, there’s now a second branch in Exmouth Market, perfect for a weekend visit.
Fab pub grub isn’t exactly hard to come by these days, thank goodness. Even so, it’s still hard to find places that do it this well. Rustic with quirky lttle touches the Drapers Arms oozes charm and caters perfectly to its target audience: the typical Islington set – lefty, trendy and chatty. So far, so nice, but the food is a cut above. Predictably (but not in a boring way), the ingredients are seasonal and the flavours traditional. Basically, it’s sexed up comfort food and it tastes pretty damn good. The wine list is also reasonable, which makes the place perfect for a bite and a bottle mid-week.
Fancy dinners served by suited waiters on crisp, white tablecloths are all very well, but sometimes what you really want is a good dollop of comfort food. That tastes bloody amazing. In a nice place. In central London. Where you don’t have to queue for bloody hours for a table. Not much to ask for really, right? We didn’t think so either, which is why we love Newman Street Tavern so much. The seasonal menu of modern British food is like a reassuring hug full of old-school classics, perfectly executed, mind you. Do not, we repeat, do not skip dessert here. You’re comfort eating after all (with sophistication which means the calories don’t count). You should take the dessert injunction particularly to heart if the almond tart is on the menu. It’s better than a cup of tea and a nice, warm bath.
This family-run caf opened in 1900 and is now something of a landmark, serving greasy spoon food on formica and surrounded by lush, wood-panelled walls. Brimful of atmosphere, it takes the bog standard and does it with style. It’s steeped in history too. Now full of students, regulars and hipsters, it once played host to the infamous East End Kray Gang. The tiny time-capsule got a well-deserved grade II listing in 2005 but it’s the warm welcome from the family team that keeps the regulars coming back. The food is deliberately every-day – this is a caf, after all. All the staples are there; the fry up, milky teas, home-made pies and fish’n’chip Fridays. Embrace the grease, soak up the atmosphere and enjoy.